Terp Young Scholars

July 7-26, 2019


PHIL209Q: The Art of Thinking

The goal of this course is to make you a sharper, more critical thinker and a more effective reasoner. You will learn to spot errors in other people's reasoning; equally importantly, you will be more aware of how your own judgment can go wrong. The skills you learn will be useful across the full range of academic disciplines, and in the world beyond the classroom. 

The course begins with the study of logic. We will make clear the difference between good ("valid") and bad ("invalid") reasoning, examine the distinction between deductive or purely "logical" reasoning and and inductive reasoning—the kind that lies behind science, and we'll study techniques for spotting hidden assumptions. 

We then move to psychology which has lately taught us a lot about how our reasoning can go off the rails. (Psychologist Daniel Kahneman's work on this won a Nobel Prize in 2002.) Some of the very things that help us think efficiently in many situations can lead to trouble in others. Politicians and advertisers exploit these quirks in our cognitive systems, but they can also lead to problems in everyday situations. By understanding what the psychologists have uncovered, we can be more alert to sources of bias and error in our thinking. 

Finally, in the third part of the course, we'll turn to practical applications ideas by exploring arguments on both sides of some contemporary ethical, political and social controversies. This will give you a chance to put your sharpened reasoning skills to work on real-world issues.

Click here for course meeting times. Sample Course Syllabus from the previous year available here. Enrollment limit: 20.

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