What Philosophy Can Do

Amie Thomasson

Can philosophy give us answers? Author of Fiction and Metaphysics and Ontology Made Easy Amie Thomasson tackles philosophy's grandest aspiration and argues that, rather than discovering truths, its real value is its power to radically transform how we thi

  • Amie Thomasson
    Amie Thomasson

About the Course

Philosophy has always struggled with itself over what, exactly, it’s purpose is. Plato investigated  the fundamental nature of justice and knowledge whereas Wittgenstein thought that the purpose of philosophy was "to show the fly the way out of the fly bottle." Where are we now?

During this course Amie Thomasson traces historical views of the history of philosophy before presenting her radical new suggestion, that philosophy is all about meta-linguistic negotiation. This approach – the idea that our discussions about justice are about how we should use the word ‘justice’ – manages to unite the advantages of previous models whilst avoiding the problems. Philosophy has purpose once more, helping us in our everyday life as well as with the biggest issues.

During this course you will learn about:

  • How philosophy developed alongside other disciplines like the natural sciences.
  • Two models of philosophy – of discovering and of conceptual order.
  • How to argue for and against the existence of entities with ease.
  • A new model of philosophy which breathes new life into the oldest subject.

Through video lectures, questions and suggested reading discover why atheism is perhaps the most important moral issue of our time. Share your ideas and support your learning through our discussion boards and test your knowledge through an end of course assessment.

About the Instructor

  • Amie Thomasson

    Professor of philosophy at Dartmouth. She has published more than 50 book chapters and articles on topics ranging from metaphysics, to philosophy of art to social ontology. Her book Ontology Made Easy, won the 2017 Sanders Book Prize for shedding new light on the question of being and the very purpose of philosophy.

Course Syllabus

  • Part One: Philosophy: A Path to Truth?
    Thomasson explores the concept of discovery in philosophy, and argues that it leads to trouble.
  • Part Two: Philosophy to Change the World
    Thomasson lays out her vision of intellectual inquiry as a tool for transforming how we think and speak.

Suggested Further Readings

Tim Button. (2016) Deflationary Metaphysics and Ordinary LanguageSynthese, 1-25,

Eli Hirsch. (2002) 'Against Revisionary Ontology', Philosophical Topics, (30), 103-27.

Eli Hirsch. (2009) ‘Ontology and Alternative Languages’ In Chalmers, D. Manley, D. & Wasserman, R. (eds.), Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology. (Oxford: OUP), p. 231--58

Huw Price. (2009) 'Metaphysics after Carnap: the Ghost who Walks?' in Chalmers, D. Manley, D. & Wasserman, R. (eds.), Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology. (Oxford: OUP)   

Theodore Sider. (2011). Writing the Book of the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.    

Amie L. Thomasson. (2015) Ontology Made Easy (New York: Oxford University Press)