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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.

Content: We shall be focusing on key concepts of logic, including the nature and structure of arguments, reasoning and inferences, and the considerations relevant to determining their strength and cogency. We shall also be examining informal fallacies and cognitive biases and ways in which good reasoning can be compromised. Finally, we shall be considering themes in epistemology (the study of knowledge) including the nature of evidence, scientific method, statistical and graphical information, and reasoning about cause and effect.

Critical thinking: Critical thinking the main theme of the course. Students shall be exposed to argumentation from a variety of disciplines and learn to diagram their structure and identify factors relevant to their assessment. Students should also learn to identify biases and fallacies present in their own thinking and that of others, as well as how these tendencies arise and can be understood. Students should also learn identify potential distortions to evidence in scientific, political and other contexts by exposure to many and varied examples. This includes consideration of the way data, statistics and other information is presented, so that students may become more sophisticated in their processing of such information.

Communication: Students will be tasked with charitably interpreting and critically assessing the reasoning of others, by exposure to many examples of various reasoning strategies. Students will also learn to present argumentation in a compelling and cogent way.

Connections: Students will be asked to apply the concepts and methods discussed in the class to many real-world contexts, including daily life, political speeches, academic writing and beyond. By examining arguments and reasoning taken from many disciplines, students will be asked to integrate the content of this course with that of others. Students will be asked to consider the points of view of the authors of the arguments considered in the class and how this affects their evaluation. Students will be asked to consider the nature of open-mindedness and creativity and apply them to their own lives.

Contact information

Prof. Klement’s email is klement@umass.edu, 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., or click here to schedule an appointment.
TA Anupam Devkota’s email is adevkota@umass.edu, and his office is South College E306. Office hours are Mondays and Wednesdays 2pm–3pm and by appointment.

Lecture notes

Unit 1 Lecture Notes (September 3rd – October 3rd)
Unit 2 Lecture Notes (October 8th – November 7th)
Unit 3 Lecture Notes (November 12th – December 13th)

Website

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.

Course readings

We will be using a mixture of book chapters from various sources, typically logic and critical thinking textbooks. These are available to download below once you log in.These are available to download from our website.

Requirements and grading

PointsPercentGrade
465+93–100%A
450–46490–92.8%A−
435–44987–89.8%B+
415–43483–86.8%B
400–41480–82.8%B−
385–39977–79.8%C+
365–38473–76.8%C
350–36470-72.8%C−
335−34967–69.8%D+
300–33460–66.8%D
0–2990–59.8%F

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.

Homework exercises

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. See the homework exercises page (link below) for the full schedule.The full schedule can be found on the website.

Click here to visit the homework exercises page

Study guides for exams

Study Guide for Exam 1 (October 3rd)
Study Guide for Exam 2 (November 7th)
Study Guide for Exam 3 (December 13th)

Academic honesty

Academic honesty is defined in the University Academic Regulations document (page 5), available at http://www.umass.edu/registrar/sites/default/files/academicregs.pdfthis link. 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.

Attendance Policy

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.

Disabilities

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 schedule

Subject to change.

Day Topic
Unit 1: Argument Analysis
Tu 3 Sept Course Introduction
Th 5 Sept Arguments, Premises, Conclusions
Tu 10 Sept Distinguishing Arguments from Other Discourse
Th 12 Sept Induction and Deduction
Tu 17 Sept Evaluating Arguments: Key Concepts
Th 19 Sept Argument Maps
Tu 24 Sept Argument Reconstruction
Th 26 Sept Argument Reconstruction, continued
Tu 1 Oct Evaluating Arguments: Best Practices
Th 3 Oct — Exam #1 — (in class, 11:30am, LGRT 123)
Unit 2:
Tu 8 Oct Class cancelled.
Th 10 Oct Fallacies of Relevance
Tu 15 Oct No class. University follows Monday schedule.
Th 17 Oct Inductive Fallacies, Fallacies of Presumption
Tu 22 Oct Begging the Question, Fallacies of Meaning
Th 24 Oct Rethinking Traditional Fallacy Theory
Tu 29 Oct Cognitive Biases: Overview
Th 31 Oct Cognitive Biases: Examples
Tu 5 Nov Cognitive Biases: Theoretical Issues
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
Th 14 Nov Evidence and Acceptable Reasons
Tu 19 Nov Causation and Correlation
Th 21 Nov Statistical Reasoning
24–30 Nov No class. Thanksgiving break.
Tu 3 Dec Hypotheses and Scientific Reasoning
Th 5 Dec Open-Mindedness
Tu 10 Dec Creative Thinking
Fr 13 Dec — Exam #3 — (1pm, LGRT 123)

© 2022 Kevin C. Klement