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Nicomachean Ethics and more.

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The Individual

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I started reading Ethics (Oxford World Classics) yesterday and I'm having trouble understanding it.

My interest in Philosophy started around April or May this year. I haven't got a degree or any formal education in Philosophy.

Any suggestions would help.

In addition, I was wondering how to get a firm grounding in Philosophy. What or how do they teach you in university so that you become more versed in reading and thinking about philosophy? I started by reading Introducing Plato and all the Introductory books.

Since then I've pretty much read - or tried to read - anything that interests me. But most of the time, the text baffles me completely. For instance, I tried reading Nietzsche's Zarathustra and couldn't understand. Is it because I'm over-reaching here, trying to run before I can walk?

And again, any suggestions would be helpful. Thanks in advance.

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I never understood philosophy until I read Ayn Rand's "The Virtue of Selfishness." I had a couple philosophy courses in college, tried to read a few philosophers, and felt exactly as you describe.

The problem is the philosophers taught in philosophy courses today have such utterly flawed, and irrational philosophies that they have to write opaquely or it would be too easy to figure out they're full of sh**.

Read VOS, and all of Ayn Rand's works. Then read Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand - by Leonard Piekoff. Then start reading everything you can on logic, reasoning, and the fundamentals of philosophy (its structure, branches, and integration). Then go back and read OPAR.

That's what helped me.

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Use this forum, and various online resources, to try to understand a single issue at a time. (for instance what is the source of morality according to various philosophers (Nietzsche's "will to power", Rand self centered morality, Kant's altruism), what is nihilism, or what is egoism, in its various forms, etc. etc., rather than trying to read Nietzsche and understanding it in its entirety.

Various wiki pages and online encyclopedias explain what some of the main points in Nietzsche's philosophy are. Research those, see what other philosophers like Rand have to say about them, become familiar with them, and then you'll be able to identify them in Nietzsche's own writings, and (have a chance to) understand what he's talking about. If you understand what he's trying to say, then it will be easier to decipher the metaphors. So, if it gives you pleasure, you should then read Nietzsche in his own words. (don't get me wrong, if you really want to know him well, you must read him, there's no replacing that, but if it's a tedious, frustrating read, is it really worth it?)

P.S. Before understanding one issue at a time, you should familiarize yourself perfectly with what the issues are, in Metaphysics, Epistemology, Morality, Politics, what the relationship is between these, what are some of the finer points in each, etc.. For this purpose, Ayn Rand's philosophy, as well as classical philosophers like Aristotle (and Rand's writings of him, as well as some of the books she recommends, about Aristotle), should be far easier to follow than Nietzsche for instance.

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I started by reading Introducing Plato and all the Introductory books.
You could try a book that does a survey of various philosophers from then ancients to the moderns. That way, you might get a better picture of the recurring themes and questions. I'm not sure which such book is the best one to try. Something like this might work, but that's not a specific recommendation, just an example of the category.
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It may also be helpful to read a more general survey of the intellectual history of western civilization. Having a framework that you can slot specific philosophers and issues into is very helpful. Something like A History of Knowledge by Charles Van Doren. Leonard Peikoff usually recommends A History of Philosophy by Wilhelm Windelband as a good one-volume history of philosophy. I haven't read it myself so I can neither recommend nor disrecommend it.

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