UMass Philosophy 105: Practical Reasoning
Fall 2019 – Prof. Kevin C. Klement and TA Anupam Devkota
Tuesdays and Thursdays 11:30am–12:20pm in LGRT 123 with Friday discussions
Course description and objectives
This is a 4-credit analytic reasoning (R2) general education course. Its primary objective is to strengthen your critical thinking and analytic reasoning skills.
This course covers methods for understanding and evaluating reasoning, arguments and inferences, of the sort found in daily life, political speeches, academic writing and beyond. We address such questions as: What is the structure of an argument? What considerations are relevant for determining its strength and cogency? What sorts of appeals to quantitative and scientific data are appropriate, and what sorts aren’t? What, if any, kinds of reasoning patterns can be identified as fallacious or abusive? How can we understand and overcome cognitive biases? The goals of this course include increasing students’ ability to reason well, and evaluate the reasoning of others charitably and critically. It aims to familiarize students with what makes an argument logically sound or cogent, and what makes one uncogent or unsound. Students should gain the ability to analyze, reconstruct and diagram arguments, as well as identify common sources of errors in reasoning, including fallacies and biases, as well as understand the nature of evidence and potential distortions to evidence. These skills will be applied to everyday reasoning, political contexts, scientific contexts, statistics and more specific contexts such as cause/effect reasoning. This is an analytic reasoning (R2) course, and 4 credits.
Prof. Klement’s email is email@example.com, and his office is South College E319. Office hours are Wednesdays 11am–noon, Fridays 2pm–3pm. You can also schedule an appointment at https://logic.umasscreate.net/appts/?view=klement.
TA Anupam Devkota’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org, and his office is South College E306. Office hours are Mondays and Wednesdays 2pm–3pm and by appointment.
The website for this course is located at https://logic.umasscreate.net/reasoning/. You can also log in through the UMass Moodle LMS https://umass.moonami.com. There you can find lecture notes and course readings, check your grades, complete homework exercises, and more.
We will be using a mixture of book chapters from various sources, typically logic and critical thinking textbooks. These are available to download as PDFs. We will be reading multiple chapters from the following books.
- Hurley: A Concise Introduction to Logic (11th ed.)
- Bowell and Kemp: Critical Thinking – A Concise Guide (4th ed.)
- Lau: An Introduction to Critical Thinking and Creativity
- For all other readings, see the schedule below.
These are available to download from our website.
Requirements and grading
Your final grade is based on (a) three in-class exams (20% each / 60% total), consisting primarily of multiple choice, definition and short-answer questions; (b) weekly homework assignments (30% total); and (c) your participation in discussion section (10% total). A score out 500 total points will be generated, and your final grade will be determined according to the chart on the right.
Weekly homework assignments are completed through our website, and are typically due by 5pm on Mondays, covering the material from the previous week. There are some weeks when no homework is due. The full schedule can be found on the website.
Academic honesty is defined in the University Academic Regulations document (page 5), available at http://www.umass.edu/registrar/sites/default/files/academicregs.pdf. Plagiarism and cheating are serious offenses that strike at the very heart of academic life, and will result in serious penalties, including minimally (but not limited to) receiving an F in the course.
Common courtesy demands that you come to class on time, and refrain from leaving early without special permission. Cell phones must be turned off for the duration of class. While attendance is not taken in lecture, attendance is vital for success. Attendance will be taken in discussion sections, and will factor into your participation grade.
I would like to hear from anyone who has a disability and may require special accommodations regarding exam-taking, note-taking or similar. Please obtain the appropriate paperwork from Disability Services and inform me far enough ahead of time to make the appropriate arrangements.
Lecture topics and reading schedule
Subject to change.
|Unit 1: Argument Analysis|
|Tu 3 Sept||Course Introduction|
|Th 5 Sept||Arguments, Premises, Conclusions||Hurley, section 1.1 (pp. 1–13)|
|Tu 10 Sept||Distinguishing Arguments from Other Discourse||Hurley, section 1.2 (pp. 14–25)|
|Th 12 Sept||Induction and Deduction||Hurley, section 1.3 (pp. 33–44)|
|Tu 17 Sept||Evaluating Arguments: Key Concepts||Hurley, sections 1.4–1.5 (pp. 44–64)|
|Th 19 Sept||Argument Maps||Hurley, section 1.6 (pp. 64–75)|
|Tu 24 Sept||Argument Reconstruction||Bowell and Kemp, chap. 5, start (pp. 133–153)|
|Th 26 Sept||Argument Reconstruction, continued||Bowell and Kemp, chap. 5, rest (pp. 153–183)|
|Tu 1 Oct||Evaluating Arguments: Best Practices||Feldman, chapter 7, sections I–II (pp. 191–212)|
|Th 3 Oct||— Exam #1 — (in class, 11:30am, LGRT 123)|
|Tu 8 Oct||Class cancelled.|
|Th 10 Oct||Fallacies of Relevance||Hurley, sections 3.1–3.2 (pp. 119–138)|
|Tu 15 Oct||No class. University follows Monday schedule.|
|Th 17 Oct||Inductive Fallacies, Fallacies of Presumption||Hurley, section 3.3–3.4, start (pp. 138–159)|
|Tu 22 Oct||Begging the Question, Fallacies of Meaning||Hurley, section 3.4, remainder (pp. 160–178)|
|Th 24 Oct||Rethinking Traditional Fallacy Theory||David Hitchcock, “Do The Fallacies Have a Place in the Teaching of Reasoning Skills or Critical Thinking?”; J. A. Blair, “The Place of Teaching Informal Fallacies in Teaching Reasoning Skills or Critical Thinking” (pp. 319–338)|
|Tu 29 Oct||Cognitive Biases: Overview||Lau, chapter 20 (pp. 185–193)|
|Th 31 Oct||Cognitive Biases: Examples||“List of Cognitive Biases” (Wikipedia)|
|Tu 5 Nov||Cognitive Biases: Theoretical Issues||Gilovich and Griffin: “Introduction – Heuristics and Cognitive Biases: Then and Now”|
|Th 7 Nov||— Exam #2 — (in class, 11:30am, LGRT 123)|
|Unit 3: Weighing Evidence and Thinking Well|
|Tu 12 Nov||Belief, Knowledge and Truth||Bowell and Kemp, chapter 8 (pp. 264–288)|
|Th 14 Nov||Evidence and Acceptable Reasons||Hunter, chapter 4 (pp. 97–129)|
|Tu 19 Nov||Causation and Correlation||Lau, chapter 15 (pp. 133–140)|
|Th 21 Nov||Statistical Reasoning||Hurley, chapter 12 (pp. 571–592)|
|24–30 Nov||No class. Thanksgiving break.|
|Tu 3 Dec||Hypotheses and Scientific Reasoning||Hurley, chapter 13 (pp. 593–614)|
|Th 5 Dec||Open-Mindedness||Baron, chapter 9 (pp. 199–227)|
|Tu 10 Dec||Creative Thinking||Lau, chapters 23–24 (pp. 215–231)|
|Fr 13 Dec||— Exam #3 — (1pm, LGRT 123)|