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Philosophy in fiction.

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Philosophy in fiction.

Postby EmptyMan » Sun Nov 07, 2004 4:05 pm

A freind told me that he was taught philosophical concepts through works of fiction. It sounds like an interesting way to learn rather than having to digest difficult technical terms. I tried to read Kant and Satre and they confused me after a single paragraph. So does anyone know of some good fiction books that teach philosophy?
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Postby Turpissimus » Sun Nov 07, 2004 4:19 pm

Phillip Kerr writes some sci-fi with philosophical thems. I'm not sure how wise it would be to try to actually teach yourself philosophy from his work. I think, instead, that you might have to read about the philosophy so that the book can be more thoroughly appreciated.
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Postby EmptyMan » Sun Nov 07, 2004 4:41 pm

I don't really want to teach myself philosophy through fiction. I just want too understand general concepts thorugh fiction since it would be more fun than having to learn all the weird technical philosophical terms and phrases.
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Postby Emma_85 » Sun Nov 07, 2004 5:22 pm

Hmm... there are a few philosophers who's writings are fiction and have been made into films, Satre for example. But I don't know if you'd be able to understand the concepts if you didn't know them before. I once saw one of his films and if my philosopher teacher had kept stopping the film to explain things I doubt i would have understood it.
Sorry I couldn't be much help really. but if you want to know some good books by philosophers which are understandable I can help there (thy just arenT' fiction).
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Re: Philosophy in fiction.

Postby Democritus » Sun Nov 07, 2004 5:41 pm

EmptyMan wrote:A freind told me that he was taught philosophical concepts through works of fiction. It sounds like an interesting way to learn rather than having to digest difficult technical terms. I tried to read Kant and Satre and they confused me after a single paragraph. So does anyone know of some good fiction books that teach philosophy?



Kurt Vonnegut. Try Breakfast of Champions. Or Mother Night. Or Cat's Cradle. His tone is cheeky but he grapples with ultimate questions on practially every page.

Oh, by the way, Theodore Sturgeon. I wouldn't say that all his writing is philosophical, but it is all thoughtful, and it's intenesly imaginative. There's nobody quite like Sturgeon.
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Postby Kasper » Mon Nov 08, 2004 1:36 am

A friend of mine loves "Sophie's world", which i believe is a sort of philosophical beginners novel. However, I've never read it, so I can't tell you exactly what it's about. (or who wrote it though I think the author is Norwegian.)
“Cum ego verbo utar,” Humpty Dumpty dixit voce contempta, “indicat illud quod optem – nec plus nec minus.”
“Est tamen rogatio” dixit Alice, “an efficere verba tot res indicare possis.”
“Rogatio est, “Humpty Dumpty responsit, “quae fiat magister – id cunctum est.”
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Postby Miles » Mon Dec 13, 2004 3:06 am

"Sophie's World" is an excellent choice. I recommend it to anyone who is a beginner at philosophy and doesn't know where to start.
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Postby klewlis » Mon Dec 13, 2004 3:19 am

Kasper wrote:A friend of mine loves "Sophie's world", which i believe is a sort of philosophical beginners novel. However, I've never read it, so I can't tell you exactly what it's about. (or who wrote it though I think the author is Norwegian.)


I read the first part of the book and it was interesting. I never finished it because I didn't have time. :) Anyway, it kinda takes you through the key historical philosophers through a fictional story, so it might be exactly what you're looking for.
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Postby ThomasGR » Mon Dec 13, 2004 10:22 pm

There was once a time were I've induldged in reading Plato's dialogues and was fond of Socrates's ways getting results by having the correct answers before putting the questions. I even tried to immitate him and believe me it was not so difficult as it looks at first glance. But soon I discovered that his method is not perfect and never leads to the best result.
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Postby chad » Mon Dec 13, 2004 10:27 pm

hi thomas, that's very interesting. could you please explain that in more detail for me, thanks. i've been studying socratic method for a while now and find it complex. what method did you actually follow and why do you think it doesn't always produce the best results, thanks, chad. :)
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Postby ThomasGR » Mon Dec 13, 2004 10:36 pm

