Anonymous asked a few questions:
What exactly is Philosophy?
there are lots of ideas in the world. it's confusing. people divide them up. math. chemistry. biology. economics. sports. poker. philosophy. we'll call these different fields.
philosophy is a really big group of ideas. it's not very specific.
the most important area of philosophy is about ideas. how do you get ideas? which ideas are good or bad? why? how do you find the truth? how do you find and deal with mistakes? how do you know an idea doesn't have any mistakes? how do you learn? what is learning? which ideas should you have?
this stuff is sometimes called other names like "critical thinking", "reason", "logic", "epistemology".
when i say "philosophy" this is the main stuff i usually have in mind. stuff about thinking well, dealing with ideas well. that's really important to every single field.
want to play poker well? you better have the right ideas about which hands to fold or not. want to be a good chemist? you better have the right ideas about how chemicals react, lab procedures, etc. want to be good at sports? you better have good ideas about how to train effectively and some good strategies to use in the game.
in each case there are a lot of ideas out there. some are good. some suck. there's lots of bad ideas about how to do stuff. it's pretty easy to go wrong.
ideas are the most important thing in the world. they determine how well you do at everything. so philosophy – which has ideas about dealing with ideas well – is the most important field.
there are other parts of philosophy. they include:
moral philosophy – another super important part of philosophy. what's a good life? what should people do in their lives? what are good goals and values? what's right or wrong? should you be honest? why? what are bad ways to treat people? like don't murder them, but also more subtle stuff like don't be an asshole. but it depends on the situation and can be complicated.
moral philosophy comes down to choices. every action you take in your life, you had a choice about which action to take. you could have done something else. moral philosophy guides you about what to choose to do.
ontology – ideas about existence. like: is reality an illusion? and where did the universe come from? you may noticed sometimes fields get mixed up together a bit. like where the universe came from is also a physics question. labeling fields is just to try to keep things organized, but it's not that big a deal and doesn't have to be perfect, just useful.
philosophy of science – how does science work to get good ideas? how do scientists learn? it's a lot of the same stuff about dealing with ideas. but science is really important so it's worth some extra attention.
political philosophy – when people argue the current issues they call it politics. but when they try to talk about principles about how a country should be set up, how to organize society, etc, it's political philosophy. political philosophy looks at the big picture of politics. it's pretty necessary to understand this before you can deal with regular politics well, but most people who try to debate politics don't have much of a clue about it. this has some overlap with economics.
And should I learn philosophy?
you need to deal with ideas and choices in life.
if you deal with ideas badly, you will have a bad life.
everyone has a philosophy. everyone deals with ideas one way or another. the question is: do you put effort into getting philosophy right and judging for yourself which philosophy you want to follow? otherwise you'll just have a contradictory mix of things you heard here and there and didn't think about very carefully. (the argument in this paragraph is from Ayn Rand.)
How do I learn it?
there's lots of stuff about philosophy.
and lots of it disagrees with other stuff. there's tons of ongoing debates where people disagree.
you should look around at a wide variety of philosophy stuff and see what you think makes sense. you can find books, blog posts, youtube videos, discussion forums, etc
most people who look around choose lots of the wrong philosophy. it's easy to make mistakes.
what can you do about that? write your ideas down in public and listen to criticism from anyone. so if you're mistaken, and someone knows why you're mistaken, and can explain it in a way that you'll understand, and is willing to help, then you can find out. that helps a lot. most people won't do that.
you should include FI (Fallible Ideas) people in the "anyone" who can offer comments on your ideas. if you want other perspectives you can look around or ask us about them.
FI emails are public and have links on yahoo's website. anyone can read it. the link to an email can be shared just like any other website. people have to sign up and use email software to reply though. another way to share your ideas is make a public blog and turn on comments.
if you look into some non-FI philosophy you can talk about it here and get our perspective.
for learning FI philosophy you should do a mix of:
if you have a problem reading a book – any problem – stop reading and ask about it. bored? confused? something seems false? want more details on some part? discuss it. don't just give up or try to push forward and finish the whole book.
people can suggest answers or ways to get answers.
the more stuff you do alone, the more mistakes you can make that no one could tell you. and lots of it could be wasted time. you could make a mistake then build on it.
even if everything is going well, discuss frequently. read something and think you understand it? cool, but write down what you think it's saying anyway. you might have it wrong. you might have half of it right but missed half.
lots of times people think they understand stuff but claim they have nothing to say. they don't understand it. if you're learning much you will have stuff to say. you can write ideas you learned you think are good. you can write questions you don't know the answer to yet. you can write additional ideas you have. you can make an example to illustrate an idea. you can say a counter-argument and why the counter-argument is wrong. and more.