My heresy on philosophical sources

In my last post I mention listening to an episode of Philosophize This about Hegel and also one of the very short introductions about his work. πŸŽ‘

What I don’t mention at all is reading Hegel. I haven’t.

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Since I’ve started making an intentional study of the great philosophers over the last year or two, I haven’t really read original sources at all (mostly). And I think it’s been great. I think secondary, modern sources are a really good way to learn this stuff.

First of all, the original sources were really struggling through their ideas. They were giving birth to new frameworks and their prose is quite tortured, reflecting that. As people have discussed it and discussed it, they have managed to come up with more comprehensible ways of explaining them.

Also, as their ideas have somewhat steeped into the culture, you realize that you partly knew some of the ideas, you just hadn’t known where they came from and you didn’t know their full complexity.

Philosophy is something that takes decades of group computing to make it more cogent.


Also, quite often, there’s a lot of garbage it seems in these original works, ideas that are no longer relevant or widely discarded.

Relying on secondary sources is a good way to skip right to the parts that have come salient in today’s world.

That said I do have a caveat: it’s good to take in multiple secondary sources. over the last 18 months or so, I have come at Kant’s “Copernican Revolution” at least three times, using three very different secondary sources. It really really helps to explore multiple takes like this to compare perspectives on the same material and make sure one isn’t overly slanted or myopic.

πŸŒͺI know hardcore philosophy students think this is crazy but I disagree. I think philosophy is a bit bogged down in authorial authority in fact.

I’m not interested in being right about what Hegel thought. I’m interested in right thinking. πŸ’­