Instructor: Dr Ben Martin
A discussion of the general principles of reasonable discourse, with a focus on persuasive and cogent writing.
Available in Winter 2018 and Winter 2019.
Arguments play an important role in both public and intellectual life. Others will propose arguments in an attempt to persuade us that what they say is true, and it is our responsibility to evaluate whether these arguments do indeed give us good reason to endorse others’ claims. Learning the skills of how to appropriately evaluate arguments, therefore, is a fundamental skill. It can stop us from being misled by the claims of others, including politicians and the media, and allow us to be clearer about the reasons we have for our own beliefs. In this course we will learn what arguments are and how to evaluate them. We will discover the skills of formal logic, where you will learn how to formalize and evaluate the validity of arguments using online software, and consequently master the skill of recognizing bad reasoning.
By the end of this course learners will be able to:
- Explain what arguments are and distinguish between deductive, inductive and abductive arguments.
- Distinguish between (in)valid and (un)sound deductive arguments.
- Symbolize arguments found in everyday life using first-order logic.
- Evaluate the validity of arguments using truth-tables, informal and formal proofs.
- Recognize both informal and formal fallacies as they occur in real-life arguments.
Experiential learning opportunities
This course will involve two experiential learning opportunities:
1) A visit to the permanent Holocaust exhibition at the Imperial War Museum (London)
In this trip we will learn about the potentially horrendous consequences of not challenging authorities by rationally evaluating arguments and the justification of actions. This trip will provide us with an opportunity to discuss the importance of critical thinking and evaluating the arguments of others.
2) Watch a political debate (on site)
In this experiential learning exercise we will watch a political debate and evaluate the arguments that they propose. This exercise will provide us with an opportunity to appreciate how we should approach arguments that important public figures propose, and give us the skills in the future to be more critical of the claims public figures make.
The evaluation for this course is constituted of a take-home test (worth 40% of your overall mark), an in-class exam (worth 45% of your overall mark), a field study exercise (worth 5% of your overall mark), and a participation mark (worth 10%).