How to Understand Arguments
Think Again: How to Reason and Argue
Reasoning is important. This series of four short courses will teach you how to do it well. You will learn simple but vital rules to follow in thinking about any topic at all and 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.
Courses at a Glance:
All four courses in this series are offered through sessions which run every four weeks. We suggest sticking to the weekly schedule to the best of your ability. If for whatever reason you fall behind, feel free to re-enroll in the next session.We also suggest that you start each course close to the beginning of a month in order to increase the number of peers in the discussion forums who are working on the same material as you are. While each course can be taken independently, we suggest you take the four courses in order.
Course 1 – Think Again I: How to Understand Arguments
Course 2 – Think Again II: How to Reason Deductively
Course 3 – Think Again III: How to Reason Inductively
Course 4 – Think Again IV: How to Avoid Fallacies
About This Course in the Series:
When is someone giving an argument instead of just yelling? Which parts of what they say contribute to the argument? Why are they arguing instead of fighting? What are arguments made of? What forms do they take? Think Again: How to Understand Arguments will answer these questions a more.
In this course, you will learn what an argument is. The definition of argument will enable students to identify when speakers are giving arguments and when they are not. Next, we will learn how to break an argument into its essential parts, how to put them in order to reveal their connections, and how to fill in gaps in an argument. By the end of this course, students will be better able to understand and appreciate arguments that they and other people present.
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, Ninth Edition, Concise, Chapters 1-5, by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Robert Fogelin.
Each week will be divided into multiple video segments that can be viewed separately or in groups. There will be short ungraded quizzes after each segment (to check comprehension) and a longer graded quiz at the end of the course.
Welcome to the Course
Welcome to Think Again: How to Understand Arguments. This course is the first in a series of four courses jointly titled Think Again: How to Reason and Argue. We are excited that you are taking this course, and we hope that you will stick around for all four courses in the series, because there is a great deal of important material to learn. In the series as a whole, you will learn how to analyze and evaluate arguments and how to avoid common mistakes in reasoning. These important skills will be useful to you in deciding what to believe and what to do in all areas of your life. We will also have plenty of fun. The first part of this course introduces the series and the course. It also clarifies some peculiarities you may find with this course. We encourage you to watch the "Introduction to the Course" video first as it will help you learn more from the materials that come later.
How to Spot an Argument
CONTENT: In this week's material we will teach you how to identify arguments as opposed to abuse . We will define what an argument is, distinguish various purposes for which arguments are given (including persuasion, justification, and explanation), and discuss the material out of which arguments are made (language). The last three lectures this week are optional, but they are recommended for advanced students.LEARNING OUTCOMES: By the end of this week’s material, you will be able to :define what an argument ispull arguments out of larger textsdistinguish various purposes of argumentsOPTIONAL READING: If you want more examples or more detailed discussions of these topics, we recommend Understanding Arguments, Ninth Edition<, Chapters 1-2.
How to Untangle an Argument
CONTENT: This week’s material will focus on the special language in which arguments are formulated. We will investigate the functions of particular words, including premise and conclusion markers plus assuring, guarding, discounting, and evaluative terms. Identifying these words will enable students to separate arguments from the irrelevant verbiage that surrounds it and then to break the argument into parts and to identify what each part of an argument is doing. The lectures end with a detailed example that uses these tools to closely analyze an op-ed from a newspaper. LEARNING OUTCOMES: By the end of this week’s material, you will be able to: understand three levels of meaning. identify argument markers OPTIONAL READING: If you want more examples or more detailed discussions of these topics, we recommend Understanding Arguments, Ninth Edition, Chapters 3-4.
How to Reconstruct an Argument
CONTENT: This week’s material will teach you how to organize the parts of an argument in order to show how they fit into a structure of reasoning. The goal is to make the argument look as good as possible so that you can learn from it. We work through the main steps of reconstruction, including putting the premises and conclusion into a standard form, clarifying the premises and breaking them into parts, arranging the argument into stages or sub-arguments, adding suppressed premises where needed to make the argument valid, and assessing the argument for soundness. The lectures begin by defining the crucial notions of validity, soundness, and standard form. You will also learn to diagram alternative argument structures, including linear, branching, and joint structures. LEARNING OUTCOMES: By the end of this week’s material, you will be able to: label assuring, guarding, discounting, and evaluative terms determine whether an argument is valid or sound complete arguments by adding suppressed premises reconstruct arguments by and series of arguments classify argument structuresOPTIONAL READING: If you want more examples or more detailed discussions of these topics, we recommend <em>Understanding Arguments, Ninth Edition, Chapter 5.
Catch-Up and Final Quiz
This week gives you time to catch up and review, because we realize that the previous weeks include a great deal of challenging material. It will also be provide enough time to take the final quiz as often as you want, with different questions each time. We explain the answers in each exam so that you can learn more and do better when you try the exam again. You may take the quiz as many times as you want in order to learn more and do better, with different questions each time. You will be able to retake the quiz three times every eight hours. You might not need to take more than one version of the exam if you do well enough on your first try. That is up to you. However many versions you take, we hope that all of the exams will provide additional learning experiences.