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MIT School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences - Great Ideas Change the World

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Wi-Phi online video platform presents "philosophy's greatest hits"
open access philosophy aims to build a better mind
 


Can science describe everything there is to know about the world? Do humans have free will?  Is there a god? What is it for a sentence to be "true"? Dig into these and other questions at Wi-Phi— a free, online, interactive toolkit for building a better mind.




Wi-Phi | Free, online interactive philosophy videos


Building a better world, one mind at a time

A little philosophy could go a long way toward making the world a better place, according to Damien Rochford, PhD ’13, who launched an online philosophy website — Wi-Phi — with a colleague from Yale University.

“I don’t expect Wi-Phi to change the culture at large, but the more experience people get thinking slowly and clearly about things, the better off we’ll be,” says Rochford, a post-doctoral associate in MIT’s Office of Digital Learning.

Wi-Phi's introduces people to the practices of philosophy by making videos that are freely available in a form that is entertaining and accessible to those with no background in the subject. The founders explain that the goal is for people to learn how to do philosophyrather simply learning what philosophers have thought, so the site focuses on developing critical thinking skills. 


Videos on the timeless questions 

Rochford and co-founder Gaurav Vazirani, a doctoral candidate at Yale, have put together more than a dozen short video animations to accompany talks by top scholars on such timeless questions as whether humans have free will, whether god exists, and what is it for a sentence to be true.  

Are such questions important in our modern lives? Yes, says Rochford, philosophical thinking is more important than ever in an era in which we are all bombarded by messages designed to persuade us to act on non-rational grounds—for example, to vote for a political candidate because his name is familiar, or to buy a product because it’s popular with celebrities.  
 


 
          

Damien Rochford, PhD '13, Post-doctoral associate, MIT’s Office of Digital Learning 

Each video examines an argument logically, step by step, enabling viewers to think through the reasoning themselves.


 

What do you think? 

Philosophy teaches the skills needed to discern when someone is not arguing in good faith, Rochford continues. “I see academic philosophers as guardians of a kind of culture that allows rational dialogue to happen. That kind of activity doesn’t happen by itself.”

Wi-Phi’s content is designed to help fill this gap for those who may never have had the chance to study philosophy. “It’s the standard stuff of introductory philosophy—like the greatest hits,” Rochford says.

Each video examines an argument logically, step by step, enabling viewers to think through the reasoning themselves. Links are provided to additional readings, and a comments section enables viewers to continue the debate—both with the Wi-Phi producers and with each other.

“That’s been very exciting, seeing people talking about the ideas,” Rochford reflects. “Gaurav and I both feel strongly that philosophy has a role in public life.”
 


24.00x, the first online introductory philosophy course 

To that end, in addition to producing Wi-Phi, Rochford also several months working with MIT Associate Professor of Philosophy Caspar Hare to produce the first massive open online course in introductory philosophy offered by an American university.

24.00x, Introduction to Philosophy: God, Knowledge, and Consciousness," which launched on October 1, 2013, focuses on how to ask and answer philosophical questions and is designed to help students develop critical reasoning and argumentative skills. 


“The Internet is a great tool,” Rochford says, "and through online education, humanities subjects such as philosophy can be helpful to people all over the world."    
 

          

Caspar Hare, MIT Associate Professor of Philosophy leads 24.00x the first introductory philosophy MOOC at an American university

 
 



Suggested Links

Wi-Phi | Free, online interactive philosophy videos

Story | 24.00x Philosophy course hits the hard questions
first online introductory philosophy course

Video: Intro to 24.00x

MIT Department of Philosophy

 

Humanities at MIT 
 

  



Story prepared by MIT SHASS Communications
Editorial and Design Director: Emily Hiestand

Senior Writer: Kathryn O’Neill