Different Ways of Dealing with Philosophy Texts

A noble effort. And for self-study I can see how it could be useful. But not sure how useful they are to others. But we will see what happens.

I would like to make a suggestion. I learned from a professor I had a long time ago that the way to understand philosophical texts was to diagram them, i.e. produce unique synthesizing diagrams for each set of concepts used by a philosopher in their text. I have used this method all my life, diagramming many of the foundational philosophical works in my own study. This is much more useful than diagrams because it renders the arguments and the sets of concepts very memorable due to the work that is put into the diagramming. I can still remember many of the diagrams I did for Kant, or Sartre, and my professor taught me Heidegger and Husserl and East Asian Philosophy through his diagrams. Also it makes it easier to digest critics and commentary of the philosopher if you have the diagrams to refer to which shows how the concepts in the philosophy are interlinked.

Philosophy normally cannot be understood in outline because it consists of complex arguments where many different concepts are brought together in unique ways by the philosopher.

The other technique I used, was to fold a piece of paper four times to make like a book mark, and to take running notes on the book I was reading on the folded bookmark that way I could find the places again that were referred to. I would make my diagrams either on the book mark as I went along or in a separate diagram if it became large.

Another technique was to write working papers. I would read and make diagrams the first time through the text, but then the second time through I would write short working papers on my understanding of the text or my ideas inspired by the text.

Another important part of understanding philosophers is finding good commentaries. There are many commentaries on Aristotle. I do not know Aristotle well enough to suggest any. But I am sure you can find a scholar to suggest some to you. Best to read the commentaries after you have read the text yourself first. Then read the commentaries and then go back and reread the text.

One thing that is important is to realize that Aristotle’s Categories are about the possible ways of speaking about things while Kant’s are about the nature of things found though physics that we project prior to the empirical data reaching us from the things. These are very different from each other, even though they use similar terms.

Good Luck on your mission.

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Posted January 27, 2010 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized

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