I am no expert in Philosophy, I do not have a PhD, and I have not read everything there is on the subject. However, I have read a lot and for various reasons. I have written what seems a thousand papers on different subjects during undergrad, but I have also read for fun. As I think having some exposure to other ideas is healthy and a useful tool for apologetics, I thought it would be good to give you all some tips if you don’t know where to start.
1. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t understand something.
Sometimes it took 3, 4, 5, or even 10 times to understand something a philosopher wrote. To be honest, most of them don’t write in a reader friendly way (that’s totally my opinion though) and a lot of philosophers that you will come across speak a different version of your language if it is not translated from another. A lot of old philosophers wrote in Old English rather than Modern English. If you don’t understand the passage you read, try reading it again or even out loud. If you still don’t understand, consider asking a friend to read it and see what they think of it.
2. Take Notes.
I HATE writing in books. It feels so wrong. However, I found that with philosophy I must suppress the urge not to write in the margins and go wild. If you can’t bring yourself to write in the margins, consider keeping a notebook near by to comment on things you thought were good points, dumb points, etc. Not only will this help you remember what you’ve read, but also will offer you comedy as you read through them later. The interesting remarks you write will be sure to surprise you!
3. Start with a topic you like.
This might not be possible if you are reading for school, but it helps if you are reading about a topic that interests you. Is it creation, the soul, the mind, reality? Whatever it is, check those topics out first.
4. Don’t plan to memorize everything you’ve read.
You don’t want to be that guy or girl who has read every philosopher and throws it in your face. Philosophers have a real issue with being humble. Besides this, trying to memorize everything you read takes away from the enjoyment and from processing the information. Maybe later you can try to memorize the things you loved, but its more important to understand the information. If you don’t understand what the argument being offered is, you won’t be able to make a proper assessment or comment on the material.
5. Don’t make philosophy your only genre of reading.
As great as philosophy is, it can be really dense. Sometimes it is important to give your brain a break and read something a little lighter. If you really don’t want to read anything other than philosophy, consider reading fiction that is laced with it. Many authors write philosophically, but do not outright state their arguments. Mary Shelly and Jane Austen are two female authors that have philosophy laced throughout their works because they lived in a time when women could not publish philosophy papers. C.S. Lewis is another author who writes philosophy into his fiction. Perhaps try one of these authors?
I hope these 5 tips were helpful. There are so many more out there and maybe I’ll post some more sometime. Enjoy!