The method that Socrates followed is very similar to the method every court interrogator uses. You know the desired result, and putting careful selected questions or picking up on selected code words, you guide the conversation to the desired result. You know the desired outcome of the interogation from beginning, it does not the conversation leads you to this.
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Postby chad » Mon Dec 13, 2004 10:47 pm

hi thomas, yes that's the aim of the socratic method... but what was the actual method you followed. e.g. the aim of forensic cross-x is to put questions to the witness forcing him/her to answer in a way which e.g. weakens the reliability of the evidence, the credibility of the witness &c. anyone who watches law & order knows that :)

but that doesn't mean that people like me can actually cross-x, because i don't know the technique of how to do this. i remember reading that there are long lists of things which lawyers can use in cross-x, e.g. visual perception is inaccurate in respect of things like distances, little details &c, and so on for other senses; perception is made less reliable by shock, recognition, length of time, involvement (or non-involvement) in the event, &c. if you know all these things you have a method of attacking the evidence or the witness by going through each of these things if relevant.

similarly, i'd like to know what method you used to question socratically, because this is one of my interests, thanks, chad. :)
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Postby ThomasGR » Mon Dec 13, 2004 11:02 pm

It's difficult to explain it in few words, but the point is to put a selected question in a way that the other person can only answer you as you have predicted it or you are anticipating. Going on this way, you build your arguments on and on till there are no other ways left than to agree
with your conclusions. These conclusions are not a result but you had always in mind from beginning and all the aim of this conversation was to convince the other. This works well in most cases if the other person collaborates, like Socrates' audiance did. In other cases the other person can become real stubborn. Ny wife for instance smelled very often the outcome, got very angry and refused to collaborate. She accused me of forcing her to agree with me, but asking her how she came to this she couldn't tell.
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Postby chad » Mon Dec 13, 2004 11:15 pm

hi thomas, thanks but you're still explaining the aim of the method rather than the method.

e.g., if a witness in court says

i saw x

then the aim

is to put a selected question in a way that the other person can only answer you as you have predicted it or you are anticipating. Going on this way, you build your arguments on and on till there are no other ways left than to agree with your conclusions.


but the method you use to do this is the hard part. e.g. a lawyer might first have a method of attacking:

"i" in "i saw x", attacking the credibility of the witness by asking leading questions about the witness' relationship to y, &c &c. then they might attack:

"saw" by going through characteristic inaccuracies in perception, then they might attack:

"x" by saying that "x" wasn't there at all, &c. &c. that would be the method.

typically in plato, socrates is attacking a statement something like:

A is B.

what socratic method did you use to come up with leading questions to show that A is not B? thanks, chad. :)
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Postby ThomasGR » Mon Dec 13, 2004 11:34 pm

Well, this is the socratic method :)
You start making a short statement of the kind "let's assume A is B". Than Criton or someone else will say "I agree." and all the dialogues go this way.
Socrates: "If we assume A is B than C is D." " Yes I agree", says Phaedon, and so on. If someone in the mean time comes and disagrees with something, Socrates will "attack" him (in the most polite way of course since he is the wise Socrates!) and says "But 'we' agreed previously that A is B and C is D." The other person out of shame that perhaps he doesn't remeber what A or B is, and to prevend some embarassment or to hide his lack of attention to all the discussion will simply shut up and agrees once again with whatever Socrates says.

You see, the "assumption" that A is B has now become a firm statement that no one is allowed to doubt! :)
Last edited by ThomasGR on Tue Dec 14, 2004 2:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby chad » Mon Dec 13, 2004 11:46 pm

hi thomas, that's quite funny :) but it doesn't explain how Socrates attacks statements like A is B. people say to socrates A is B, and socrates attacks the statement: he doesn't assume the statement because he wants to destroy it.
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Postby Phylax » Wed Dec 15, 2004 1:02 pm

Socrates generally tried to find general truths for things. In his discourses he tests truisms by reductio ad absurdum - i.e., commonly held view points are shown to be ridiculous in some circumstances. But it is worth mentioning that Socrates does not always "win" in the Dialogues, nor is he always logical (but we can maybe forgive him that, since it was not until his pupil Plato's pupil Aristotle's time that the rules of formal logic started to be laid down).
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Postby echomikeromeo » Mon Jan 17, 2005 8:27 pm

