Philosophy | Thinking and Reasoning
P105 | 3739 | Tropman

What makes some arguments better than others?  Consider the
following bit of reasoning:  “There has never been intelligent life
on Mars.  This is because if satellite photographs show traces of
abandoned towns and cities on the surface of Mars, then there was
once intelligent life on that planet.  But unfortunately, the photos
show no sign of abandoned towns or cities on the surface of the
planet.”  What is the structure of this argument?  Why should this
argument fail to persuade you of the truth of its conclusion?  In
other words, why isn’t the above argument a good one?

This course will explore such questions by introducing students to
the basic elements of informal logic.  Our main focus will be the
recognition, analysis, and evaluation of everyday arguments using
methods from informal logic.  Students will learn how to identify
arguments and their structure; detect informal fallacies; test
arguments for validity using informal proofs, counterexamples, and
the tableaux test; diagram complex arguments; evaluate the overall
goodness of an argument.

Students will be asked to complete a number of short homework
assignments, often one for each class meeting, occasional quizzes,
three in-class exams, and a final examination.