Philosophy 213

PHIL 213: Critical Reasoning and Argumentation

Credit Hours: (3)

This course aims at advancing student skills and dispositions in critical reasoning and argumentation. It moves from review of general critical thinking competencies applicable to thinking within all domains and subjects, to the introduction and study of more domain-specific competencies in legal, moral, and scientific reasoning.

Detailed Description of Course
(1) Thinking Skillfully: The Logical Features of Reasoning
                •    This first section of the course reviews basic features of logical inference. Distinctions between inductive and deductive reasoning, valid and invalid arguments, and formal validity and soundness of deductive arguments are reviewed and reinforced, as are basic argument patterns such as syllogistic reasoning (categorical, hypothetical and disjunctive).
 (2) Communicating Effectively: Evidence, Inference, Argumentation
                •    In this section of the course new material is introduced allowing students to distinguish the related but distinct concepts of fact, information, experience, research, data, and evidence. These are related on the one hand to different methods of inductive reasoning such as argument by analogy/disanalogy, generalization/statistics, and cause-and-effect/hypothetical reasoning, and on the other hand to evaluation of effective/ineffective communication in terms of standards of clarity, accuracy, relevance, depth, breadth, significant, and intellectual fairness of the arguments that we and others employ.
(3) Navigating Central Domains of Reasoning
                •    In the final section of the course attention is turned to constructing extended arguments of our own and to understanding/evaluating argumentation within specific areas of discourse central to us all, including moral, legal, and scientific reasoning. Through case studies and other excursions into these domains, students will leave with a better understanding of how legal, moral and scientific reasoning proceed, and how each is a more specific extension of critical reasoning skills applicable to everyday life. They will learn to apply critical reasoning standards of argumentation to contemporary public policy, moral, legal, and scientific debates in order to evaluate whether defensible standards of argumentation have been met.

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 homework assignments, numerous short writing or close reading assignments, participation in class, and/or group exercises and discussions.

Goals and Objectives of the Course
Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:
(1) demonstrate deductive reasoning skills of spotting contradictory statements, and of analyzing and constructing syllogistically-patterned arguments;
(2) demonstrate inductive reasoning skills of determining relevant information, recognizing relationships, and evaluating causal claims while avoiding causal fallacies;
(3) demonstrate advanced evaluative reasoning skills of judging credibility of sources, evaluating hypotheses, and recognizing underlying assumptions and biases;
(4) construct an extended argument of one’s own along a pre-diagrammed pattern of support;
(5) demonstrate problem-solving skills of identifying and clarifying problems, and of formulating hypotheses and alternative solutions;
(6) identify patterns of reasoning and argumentation central to the legal, moral, and scientific domains;
(7) apply critical reasoning standards of argumentation to moral, legal, and scientific debates in order to evaluate whether defensible standards of argumentation have been met.

Assessment Measures
Students' progress in achieving the course-specific objectives may be assessed on the basis of the following:
(1) objective quizzes and exams in which students demonstrate competence in argument diagramming, and analysis and familiarity with general and domain-specific patterns of reasoning;
(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) participation in class discussion and individual/group presentation.

Other Course Information

Review and Approval

July, 2010