I believe that if one's education in public school did not include some attention the world religions (a study of their history, teachings), then one's education would be profoundly incomplete. I think that it would be impossible to claim to be well educated in the history of Europe, the near and middle East, Asia, the Americas, Africa without some knowledge of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. One might be well educated in math, physics, chemistry, biology without such a background, but once one comes to terms with history, culture, art, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, psychology, medicine... I propose that it would be very difficult to avoid "a brief history of the principles [and history] of the world religions." You asked about the principles of philosophers as well as religion and, on that point, I also think it would be hard to claim to be well educated without some exposure to the philosophical principles that underlie a culture's history and governance. In my country, the United States, being self-aware about the history of the USA would, I believe, require understanding the philosophical principles behind the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the causes behind the Civil War, and so on.
Excellent question. I have found it extremely helpful either to type out or to write out by hand key claims and arguments. For almost 40 years I have carried around 5 by 7 inch cards in which I have written out parts of different texts that I update and go over continuously. I regularly cull the cards as I approach new texts or arguments, on top of which I keep journals of philosophical ideas. I also suggest sometimes re-reading multiple times parts of philosophical texts almost to the point of memorization. I still remember vividly the first text that I felt I "mastered" or practically memorized, and that was Richard Taylor's book Metaphysics, especially the chapter on God. I found (and still find) his writing lucid and engaging. On the assumption that you might still use old fashioned hard copies of books, I recommend marking them up, filling the margins with comments, counter-points, and the like.
I hope some of this might be helpful.
Addressing your last question first: Although some of my colleagues will probably disagree, I think that on the whole philosophers tend to be (by training and disposition) quite adept at distancing themselves from their own convictions and are pretty good (sometimes excellent, sometimes just so-so) at seeing any given issue from multiple points of view. No philosopher can possibly only work from the standpoint of her or his preferred position (argument or framework) because, historically and today, we all know that (for example) a Kantian approach to ethics or metaphysics is not the only viable alternative or that Wittgenstein has said the last word on philosophical methodology or .... There are some exceptions to the vast majority of philosophy professors who are aware the diversity of reasonable positions worthy of deep consideration on almost every topic. I met a recent graduate from a Ph.D. program who roared with self-confident laughter when I mentioned the possibility that human persons have free agency (libertarian freedom). This is highly unusual. Most philosophers realize that there are reasonable determinists, reasonable compatabilists, etc... I have heaps of philosophical convictions but I do not think any of them are obviously right, nor do I think that those who disagree are unreasonable (or deserve derisive laughter!). In my own classes, I tend to give extra-credit to those who disagree with what they think is my position insofar as they display independence of thought and insightful criticism.
I encourage you to be true to your convictions and argue the points you deem most convincing. When you refer to "arguing for the sake of arguing," I suppose you might have to use some practical wisdom. In a class in which no student challenges a professor you might be facing a rather boring enterprise, but you will need to use your own judgment about when you or others are only "arguing for the sake of arguing" or you and your peers are raising important objections and counter-arguments.
As to the worry about whether marks or grades will be a function of a student's agreement with the professor's point of view, I suggest you send your professor a link to our exchange on askphilosopher and ask him or her for a response. After all, the submission of your question / issue is anonymous, and the professor will not have any way of knowing it was you who submitted the question. If you do this, I would be fascinated to get an email from you on your professor's response.
Great question! Your choice of language may depend on your philosophical interests. If you are interested in Greco-Roman and philosophy in late Antiquity and Medieval philosophy, then Greek and Latin would be excellent. If you are interested in Indian or Hindu philosophy sanscrit would be best. Your Spanish will be good for reading a very fine, dynamic Spanish philosopher and essayist, Jose Ortega Y Gasset. Spanish philosophy (that is, philosophy in Spain, not just in Spanish) experienced hard times after the defeat of democracy in 1939, but after the restoration of democracy in 1978, Spain has been a place of multiple, alternative philosophical debates. Two outstanding philosophers to consider (AFTER you have read some Ortega, who is fabulous), I suggest you consult J.L. Lopez Aranguren and J.M. Valverde.
I think your pursuit of English is a great choice. I could be wrong, but I believe that probably the most number of philosophical works available today are accessible in English, more than any other single language. This is not just do to the works that are first published in English, but due to the wide ranging works that have been and are being translated into English. English is also more easy to learn than, say, Chinese in terms of numbers of characters and punctuation. When I was in graduate school (long, long ago...), after English the languages of choice were French and German. Because life is short, and in mastering English and reading current Spanish speaking philosophy (which also is flourishing in Mexico, Central and South America; on this, see Latin American Philosophy Today, edited by Jorge J. E. Garcia), I suggest choosing French or German, depending on your interests. If you want to read Heidegger in the original, go with German, if you want to read Sartre in the original, I suggest you go with French.
