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Finding Philosophy

So, you are just getting started out with doing philosophy. Way to go! It’s going to be a wonderful time. But, perhaps you’re at a bit of a loss when it comes to knowing exactly where to start when it comes to finding philosophy—especially philosophy that you’d interested in. Should I just read the books and articles my teacher shows in class? What if I’m just doing it on my own? Is philosophy only in hard-to-read books? Should I only read work by professional philosophers? Where do I look? If you’ve found yourself asking questions like those, hopefully, this guide will get you on the right track on your philosophical journey.


Researching philosophy can seem hard if you don’t know where to look. There are a number of different sources to find philosophy. It can come in the form of books, articles, webpages, and even internet videos— all of which we will explore in just a moment. These various sources serve different needs and are better for some applications than others. Below are descriptions of several different places to look for philosophy:

Academic Online Sources: Chances are that if you are enrolled in dual-credit high school courses, you may have access to licenses to use certain academic databases. This means that your school paid for you to be able to use websites such as OneSearch, EBSCO Host, or JStor (just to name a few) to find material online. These websites work a lot like your standard search engines, helping you research academic articles


Other Online Databases: If you are not a dual-credit student or a student at a college or university, then you may not have access to the academic databases mentioned above. However, there are some other databases that you can find philosophy papers on if you’re not a college student. Google has one called Google Scholar. With this search engine, you can quickly find primary source material on any topic in philosophy. However, not all papers or essays may be entirely free for you to view, some are behind pay walls. There is another one specifically for philosophical research, called PhilPapers. It works much like the other databases, making an interesting article just a few key words and a click away. You can even turn on different filters and tools to refine your search, so you can narrow your results by the year published or length of the article. These are also great resources for writing papers as well as independent research.

and books about anything you can imagine. Academic databases are good for finding material to use when writing papers or doing research that needs peer-reviewed sources. But these sites are not always available to everyone, so check with your school’s library or local public library to see if you have access.

Online Philosophy Encyclopedias: 

There are some other online resources that offer in-depth information

on philosophy in the form of encyclopedia-style webpages.Two of the most notable ones for philosophy are the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Both websites offer very detailed information on different philosophers, theories, and terminology. It is important to note that these encyclopedias do not contain primary sources like databases do (i.e., the articles aren’t original works in themselves; instead, they are explanations and definitions about different original works and ideas—think Wikipedia). However, these secondary sources provide helpful bibliographies of the primary sources they are referring to.

Libraries and Books: If you are interested finding physical copies of philosophical work, then you can look into a library in your community or school (as well as bookstores if you want to purchase them). Libraries often have diverse catalogs of material at your disposal, free of charge. You can see if there is a “philosophy” section in your library. If you can’t find what you’re looking for there—or if there isn’t one—then you might want to look in different sections. Since philosophy and philosophical topics are so far-reaching in terms of subject matter, there is a chance that you can find philosophy under subjects like “Political Science” or “Political Theory” (for Locke, Hobbes, Rousseau etc.), “Psychology” (for Freud, Lacan, Piaget etc.), “Gender Studies” (for de Beauvoir, Butler, hooks etc.), as well as “Literature” (for Sartre, Camus, Thoreau, etc.). And as always, don’t be afraid to ask the librarian.

Philosophy isn’t just relegated to books and papers written by professional philosophers.

Alternative Sources: 

Philosophy isn’t just relegated to books and papers written by professional philosophers. Emerging media offer philosophy in new and interesting ways, from YouTube videos and web comics to podcasts and other interactive websites. These are good if you’re looking to be entertained while learning or receiving clarification on philosophical topics. Below are a few specific examples of these alternative media:


The School of Life – A YouTube channel which produces visually quirky, collage-style videos about all sorts of philosophers and philosophy from Kant’s thoughts on the sublime to Heidegger’s concept of dasein. The videos are narrated by Alain de Botton, a documentarian and philosopher, who explains different theories and ideas from philosophy in accessible language. The School of Life also features other video playlists dedicated to Eastern philosophy and Psychoanalysis.


Nerdwriter – A YouTube channel which features a number of critiques and analyses of films, books, and politics, among other things, in video essays. Video essays, like those of the Nerdwriter, are akin to written essays read aloud but are embedded in a series of related videos, images, and graphics, which help to convey the thesis of the author. This channel is good for aesthetic and literary analyses which philosophically argue different theses. Examples of his work include “What the Truman Show Teaches Us About Politics” and “Seinfeld: What ‘Nothing’ Really Means.”


The Partially Examined Life (PEL), Philosophize This!, and Philosophy Bites – Philosophy podcasts by professionals (available on podcasting services) which feature well- rounded philosophical discussions and analyses of different concepts and ideas. These convenient podcasts are free and explain the topics at hand for novices. The Partially Examined Life (PEL), in particular, makes a point of

having discussions about philosophical topics with the

assumption that the listener is not a student of philosophy or

that they have read any philosophy. PEL works much like a

reading group where the hosts discuss a book they’ve read

collectively, prior to taping the podcast (their reading list can be

found on their website). Philosophize This! is an interesting

podcast which often features special guest academics and

philosophers, explaining different philosophical topics like

existential freedom, capitalism, and more.


Existential Comics and Philosophy Bro – In both of these sources, you can find philosophy in the form of funny illustrations and humorous dialogue which put philosophy in everyday terms. Existential Comics is a web comic series that illustrates different philosophers having silly, yet intellectually stimulating, conversations as they navigate interesting situations. For example, they have a comic where Karl Marx, Bertrand Russell, and Simone de Beauvoir start a fight club, beating each other up after a philosophically rigorous dialogue goes south. Then, there is Philosophy Bro, a website that boils philosophy down to very basic terms in the form of goofy, yet well-done explanations in frat-boy language. For example, they frame Heidegger’s concept of dasein in the setting of a “bro” thinking about the nature of his existence at party.


New Philosopher, The History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps, and Critical Theory – These websites offer interesting articles and pages about philosophy and philosophers. They often pair clear-cut information with good design and reader accessibility in mind. They use visual media like photos and videos to help convey information. On these sites you can find some primary and secondary material. New Philosopher, specifically, is a philosophy journal which produces its own material. Critical Theory is a similar website but includes more humor.

Wisecrack – Another YouTube channel which delivers philosophical analyses of the ethics, aesthetics, and logic of your favorite movies and shows in a comical, but informative way. Some examples of their videos are “The Philosophy of House of Cards,” “The Philosophy of Rick and Morty,” and “The Philosophy of Kanye West.” Additionally, Wisecrack produces another YouTube channel, 8-Bit Philosophy, in which videos animated in the style of vintage video games explain different philosophical topics.


CrashCourse: Philosophy – Vlog Brothers, Hank and John Green, produce this educational YouTube channel where they offer an in-depth video series about philosophy. CrashCourse: Philosophy lays out the basics of philosophy, covering historical origins and theoretical positions using well-researched information along with entertain graphic design. Examples of their videos include “The Meaning of Knowledge,” “Aesthetic Appreciation”, and “How Words Can Harm.” With these helpful videos, you can feel like you’re taking a whole Philosophy 101 course right on your laptop.

Below is a table which summarizes some of the key points about each source:

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