Socrates preached that “The unexamined life is not worth living.” With that in mind, he encouraged the people of Athens to study philosophy and question everything. As today there are fewer philosophers wondering the streets trying to enlighten us than there were in Athens, it can be more difficult for the modern person to get an introduction to philosophy after they leave school.
So, to help you curious cats out, we present 10 online philosophy classes you can take right now, at no cost.
Intro to Philosophy
Where do you start if you want to learn about philosophy but don’t have any background in it at all? In this series of lectures by John Sanders at the Rochester Institute of Technology, all the most fundamental questions you might have about philosophy are answered. What is philosophy? What did Plato and Socrates do? How do we think philosophically? These questions and more are discussed, examined from a dozen different angles, and occasionally even answered.
The 10-lecture series can be watched on YouTube here. The course is accessible to the complete beginner and requires no previous experience with philosophy.
Can machines think? Is it moral to eat meat? These audio lectures are available for free from La Trobe University and can be found on iTunes. The course also includes links to online handouts to help you follow along and find more information on the topics covered in class. The lectures cover topics ranging from time travel to free will and dive into the juicy problems we all like to think about.
The lectures can be found here. This class is introductory and requires no background knowledge to get started.
History of Philosophy
For those of you who want less of an introduction into how to do philosophy and more of an introduction to the great ideas of philosophy’s most prominent names, this history of philosophy series is for you.
Taught by the late Arthur Holmes of Wheaton College, this series of lectures gives an introduction to nearly every thinker you’ve heard of, including Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Nietzsche, and Sartre among many others.
It can be found here and viewed at your own pace. While this course is also reasonably introductory, it can get a little more involved than other classes, and you might want to take notes to refer to as the class goes on.
Introduction to Philosophy
In this class, taught by the somewhat controversial Daniel Bonevac at The University of Texas at Austin, a wide variety of topics are introduced in an easily understood style. There is a syllabus with access to the slides used in the lectures and a few hints on how to read philosophy books at home for maximum understanding. Highlights of the series include lectures on Socrates, Plato, and Gautama Buddha.
The entire course can be found on YouTube here. As the course is introductory, it is easily understood by the complete novice.
The History of Ancient Philosophy
Name 10 philosophers off the top of your head. How many of them were from the distant past? When most people think of philosophy, they are thinking of ancient Greek philosophy, a treasure trove of valuable insights and worldviews.
In this video series from professor Adam Rosenfeld of the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, students will be introduced to the minds that built western civilization. Starting with the earliest philosophers and ending with the Stoics, you’ll learn about people whose ideas are still widely used and discussed, how those ideas evolved over time, and how they continue to influence us today.
The classes can be watched here. This course is introductory, and you can start right away.
Most American universities focus primarily on western philosophy in their classes. While this is often an understandable choice, it can leave graduates with a less than thorough understanding of the philosophy of more than half the world.
For those of you who are interested in a non-western view on life and the universe, there is this introductory course on Indian philosophy. Over the course of 42 video lectures, you will learn about the Vedas, Upanishads, the Buddha, and Jainist ideas. Taught by Professor Satya Sundar Sethy of the Indian Institute of Technology, a novice can take this course at their own pace.
The class can be found here. No previous study of philosophy is required.
Ah, Nietzsche, so famous and yet so misunderstood. While some of his better-known ideas are well explained elsewhere, most people could use a more compressive introduction to his thought when they decide to investigate his ideas. In this lecture series from Cambridge, Professor Raymond Geuss explains Nietzsche’s insights on morality, good and evil, and the Will to Power in an energetic and engaging style.
The course can be viewed on YouTube at your own pace. It doesn’t require any background in philosophy to understand, as the professor provides plenty of background information during each lecture to introduce the topics.
Karl Marx is one of the most consequential philosophers in the history of the world. His work is extraordinarily polarizing and often difficult to delve into. To make it worse, the people who seem to have the strongest opinions on him are also the ones who seem to know the least about him.
For those of you who want to learn more, this course offers a full introduction to Marx, his ideas, and his inspirations. Taught by the boundless Raymond Geuss of Cambridge, the course can be understood with minimal preparation in philosophy and only a basic knowledge of who Marx was.
It is available in full on YouTube here. It requires no previous study to get into, though it does require that you are prepared to hear both praise and criticism of a well-known philosopher.
Introduction to Symbolic Logic
How do we know that arguments are good ones? How do we know that an idea is valid? Logic is an important part of not only philosophy but our daily lives, and yet we often receive little formal training in how to use it.
In this course, taught by John Sanders of the Rochester Institute of Technology, you will learn what makes an argument a good one, how to tell, and what proofs you can use in your reasoning. The course also shows how philosophers use symbols to change full sentences into logical equations which you can then use.
It can be found on YouTube here. The class can be started with no previous experience in symbolic logic as the first two lectures are both purely introductory.
The Floating University
Last, but certainly not least, are the courses of Big Think’s Floating University. A series of video lectures given by some of the most brilliant minds in the world, the Floating University offers a high-quality education for free and on your own schedule.
The beginning student of philosophy will find several lectures on topics such as morality, metaphysics, free will and determinism, and the value of knowledge. The video lectures are given by a variety of Big Think experts including Steven Pinker, Michio Kaku, Paul Bloom, and many others.
A full list of the video lectures can be viewed here.