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How to Read Philosophy

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How to Read Philosophy

Philosophy is probably one of the most difficult and ambiguous chain of studies, often challenging our minds and ways of thinking. The authors for “Writing Philosophy” describe it as a rational reflection on the views and theories of how the world operates around us. There are four sub-categories in which the authors say philosophy is separated into. There is Metaphysics, which studies the nature of being and the universe. It also deals with the relationship between mind and matter. One example of a question that metaphysics would attempt to answer, or more so discuss, is “Why is there something, rather than nothing.” The second sub-category is Axiology which is a branch of philosophy dealing with the study of goodness; human values. They discuss whether and how things are classified ethically, and also aesthetically. A question that axiology explores is “What ultimate worth, if any, do human values have?” The third branch of philosophy in this article is Epistemology which studies human knowledge; the nature and methods we use to obtain it. “How do we justify saying we know something” is an example of an epistemology question. The final and fourth sub-category of philosophy is Logic which studies “inference patterns” such as “What are the guidelines for precise inferences?”

 The first thing that is suggested to be able to read philosophy adequately is to read it frequently. There are 5 rules that the authors give for properly reading philosophy. The first rule being always have an open-mind for reading philosophy. You shouldn’t make any judgements about the topics arguments until you’ve entirely reflected on them. To also keep an open mind you must disregard all opinions you have on the author while reading their work. It’s important to have an open mind because by not doing so you can be ignorant to reasonable arguments. The second rule is that you have to be totally engaged and demonstrate an acute concentration on the material. You can’t have only half your focus, or attention elsewhere. If so, you’re bound to miss key information and be left confused after. The third rule is to find and understand the conclusion, then the premise. By doing so in that order, finding the conclusion the author is trying to make will help you find the premises a lot simpler. The fourth rule is to try and either outline, summarize, or paraphrase the material you’ve read. This is a helpful rule because if you’re able to give a clear deconstruction of the work you’ve read, it’s a much better way to show that you’ve really understood said material. The fifth rule is that once you’ve properly read and used the guidelines above is to then assess the arguments given and decide your rulings on them.

The main difference between paraphrasing and summarizing is that paraphrasing is re-writing the text you’ve read, yet doing so with your new found understanding and using your own set of vocabulary. It is roughly the same word count as the original, however a summary is taking the text’s main points and shortening it. There are a few reasons to quote instead of using paraphrasing or summarization such as it provides indefinite proof of the information you are sourcing, as well as it’s more concise and provides a better explanation for the given topic, however you should use quotations if you’re trying to show that the verbatim words that the author used goes against something important. Sources should be cited because it provides reference to where you are getting your information so the reader may determine if it’s credible. As well as not providing sources for your information is plagiarism, and readers will mistake their work for your own.

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