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PHL 204
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 Tips on reading our texts

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Posts : 225
Join date : 2016-06-29

Tips on reading our texts Empty
PostSubject: Tips on reading our texts   Tips on reading our texts EmptySat Jul 02, 2016 9:55 am

The texts for this class are all in translation, and sometimes -- both because of the material itself and because of the translation -- they can be difficult to read.  Here are some tips, customized for different types of texts:

Presocratic texts:

(1) Accept that you won't understand everything.  But give each passage your full attention, and try to figure it out.
(2) If there is something you find interesting, but hard to follow, you could ask a question about it on the forum or look up helpful information online.  See the resources section of the forum for good websites to research on.
(3) Try to understand who the philosopher is responding to, and what the goal of his writing is.
(4) Pay attention to when another author (e.g. Aristotle) is editorializing.  When this is happening, the information we are being given is not always reliable.
(5) Have fun with it.  If you seek a completely bizarre or goofy passage, get in a conversation about it with some friends.  Treat the Presocratics like they are extremely quirky friends who sometimes have some very wise things to say.


(1) Plato never speaks in his own voice.  Try to avoid thinking about "what Plato believes", and focus on what the characters in each text believe.
(2) Appreciate the dialogue form.  Find out whatever you can about the characters, and let your reading sometimes be character driven.  Plato had fun writing these dialogues, and we can have fun reading them.
(3) You need to pay attention to the beginning of an argument, because -- if you don't -- you will get lost later in the argument.
(4) Sometimes you will get lost, and have to pick up the thread later. That is generally OK, though more important passages should get closer attention.
(5) Plato isn't just concerned about teaching you facts. He is interested in teaching methods, ethical principles, and ways of life. In his understanding, he thinks the goal of education is to nourish the student's soul. Keep that in mind.
(6) I have always found it helpful to annotate Plato's texts in the margins. It's like you get to join in the conversation.


(1) Aristotle is more systematic than Plato, but also (to most people) less engaging. It will feel more like you are reading a textbook.
(2) Pay close attention to definitions. Sometimes Aristotle will be defining a word in a specialized way, and you need to pick that up.
(3) Don't be lazy. I could have assigned a lot longer readings in Aristotle, but I thought you would be able to pay closer attention to the text if I gave you less to read.
(4) Watch for Aristotle's sense of humor, which is very dry, but it's there. It comes out especially when he is talking about philosophers who came before him.
(5) It would be especially helpful, with Aristotle, to take notes on a separate sheet of paper while you are reading.
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