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Why is philosophy so complicated!!!!!!



Why is studying philosophy so difficult (well for me anyway).? No doubt this is a philosophical question! I am currently doing an Introduction to Philosophy MOOC with Coursera. It is something I have always wanted to study and over the years I have picked up books on the subject but put them down again as I found them to be impenetrable. I thought I would find it easier with a lecturer (albeit an on-line one) but I still find it baffling why the study of philosophy uses long and complicated sentences to describe something simple (at least I think it is simple but as I can’t deconstruct the sentence I don’t know for sure).

I am not the only one that thinks this as this forum shows.

Here is an example of one the things we were reading in week two of my philosophy course (quote taken from the transcript of Professor Duncan Pritchard’s lecture, University of Edinburgh).

There’s a general formula to constructing a Gettier-style case. What you do is you take a belief which is justified but where ordinarily even though it is justified, the belief would be false. Think about the sheep case. Ordinarily if you’re forming your belief that there is a sheep in the field by looking at a big hairy dog, although you’re justified you’d end up with a false belief because you’re not looking at a sheep.
But now what you do is you just add whatever detail you need to add to the example to make the belief true nonetheless, even though the truth of the belief has got nothing to do with the justification.

Basically, it’s saying you take a case where normally you would be right but you aren’t this time because you are being tricked. So you just make something up, ie that there is a sheep hiding behind the dog (as they are prone to do), therefore making you correct.


This isn’t just a philosophy problem, the sciences do it too. I hated physics and chemistry at school as it made no sense whatsoever. This Tedtalk sums it up nicely.

Maybe it’s just the way my brain works. Some people find learning languages difficult and I don’t.
Maybe it’s because it used to one of those subjects only the rich would study, like Latin and Greek, and therefore scholars thought it needed to be written in this way to prevent it being accessible to all and give them a sense of self importance.

I will persevere with the course because philosophy fascinates me but I will continue to struggle and I just wish it was easier to read. Such a shame as we all think about and discuss philosophy at some point in our lives so it is relevant to all of us.

If I learn to understand it I will let you know.



  1. Louise Taylor says:

    I try to understand it one small step at a time. I have fully understood that Jumpers exist and that most problems are sheep shaped tricks covering the real problem that lies beneath.

    • Nat Nelson says:

      That’s a good way of looking at it! I can’t get rid of the image of a sheep hiding behind a shaggy dog and keep thinking what it’s done to have to hide behind the dog!

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