Doing Philosophy Book Summary - Doing Philosophy Book explained in key points
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Doing Philosophy summary

Timothy Williamson

From Common Curiosity To Logical Reasoning

4.2 (109 ratings)
26 mins

Brief summary

Doing Philosophy by Timothy Williamson offers a comprehensive introduction to the study of philosophy. It covers the key areas of the field, explores fundamental concepts, and provides practical techniques for critical thinking.

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    Doing Philosophy
    Summary of 9 key ideas

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    Philosophy and science may seem like they’re in competition with each other, but they’re not.

    We all philosophize from time to time. We philosophize when we stop dead in the street, struck by the question of what the purpose of life really is. We philosophize when someone challenges one of our deep convictions, forcing us to justify our views. In fact, philosophy is as essential to human existence as sleeping and breathing.

    Of course, every discipline asks big questions and searches for evidence and reasons for their conclusions. A physicist might ask, “What is light?” A historian might ask, “What was feudalism?”

    So what distinguishes philosophy from these other fields of inquiry?

    Well, for one, it asks the most general questions of all. Like this one: Why is there something rather than nothing?

    Admittedly, this question is pretty vague. It’s not clear how one would even begin to answer it. Without a doubt, questions like these contribute to the stereotype that philosophers just sit around pondering unanswerable and inconsequential questions.

    Contrast this with the common image of the scientist as a fastidious experimenter who takes great pains to test and observe real-world phenomena. No wonder scientists have a better public image than philosophers!

    But are scientists and philosophers really all that different? For most of European history, there was no distinction between philosophy and science, and people who studied nature were referred to as “natural philosophers.” It wasn’t until the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that science developed into a separate discipline, with its own methods and fields of study. Since then, of course, the sciences have made rapid progress, with one momentous discovery following another, leaving their mark on our world forever.

    Today, it can seem as though science has superseded philosophy. While they study many of the same things, such as the nature of space and time, perhaps scientific methods are just better equipped to answer these questions.

    But are scientific methods able to answer all the traditional problems of philosophy?

    How, for instance, would you set up an experiment to answer a question like “Does the number seven exist?” After all, you can’t exactly observe the number seven, can you?

    In the following blinks, we’ll take a look at some of the things that philosophers do, and we’ll see that philosophy has its own unique concerns, different from those of the natural sciences.

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    What is Doing Philosophy about?

    Doing Philosophy (2018) dispels some of the stereotypes that continue to hound philosophers. In particular, it takes aim at the pervasive idea that philosophy has become irrelevant in light of the success of the natural sciences, and makes a compelling case for why philosophy is still important and influential today.

    Doing Philosophy Review

    Doing Philosophy is a thought-provoking book by Timothy Williamson that explores the complexities and nuances of philosophical thinking. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With its clear and concise explanations, the book offers a deep understanding of various philosophical concepts, making it accessible to both beginners and advanced readers.
    • Through engaging examples and thought experiments, Williamson brings complex ideas to life, inviting readers to question their assumptions and expand their worldview.
    • The book encourages critical thinking and lively discussion, stimulating intellectual curiosity and allowing readers to explore philosophy in a way that is anything but boring.

    Best quote from Doing Philosophy

    Traditionally, philosophers have wanted to understand the nature of everything, in a very general way.

    —Timothy Williamson
    example alt text

    Who should read Doing Philosophy?

    • Scientifically-minded people convinced that science can solve all problems
    • Skeptics unconvinced by philosophy’s pretense that it is a science
    • Anyone curious to know what exactly philosophers do all day long

    About the Author

    Timothy Williamson is a professor of logic at Oxford University and current A. Whitney Griswold Visiting Professor of Philosophy at Yale University. He has published several books, and many of them, including The Philosophy of Philosophy, have been translated into other languages. He has also contributed to major publications, including The Times Literary Supplement and The New York Times.

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    Doing Philosophy FAQs 

    What is the main message of Doing Philosophy?

    Doing Philosophy explores the nature of philosophical questions and the role of philosophy in understanding ourselves and the world.

    How long does it take to read Doing Philosophy?

    The reading time for Doing Philosophy varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Doing Philosophy a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Doing Philosophy is worth reading as it offers a thought-provoking exploration of philosophical concepts and encourages critical thinking.

    Who is the author of Doing Philosophy?

    The author of Doing Philosophy is Timothy Williamson.

    What to read after Doing Philosophy?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Doing Philosophy, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Ethics by Simon Blackburn
    • A Little History of Philosophy by Nigel Warburton
    • I Am Dynamite! by Sue Prideaux
    • Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell
    • The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius
    • The Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle
    • Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche
    • The Art of Clear Thinking by Hasard Lee
    • How Highly Effective People Speak by Peter Andrei
    • Profit Over People by Noam Chomsky