Starting on Philosophy – Day 1

by Devarsi Ghosh

I have always wanted to study philosophy, both Western and Oriental. Mostly Western. I had Sociology as one of my additional subjects when I was in College. I absolutely hated the way it was taught, dreaded it, the teachers, the professors were awful, barring one or two. It was there where I came across a bit of Marx, a bit of Hegel, a Kant there, a Descartes here and so on. I had this fleeting wish to learn what these people wrote and what they were about more clearly, but never got down to it.

Or I would read a movie review and someone would call it “nihilistic” and “Nietzschean” which would make me google Nietzsche immediately, following it up with reading the first three pages of Beyond Good and Evil before getting bored. Thing is, I never took it seriously even though I wanted to. Regarding Oriental Philosophy, for reasons long, complicated and vague, I never really thought there was anything of value to the Gita and the Vedas and suchlike. I tried to read up a bit up on Buddhism while I was in college, then as usual, I got bored. Recently, I have been convinced by people wiser than me, that apparently, Oriental philosophy is older, far superior and richer than Western Philosophy.

So I finally decided that today’s going to be the day when I embark on a journey of reading up major philosophical texts, both Western and Oriental, in sequence (Western philosophy has to be read in sequence because each philosopher wrote in response to those that came before him. So if you randomly pick up Schopenhauer, you’ll end up nowhere), taking my time, making notes if necessary to understand the thinking of intelligent men and how they have helped the world progress, or not, perhaps a little better. Why today? Well, today’s a day as good as any and also I came upon this article in Existential Comics, where the comic writer talks about how he was unschooled in philosophy and what would be the best way to read on Western Philosophy if you have an interest in it but it’s not a part of your syllabus.

The first book in the list is Meditations on First Philosophy by Rene Descartes. The only thing I know about Descartes is that he said, “I think, therefore I am.” Anyway so I start today. Next up I’ll be talking about Descartes and what all I made of him and his writings.