I will try. Sometime philosophers have taken up names based on location or convictions. In the former, there was in the 20th century the Vienna Circle and in the 17th century there was Cambridge Platonism. In terms of convictions there have been movements and societies that employ names (like Platonism) or ideas (Ordinary Philosophy, British Idealism) or references to groups (e.g. the art and philosophy reading group) or exchanges (e.g. the Science Conversation) or to the ways in which a club might carry out its philosophical activity (e.g. 'the philosophy forum'). You can find a list of societies recognized by the American Philosophical Association and one or another term or name might seem attractive.
OK, so you want something "cool." This probably means something better that Yhposolihp Bulc which is 'Philosophy Club" spelled backwards (though if you really are going backwards probably Bulc Yhposolihp might be more apt). So, setting aside the lame and the ridiculous..... Sometimes something that seems not-cool can become cool. Here might be an example of a name that may (or may not) catch attention for its oddity...
The "Excuse me, but I am not sure what you mean. Let's talk." Philosophy Club
The "let's do some anti-boring philosophy" club
Or, you could borrow a technical "cool" term from another area. For example, pilots have a term for ideal flying condition: Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited, abbreviated CAVU. You could go with something like:
The CAVU Philosophy Club
which would hint that it is a club that seeks to do philosophy under ideal conditions.
OK, I feel like I have failed you, but I tried.... But at least I did not come up with something corny like: The Philosophy Club; Loving wisdom since 399 BCE
399 BCE, being the date we believe Socrates was executed...
My favorite for beginners (although the author is somewhat out of favor with some professional philosophers these days) is Thomas Nagel's What Does It All Mean?: A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy. It raises all of the interesting questions in a readable fashion, but leaves the answers to the reader.
(And the author of The Story of Philosophy, by the way, spelled his name "Will Durant".)
Terrific question(s). You may indeed begin studying philosophy with questions. Kant once observed that there were three foundational questions: what can I know? What should I do? What may I hope for? But you can expand these to include: who or what am I? What is the meaning of life? What is the best form of government? Do I have duties of gratitude to my parents? When (if ever) is it justified to go to war? and so on. And if we follow the practice of Aristotle, one good way to begin reflecting on these questions is first to consider how others have tried to answer such questions, and then begin working out which answer you are drawn to and why. Probably the best historian of philosophy by a living philosopher is Anthony Kenney. You can do a search on Amazon for either his single volume history of philosophy or his multi-volume undertaking. If you would prefer not to undertake an historical approach, an easy introduction to the practice of philosophy is T.V. Morris's Philosophy for Dummies. I am sorry that it has such a silly (and slightly insulting) title, but it is a good read, clear, and reliable. As I believe philosophy is best done in dialogue with others, I suggest you might find a friend who is also interested in philosophy and perhaps work out a series of conversations on different topics. The publisher Rowman and Littlefield has published a series of dialogues in philosophy under the general editor Dale Jacquette. You might pick up one or more of them on topics of interest to get a feel for how an engaging philosophical dialogue can be both fun and insightful.
I think the best introductory book on metaphysics published in the last 40 years is: Metaphysics by Richard Taylor. I think it is outstanding in its clarity and structure. For slightly more challenging, but more recent books, check out the books on metaphysics by E.J. Lowe (a British philosophy at the University of Durham) and Michael Loux (an American philosopher at the University of Notre Dame).
Well, in many countries attending school up to a given age is not voluntary; penalties are in the offing for not doing so. The justification is often articulated in terms of the good of the person who is forced to learn --such education will enable her or him to work, make a living, make decisions for themselves, the education might help the person not to be exploited, and so on. But the justification is sometimes more in terms of the good of a society at large. In a healthy democracy, for example, it is good to have citizens who are sufficiently educated who can understand political, economic, and social policies and vote in light of an informed, reasonable evaluation of the alternatives. I personally think that this practice and enforced education is defensible, but your question raises interesting further questions. How far can a nation state go in terms of imposing instructions? In the USA and the UK, it seems that the state is virtually compelling tobacco users to learn that smoking causes cancer. Again, I am inclined to think this is good or at least permissible, but I am not sure how far this can or should extend. If someone buys a lot of alcohol, should they have to listen to three lectures on the dangers of abuse? How long can or should a nation state compel students to remain in school? Until they can read and write or until they know the law and history of their society? Maybe each citizen should learn some world history? Also, most fundamental question of all: can one really force a person to learn something, if they do not wish to learn it or actively resist the instruction? I certainly do not have all the answers, let alone suggestions here, but I hope that raising these additional questions might help one to see the terrain better and what needs to be addressed.