About this Course
4.6
3,005 ratings
716 reviews
This course will introduce you to some of the main areas of research in contemporary philosophy. Each module a different philosopher will talk you through some of the most important questions and issues in their area of expertise. We’ll begin by trying to understand what philosophy is – what are its characteristic aims and methods, and how does it differ from other subjects? Then we’ll spend the rest of the course gaining an introductory overview of several different areas of philosophy. Topics you’ll learn about will include: Epistemology, where we’ll consider what our knowledge of the world and ourselves consists in, and how we come to have it; Philosophy of science, where we’ll investigate foundational conceptual issues in scientific research and practice; Philosophy of Mind, where we’ll ask questions about what it means for something to have a mind, and how minds should be understood and explained; Political Philosophy, where we'll investigate whether we have an obligation to obey the law; Moral Philosophy, where we’ll attempt to understand the nature of our moral judgements and reactions – whether they aim at some objective moral truth, or are mere personal or cultural preferences, and; Metaphysics, where we’ll think through some fundamental conceptual questions about free will and the nature of reality. The development of this MOOC has been led by the University of Edinburgh's Eidyn research centre. To accompany 'Introduction to Philosophy', we are pleased to announce a tie-in book from Routledge entitled 'Philosophy for Everyone'. This course companion to the 'Introduction to Philosophy' course was written by the Edinburgh Philosophy team expressly with the needs of MOOC students in mind. 'Philosophy for Everyone' contains clear and user-friendly chapters, chapter summaries, glossary, study questions, suggestions for further reading and guides to online resources. Please click "Start Here" and navigate to the "Optional Reading" page for more information....
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Suggested: 4 hours/week

Approx. 13 hours to complete
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English

Subtitles: English, Chinese (Simplified), Vietnamese, Dutch, Turkish, Hebrew, Spanish, Romanian
Globe

100% online courses

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.
Calendar

Flexible deadlines

Reset deadlines in accordance to your schedule.
Clock

Suggested: 4 hours/week

Approx. 13 hours to complete
Comment Dots

English

Subtitles: English, Chinese (Simplified), Vietnamese, Dutch, Turkish, Hebrew, Spanish, Romanian

Syllabus - What you will learn from this course

1

Section
Clock
2 hours to complete

What is Philosophy?

(Dr. Dave Ward) We’ll start the course by thinking about what Philosophy actually is: what makes it different from other subjects? What are its distinctive aims and methods? We'll also think about why the questions that philosophers attempt to answer are often thought to be both fundamental and important, and have a look at how philosophy is actually practiced. Finally, we'll briefly touch upon two very influential philosophers' answers to the question of how we can know whether, in any given case, there really is a right way of thinking about things....
Reading
4 videos (Total 47 min), 3 readings, 2 quizzes
Video4 videos
Philosophy: Difficult, Important and Everywhere11m
Philosophy: How Do We Do It?17m
Is There A 'Right Way' To Think About Things?6m
Reading3 readings
About this Course10m
Module: What is Philosophy?10m
Optional Reading10m
Quiz2 practice exercises
Practice: What is Philosophy?8m
What is Philosophy?10m

2

Section
Clock
1 hour to complete

Morality: Objective, Relative or Emotive?

(Dr. Matthew Chrisman) We all live with some sense of what is good or bad, some feelings about which ways of conducting ourselves are better or worse. But what is the status of these moral beliefs, senses, or feelings? Should we think of them as reflecting hard, objective facts about our world, of the sort that scientists could uncover and study? Or should we think of moral judgements as mere expressions of personal or cultural preferences? In this module we’ll survey some of the different options that are available when we’re thinking about these issues, and the problems and prospects for each....
Reading
4 videos (Total 44 min), 2 readings, 1 quiz
Video4 videos
Objectivism, Relativism and Emotivism13m
Objections to Objectivism, Relativism and Emotivism11m
Further Discussion7m
Reading2 readings
Module: Morality: Objective, Emotive or Relative?10m
Related work by Philosophy staff at the University of Edinburgh10m
Quiz1 practice exercise
Practice: Morality: Objective, Relative or Emotive?12m
Clock
1 hour to complete

What is Knowledge? And Do We Have Any?

(Professor Duncan Pritchard) We know a lot of things – or, at least, we think we do. Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that studies knowledge; what it is, and the ways we can come to have it. In this module, we’ll take a tour through some of the issues that arise in this branch of philosophy. In particular, we’ll think about what radical scepticism means for our claims to knowledge. How can we know something is the case if we’re unable to rule out possibilities that are clearly incompatible with it? ...
Reading
5 videos (Total 56 min), 2 readings, 1 quiz
Video5 videos
The Classical Account of Knowledge and the Gettier Problem18m
Do We Have Any Knowledge?10m
Further Discussion 110m
Further Discussion 23m
Reading2 readings
Module: What is Knowledge? And Do We Have Any?10m
Related work by Philosophy staff at the University of Edinburgh10m
Quiz1 practice exercise
Practice: What is Knowledge? And Do We Have Any?12m
Clock
24 minutes to complete

Week 2 review

...
Reading
1 quiz
Quiz2 practice exercises
Morality: Objective, Relative or Emotive?20m
What is Knowledge? And Do We Have Any?24m

3

Section
Clock
1 hour to complete

Do We Have an Obligation to Obey the Law?

