Improving in Philosophy

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Improving in Philosophy

Post by Hobbie Klivian »

I'm sure there has been a thread on this before. My apologies if this thread is a repeat of a previous thread.

What are some good ways to study for philosophy?
My experience with the subject is practically limited to some simple connections. (utilitarianism->Bentham or Mill), and it just appears to me that it is practically impossible for me to get any of the philosophy prior to the giveaway.
Thanks.
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Re: Improving in Philosophy

Post by i never see pigeons in wheeling »

HotSoup wrote:I'm sure there has been a thread on this before. My apologies if this thread is a repeat of a previous thread.

What are some good ways to study for philosophy?
My experience with the subject is practically limited to some simple connections. (utilitarianism->Bentham or Mill), and it just appears to me that it is practically impossible for me to get any of the philosophy prior to the giveaway.
Thanks.
There are plenty of online resources that will help you improve at philosophy. Sparknotes has a good number of summaries of particularly important philosophical works that tend to come up a lot in quiz bowl. Also, invest in a copy of Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy. It will go over the major philosophical movements, the philosophers, their ideas, and how they connect to each other.
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Re: Improving in Philosophy

Post by i never see pigeons in wheeling »

Of course, nothing beats reading the actual works themselves. If you want to investigate the foundational works of Western thought, I recommend reading material like the Platonic dialogues (particularly The Republic) and Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy.
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Re: Improving in Philosophy

Post by bmcke »

List of Fighting Spirit characters wrote:I recommend ... Meditations on First Philosophy.
Really?
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Re: Improving in Philosophy

Post by Sniper, No Sniping! »

http://plato.stanford.edu/ <- I like to think this is a good resource for learning everything you'd want to about philosophy, from learning the basics of the really famous guys (Aristotle, Socrates, even Nietzsche) to learning as much as you could possibly want about the philosophers you may have not heard of outside of quiz bowl in high school, such as G.E. Moore, Karl Popper, John Rawls).

I used that website as a resource for when I had weekly three page essays due for a class I took in the second semester of my junior year, called "Introduction Into Western Philosophy". By all means, it certainly is a good tool to use, but I think a complete appreciation and a well-rounded understanding of philosophy and famous philosophers comes from understanding the material through other mediums (such as reading the actual texts themselves). I actually haven't read very many texts, because I find many of them to be dry, but summaries on Wiki or other places are better than nothing since you can get a main idea of what's being conveyed. Complemented with tools such as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and I dare to say my philosophy knowledge and appreciation is good.

Also, you can find some awesome videos on YouTube, such as this Orson Welles gem about "The Allegory of the Cave".

edit: I agree with Rob - plus the link he provided I also used frequently as a resource for my papers and even looking up stuff for general learning. The only two other websites I used are the "Catholic friendly" versions of philosophy references - one of them is actually pretty baller.
Last edited by Sniper, No Sniping! on Sun Nov 24, 2013 10:51 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Improving in Philosophy

Post by i never see pigeons in wheeling »

bmcke wrote:
List of Fighting Spirit characters wrote:I recommend ... Meditations on First Philosophy.
Really?
Uh yeah, it's one of the most influential philosophical works ever. I don't recommend it because it's a great work of philosophical reasoning, seeing as how modern philosophers avoid the label "Cartesian dualist" like the plague, but it is still an incredibly important work as it outlined the skepticism underlying the new science, notwithstanding the sophistry of the cosmological and ontological arguments.
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Re: Improving in Philosophy

Post by bmcke »

Alright, I reluctantly acknowledge that Descartes is important. I still needed, like, ten minutes per page though.
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Re: Improving in Philosophy

Post by Auks Ran Ova »

The only trouble with the Stanford encyclopedia is that it's not always written as an encyclopedia--sometimes articles will be standard reference/summary stuff, but sometimes they'll be written with a more specific, essayish bent. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy is a good supplementary source.
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Re: Improving in Philosophy

Post by Hobbie Klivian »

Thanks for all your help: Will definitely look into all of these.
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Re: Improving in Philosophy

Post by The Polebarn Hotel »

I've mostly memorized stock clues on philosophy, using Quinterest and Protobowl to help me practice. I use quizlet and put each work or description of something on a flash card with the philosopher's name on the other side, and quiz myself like that. It really helps for things that come up a lot, like Wittgenstein's "beetle-in-a-box" experiment or his language using only pillars, beams, slabs, and blocks. Most philosophers have a lot of stock clues that come up frequently, and I haven't been studying them for very long. Once I know most of those stock clues, I will move on to things like reading about them and actually knowing what the heck it is that I'm memorizing.
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Re: Improving in Philosophy

Post by Auroni »

