Post-Election Changes To Philosophy Curriculum By Subject: Critical Reasoning / Informal Logic


Continuing in our series of posts about changes to teaching materials and lessons for particular philosophical fields in light of the 2016 U.S. election (see previous installments on epistemology and philosophy of language), today’s post will be on courses variously described as “critical reasoning,” “critical thinking,” and “informal logic.”

Especially welcome here are ideas for innovative and interactive lessons, as well as lessons and assignments that involve the application of critical reasoning skills to current events. Also, it would interesting to hear how some philosophy professors incorporate into their courses material from neighboring fields that’s relevant to developing critical thinking skills.

 

Nicholas Jones, "Greek Art"

Nicholas Jones, “Greek Art”

guest
11 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jeff
Jeff
4 years ago

Recommend course work on the character of a nation

Also on the character of a leader

Thank you

JeffReport

Henri Perron
Henri Perron
4 years ago

Justin, I have to wonder whether or not you would have made this series of posts had Hillary Clinton won the election.

Not to in any way imply that Trump isn’t a monster and a weapons-grade idiot, but Hillary wasn’t exactly the face of all that is good and just. Many media outlets (including CNN) engaged in behaviour that emphasizes the need for philosophy classes and critical reasoning abilities.

I know you’re fired up–as everyone should be, regardless of whether Trump or Clinton won–but I don’t think you’re making any friends or winning anybody over. Report

Alfred MacDonald
Alfred MacDonald
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
4 years ago

“If you fail to see how Trump is so different a kind of candidate than Cruz or Clinton, despite whatever failings you think the latter two have, then don’t bother commenting here. Please.”

burn your philosophy degrees. they didn’t achieve anything.Report

Matt McAdam
Matt McAdam
4 years ago

“I don’t think you’re making any friends or winning anybody over.”
Comments like this remind me that DN has been around just long enough now that many of the procrastinating grad students who read it don’t know of a world in which it didn’t exist. The idea that “making friends” or “winning anybody over” would be seriously offered as a possible job description of a blogger in academic philosophy is entirely due to an online climate in professional philosophy that Justin himself created with this blog. Report

Todd
Todd
4 years ago

I don’t have any suggestions for specific material to add to Critical Thinking courses. When I taught it in the past, I would always use some snippets of political speech, commercials, etc. as examples of informal arguments to analyze anyhow.

I did want to say, though, that I appreciate this site’s efforts to provide suggestions on things we can do in our classes to make them more suited to current social and political circumstances. Trump or not, I think this is good practice. It just so happens that Trump’s campaign and election has brought about/occurred in an atmosphere in which the truth value of fairly straightforward claims seems to be irrelevant. It might behoove us as philosophers to think about what’s going on here and how to address it (assuming we think it’s something worth addressing). Report

Alexa
Alexa
4 years ago

Peter Kreeft’s Socratic Logic might be helpful (I normally don’t like Kreeft’s work, but this book has actually been pretty good for teaching). Not sure that the election makes the reasons for using this text more salient, but it’s a good textbook on Aristotelian-style informal logic. One thing that might be appropriate in light of the recent election is to use something like Aristotle’s Rhetoric (I’m not an expert in this area, so if someone knows more about this please provide some more info). But my guess is that educating students about the power of presentation (independent of the logical or semantic properties of certain statements) might help students key into various forms of manipulation that people utilize in public speaking.Report

Stephen
Stephen
4 years ago

Justin, thanks so much for posting this. Independently of the election, I was thinking of adding a logic unit to the front end of my intro-philosophy course (mainly because I’ve been disappointed with the quality of the initial papers my intro-phil students submit). If I have approx. 8 classes to devote to it, do people have suggestions as to what (in your experience) is the most useful thing for sharpening students’ minds a bit? I was thinking about covering (i) recognizing/representing arguments, (ii) fallacies, (iii) natural deduction in propositional logic, and perhaps (iv) a unit on science and superstition (Hurley’s Concise Intro to Logic has a chapter on this). I welcome any feedback or advice on this!Report

Preston Stovall
Reply to  Stephen
4 years ago

For the first few weeks of my non-logic classes, I open every lecture with a little bit of logic/critical reasoning. Five to ten minutes, framed as some basic skills one needs to be able to really engage with a philosophical text. Then I move on to that day’s reading/lecture.

I find that early discussion of fallacies, the distinction between deductive and non-deductive reasoning, necessary and sufficient conditions as a basis for definition, and some basic rules of inference goes a long way toward making the rest of the semester’s emphasis on specific arguments easier for students to follow. I try to reinforce that material by having weekly homework assignments where students are asked to apply this stuff to non-philosophical topics (newspaper editorials, biological taxonomies, geographical relations, etc.). I don’t have one particular text I draw from, though Hurley’s first three chapters and the chapter on induction are pretty good.

In general, I try to avoid being too systematic with the rules of inference. For instance, I avoid getting into truth-tables or the introduction and elimination rules of natural deduction systems, though I do tell them there’s more detail if they want to get into it, and I try to flag enough of it that the math and computer science majors get a glimpse of what’s going on. Usually a little modus ponens, modus tollens, disjunctive syllogism, etc. is enough.Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
4 years ago

The Critical Thinking textbook “Logic and Contemporary Rhetoric”, by Kahane and Cavendar, uses lots of examples of fallacious reasoning drawn from politicians. You can use the “look inside” feature on Amazon to look inside.Report

PeterJ
PeterJ
4 years ago

I would focus of the the laws for Aristotle’s dialectic and their correct application. These are regularly abused in philosophy never mind elsewhere. This might be particularly relevant to the political idea that there are only two parties and we have to vote for one of them. Report