"I think, therefore I am" - almost everyone has heard of René Descartes' famous cogito argument. But what is this argument about? What does it show, and why are so many philosophers excited about it - even today, more than 350 years after Descartes first presented this argument?
In this video, Julianne Chung (Yale University) explains the philosophical concepts of truth and validity before going on to illustrate how truth and falsity, as well as validity and invalidity, can appear in various combinations in an argument. She then introduces the concept of a sound argument (i.e., a valid argument whose premises are all true) and presents one reason to think that valid arguments with false premises are also of interest. For more detailed discussions of validity and soundness, please be sure to have a look at the videos on these topics by Paul Henne (Duke University) and Aaron Ancell (Duke University), respectively.
How do we know stuff about matters of fact that we have yet to observe? For example, how do I know that the sun will rise tomorrow? A natural answer is that we have this knowledge through induction: I know the sun will rise tomorrow, because it has risen every day in the past. Now, the philosopher David Hume recognized that this inductive reasoning assumes that the future will resemble the past. Why though think that this assumption is true? How do we know that the future will resemble the past? This question is the starting point for Hume's skeptical argument against induction (and his skeptical solution), which Daniel Greco lays out in detail in this video.
According to the philosopher David Hume (1711-1776), absolutely everything we know falls into one of two categories: either it is a relation of ideas (e.g., 2 + 2 =4) or it is a matter of fact (e.g., the sky is blue). Daniel Greco walks us through this famous Humean distinction in preparation for examining Hume's even more famous skeptical argument against induction.
Critical Thinking Fundamentals: Soundness
November 14, 2014
In this video, Aaron Ancell (Duke University) discusses the philosophical concept of soundness. After reviewing validity, he defines soundness: an argument is sound when it is valid and has all true premises. He reviews a few examples of sound and unsound arguments, and he encourages you to develop sound arguments on your own.
Kate explores the connection between language and meaning. This video introduces two ways in which philosophers have answered the question 'what makes a sound or some marks meaningful?'.
Critical Thinking Fundamentals: Validity
October 30, 2014
In this video, Paul Henne (Duke University) discusses the philosophical concept of validity. After reviewing the structure of an argument, he defines validity: an argument is valid if and only if its premises guarantee the conclusion. He reviews a few examples of validity and invalidity, and he leaves you with one example to figure out on your own.
Scott Edgar returns to Kant's argument from Geometry, this time examining two famous objections to it: the famous "neglected alternative" objection and a powerful objection from 20th century physics. After considering possible responses on Kant's behalf, Scott ends with a bang, introducing Kant's famous claim that we know things only as they appear to us, not as they are in themselves.
What is space? Kant's answer is a head-scratcher: space is merely a form of intuition. Scott Edgar explains this rather perplexing answer in accessible, every-day language. He also lays out Kant's most famous argument for this view of space (the "Argument from Geometry"). Never before has it been so easy to get a handle on Kant's views on space!
Scott Edgar (Saint Mary's University) discusses Kant's views on knowledge of metaphysics. Scott introduces us to distinctions between "a priori" and "empirical" knowledge and also the distinction between "analytic" and "synthetic" claims.
Julia Markovits (Cornell University) gives an introduction to the moral theory of utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is the view that the right moral action is the one that maximizes happiness for all.
Julia Markovits (Cornell University) gives an introduction to the moral theory of utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is the view that the right moral action is the one that maximizes happiness for all.
Alex Byrne: Mind-Body Dualism
September 19, 2014
Are we just physical things? Or perhaps just mental things? Maybe both? In this video, Alex Byrne (MIT) explains a modern argument due to Saul Kripke for mind-body dualism.
Paul Henne: Ad hominem
September 12, 2014
In this video, Paul Henne (Duke University) describes the ad hominem fallacy, which is an informal fallacy that arises when someone attacks the person making the argument rather than their argument. He also describes the four subtypes of this fallacy.
What makes our life go best? Is being happy all that matters? Is a life of blissful ignorance a good life? Or is there more to a good life than this? Richard Rowland (University of Oxford) discusses whether we should take the blue pill in 'hedonism and the experience machine’.
Part 3 of 3. What makes you the same person as the little kid growing up a number of years ago? Is the identity of a person tied to the persistence of a body or a soul or something else entirely? Can we even given any explanation at all of the persistence of a person? Michael Della Rocca (Yale University) explores some of the puzzles and problems of personal identity that arise from the revolutionary work of the philosopher John Locke.
Part 2 of 3. What makes you the same person as the little kid growing up a number of years ago? Is the identity of a person tied to the persistence of a body or a soul or something else entirely? Can we even given any explanation at all of the persistence of a person? Michael Della Rocca (Yale University) explores some of the puzzles and problems of personal identity that arise from the revolutionary work of the philosopher John Locke.
Part 1 of 3. What makes you the same person as the little kid growing up a number of years ago? Is the identity of a person tied to the persistence of a body or a soul or something else entirely? Can we even given any explanation at all of the persistence of a person? Michael Della Rocca (Yale University) explores some of the puzzles and problems of personal identity that arise from the revolutionary work of the philosopher John Locke.
In this video, Monte discusses the “tetrapharmakos” or “four-part remedy” developed by the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 BC) and his followers to treat unhappiness and anxiety. The tetrapharmakos consists of four maxims which encapsulate the Epicurean outlook on god, life, death, pleasure, and pain. The maxims can be meditated upon in order to alleviate worries and concerns that continue to plague us as much as they did the ancients.
Karen explores the relationship between language and communication, looking at the question of how it is that people regularly use words to communicate more than their literal meanings. This video introduces us to the most philosophically influential theory on this matter, H.P. Grice’s theory of pragmatics.

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A Toolkit for Building a Better Mind.