Those are not stock clues, for what it's worth. Those are actual clues that are important to Wittgenstein's philosophy.
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Re: Improving in Philosophy

Post by trulaman »

You could always read Sophies World. Its a novel about this girl who receives mysterious letters from a philosophy teacher about a philosophy "course". Its a pretty long novel, but its truly amazing. Im reading it because Im interested in philosophy beyond quizbowl, but I think its just a good novel in general for anyone. Reading Sophies World will give you the jist of the philosopher, such as their personal criticisms and overall history. As far as works go, it shouldnt be too hard linking obscure and common works with philosophers (i.e Kant- Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Locke- An Essay Concerning Human Understanding). Im a senior in high school and this is my second year in quizbowl. Near the end of my first year I sparked a random interest in philosophy and social science. I went from being a general History-Mythology-Literature-Artwork player to a specialists in philosophy and lit while the other stuff just got solidified. I found philosophy easy to master because it has such an enclosed array of info, unlike other subjects. It never goes beyond the spectrum of certain movements like existentialism, or certain big ancient names like Plato or Socrates. I find it hardest to remember big whig medieval philosophers like Augustine as well as differentiate between the Enlightenment thinkers (Voltaire or Montesquieu). But yeah becoming a philosophy master seems to me like less of a hassle than other subjects. Hope this helps.
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Re: Improving in Philosophy

Post by marianna »

Before I took a couple courses in philosophy, most of my exposure to philosophy came from philosophy blogs. SEP and IEP, mentioned above, are superb resources but their articles are often dense and long, which can get boring and technical for people making their first dips into philosophy.

I'll second Platonic dialogues as the place to start. In my intro to philosophy class, we started the class with the Allegory of the Cave, Euthyphro, Apology, and Phaedo. The dialogues are easily findable online and pretty easy to follow, but if you need help, there's lots of lecture notes, summaries, and commentary online as well.

One of my favorite philosophy blogs is The Stone, a philosophy series from The New York Times. It frequently updates with short articles written in digestible and engaging ways that weave philosophy with current events/issues. (I was once assigned the same article from The Stone for my philosophy class and international relations class!)

In one of my philosophy classes, our teacher gently introduced us to philosophy with a podcast called Philosophy Bites. These are similarly short and digestible, with lots of content covered too.

I've heard Michael Sandel's Justice is a fun and interesting set of lectures if you're interested in ethics, although I've only seen the first. I think it's also a MOOC on Coursera or edX now.

On a lighter note, I learned about a lot of philosophy works through a apparently-discontinued blog called Philosophy Bro, which does some very very rough and profanity-filled summaries that are short and occasionally amusing to read.

EDIT: Suddenly remembered another blog, similar to The Stone! It's the Philosophy section of Comment is Free on The Guardian. Very accessible, and "real-life" relevant.
Last edited by marianna on Mon Jan 20, 2014 11:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Improving in Philosophy

Post by i never see pigeons in wheeling »

trulaman wrote:But yeah becoming a philosophy master seems to me like less of a hassle than other subjects.
This might be true at the high school level, but college level philosophy questions which engage with texts directly are much more difficult to get a handle on and require deeper knowledge of a philosopher's works. Some philosophers, like Derrida and Heidegger, can be near indecipherable to the lay reader who is tackling them for the first time. I have books titled "How to Read Wittgenstein" and a massive summary work about Hegel, which is written by people who attempt to communicate their ideas to non-specialized readers.

Becoming a "philosophy master" is a relative term and means something completely different for the college and high school levels.
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Re: Improving in Philosophy

Post by Adventure Temple Trail »

as a philosophy major, I
bmcke wrote:
List of Fighting Spirit characters wrote:I recommend ... Meditations on First Philosophy.
Really?
Why not? It's about 60 pages long, and more legible to a layperson than almost anything else in the HS philosophy universe, some well-known Socratic dialogues excluded. If you're interested in getting some real reading in to see what philosophy as an intellectual activity looks like, and whether you like it / might want to pursue study of it in the future beyond the game of quizbowl, Descartes' Meditations aren't a bad starting point. To some extent, the activity of reading philosophy is always a pretty challenging, detail-heavy activity, so I wouldn't say it's "easy," but you're much less likely to end up in an intellectual pit trap. Other decent starting points for reading primary-source philosophy as an HSer might include Anselm's Proslogion, excerpts of Summa Theologica, Hume's Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Machiavelli's The Prince, and the big basics by Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau (who are often featured in excerpt on AP European Hisotry syllabi for good reason). By contrast, if you're a casual reader and/or are only in it for the quizbowl points, avoid Aristotle, Kant, or Heidegger.

