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28 Free Philosophy Courses for a Well-Examined Life

Philosophy as a topic has been studied for thousands of years with rich strands of tradition in various cultures, both in the East and the West. Our modern university has the Doctor of ‘Philosophy’ as the pinnacle of educational attainment. But in our current technological age, is it still important to study philosophy?

We would claim that philosophy is still important, now more than ever. We don’t mean just  metaphysics, such as asking ourselves ‘What is the meaning of life?’ (albeit its an important question). There are ethical questions such as biological cloning, ‘just wars’, or natural resource management. Developing a strong foundation in critical thinking (logic) is important, as we are bombarded with many more choices and operate within increasingly complex systems. And then there are new insights from psychology that help us understand ourselves better, but also raise questions about what we should be trying to achieve in the first place.

After all, we each live by a personal philosophy, whether it is expressed and well-considered, or implicit and ad-hoc. 

Philosophy is relevant in addressing all of these areas because it is ultimately not about the conclusions people came up with in the past (though studying history can be very helpful), but it is about how we ask and answer the big questions in our lives about the world we live in. After all, we each live by a personal philosophy, whether it is expressed and well-considered, or implicit and ad-hoc. So look through this list of free courses and go get your philosophy on!

Note that not all of these courses are available now, but if not, add the course to MOOC Tracker and we will notify you when it becomes available. Courses marked as Archived can only be audited and some features, such as the discussion forums, may not be available.

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Beginning Philosophy

Introduction to Philosophy
University of Edinburgh via Coursera
This course will introduce you to some of the main areas of research in contemporary philosophy. Each module a different philosopher will talk you through some of the most important questions and issues in their area of expertise.
Go To Class | 4 (13 ratings) | Next Session : Self Paced

24.00x: Introduction to Philosophy: God, Knowledge and Consciousness
Massachusetts Institute of Technology via edX
This course will focus on big questions. You will learn how to ask them and how to answer them.
Go To Class | 5 (7 ratings) | Next Session : TBA

Ethics

From State Control to Remote Control: Warfare in the 21st Century
University of Bath via FutureLearn
Explore the impact and ethics of using drones, special ops units and private security firms, with this free online course.
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PHLX101-02x: Introduction to Bioethics
Georgetown University via edX
Introduction to Bioethics explores some of the most difficult – and fascinating – moral challenges we face in health, medicine, and emerging technologies.
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PHIL1440x: The Ethics of Eating
Cornell University via edX
Explore the ethical issues you confront each time you decide what to eat or purchase food. Join a diverse group of philosophers, food scientists, activists, industry specialists, and farmers in this exciting discussion.
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Rationing and Allocating Scarce Medical Resources
University of Pennsylvania via Coursera
You have one liver but three patients awaiting a liver transplant. Who should get the liver? What criteria should be used to select the recipient? Is it fair to give it to an alcoholic? These are some of the questions that arise in the context of rationing and allocating scarce health care resources among particular individuals, and concern what are called micro-allocation decisions.
Go To Class | 4 (1 rating) | Next Session : TBA (Archived)

Neuroethics
University of Pennsylvania via Coursera
This course will examine the ethical, legal and social issues raised by neuroscience. Topics will include the implications of new knowledge of the brain for our understanding of selfhood, for the meaning of privacy, for the distinction between therapy and enhancement, and for national security.
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Practical Ethics
Princeton University via Coursera
Is abortion wrong? Should we eat animals? What is our responsibility to the world’s poor? This course will encourage you to examine your ethical beliefs on topics relevant to the ancient question posed by Socrates: “How am I to live?”
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Technology and Ethics
Ohio State University via Coursera
The meteoric rise of technologies used in our everyday life for profit, power, or improvement of an individual’s life can, on occasion, cause cultural stress as well as ethical challenges. In this course, we will explore how these multifaceted impacts might be understood, controlled and mitigated.
Go To Class | 2.5 (3 ratings) | Next Session : TBA

What is Character? Virtue Ethics in Education
University of Birmingham via FutureLearn
Explore important questions about character education and how it contributes to individual and societal flourishing.
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Self enlightenment

A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment
Indian School of Business via Coursera
Do you ever wonder why you aren’t as happy and fulfilled as you should be, given everything you have? Or perhaps you are about to graduate and want to know what it takes to lead a happy and fulfilling life. Or maybe you are already as happy as happy can be, but are just curious about the latest findings from the science of happiness. Whatever your situation, this course is for you.
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Know Thyself
University of Virginia via Coursera
An investigation of the nature and limits of self-knowledge from the viewpoints of philosophy, psychoanalysis, experimental psychology, neuroscience, aesthetics, and Buddhism. Readings are drawn from classical Western, non-Western, and contemporary sources.
Go To Class | 5 (19 ratings) | Next Session : TBA

The Soul and the Search for Meaning
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro via Independent
Humanity: the epic story of our species’ quest to understand our very existence. Across the rise and fall of civilizations, the emergence of science and reason from the Dark Ages, and our quest to explore our realm, over land and ocean and into the very stars themselves, we are driven by a need to understand who we are, where we come from, and how we got to where we are today.
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Moralities of Everyday Life
Yale University via Coursera
How can we explain kindness and cruelty? Where does our sense of right and wrong come from? Why do people so often disagree about moral issues? This course explores the psychological foundations of our moral lives.
Go To Class | 5 (9 ratings) | Next Session : TBA (Archived)

