The University of Massachusetts Amherst

"Intro to Philosophy": Philosophy 100 (GenEd AL) Fall 2022

Students will live together in Knowlton Hall in the Northeast residential area. 

Read what Fall 2022 instructor Brian Wermcrantz has to say about the course: 

This course is an introduction to some of the most perplexing topics that have preoccupied humans for thousands of years. It is also an introduction to a distinctive way of thinking—one that focuses on carefully presenting and evaluating arguments. Together we’ll work our way through a sampling of key questions within each of philosophy’s main branches of study: (1) ethics, (2) epistemology, and (3) 

  1. For ethics, we’ll start with an everyday moral question: are you morally obligated to donate a significant portion of your income to charity? We’ll then look at things much more generally and ask: what distinguishes morally right actions from morally wrong actions?
  2. For epistemology, we start with the “problem of skepticism” which asks whether we can really know anything at all. Then we’ll examine some topics of current interests: disagreement, epistemic injustice, and echo chambers.
  3. For metaphysics, we’ll pursue some fascinating questions such as whether we have free will and whether we are composed of anything over and above mere physical matter. 

But most of all, this course teaches critical thinking. Although we’ll identify (and debate) answers to the above questions, our main focus will be on learning how to give reasons for or against such answers. By the end of the semester you will learn the skills needed to understand and evaluate arguments, which are sure to enhance your future pursuits, academic or otherwise.

Scientific Thinking RAP