Think Again: How to Reason and Argue

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Description

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  • Paid plan: Commit to earning a Certificate—it's a trusted, shareable way to showcase your new skills.

Reasoning is important. This course will teach you how to do it well. You will learn how to understand and assess arguments by other people and how to construct good arguments of your own about whatever matters to you.

About the Course

Reasoning is important. This course will teach you how to do it well. You will learn some simple but vital rules to follow in thinking about any topic at all and some common and tempting mistakes to avoid in reasoning. We will discuss how to identify, analyze, and evaluate arguments by other people (including politicians, used car salesmen, and teachers) and how to construct arguments of your own in order to help you decide what to believe or what to do. Thes…

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When you enroll for courses through Coursera you get to choose for a paid plan or for a free plan

  • Free plan: No certicification and/or audit only. You will have access to all course materials except graded items.
  • Paid plan: Commit to earning a Certificate—it's a trusted, shareable way to showcase your new skills.

Reasoning is important. This course will teach you how to do it well. You will learn how to understand and assess arguments by other people and how to construct good arguments of your own about whatever matters to you.

About the Course

Reasoning is important. This course will teach you how to do it well. You will learn some simple but vital rules to follow in thinking about any topic at all and some common and tempting mistakes to avoid in reasoning. We will discuss how to identify, analyze, and evaluate arguments by other people (including politicians, used car salesmen, and teachers) and how to construct arguments of your own in order to help you decide what to believe or what to do. These skills will be useful in dealing with whatever matters most to you.

About the Instructor(s)

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (right) is Chauncey Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics in the Philosophy Department and the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University and Core Faculty in the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. He has served as vice-chair of the Board of Officers of the American Philosophical Association and co-director of the MacArthur Project on Law and Neuroscience. He has published books on moral theory, philosophy of religion, theory of knowledge, and informal logic. His current research focuses on ways that psychology and neuroscience can illuminate moral beliefs and moral responsibility. He has regularly taught a course on reasoning for three decades.
Ram Neta (left) is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has published dozens of articles on various topics in epistemology, including the nature and extent of our knowledge, the constraints that rationality imposes of on our states of confidence, the sorts of considerations that can serve as evidence for us, and how arguments for skepticism can come to seem compelling. He has also edited a number of recent and forthcoming volumes in epistemology. His current research focuses on understanding how epistemic constraints on an animal’s representational states can be determined by the essential properties of the species to which the animal belongs.

Course Syllabus

PART I: HOW TO ANALYZE ARGUMENTS (or identify, simplify, and arrange their parts to show how they are connected in a structure)
  • Week One: How to Spot an Argument
  • Week Two: How to Untangle an Argument
  • Week Three: How to Reconstruct an Argument
PART II: HOW TO EVALUATE DEDUCTIVE ARGUMENTS (or determine whether their premises validly imply their conclusions)
  • Week Four: Propositional Logic and Truth Tables
  • Week Five: Categorical Logic and Syllogisms
PART III: HOW TO EVALUATE INDUCTIVE ARGUMENTS (or determine whether their premises provide enough reason to believe their conclusions)
  • Week Six: What are Inductive Arguments?
  • Week Seven: Causal Reasoning
  • Week Eight: Probability and Decisions
PART IV: HOW TO MESS UP ARGUMENTS (or commit common but tempting fallacies)
  • Week Nine: Fallacies of Vagueness and Ambiguity
  • Week Ten: Fallacies of Relevance and Vacuity
  • Week Eleven: How to Refute an Argument
  • Week Twelve: How to Apply these Methods to Everyday Arguments

Recommended Background

This material is appropriate for introductory college students or advanced high school students—or, indeed, anyone who is interested. No special background is required other than knowledge of English.

Suggested Readings

Students who want more detailed explanations or additional exercises or who want to explore these topics in more depth should consult Understanding Arguments: An Introduction to Informal Logic. The text is also available in an e-book format.

Course Format

Each week will be divided into multiple video segments that can be grouped as three lectures or viewed separately. There will be short exercises after each segment (to check comprehension) and several longer midterm quizzes.

FAQ

  • Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment after completing this class?

    Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructor.

  • What resources will I need for this class?

    Only a working computer and internet connection.

  • What is the coolest thing I'll learn if I take this class?

    Nasty names (equivocator!) to call people who try to fool you with bad arguments.

Provided by:

University: Duke University

Instructor(s): Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Ram Neta

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