An event every week that begins at 7:00 pm on Tuesday, repeating until Tuesday, January 23
Have you ever wondered what it means to be immortal? Or how you would act in a life-or-death situation? Or what would happen if you could travel back in time?
If you’ve ever thought about questions like these, you’re already familiar with the world of thought experiments. Thought experiments are “what if” scenarios—hypothetical situations that invite us to look rigorously at how we think and view the world.
In The Power of Thought Experiments, award-winning philosopher Daniel Breyer of Illinois State University takes you around the world and across intellectual traditions to explore the power of thought experiments—from ancient Greece and China to contemporary science and philosophy. The course invites you on a diverse intellectual journey that will challenge the way you think by asking you to consider thought experiments that range from the mundane to the fantastic, not just for fun, but always with a discerning eye for why great thinkers considered them and what insights they reveal.
Professor Breyer’s engaging teaching style, eye-opening perspectives, and amazingly detailed knowledge of this field make the lectures a multifaceted immersion in a remarkable arena of human thought.
In 24 enthralling lectures, you’ll match wits with ancient thinkers like Aristotle, Ibn Sina, and Zhuangzi, as well as modern thinkers like Galileo, Hobbes, and Leibniz, all the way up to an astonishing array of contemporary philosophers and scientists, in a far-reaching look into thought experiments across the ages.
And, critically, you won’t simply learn about influential thought experiments throughout history, you’ll work through them in your own thinking, question them, challenge them, and evaluate what power they have to expand our minds and inform our lives.
Historic Thought Experiments
Try this thought experiment, from philosopher Robert Nozick: You have the chance to plug in to a virtual reality machine where you can experience anything you want. You can live the kind of life you’ve only dreamed of, doing everything you’ve ever wanted to do, with the people you love plugged in right alongside you. You’ll even experience everything as absolutely real. The only catch? You must leave the real world behind. Would you plug in? Thought experiments are fascinating, fun to think about, and useful. They’ve been used since ancient times by philosophers, scientists, and other thinkers to solve problems, reveal what’s important to us, and help to understand ourselves and the world.
In this provocative and delightful course, you’ll come to grips with a wide range of thought experiments from many traditions. A few of these mental voyages include:
Most thought experiments involve imaginary scenarios, which is why they are thought experiments. And, as influential philosopher Derek Parfit pointed out, “We discover our beliefs are revealed most clearly when we consider imaginary cases. These beliefs also cover actual cases, and our own lives.” By these means, thought experiments are of real value in revealing and challenging our deepest assumptions, beliefs, and thought processes.
Refine Your Powers of Thought and Reasoning
Throughout the 24 lectures of The Power of Thought Experiments, you’ll investigate classic thought experiments on a spectrum of topics, such as:
A Dazzling and Provocative Adventure
Throughout the course, Professor Breyer contextualizes the thought experiments at hand with incisive commentary on how they have been viewed, interpreted, and argued about through time, showing how thought experiments have influenced the history of science, philosophy, epistemology, ethics, psychology, law, and many other fields of knowledge.
Along the way, you’ll gain vivid clarity on the power of thought experiments to open us up to new ways of thinking, to identify what we care about and what we truly believe, to stretch our imaginations, to help us investigate the world, and to advance the boundaries of knowledge.
Professor Breyer’s compelling and wide-ranging presentation makes these lectures both illuminating and richly enjoyable. Join history’s great thinkers in The Power of Thought Experiments—for an extraordinary journey into your own mind.
Meetings are online (over Zoom) Tuesday Evenings at 7:00 p.m. beginning November 7 and lasts for 12 weeks.
To join the class, use the following link: https://rebrand.ly/zhzte8a