All Categories

'Critical Thinking' is a name for the basic method for doing philosophy. The key to critical thinking is understanding how arguments work and what makes them good or bad. Being a good critical thinker means being good at understanding and assessing arguments, both when you read them in a philosophy book and when you hear them in your ordinary life. The videos in this section aim to help you become a better critical thinker.

Rene Descartes was a philosopher, mathematician, physicist and all-round genius who lived in the seventeenth century. He is often described as the father of modern philosophy. He was the first Western philosopher in a long time to try to work it all out himself, rather than relying on the authority of the great ancient philosophers like Plato and Aristotle, or on divine revelation. His Meditations on First Philosophy was one of the most important books in the history of philosophy, and is still widely read. You should check it out.

Epistemology is the study of knowledge. Epistemologists are trying to figure out the answer to questions like: what does it take to know something? When is a belief justified? How confident should we be in all the stuff we usually take for granted -- that there really is a world out there, that other people have minds like us, and so on?

Ethics is the study of right and wrong, good and bad. Ethics is often split into two parts: normative ethics and meta-ethics. Normative ethics is about trying to figure out which acts are right and which wrong, and which states of affairs are good and which bad, and who is a hero and who a villain. Meta-ethics is about trying to figure out what is means to call an action 'right' or 'wrong', a state of affairs 'good' or 'bad', or a person a 'hero' or a 'villain'.

Experimental Philosophy is a new tool that philosophers use to answer traditional question and to develop new ones. They use experimental methods from psychology, neuroscience, and other disciplines to discover some facts about our answers to philosophical questions and our thinking.

Linguistics is the study of language. Every aspect of language is studied by some linguist --- for example, there are linguists that study how the pronunciation of words changes over time, linguists that study the rules that determine whether a sentence is grammatical or not, and linguists that study how the meanings of words come together to make the meaning of a sentence. The kind of linguistics that is closest to philosophy is the study of meaning.

Metaphysics is the study of what there is, and what it is like, in the most basic and broadest possible sense. Metaphysical questions include: is there a God? Is there more than one universe? Does the present exist in a sense the past and the future don’t? What is it for something to be possible, but not actual? Is mental stuff different to physical stuff?

Philosophy of Language is concerned with questions like: what makes a word or a sentence mean what it does? What is it for a sentence to be true? What is the relationship between thought and language?

Philosophy of mathematics is about the nature of mathematical truths, and how we know them. Questions of interest to philosophers of mathematics include: what, exactly, are mathematical objects like numbers, vectors, sets, and so on? Do they exist in their own special realm, outside time and space, or what? If so, how do we know anything about them? And how are they related to physical objects?

Philosophy of Mind is concerned with questions like: how is the mind related to the brain? How do they causally interact, if they do? What must something be like physically if it is conscious? What must the relationship between, say, me and my guitar be like for me to be able to think about my guitar?

Philosophy of religion is about looking at claims made in religions using the tools of philosophy -- basically, just careful thinking --- and not relying on authorities like religious texts or institutions. Philosophers of religion want to know if these claims are true, and how we can tell. Questions in philosophy of religion include: does God exist? Just one, or many? Are the claims of religion incompatible with the claims of science?

Political philosophy is about how society and political institutions are structured, and how they should be structured. Political philosophers ask questions like: what make for a just society? What obligations do we have to fellow citizens, and how, if at all, do these differ to our obligations to non-citizens? Can and should the state remain neutral in moral disagreements among its citizens?

A Toolkit for Building a Better Mind.