Dillard University, Fall 2013
We are constantly faced with different claims, questions, issues, and arguments dealing with everything from electing a political candidate to purchasing a car to understanding a doctor’s diagnosis to choosing a major. How do we sort out and evaluate different information? How do we form decisions and beliefs? What reasons do we have, or should we have, for our beliefs? The answers to these questions have consequences and so require a great deal of thought.
Critical thinking is the capacity to identify, understand, evaluate, and assert different claims and the support and arguments for those claims. “Critical” often bears a negative connotation, but here it should mean careful analysis, observation, and curiosity about a subject. It means going beyond what seems to be readily apparent. In this course, we will hone the skills of critical thinking. We will ask questions such as, what does it mean to think critically? What is a good argument? What counts as a reason? Why should I hold a particular position? Students will learn how to formulate articulate, clear, and convincing positions on a variety of topics. Thinking critically is not a solitary activity. Students will also learn how to listen to, understand, reflect critically and charitably on, and engage with another person’s position. The goal of critical thinking is not to come to an absolute conclusion, but to learn how to ask the right questions and to determine what beliefs, presuppositions, or consequences might be at stake. We will begin by looking at different approaches to arguments and then will explore the different elements of arguments, including claims, support, warrants, and language. Next we will consider how to research, write, and present arguments. We will also spend some time evaluating different viewpoints. Assignments include quizzes, blog posts, writing assignments, debates, and group projects.
At the end of the course, students should be able to
- recognize claims, arguments, and warrants,
- identify the structure of different types of arguments,
- intelligently and charitably reconstruct another’s argument,
- examine a position from different perspectives,
- evaluate the strength of claims and arguments,
- recognize formal and informal fallacies in speech and writing,
- research and gather information on different topics,
- construct, present, and defend clear and articulate positions on different topics, and
- work collaboratively to present, evaluate, and construct arguments through oral presentations and writing assignments.
Required Textbooks, Articles, and Resources:
- Rottenberg, Annette T. and Donna Haisty Winchell. Elements of Arguments: A Text and Reader, Tenth Edition. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012. ISBN 978-0312646998. *Be sure to purchase the Tenth Edition*