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Problems of Philosophy

A tour through the big questions of philosophy. Does God exist? Do we have free will? Is morality objective? What is knowledge? What is the meaning of life?

start date
12 weeks
3-5 hours per week

About this course

This course is currently archived. You can view most of the course materials, such as lectures and readings, and many assignments. However, you cannot complete assignments for a grade; you cannot upgrade or earn a certificate; the discussion forums may not be open or actively monitored; and some assignments or links may no longer work.

This course is an introduction to the problems of philosophy, the big questions that philosophers have been puzzled by for thousands of years, including:

  • Does God exist?
  • What is knowledge?
  • Is morality objective?
  • Do we have free will?
  • Does justice require equality?
  • Is the mind material?
  • What is race?
  • What is gender?
  • What is the meaning of life?

And more!

We will take a systematic rather than historical approach. We will read both classical and contemporary sources. But we will focus on examining and evaluating proposed solutions to these problems.

What you’ll learn

  • How to assess philosophical arguments
  • Some central arguments for and against the existence of God
  • The relationship between knowledge and belief
  • How to think critically about important social and political concepts
  • The basics of various subfields of philosophy (ethics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, metaphysics)

Meet your instructors

  • Alex Byrne

    Alex Byrne is Professor of Philosophy in MIT’s Department of Linguistics and Philosophy. He has written widely in philosophy of mind and epistemology, and recently co-edited The Norton Introduction to Philosophy.

  • David Balcarras

    David Balcarras is a Lecturer in philosophy and a Digital Learning Lab Fellow at MIT. He got his PhD in philosophy from MIT, and his MA and BA in philosophy from the University of Toronto. His research focuses on the philosophy of mind and language.

Who can take this course?

Because of U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) restrictions and other U.S. federal regulations, learners residing in one or more of the following countries or regions will not be able to register for this course: Iran, Cuba, Syria, North Korea and the Crimea, Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic regions of Ukraine.