A quick guide to the reading of philosophical texts

This guide is to assist you in deciding what to concern yourself reading. Follow these heuristics:

  • The length of a text on a particular topic, beyond a certain extent, is inversely proportional to what significant things it has to say. Long-winded, rambling texts don’t communicate important points in ways that are memorable. If one cannot easily remember the key points of a text it will be difficult, nay impossible, to implement them in daily life. Words are only significant if they can be applied to the means and ends of life.
  • If some point could have been made with less words than those used, the philosopher has overrated their attention-worthiness and mistaken their audience for people who don’t have clear aims in reading them.
  • The degree of formal references to others, particularly to academics, is inversely proportional to the creativity and value of the text in terms of unique insights. (Group norms kill creativity.)
  • The use of much philosophical jargon and overly formal style points to a lack of communication skills on part of the philosopher and heightened irrelevance to the life of the everyday citizen of anything they may say
  • Avoid at all costs texts which talk about issues and concepts only of interest to philosophers; there is no wisdom in store
  • Philosophy is often used by nerds as a means by which to impress others with their supposed intellectual superiority and to gain status amongst peers. Consider what self-concept the writer may be trying to project with their text. You may get more ego than content.
  • If the reputation of the philosopher precedes the text, rest assured that the text is not as good as the cult surrounding its authority believe
  • If from the opening paragraph of  a text you do not infer practical wisdom for your life on offer, put the text down and find something worth reading

One Response to “A quick guide to the reading of philosophical texts”

  1. one billion daleks Says:

    That looks like a handy Quick Reference you’ve devised there! It is most evident though, that the value you seek to acquire from philosophical enquiry is “the best way to live” … anything else seems superfluous to you. I’m not sure though that Philosophy is much use for such an application, it is the wrong tool for the job.

    After all (and the matter is so self-evident that it is trivial), the most basic philosophical enquiry easily establishes that Life at the level of the subjective self is highly transient, and can arbitrarily end at any moment.

    In light of such realities, it really isn’t worth investing too much effort in thinking about “how to live” beyond saying that if an individual is comfortable (warm / fed / safe) – and has cultivated the means to maintain that state-of-affairs – then er, that’s it really, there is nothing more to be accomplished for organic well-being beyond that.

    Having quickly attended to the basics of life, Philosophy immediately turns to it’s proper pre-occupation – the more difficult problem of psychological well-being – the question of whether the Mind is doomed to perish along with the organic housing in which it abides. That’s a lot trickier of course, but this core function of Philosophy is the one that you appear to find the most irksome.

    Like I say, from here your expectations of Philosophy and what it is for seem quite misperceived!

    All The Best!

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