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World Philosophy Day (Pictured: The Thinker sculpture)
Posted in: Learner News

“Everyone thinks, of course, but to think well requires first thinking about thinking.”

World Philosophy Day, celebrated each year on November 19, was created by UNESCO to honor philosophical reflection, encourage the sharing of philosophical heritage, open minds to new ideas, and inspire public debate on the challenges confronting our society.

This year, World Philosophy Day will emphasize the use of new communication technologies to engage global audiences – an initiative clearly in line with edX’s mission, and a theme woven throughout each course presented on edX.org. We asked the teams of two upcoming edX philosophy courses to share their thoughts for learners new to the subject.

Alex Byrne, Chair of the Philosophy Section in MIT’s Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, is teaching his first edX MOOC, which began this week. What is his approach to World Philosophy Day?

“Every reflective person starts asking abstract questions about the universe and our place in it at some point. They’re doing philosophy, if even they don’t realize it. Without any guidance, it can seem impossible to make any progress, and the questions soon lose their appeal. That is a great shame, because progress is possible through the techniques and methods of academic philosophy, drawing on a rich history that goes back 2500 years. Few people on the planet have access to these resources, and that is why philosophy on edX is important.”

And how will his course engage a global audience?

Philosophy: Minds and Machines is my first edX course, the third one produced by MIT’s Philosophy department, and I hope it reaches people who would not otherwise have the opportunity to study philosophy at an advanced level.”

If you’ve ever reflected on your own world, you’ve explored philosophy. Why should people actively pursue the study of philosophy? We asked the Philosophy and Critical Thinking course team to chime in:

“To paraphrase the great 20th century philosopher, Bertrand Russell, most people would rather die than think… and many do! Everyone thinks, of course, but to think well requires first thinking about thinking. The unique thing about philosophy is that thinking is its methodology. To do philosophy is to think about your thinking. Sometimes you can’t get to the right answer without coming up with the right question. Learning how to think critically and engage in philosophical discussion is completely transformative. You will never look at the world in the same way again.”

At edX we see every day how new communication technologies can engage learners all over the world – and these philosophy courses are no exception. Join the global discourse: enroll today!

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