This course is designed to impart a skill necessary for critical thinking, namely that of evaluating arguments (lines of reasoning aimed at a conclusion). In this sense of the word, arguments are a crucial part of our everyday thought and talk, not to mention pervasive in legal, political, and academic discourse. In a good argument, the premises offer good reasons to believe the conclusion — in the best case, if the premises are true then the conclusion has to be true. But arguments come in many varieties with varying degrees of power, and even bad arguments can be deceptively compelling. We will explore techniques for evaluating both the quality of formal arguments and also the quality of everyday reasoning.
Assignments will include weekly problem sets, computer-aided study and standardized exams.
The course is open to students from all areas of the University interested in improving their reasoning ability and their ability to construct and recognize compelling arguments. These skills may be helpful in a wide variety of university subjects and extra-academic pursuits.
2 hr lecture and 1 hr discussion per week