I have a question about studying philosophy, and don't know where it could go.

The question is about what makes someone a very poor (formally taught), or I suppose very good, philosophy student.


  • Can psychosis, either florid or treated, create problems for studying philosophy which aren't there at least for the hard sciences, maths, etc.
  • Is there anything specific to studying philosophy that makes it difficult for a student, which isn't captured in intelligence testing, success at other subjects, by a lack of effort, etc.
  • We could probably make a more-informed judgment of where the question should/would go if you stated the question in the body of this question.
    – virmaior
    Aug 17, 2015 at 2:56
  • hey @virmaior i edited the question, but am not sure it'll be liked as it is now
    – user6917
    Aug 17, 2015 at 20:24
  • The question about psychosis seems like one best suited to a cognitive psychologist. The second question about what makes philosophy difficult is an interesting question.
    – virmaior
    Aug 17, 2015 at 23:15
  • i can't imagine it being answerable on the cogsci pages here. one thing could be that it demands more cognitive flexibility than most subjects.
    – user6917
    Aug 18, 2015 at 14:18
  • @MATHEMATICIAN One thing that makes it more difficult, especially in regards to other subjects, is that each "question" of philosophy has many theories that are widely known and "popular." The skill of trying to understand someone else's perspective and viewpoints, without holding them as your own, for example. The ability to say "The physicalist would say this to question A, The functionalist would say this about question A, The behaviorist would say this etc etc and so on and so on
    – hellyale
    Sep 20, 2015 at 4:39
  • @MATHEMATICIAN Clarifying questions will help, if the professor states X believes Y, and you think you understand, throw out an example, "so if Y then if A and B (insert non-arbitrary situational context here) Result" The professor then can confirm if you understand the concept being discussed, or have an understanding of where you are standing in regards to the discussion. Then they can (sometimes) identify where the gap is and fill it.
    – hellyale
    Sep 20, 2015 at 4:40

3 Answers 3


This is an answer to an older version of the question. Refer to James' answer instead.

You could try here or on Academia. But that question sounds like it could be primarily opinion based.

  • 3
    They probably wouldn't take that sort of question at academia. The point of academia is to answer questions about the concerns of academics (i.e., publishing, tenure, teaching at the university level)
    – virmaior
    Aug 17, 2015 at 2:56

The primary issue I see with these questions is their general applicability. I've seen questions on Philosophy.SE about self study that were well received.

The question about psychosis (1) seems to be more about psychosis than philosophy, and (2) something one should consult with someone who is aware of the situation of the individual, not a bunch of Internet-people. I would expect that someone who could answer that question would be an expert in psychoses, not philosophy.

For your second question, similarly (1) seems to be more about special learning situations, (2) something that one should consult with someone who is aware of the particular learning situations.

  • having the wrong questions doesn't help in studying anything; and some mental problems can mean you want something from philosophy which isn't there. i suppose whether that is fatal depends upon the tutor
    – user6917
    Aug 23, 2015 at 4:28

On Question 1:

I can't imagine psychosis is good for study in general - amongst many other things; and so for either situation you've outlined: the humanities or hard sciences - for all one knows it might be study that has contributed to the psychosis: what this says is that they should be looking for help; and help from someone who importantly knows them and knows how to help - and this will usually mean by a trained professional; in certain cultures this may be stigmatised

Formal instruction in any academic subject is importantly about knowing how to take constructive criticism and being guided; it's knowing about how to put ones ego aside; it's also importantly about knowing how to pay attention - in general, it's all about close study (but of course not limited to solely that).

Think of an athlete - they have coaches; people who know their strengths and weaknesses and so can pace them; and they pay close attention to how one should run or throw.

The same goes for any academic discipline; admittedly it's slow when one wants to run straight-away; but in the long run it's definitely better.

On Question 2:

Intelligence testing is famously quite bad at capturing intelligence; what it's good at capturing is lack; it acts as a rough filter - and this is why it was developed or rather promoted originally; but it doesn't capture real aptitude.

I can't imagine that any subject at a high level can do without sustained focused effort; someone who is good may make it seem effortless - that's the essence of fluency; but it's usually been achieved through rigourous effort; too much rigour is sometimes as bad as too little; talent has to be tempered for it to become anything.

Unfortunately the romantic myth of effortless genius is still something that people want to buy into; and how it's often sold; one should see it as the mature talent; but not how it's nurtured.

But these are general observations; it's not specific to studying philosophy - which is what your question is about.

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