Title
24.00x Introduction to Philosophy: God, Knowledge, and Consciousness

Instructor
Caspar Hare, professor of philosophy

Platform
edX, adapted from 24.00 as taught to MIT undergraduates

Availability
Archived course materials are currently available on edX. The next offering is planned for summer 2017.

Description
This course has two goals. The first is to introduce you to the things that philosophers think about. We will look at some perennial philosophical problems: Is there a God? What is knowledge, and how do we get it? What is the place of our consciousness in the physical world? Do we have free will? How do we persist over time, as our bodily and psychological traits change? The second goal is to get you thinking philosophically yourself. This will help you develop your critical and argumentative skills more generally. Readings will be from late, great classical authors and influential contemporary figures.

Backstory
Launched in fall 2012, this is the first introductory philosophy MOOC offered by an American university. Its instructor, Caspar Hare, was named a 2017 MacVicar Faculty Fellow for exceptional undergraduate teaching, mentoring, and educational innovation. Over the first three runs of 24.00x, 109,800 learners have enrolled. The most recent run, in fall 2016, included an unprecedented feature for an MITx humanities course: instructor grading, carried out by course staff Ryan Doody PhD ’16. This option was available to Verified Students, a $300 add-on to an otherwise free registration (the organizers aim to reduce this cost going forward).

  • “You can still achieve scale through partially automating courses, but keeping some bits of human interaction that are really important, like the interaction between you and the person you are writing a paper to…. There’s no automating that.”
    —Hare to
    Inside Higher Ed, September 2016

Components

Video lectures: 18 lectures pertaining to 5 themes: God, Knowledge and Justified Belief, Mind and Consciousness, Free Will, and Personal Identity.

Assigned readings: Organized by lecture.

  • “In this paper I shall define a thesis I shall call ‘determinism’ and argue that it is incompatible with the thesis that we are able to act otherwise than we do (i.e., it is incompatible with ‘free will’).”
    —Peter Van Inwagen, from
    Philosophical Studies (background reading for Lecture 13)

Problems and survey questions: Each lecture contains several brief (usually multiple choice) problems to help instructors assess whether you are absorbing essential material. These problems will also aid in your understanding of the material covered in the lectures.

  • “Suppose there were an observation you could make that would enable you to rule out the possibility that you were dreaming. Would this weaken or strengthen Descartes’s skeptical argument?” (Problem 7.3.1)

Online discussion forum: We encourage you to discuss your answers to questions included alongside each lecture with your peers on the forum. The best—and perhaps only—way to learn philosophy is to do it. You will also have much more fun this way.

  • “There are capabilities implicitly required to pass the Turing Test which a thinker might not have. An infant thinks, yet could not pass the Turing Test.” —posted by gregorycgs / “Yes, good point. Just because something is unable to pass the Turing Test doesn’t mean that thing isn’t thinking. But what about the converse?” —posted by Ryandoody, staff (Discussion Question 12.1.2)

Written assessment questions: There will be three of these spaced through the course. These questions will ask you to write a brief essay response to a prompt. Auditor Students are asked to do a self-assessment of their own papers. Papers by Verified Students are graded and commented on by a philosophy instructor.

  • “Hume says that there is a problem with inductive reasoning. What is the problem? Can you see a solution to it?” (Assessment Question 2: Epistemology and Mind, Topic 2)

Topics

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