Human Nature in Film: Topics in Philosophy
Criswell College via Canvas.net
In this class we will be viewing films that both express perceived meaning in life and those that are seeking to find it. We will look at art that intends to imitate reality, art that will express emotions, and art that uses good form. We will view films that give insight into the inner world of humanity and that provide universal truths about human nature.
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Philosophy and Human Destiny
The University of Oklahoma via Janux
What is it to be human? How did we get here, and what should we strive for, or try to be like? What can we hope for in this life, or (if there is one) the next? In this course we will consider and critically examine a variety of different answers to these questions, both Religious and Secular, from both the East and the West.
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Logic

Introduction to Logic
Stanford University via Coursera
In this course, you will learn how to formalize information and reason systematically to produce logical conclusions. We will also examine logic technology and its applications – in mathematics, science, engineering, business, law, and so forth.
Go To Class | 3.5 (6 ratings) | Next Session : TBA (Archived)

Think Again: How to Reason and Argue
Duke University via Coursera
Reasoning is important. This course will teach you how to do it well. You will learn how to understand and assess arguments by other people and how to construct good arguments of your own about whatever matters to you.
Go To Class | 4 (14 ratings) | Next Session : TBA

Logic and Paradoxes
Universidad de las Américas Puebla via CourseSites
The main target of this course is introducing the student to some themes in the philosophical literature about the sorites paradox and the Liar paradox as well as to some logical developments connected to them.
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Chinese philosophy

Explorations in Confucian Philosophy
Nanyang Technological University via Coursera
Explore the world of Confucianism, its foundational teachings, the ways in which it continues to shape Chinese culture and society, and how it may respond to today’s global challenges.
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HKU03x: Humanity and Nature in Chinese Thought
The University of Hong Kong via edX
Think along with Classical Chinese masters as they explore and debate how and where we can find ethical guidance in nature.
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China300x: Chinese Thought: Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Science
The University of British Columbia via edX
An introduction to early Chinese thought, exploring connections among Chinese thought and Western philosophy, modern science and everyday life.
Go To Class | 5 (1 rating) | Next Session : TBA (Archived)

Famous Philosophers

Søren Kierkegaard – Subjectivity, Irony and the Crisis of Modernity
University of Copenhagen via Coursera
In this course we will explore how Kierkegaard deals with the problems associated with relativism, the lack of meaning and the undermining of religious faith that are typical of modern life. His penetrating analyses are still highly relevant today and have been seen as insightful for the leading figures of Existentialism, Post-Structuralism and Post-Modernism.
Go To Class | 4.5 (2 ratings) | Next Session : TBA

Reason and Persuasion: Thinking Through Three Dialogues By Plato
National University of Singapore via Coursera
In this course we will study Plato’s ancient art of blowing up your beliefs as you go, to make sure they’re built to last. We spend six weeks studying three Platonic dialogues, then two more weeks pondering a pair of footnotes to Plato; that is, we will consider some contemporary manifestations of issues Plato discusses. Our focus will be: moral theory and moral psychology.
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MIT OpenCourseWare

OpenCourseWare courses are recordings of in-class lectures put online. While the courses mentioned above (MOOCs), are designed for an online audience and have feedback of sort via assignments, homeworks, exams, etc.

Problems in Philosophy
The course has two goals. First, to give you a sense of what philosophers think about and why. Here we look at a number of perennial philosophical problems, including some or all of: how knowledge differs from “mere opinion,” the objectivity (or not) of moral judgment, logical paradoxes, mind/body relations, the nature and possibility of free will, and how a person remains the same over time, as their bodily and psychological traits change. The second goal is to get you thinking philosophically yourself.

Classics in Western Philosophy
This course will introduce you to the Western philosophical tradition, through the study of major figures such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, and Kant. You will get to grips with questions that have been significant to philosophy from its beginnings: questions about the nature of the mind or soul, the existence of God, the foundations of knowledge, ethics and the good life.

Ancient Philosophy
This course will acquaint the student with some of the ancient Greek contributions to the Western philosophical and scientific tradition. We will examine a broad range of central philosophical themes concerning: nature, law, justice, knowledge, virtue, happiness, and death. There will be a strong emphasis on analyses of arguments found in the texts.

Philosophy of Love in the Western World
This course is a seminar on the nature of love and sex, approached as topics both in philosophy and in literature. Readings from recent philosophy as well as classic myths of love that occur in works of literature and lend themselves to philosophical analysis.

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Bobby Brady

Bobby has successfully utilized MOOCs in his professional career twice, transitioning from the service industry to IT support and then again to Development. He now works full time as an edtech consultant and contractor helping students from all over the world learn React and JavaScript.

