Visualizing The Logical Structure of Arguments: A New Platform (guest post by Simon Cullen)


The following is a guest post* by Simon Cullen (Princeton), which continues an earlier discussion of his work teaching with argument mapping techniques and software.


[Shannon Rankin, “Sea”]

Visualizing The Logical Structure Of Arguments: A New Platform For Argument-Mapping
by Simon Cullen

Back in 2015, I contributed to a post for Daily Nous about teaching philosophy using argument mapping—a technique for visualizing the logical structures of arguments. I’m writing today with two bits of news on the same topic.

First, readers can read a short experimental report on the results of the Princeton argument mapping seminar. It lays out the rationale for the course, our experimental design, and the effects we’ve measured on students’ analytical reasoning skills.

Second, I’m super excited to announce that we finally have a free and open platform for collaborative argument mapping! It’s called MindMup. (Make sure you use the address at that link or you won’t start off in argument mapping mode.) MindMup is easy to learn and it supports real-time collaboration, so when multiple students work on a single map, they can see each other’s edits instantly.

I’ve made a short walkthrough video (embedded below) demonstrating the software’s basic features, and I plan to add some teaching materials and a short video introducing the basic ideas behind argument mapping. For now, if you’d like to see what an argument looks like in MindMup, check out this map of Michael Huemer’s Is There a Right to Immigrate? (‘Z’ zooms in; ‘shift+Z’ zooms out; you can hit ‘f’ to fold/unfold parts of the map, but you won’t be able to edit.)

MindMup is ready for the classroom—I used it with my Princeton students this spring and Thinker Analytix is using it in their awesome high school programs—but we have lots of features planned. Soon we’ll update the visual stylings of the maps themselves, and later this year we hope to implement a Google Docs-style commenting system and tools to make philosophy more accessible by cross-referencing readings with instructor-made maps.

I hope that lowering the barriers to entry will lead more philosophers to experiment with this awesome technique for teaching philosophy and supporting the development of students’ reasoning skills! If people have questions about argument mapping in MindMup or about teaching philosophy using argument maps, leave a comment below or shoot me an email.

Lastly, enormous thanks to MindMup’s developers, and especially to Gojko Adzi. MindMup will always be free, but if you find it helpful in your teaching, please consider supporting it by buying an organizational licence for your institution!

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