Philosophy 113

PHIL 113: Introduction: Reasoning and Argument

Credit Hours: (3)

This course introduces students to basic principles of reasoning and argumentation. Students learn to distinguish between valid and invalid reasoning, to recognize patterns of deductive and inductive arguments, to understand the way evidence is used in reasoning, to construct deductive proofs, and to evaluate the soundness of arguments both in everyday contexts and in writings of some major philosophers. This course has been approved for General Education credit in the Humanities Area of the curriculum.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

(1)The Logical Features of Reasoning

  • This section of the course covers the basic features of logical inference. Distinctions between inductive and deductive reasoning, valid and invalid arguments, and formal validity and soundness are introduced and illustrated.

(2)Basic Argument Patterns

  • Syllogistic reasoning, both categorical and propositional, is covered. Techniques for distinguishing between valid and invalid syllogisms are developed. Methods of testing validity for longer arguments, such as truth tables, will be covered.

(3) Natural Deduction

  • Techniques for deriving conclusions from sets of premises are developed. Methods of direct, conditional, and indirect proof are covered.

(4) Evidence

  • Different methods of inductive reasoning are discussed. Standards for developing evidence, identifying non-evidential techniques of persuasion, strategies for constructing successful arguments, and evaluating the overall strength and weakness of arguments is covered.

(5) Philosophical Arguments

  • The structure of argument and reasoning in major philosophical texts, such as those of Plato, Aquinas, Descartes, Hume, Kant and Mill, will be examined. The underlying logical structure of the arguments and evidence will be discussed and evaluations of reasoning will be constructed.


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

The class will meet three hours each week. Students will be responsible for mastering the principles of argument through daily homework assignments, numerous short writing assignments, participation in class discussion of arguments. The course will culminate in the analysis of arguments developed by major philosophers on one or two central areas of philosophical concern. These could include Plato, Descartes, and Hume on the nature of knowledge; Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, and Hume on the rationality of religious belief; or Locke, Mill, and Kant on the foundations of morality.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

(1) demonstrate ability to explain clearly differences between valid and invalid arguments.
(2) distinguish between deduction and various types of inductive reasoning.
(3) recognize basic valid and invalid argument patterns.
(4) demonstrate ability to derive conclusions from premises using techniques of natural deduction.
(5) utilize techniques of argument analysis to discuss the nature of and relative strength of evidence for a given conclusion.
(6) develop a systematic critique of an extended argument.
(7) recognize and critique arguments in everyday contexts and in philosophical texts.
(8) demonstrate mastery of philosophical arguments surrounding an important issue or issues.

Broad General Education Goals

As part of the General Education program, this course is designed to help students achieve a number of broad learning goals in addition to the course-specific goals identified above. Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to:

(1) think critically and creatively about ideas, issues, problems, and texts both within and across academic disciplines.
(2) construct logical and persuasive arguments.
(3) employ a variety of research methods and styles of inquiry, such as analyzing arguments from texts, researching evidence on philosophical topics, creating persuasive arguments on a variety of topics both in speech and writing.
(4) work with others in developing argument strategies and approaches to argument evaluation.
(5) identify the personal and cultural values that shape decisions in public, professional and private life by examining classical and contemporary philosophical discussions of ethical and political ideas.

Goals for Area Four - Humanities

In addition to the course-specific goals and the broad General Education learning goals indicated above, this course is intended to help students achieve a number of learning objectives in the Humanities Area of the General Education Program. In particular, upon completion of this course students should be able to:

(1) demonstrate knowledge of the general nature and various methods of inquiry in the humanities, including methods of critical reasoning, creative speculation, and sustained argumentation in areas of general human concern.
(2) demonstrate an understanding of the importance of the human quest for meaning, value, and order in life as it is been carried forward in the writings of major philosophers and in our own lives.
(3) analyze and evaluate different views of the meaning, value, and purpose of human life by examining the diverse opinions of philosophers and philosophical schools of thought.
(4) interpret and critically evaluate classical and contemporary works of philosophical literature as diverse expressions of the human condition.
(5) discuss in speech and writing the relevance of the search for meaning to their own lives and evaluate the plausibility of perennial responses to questions of human meaning.


Assessment Measures

Students' progress in achieving the course-specific objectives and the General Education goals established for this course will be assessed on the basis of the following:

(1) objective exams in which students demonstrate competence in argument construction and analysis and familiarity with and understanding of the arguments of major philosophers.
(2) numerous short assignments requiring argument construction and analysis and exploration of philosophical issues done both in and outside of class, alone and in conjunction with other students.
(3) quizzes and exams covering basic valid and invalid argument forms.
(4) participation in class discussion.


Other Course Information

Approval and Subsequent Reviews

Date Action Reviewed by
January 27, 1997 New course Approved by VPAA
April 17, 1998 Reviewed Kim Kipling
April 7, 1999 Syllabus revised Kim Kipling
September 18, 2001 Reviewed Kim Kipling