Even though I absolutely love philosophy, I’m not blinded to the difficulties novices face. Here are three tips that I consider to be useful when trying to understand such an ancient adversary. The most important to learning philosophy is the proper mindset. After all, when the student is ready the teacher appears.
It’s okay to not understand right away. Many of these philosophers are polyglots and have Ph.Ds. They’re undoubtedly more knowledgeable than a typical undergrad considering we’re reading their papers and not the other way around. So, it’s okay to not know what they’re talking about especially with all the jargon used in academic writing. Understanding philosophy is almost like learning a new language –it’d be too harsh to compare a beginner to someone who is fluent. Therefore, if you need to re-read, re-read. If you need help, ask for help. If you need a burger, then get a burger.
2.) Don’t make it personal.
It’s also okay to disagree. Our experiences have given us certain dispositions on how we view the world. Therefore, our dispositions are inherently different as no one can experience the world as you. However, philosophy is not the study of individualistic dispositions and experiences – discussing history would be better for such a topic. Albeit, it is important sometimes to be reminded of the context of the when and who is writing such a paper, but if you want to disagree, disagree logically. Disagree upon premises, find fallacies, and contradictions. Do not use intuition alone. If one attacks personally, they allow themselves to be attacked personally.
3.) Find the objective
Now that we have the right mindset to read philosophy, we must further comprehend it if we want to get anywhere. The easiest way to decipher the paper is to understand what the author’s objective is and what overall point of the paper is. From there, we can start deciphering their argument and logic they are implementing to reach their conclusion, as analytical philosophy tends to have a structured essay. Essentially, it goes expedition ( fancy word for background information), thesis, proof of that thesis ( should be multiple points) , rejections of the proof to the thesis, rebuttal to those rejections. Another common structure is for a philosopher to explain the theories that have come before them, refute them all, and then provide their account of which they deem correct.
P.S. If your interest in philosophy stems from wanting to do well on the LSAT, which relates to logical reasoning and reading comprehension, the skill of finding the objective of the paper and stance of the philosopher may be the most important to hone.