Philosophy | Thinking and Reasoning
P105 | 3365 | Werner


Every day, usually without even realizing it, we engage in many
different kinds of reasoning.  What's more, we are continually
immersed in the reasoning (or lack thereof) of other people, and we
are quite often asked to accept certain claims as true.  But have you
ever wondered what distinguishes good reasoning from bad reasoning?
Have you ever been in the midst of a heated argument, but wished that
you could express your point in a more clear and logical way?  Have
you ever wanted to become a more analytical and critical thinker?  If
the answer to any of these questions is "Yes", then this course may be
for you.

The general topic of this course is what philosophers call critical
thinking.  What exactly does that mean?  Whether you realize it or
not, the main point of college is not to load up your brain with a
variety of facts and theories.  Rather, one of the most important
points of college is to learn how to think (not what to think).  The
term "critical thinking" refers to just that: learning how to have a
thoughtful engagement with the world around you.  Isn't it better to
reflect on what you believe and who you are, instead of just floating
through life?  Critical thinking involves the ability to recognize
one's personal prejudices and biases, so as to be able to make
reasonable, intelligent decisions about what to believe and what to
do.

On a more narrow level, this course is a study of arguments.  We
encounter arguments all the time, often without even knowing it: from
our parents, the mass media (especially television), politicians,
clergy, and even professors.  It can often be quite difficult,
however, to distinguish good arguments from bad arguments.  Using the
basic elements of informal logic, students in this course will gain
some of the necessary conceptual tools to be able to effectively deal
with everyday arguments.  We will focus on the recognition, analysis
and evaluation of arguments.  Students will be exposed to the
following techniques:  the identification of arguments and the
analysis of their structure; the construction of argument diagrams;
the concept of argument validity and the testing of validity through
counter-examples and truth tables; the recognition of fallacious (bad)
reasoning; and the difference between inductive and deductive
reasoning.  Real-life examples will be given from such sources as
advertisements and newspaper editorials.

There will be weekly homework assignments and quizzes, several
in-class exams, and a final examination.