How Do I Get Better at Reading Philosophy?

  • Read ahead, re-read, and think about what you’ve read. Read slowly; you will naturally get faster as the semester goes on.
  • Aim for comprehension. Try to understand the book. Specifically, ask yourself 1. What is the main truth claim? 2. What is the evidence? These are the two most important questions for comprehension. Understand what their main point is, and what their reasoning is for believing that point.
  • Pay attention to what confuses you and what you disagree with. Dialogue with the book before class. Process your thoughts. Take notes. Bring your questions to class.
  • Read the text.** (Don’t read any “Introductions”, or if you do, read them after. The introduction is often more confusing than the book.) Read Sparknotes, Cliffnotes, etc. last, if at all. You should have *your own first impression of the work.
  • Read “how to read philosophy”, by David Concepción, Teaching Philosophy, 27:4, December 2004.
  • Read How to Read a Book, by Mortimer Adler.
  • Try an “Intentional Reading Project”