Explore our library of videos, curated by experts in their field.
- Critical Thinking '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.
- Descartes 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 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 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 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.
- Happiness Most of us work hard to improve our material circumstances, assuming that this is the key to happiness. According to research in psychology and economics over the past few decades, however, this assumption is mistaken. While better circumstances can increase happiness to some degree — especially for people who have been facing particularly adverse conditions — for most of us, this boost is much less than we expect. It turns out that certain features of our minds work against our effort to reach happiness through material improvement, and that instead of just focusing on “getting more,” our pursuit of happiness would be more effective if we also focused on the kinds of activities that help us get the most out of what we already have.
- Linguistics 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 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 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 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 Religion 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 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?
- Punishment Administering criminal justice is one of the most coercive things a state can do to its own citizens. Lawmakers determine what counts as criminal, police determine who to arrest, detain, and in some cases even shoot, and judges decide how long the state can imprison a person, sometimes even execute them. Even after the official administration of punishment to a convicted offender is over, that person faces lifelong social consequences for their previous act. In liberal and democratic societies, the state claims to do all of this in our interest, and with our consent. What are the assumptions about justice and the morality of punishment underlying the practices of administering criminal justice, and are those assumptions sound? Barry Lam, Chair and Associate Professor of Philosophy at Vassar College and producer of the Hi-Phi Nation podcast examines the philosophical assumptions underlying different stages of the criminal justice system, from beginning to end.
- Social Cognition