9. How to read philosophy

You might not think writing style matters in philosophy. But Kwame Anthony Appiah – a professor of philosophy who’s also a literary scholar – argues that style is crucial for understanding almost all the great philosophers. He shows how a single strange sentence from the American philosopher Quine unsettles our familiar sense of the world. In contrast, French philosopher Montaigne’s humble style underpins his open-minded thinking. Anthony guides us through the rewards of reading philosophy as a kind of literature.

Bonus clip

Kwame Anthony Appiah on the delightful flexibility of Asante Twi proverbs.

Works mentioned

– W. V. Quine, Word and Object

– Michel de Montaigne, Essays

– Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason

Further reading

Kwame Anthony Appiah at the New York Times – The Case for Contamination

Kwame Anthony Appiah at NPR – Cosmopolitanism: Finding a Moral Middle Ground

Adam Gopnik at The New Yorker – Montaigne on Trial

Jim Holt at the New York Times – Is Philosophy Literature?

Friedrich Nietzsche at Brain Pickings – Ten Rules for Writers

Erica Trabold at Lit Hub – How to find Michel de Montaigne’s estate, or get hopelessly lost trying

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