This coursework includes 3 part, 100 words for each:
*Initial Reaction: Pseudoscience
In the modern world, one of the most respected ways of knowing is by way of science. Not everything that claims to be science, however, is accepted as science.
Before you review any of the material from the module, what do you think should count as a science? In other words, what makes something a science and something not a science? What is an example of something that claims to be a science that you don’t think actually qualifies? Why do you think the way you do?
*Initial Reaction: Formal Reasoning
This class is devoted to reasoning skills. The goal of the class is to study and practice good reasoning. Nowhere is the study of arguments more rigorous than in the study of formal logic.
The systematic formation of logical systems, like the ones we know today, began with Aristotle (though, earlier philosophers discussed parts of it as well). Formal logic allows us to study the structure of arguments to determine without or not they are valid. It works by stripping the particulars of an argument away (to eliminate bias), so we can analyze the “skeleton” of the argument.
Students are often surprised that philosophers’ work in logic falls so firmly in the sciences. Logic, for instance, is the basis of computer science [It is a common refrain among computer scientists that “Mathematical logic is to computer science what calculus is to physics.”]. It is very common for science majors to take logic classes from philosophers.
Having said this, you are about to get a VERY basic introduction to logic (what philosophers call “Baby Logic”). Think of this as if you were to spend two weeks studying medicine. You won’t be a logician in any sense, after this module, but you’ll have a taste of what logic is about (kind of like sticking your toe in a pool before getting in).
Your reaction: Why do you think it might be important to use logic to formally analyze arguments? What would be the benefit of doing so? Do you think you will find this interesting, valuable, fun, boring, hard, terrible, some combination of these, or something else entirely? Why do you feel the way you do?
*Initial Reaction: Truth Tables
This is another week in which you can’t really have a strong initial reaction. This week, you are going to learn how to create a truth table, which is a method for testing the validity of an argument.
Instead of reacting to truth tables (as if that would be possible), I’d like you to reflect on your lesson from last week. Do you think there was any value in learning to translate arguments into a formal structure? Why do you believe the way you do?
My own take is that there is a lot of value in these kinds of activities, because they cause you to really carefully consider what someone is saying in an argument. At the same time, however, I’m not sure I think it is extremely important for a class in critical thinking. I’ll soon be teaching a whole course in formal logic, and I’m really looking forward to it, because, again, I think it is extremely valuable. For critical thinking, courses, however, I feel that it is more important to understand the basics of deductive, inductive, and abductive arguments without formal logic.
Do you agree or disagree? Why do you think the way you do?