This sounds like the kind of a question a first-year philosophy student would ask, but here goes... Why should anyone be interested in philosophy in the first place (i.e., why should I care about Cartesian knowledge, or Locke's primary and secondary qualities, or bother with questions about the meaning of life if I'm already happy)? It would be nice to get a rational response to some of these very introductory questions...

I certainly don't agree with Socrates' famous assertion that the unexamined life is not worth living. So the reason why you should be interested in philosophy is not because otherwise your life will not be worth living! I would say that you should (morally should) be interested in ethical questions because otherwise you may act wrongly. Certain other questions in philosophy (is there a god? do I have free will?) deal with the basic nature of human existence. Here there's no moral obligation to be interested, but it might be a tad shallow to have no interest whatever. Many questions in philosophy are neither ethical nor about the fundamental nature of human existence (what is reference? what is causation?). I don't see why anyone should be interested in them. They are fun and fascinating (to some people). I can say nothing stronger than: try it, you may like it.

A long time ago - Jan 2006 if I'm not mistaken - Alan Soble wrote ( "Finally, the heart and soul of philosophy is argument, providing reasons for claims, including claims about morality and duties. In the answer to the question above, I cannot find a shred of argument. We should also avoid, that is, pastoral or friendly counseling. Without rigor, philosophy is nothing." That was back in the days when there was routinely more than 1 response to a question. Today's responses seem more and more to be becoming "pastoral or friendly counseling" without rigor. The panelists do not argue with each other - the responses are just accepted. Here's an example: Peter Smith wrote very recently ( "For irrationally formed beliefs are not likely to lead to actions which get any of us what we want -- including a decent life, lived well in the knowledge of our all-too-explicable mortality." This statement - simply put out...

There does seem to be an important class of exceptions to the generalization that true belief and rational belief formation help us get what we want. It seems that forming beliefs about oneself in certain irrational ways typically leads to greater happiness. An article summarizing the evidence for that is here .

Hi, this may seem very strange but what do you love about philosophy (not specific areas, I mean essentially)? What is it to you? Please answer! Oooh I'd be so interested. I'm not trying to waste anyone's time!

I like being in the grip of a very difficult problem, and wrestling with many possible solutions. All the better if the problem has some sort of personal or practical urgency, if it's something I feel I have to figure out.

Having grown tired of reading secondary material in my study of philosophy, I have decided to read primary texts in a chronological, rather than thematic, order. I have started with Plato and have read most of the works I can find online or at my library. Before I move on to Aristotle, I would like your advice. Do you think a chronological approach is a good idea for someone untrained in philosophy? Do you think I should read every work by a given philosopher, or are there 'key' works that serve as their primary contribution to the field? If the latter, are there any lists that you are aware of that state what those key works are?

If you do decide to take the chronological approach, then I think you should definitely focus on key works--in fact, in many cases just chapters of key works. I think it would make sense to choose a history of philosophy as your guide, staying away from anything overly voluminous or idiosyncratic. Blackwell has a one-volume history by Anthony Kenny that looks good. The table of contents references specific philosophical works, which may help you create a manageable, focused itinerary for yourself. Bon voyage!