This note is a supplement to Ten
good modern philosophy texts and should both correct and explain
a possible mistake I might have seemed to make there, but did not - provided
you read the text in the context of my site.
The possible mistake I made - if one reads Ten
good modern philosophy texts just by itself, without considering
the rest of the site it is part of - is that it seems to limit
philosophy to what
may be regarded as the fairly narrow and mostly technical fields of analytical
philosophy and philosophy of science, and that I do not allow for or know of
other kinds of or approaches to philosophy.
Let me start with shedding some light on why
the books I mentioned all fall rather squarely in one or two approaches,
styles or conceptions of philosophy.
It is true that the ten good texts are
mentioned fall mostly and mainly within the fields of analytical philosophy
and philosophy of science, but there are (at least) two good reasons for this,
which I should have indicated in the original piece, but did not, and
therefore do so now.
The first and least important reason is that
it accords with my own tastes, interests, and assumptions, which come to
I believe that
philosophy, as its name
indicates, is love of science, and that these days - indeed, since Galileo
invented the scientific method of rational axiomatic explanation coupled to
thorough empirical testing of testable consequences of these explanations -
the sciences, especially the real sciences (mathematics, physics, chemistry,
biology), are more philosophical than what's called
(academic) philosophy these days,
that tends to be, apart from subjects in it related to the real sciences,
speculation, bogus, sophistries and illusions, or (also) plain deception, fraud or
And apart from that belief - which I think is
as well-founded and rational as a belief may be, unlike religious and
political beliefs, that are rarely or never well-founded or rational - and
that dominant interest in real knowledge about real things, and the methods to
find and secure it, analytical philosophy and philosophy of science fits best
with my tastes in reasoning and argueing, which are mathematical and logical
rather than literary or merely verbal.
The second and far more important reason that
the ten good texts I mentioned do fall mostly and mainly within the fields of
analytical philosophy and philosophy of science is that it seems to me that
the last 100 or 150 years (*) there has grown a science of methodology and
reasoning, of philosophy of science and logic and probability, that makes
philosophy, understood as the investigation and clarification of fundamental
problems and assumptions, take on a new aspect - for those whose minds are up
to it, for the new science of methodology and reasoning is mostly
mathematical or formal.
This means that there has grown a body of
knowledge and ideas (not only, and indeed mostly not, in philosophical
academies but in institutions of fundamental scientific or mathematical
research, that were more or less forced to clarify the foundations of their
own sciences) about scientific
scientific testing and investigation
of hypotheses, and what is and is not a rationally useful
theory, that is
unlike what existed the foregoing millenia, and that is both considerably
deeper and much more powerful than the ideas about the foundations of science,
mathematics, logic and reasoning before Boole succeeded in mathematizing
Hence there is much to learn from
the books I
mention, and what one can learn from these books about reasoning, logic,
theorizing, experimenting and thinking rationally both goes considerably
beyond what previous generations knew about this and may help one to
understand what they did and why they failed to do much better.
These are the main reasons why the Ten
good modern philosophy texts I listed are best understood as
concerned with (the foundations of) the philosophy of science: This is what
philosophy really is and should be about, and if there is more to philosophy,
at least it should start on a basis like this, if only to be able to correct
and elucidate itself.
Having briefly explained this, I turn to the
other possible complaint about the list of ten books I gave, namely that I do
not allow for or know of other kinds of or approaches to philosophy.
The short reply to this is that this simply
is not so, and there are indeed on my site a considerable amount of texts that
Indeed, it is well to provide links to lists
of these, if only because these texts are mostly philosophical, neither
analytical nor philosophy of science, yet interesting and worthwhile:
with my comments: These are more than 20 classics of philosophy (and
related fields), mostly with my comments, that concern many kinds of and
approaches to philosophy.
More or less philosophical texts concerning politics, history and the social
sciences: This is a list of again mostly classical texts in these
fields that I have read and found interesting, useful or important.
Philosophical Dictionary: Although based on realistic assumptions, that
mostly fit philosophy, in so far as it is or may be rational at all, into
science, I am interested in quite a number of topics that are properly and
historically speaking philosophical, but that do not have much to do with or
are not much touched by analytical or logical or scientific methods.
I could mention more, but the amount of
reading to master the texts in these three items must take years, and requires
a good and well-trained mind to start with, so that I think I can claim that I
have established my point that for me also there is much more to philosophy
than can be found within the 20th Century new fields of methodology, logic,
analytical philosophy and philosophy of science, even though these fields
should be basic for the systematic study of philosophy.
What remains true though, in my view of these
matters, are these points
- Especially modern philosophers should know
about these philosophical fields that were so much developed in the 20th
Century, viz. methodology, logic, analytical philosophy and philosophy of
science, and that especially because these (may) shed so much light on so
many philosophical problems and texts.
- Good modern philosophy is based on a good
grounding in these fields, whatever the philosophy is specifically concerned
with - and this is a difference with earlier centuries: There now is a far
better understanding of what scientific reasoning is than there used to be,
and to comprehend it requires mathematics and logic.
- There is a rather wide gulf between
systems of or approaches to philosophy that are not informed by such
knowledge of mathematics, logic, probability theory and philosophy of
science, that indeed risk the chance of being mostly verbal, phony,
fraudulent or (self-)deceptions, and those that are.
- The real interests of most of the great
philosophers before the rise of science were scientific or religious: They
were not concerned with the supplying of their own verbal sophistries and
illusions to fundamentally irrational or scientifically untrained minds in
search of an ideology
or religion that
became so popular, especially amongst academics in the soft sciences, in the
- A great amount of modern academic
philosophy is of no scientific, literary or cognitive value at all, and
exists mostly and only because (1) philosophy has been made into a
university-subject and because (2) there always are many more men in search
of an ideology than
are capable of understanding and doing real science or real philosophy in a
systematic way on the strength of their own minds: It is mostly to these
types that much of modern academic philosophy is addressed.
So to summarize this note: The main reasons
to recommend Ten
good modern philosophy texts that all belong to the field of
philosophy of science is that it seems to me that it is especially this sort
of philosophical knowledge that should be interesting and of concern to people
with some serious interest in philosophy, and also that it is the only
systematic way to help them avoid all manners of deluded reasoning and most systems of
false, phony, ignorant or ideologized philosophy.
(*) A good starting point
to date the beginning is Boole's "An
investigation of The
Laws of Thought on which
are founded the
mathematical theories of
logic and probability".
My own edition is the
one in Dover
paperbacks, with ISBN
0-486-60028-9. It seems
to me to be as important an innovation in logic and the science of reasoning
as Aristotle's codifications of the principles of logic.