(Dr. Guy Fletcher) The laws of a state govern what we can and cannot do within that state. But do we have an obligation to obey those laws? In this module, we'll discuss this question, together with some of the main positions that philosophers have developed in response to it. We'll start off by examining what obeying the law means exactly. Then we'll look at three factors that might form the basis of an obligation to follow the law. Finally, we'll discuss what the consequences might be if the problem can't be solved....
Reading
7 videos (Total 27 min), 2 readings, 1 quiz
Video7 videos
The Grounds of Political Obligation2m
Gratitude and Benefit4m
Consent8m
Fairness3m
What if the Problem Can't Be Solved?1m
Summary1m
Reading2 readings
Module: Do We Have an Obligation to Obey the Law?10m
Related work by Philosophy staff at the University of Edinburgh10m
Quiz1 practice exercise
Practice: Do We Have an Obligation to Obey the Law?20m
Clock
1 hour to complete

Should You Believe What You Hear?

(Dr. Allan Hazlett) Much of what we think about the world we believe on the basis of what other people say. But is this trust in other people's testimony justified? In this module, we’ll investigate how this question was addressed by two great philosophers of the Scottish Enlightenment, David Hume (1711 - 1776) and Thomas Reid (1710 - 1796). Hume and Reid's dispute about testimony represents a clash between two worldviews that would continue to clash for centuries: a skeptical and often secular worldview, eager to question everything (represented by Hume), and a conservative and often religious worldview, keen to defend common sense (represented by Reid). ...
Reading
5 videos (Total 25 min), 2 readings, 1 quiz
Video5 videos
Reid's Challenge to Hume2m
Reid's Argument5m
Kant, the Enlightenment and Intellectual Autonomy4m
The Value of Intellectual Autonomy3m
Reading2 readings
Module: Should You Believe What You Hear?10m
Related work by Philosophy staff at the University of Edinburgh10m
Quiz1 practice exercise
Practice: Should You Believe What You Hear?8m
Clock
20 minutes to complete

Week 3 review

...
Reading
1 quiz
Quiz2 practice exercises
Do We Have an Obligation to Obey the Law?20m
Should You Believe What You Hear?20m

4

Section
Clock
2 hours to complete

Minds, Brains and Computers

(Dr. Suilin Lavelle) If you’re reading this, then you’ve got a mind. But what is a mind, and what does it take to have one? Should we understand minds as sets of dispositions to behave in certain ways, as patterns of neural activation, or as akin to programmes that are run on the computational hardware of our brains? In this module, we’ll look at how and why recent philosophy of mind and psychology has embraced each of these options in turn, and think about the problems and prospects for each. ...
Reading
7 videos (Total 57 min), 2 readings, 1 quiz
Video7 videos
Physicalism: Identity Theory and Functionalism13m
Functionalism and What Mental States Do8m
Functionalism and Functional Complexity4m
Minds vs. Machines: The Turing Test and the Chinese Room11m
Minds vs. Machines: Problems for the Computational View of the Mind4m
Further Discussion4m
Reading2 readings
Module: Mind, Brains and Computers10m
Related work by Philosophy staff at the University of Edinburgh10m
Quiz1 practice exercise
Practice: Minds, Brains and Computers24m
Clock
1 hour to complete

Are Scientific Theories True?

(Professor Michela Massimi) In this module we will explore a central and ongoing debate in contemporary philosophy of science: whether or not scientific theories are true. Or better, whether a scientific theory needs to be 'true' to be good at all. The answer to this question comes in two main varieties. Scientific realists believe that theories ought to be true in order to be good. We will analyse their main argument for this claim (which goes under the name of 'no miracles argument'), and some prominent objections to it. Scientific antirealists, on the other hand, defend the view that there is nothing special about 'truth' and that scientific theories and scientific progress can be understood without appeal to it. The aim of this session is to present both views, their main arguments, and prospects....
Reading
7 videos (Total 29 min), 2 readings, 1 quiz
Video7 videos
Saving the Phenomena? Ptolemeic Astronomy5m
Truth? Galileo and Copernican Astronomy2m
Scientific Realism and the No Miracles Argument3m
Scientific Anti-Realism: Constructive Empiricism7m
Realist Rejoinders: Inference to the Best Explanation5m
Concluding Summary2m
Reading2 readings
Module: Are Scientific Theories True?10m
Related work by Philosophy staff at the University of Edinburgh10m
Quiz1 practice exercise
Practice: Are Scientific Theories True?16m
Clock
20 minutes to complete

Week 4 review

...
Reading
1 quiz
Quiz2 practice exercises
Minds, Brains and Computers20m
Are Scientific Theories True?20m
4.6
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31%

started a new career after completing these courses
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83%

got a tangible career benefit from this course

Top Reviews

By LTSep 2nd 2015

I thoroughly enjoyed this course and find that it encouragingly sets some directions, and of course, raises my excitement for further study into some of the different fields of philosophy. Thank you.

By CCOct 8th 2015

Great explanations that is broken down with examples for understanding. Quizzes test for your understanding of the topic rather than just the textbook explanations. Challenging and thought revoking.

Instructors

Dr. Dave Ward

Lecturer in Philosophy
University of Edinburgh

Professor Duncan Pritchard

Professor of Philosophy
University of Edinburgh

Professor Michela Massimi

Full Professor
Philosophy

Dr. Suilin Lavelle

Lecturer in Philosophy
University of Edinburgh

Dr. Matthew Chrisman

Reader in Philosophy
Philosophy

Guy Fletcher

Lecturer
Philosophy

Elinor Mason

Senior Lecturer
Philosophy

About The University of Edinburgh

Influencing the world since 1583, The University of Edinburgh is consistently ranked as one of the world's top 50 universities. Today, we are an established and global leader in online learning, providing degree-level education to 3,000 online students in addition to 36,000 students on-campus. We also offer a wide range of free online courses in a variety of subjects. To find out more about studying for one of our online degrees, search for ‘Edinburgh online’ or visit www.ed.ac.uk/studying/online-learning/postgraduate ...

Frequently Asked Questions

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