I quite liked Sophie's World, but I found myself skipping through the slightly tedious philosophical lectures to get to the actual story, which was very interesting and enthralling. However, the lectures are such that it would be a handy book just to have on hand as a reference, because it explains things clearly enough that even a poor dim teenager like me can understand it.
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Postby MyIlium » Tue Jan 18, 2005 2:08 am

Um. Back to the topic, I liked Sophie's World as well. Orson Scott Card also puts a lot of philosophy into his books -- philosophy of the individual and sometimes society, not the natural universe -- too.
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Postby Kladaradatsj » Tue Jan 18, 2005 8:22 pm

Kasper wrote:A friend of mine loves "Sophie's world", which i believe is a sort of philosophical beginners novel. However, I've never read it, so I can't tell you exactly what it's about. (or who wrote it though I think the author is Norwegian.)


It's by Jostein Gaarder, who has written some other books as well. I've read both 'Sophie's world' and 'Maya'. Maya is in my opinion not what you might be seeking. Sophie's world however is fine. It presents philosophy in a far more interesting way, which is bound to help you remember it more easily. If only my Uni philosophy course would be taught in story-form...
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Postby chad » Tue Jan 18, 2005 10:10 pm

hi, another suggestion (although it's not fiction) is bertrand russell's "history of western philosophy". it's long but very readable, and if you read it all the way through you'll have a good idea of most of the famous philosophers up to wittgenstein in the 20th c. it also covers well the middle ages philosophers: this is a black hole in lots of phil history books i've read, which jump from the greeks bc to descartes and the famous philosophers in germany only a few centuries ago. :)
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Postby Er » Sun Apr 10, 2005 2:27 pm

I agree with Thomas... in fact reading Plato's dialogue is the best way to learn about him. I think the nicest are Phaedo, Pheadro and Symposion. I appreciated them a lot because they're about actual topic which people have ever debate on, as death, love and life in general.
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Postby Gunnarius » Fri Apr 22, 2005 10:47 pm

What about the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett? They are extreamly funny and he tackles philosophical matters in a very readable way. (Try for example Small Gods, a fantastic book.) He also squeezes in a (funny) latin phrase or two, like "fabricate diem, pvnc".

I've read Socrates's defense by Plato (in Icelandic) and think it's highly enjoyable, and demonstrates the rhetoric of the socratic method very well.
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Postby Er » Sat Apr 23, 2005 1:16 pm

"Socrate's Defense" and "Eutyphrone" are the first dialogue by Plato that I've read, I like them a lot, in particuraly the first one is really interesting and exciting, because Socrate, one of the wisest man in the world, has been condamned to death even if he didn't do anything against the Athenian law: he only tried to teach the right way to live and to behave.
If you read the seventh book of Plato's Repubblic, you'll understand better; anyway, Plato is so complicated and fascinating that is quite impossible understand him really. I hope you will enjoy yourself reading other dialogue written by this philosopher as, for example, Phaedo.
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Postby Emma_85 » Sat Apr 23, 2005 7:05 pm

Gunnarius wrote:What about the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett? They are extreamly funny and he tackles philosophical matters in a very readable way. (Try for example Small Gods, a fantastic book.) He also squeezes in a (funny) latin phrase or two, like "fabricate diem, pvnc".

I've read Socrates's defense by Plato (in Icelandic) and think it's highly enjoyable, and demonstrates the rhetoric of the socratic method very well.


yeah, Terry Pratchett is great! 8)
do you read the discworld books in English or Icelandic?
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Postby Gunnarius » Sat Apr 23, 2005 10:06 pm

English, since none of the Discworld books have been translated into Icelandic. (Truckers and Diggers (and perhaps Wings) have been, but they of course are not part of the Discworld.)
I would think that the Discworld series are very hard books to translate, because of the subtle humour and puns.
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Postby Kevinnnnn » Mon Jul 04, 2005 11:24 pm

Nietzsche wrote Also sprach Zarathustra in narrative form.
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