Comments
12

  1. Avatar

    leonardwaks

    Philosophy, more than any other discipline, is discursive and heuristic in nature. That is, the didactic component of philosophy teaching – getting the facts across about who said what when – is secondary to the discursive dimension – actually thinking in public contexts, making arguments and having them subjected to criticism, and the heuristic dimension – following models, making intellectual products such as presentations and papers for publication. This presents a challenge to the MOOC community. Scaling up didactics is trivial, but scaling up discussion and modeling is not. There are some successful examples of the latter in the MOOC world. It would be interesting to investigate how successful this set of MOOCs is when considered in this light. Wish I had the time. Hope some philosopher with pedagogical interests takes up this challenge.

    Reply
  2. Avatar

    IdPnSD

    “But in our current technological age, is it still important to study philosophy?” – Was it ever important? Did it do any good to society?

    If we define truth in the following way: (1) Truth must come from the laws of nature only, (2) Nature always demonstrates its laws, (3) Therefore truth must be unique and universal.

    Thus truth must be observed in the demonstrations given by nature, just like Galileo did. Then we can see that there is no room for philosophy, since purpose of philosophy will be to identify the truth. Since truth is unique there cannot be any if-then-else logic. Take a look at the free book on Soul Theory at the blog site
    https://theoryofsouls.wordpress.com/

    Reply
    • Avatar

      Arjan Tupan

      Nice piece of epistemology, which is a field of philosphy. Thereby you prove that philosophy is valuable. By the way, your conclusion is sound, but the premises are debatable. Which, again, is a role for philosophers…

      Reply
      • Avatar

        IdPnSD

        Epistemology – From Wikipedia I find the word means – “Much of the debate in this field
        has focused on the philosophical analysis of the nature of knowledge and how it relates to connected notions such as truth, belief, and justification”.

        Anything is a subject of philosophy – as long as both knowledge and truth are not defined by using the laws of nature. Once you connect or define everything using the laws of nature, then it is no longer epistemology or philosophy. For, both the laws of nature and the objects of nature are unique, and hence there is no room for philosophy.

        “…but the premises are debatable”. Please identify the premises and show why they are debatable.

        Reply
        • Avatar

          Arjan Tupan

          Hahaha, well, this discussion is already philosophy in action. Showing it is needed. In one of the courses listed above, Introduction to Philosophy from Edinburgh University, you will learn that philosophy is “working out the best way to think about things.” Therefore, your premise that philosophy is about finding truth is false. It’s not about finding truth, it’s about finding the best way to think about truth. As your complete argument is based on that premise, your conclusion is false, since the premise is false.
          Then, your other premises can only be true if everybody accepts them to be true, and as there are other theories about truth, there is no one truth about truth. Therefore, your conclusion that there is no room for philosphy can only be false.
          On the other hand, there are probably philosophers who will argue that your conclusion is valid, or sound, because you believe your premises to be true. But, again, that’s a matter for philosophers to decide :).

          Reply
          • Avatar

            IdPnSD

            Looks like your debate is about the definition of “Truth”. But I have mentioned – Anything is a subject of philosophy – as long as both knowledge and truth are not defined by using the laws of nature.

            I am saying the laws of nature is the only truth. Therefore truth must be unique and universal. What is true in USA must be true in China, what is true on earth must be true on mars. What was true million years back, will be true now, and will remain true million years from now. – this means mathematics, physics, economics, philosophy, religions are all false. Because none of them are defined based on nature.

            You are saying my definition of truth is wrong. But you do not give any logic why this definition is wrong. Your logic is –

            “Then, your other premises can only be true if everybody accepts them to be true, and as there are other theories about truth, there is no one truth about truth.” – There was a time when only one person knew the truth, Galileo, everybody else, billions of them, did not know that they did not know. Galileo has shown that the truth must be detected from the nature. Thus I cannot do some mathematics and create truth. Similarly, I cannot do some experiments, in a controlled and isolated environment, in a physics lab, and create truth.

            You bring out the point – everybody has a definition of truth – this will only mean Galileo is still wrong. I have mentioned in the above book that truth is a personal quest. It can only be achieved by yogic meditation. Along that same line, Ayn Rand said – “Truth is not for all men, but only for those who seek it.” Vedas represent the only truth. Because it describes the laws of nature. There is no God in Vedas. Veda is not a religion, the word means science or knowledge. There was a time when Vedas were know all over the world. You can see its influences in Bible and Judaism. Examples of such truths are – reincarnation, yogic power, destiny, soul theory, birth-maturity-death process, eternal recurrence etc. All of them represent eternal truth (Vedas), independent of space and time.

  3. Avatar

    Arjan Tupan

    I can recommend the iversity MOOC Critical Thinking, it fits in the Logic category.

    Reply
  4. Avatar

    Ralphes Bushman

    Great examples, thanks a lot!
    I’m currently making some research for my philosophy essay and this article was very helpful.

    Reply
  5. Avatar

    Cas Ekson

    Greetings Sir/Ma’am
    I like what I find here as it awakened my interest again in Philosophy. I just would like to ask if how can I avail of this course and if there be further studies being offered on line. I am teacher of a public school and I would like to go for further schooling in the field of philosophy, Thanks and God bless the thinkers of humanity.

    Reply
  6. Avatar

    Christina Irene

    interesting

    Reply

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