Marianna's advice is all excellent for high school teams/players; I can't add much to it, but I'll offer a bit more advice. I'll agree that the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is not the best resource for high schoolers attempting to learn the basics - it's designed for upper-level college students, grad students, and professors, and often goes in-depth on subsegments of important thinkers, and critics reacting to those thinkers, rather than being summary or comprehensive. (For example, it doesn't yet have an article on "anarchism".) IEP is better for the layperson.

A great book I had as a youngster, which helped kick off my interest in philosophy period, is Bryan Magee's The Story of Philosophy. It's written at about a 9th/10th grade level, provides a wide survey of the heavy hitters in Western philosophy, and has plenty of illustrations and common-sense examples linking up philosophical ideas with works of art and literature too. I'm told that Bertrand Russell's one-volume History of Western Philosophy is also pretty good, though it commits the grave sin of leaving out Kierkegaard; I haven't read it in full, but I've looked at it as a reference for writing purposes.

I'll give the usual old-person gripe that many clues are recycled for the totally sensible reason that they are actually important or famous, and not every recycled clue is "stock" [whatever that means] or inherently unjustifiable. Learning old clues is a fine way to get competent at any/all quizbowl category/ies, and there's no reason to give that process a negative value judgment. Just be aware that any process of learning from old packets will be reactive rather than predictive (i.e. will be useless in helping you when brand new clues arise, and may even trip you up if old clues are slightly reworded).

As always, being on the pulse about looking up more specifics when a philosophy reference gets dropped in intellectually-conscious pop culture (I'm thinking about things like xkcd, Hark! a Vagrant, Monty Python, Woody Allen films, etc.) is helpful.
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Re: Improving in Philosophy

Post by trulaman »

List of Fighting Spirit characters wrote:
trulaman wrote:But yeah becoming a philosophy master seems to me like less of a hassle than other subjects.
This might be true at the high school level, but college level philosophy questions which engage with texts directly are much more difficult to get a handle on and require deeper knowledge of a philosopher's works. Some philosophers, like Derrida and Heidegger, can be near indecipherable to the lay reader who is tackling them for the first time. I have books titled "How to Read Wittgenstein" and a massive summary work about Hegel, which is written by people who attempt to communicate their ideas to non-specialized readers.

Becoming a "philosophy master" is a relative term and means something completely different for the college and high school levels.
Yeahh, I actually pretty scared of college bowl :/ I dnt know how Im going to transition
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Re: Improving in Philosophy

Post by kayli »

My advice is to not study philosophy for quizbowl but rather to study philosophy for it's own sake.

A good thing that being in quizbowl does for you is that it repeatedly exposes you to the great philosophical works of the western canon, and you should use your knowledge of what comes up in quizbowl to guide you along your studies of philosophy. I'd recommend looking through the reading list for St. John's College as a starting point for major works you should read. You should try to make sure your readings follow a sensible chronology (start with Plato then Aristotle), because you'll start to see that a lot of these works are in dialog with each other.

If you want good motivation for starting to learn philosophy, then I recommend Bertrand Russell's The Problems of Philosophy. It's short and gives you a good feel for the questions you'll be tackling in your new education. Russell's The History of Western Philosophy is also very useful for providing context setting up the dialog between works.

Finally, I'd like to put a word of caution against studying philosophy too much for quizbowl. You should treat reading great books as being a worthy endeavor in itself and allow yourself to interact with what you are reading even if it comes at the cost of efficient quizbowl studying.
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Re: Improving in Philosophy

Post by Oh No You Didn't »

trulaman wrote: Yeahh, I actually pretty scared of college bowl :/ I dnt know how Im going to transition
Take classes, go to classes, learn from classes.
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Re: Improving in Philosophy

Post by Auks Ran Ova »

Eccles cake wrote:Finally, I'd like to put a word of caution against studying philosophy too much for quizbowl. You should treat reading great books as being a worthy endeavor in itself and allow yourself to interact with what you are reading even if it comes at the cost of efficient quizbowl studying.
Honestly, if all you want to do is get better at philosophy quizbowl questions, I wouldn't worry too much about this. You could do a lot worse, learning-wise, than reading some general survey books or IEP articles, and your utility from doing so will be much greater than trying to slog through the entire history of thought starting at Plato. While "[learning] is a worthy endeavor in itself" is a great view to adopt in general, you don't have to feel like it's somehow wrong to be learning about something just because you want to get quizbowl questions on it. The less time you spend fretting about stuff like that, the more likely it is that your studying will follow your own inherent curiosity and a serious interest in something might arise.

EDIT:
trulaman wrote:Yeahh, I actually pretty scared of college bowl :/ I dnt know how Im going to transition
Go to class, read a lot of stuff, write a lot of questions.
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