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16 June 2009

Paul Graham on philosophy

I was tempted to headline this one “Computer Programmer Shits All Over Philosophy”:

What philosophy books would you recommend?

I can’t think of any I’d recommend. What I learned from trying to study philosophy is that the place to look is in other fields. If you understand math or history or aeronautical engineering very well, the most abstract of the things you know are what philosophy is supposed to be teaching. Books on philosophy per se are either highly technical stuff that doesn’t matter much, or vague concatenations of abstractions their own authors didn’t fully understand (e.g. Hegel).

It can be interesting to study ancient philosophy, but more as a kind of accident report than to teach you anything useful.

This is from Paul Graham’s RAQ, aka “Rarely-Asked Questions” which he explains as “questions that I’ve only been asked once or twice, but which seem especially interesting.”

Seriously though, whenever this Paul Graham (not this Paul Graham) publishes one of his essays or talks on his website, I am riveted. Clear-eyed, elegant, and thoroughly thru-conceived thought & documentation on topics ranging from the death of television to the lies we tell our kids from an artful computer programmer’s perspective.

He seems to be posting less frequently of late. That bums me out.

Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis  

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