Centre for Continuing Education

Philosophy Course: The Art of Critical Thinking

Philosophy. Study the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence.

This philosophy course aims to develop your critical thinking skills through practical sessions and the study of informal logic techniques. We will learn the basics of a good argument and evaluate the reasons why arguments go wrong. We will work through practical exercises and evaluate examples from everyday life.

Aims

The aim of the course is to provide you with an understanding of how to construct a clear and persuasive argument, and to assess the clarity of arguments.

Outcomes

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • understand of the structure of arguments
  • construct a good argument yourself
  • critically assess the arguments of others.

Content

Introduction to critical thinking

We will discuss various concepts and ideas.

Elements of an argument

An argument may be very simple, with only a single premise and a conclusion, or it may be composed of a convoluted series of premises and sub conclusions. One technique for working out the relationship between the different elements of an argument is to reconstruct it in the form of a structure diagram. We will discuss a variety of examples associated with this technique.

Language and definitions

The problem with an argument is often because of it’s lack of clarity or precision in defining its terms. We will discuss stipulative and operational definitions.

Appeals to authority

Why do we accept the truth of some arguments as reliable and others as unacceptable? We will look at the ways in which arguments appeal to different authority sources and consider the merits of these appeals to truth.

Problems of relevance

Many bad arguments work by diverting attention from the main issues of the argument. For example, by attacking the personality of the opposition rather than debating his or her claims. We will discuss a number of these divisional fallacies including the Straw person fallacy; Ad Hominem; Tu Quoque; Appeals to Ignorance; The Gambler’s Fallacy.

Arguments from analogy

Good persuasive arguments can be made through the use of analogies. For example, the use of precedent in the legal system is a form of argument from analogy to a previous case. However, in making these arguments one must be careful that the analogy supports the primary case.

Arguments from experience

Arguments from experience use information about things we have experienced to draw conclusions about outcomes in the future, or they generalise the experiences of a few individuals to make claims about many others. We will evaluate the reliability of these forms of argumentation.

Statistical arguments

How reliable are statistics in arguments and what are the rules of statistical usage?

Application of techniques

We will apply the techniques we have learnt to a number of complex arguments.

Contemporary debates

In this last session we will discuss some contemporary arguments (and see if we can do better)!

Intended audience

Anyone with a general interest in the philosophy and critical thinking.

Delivery style

Lecture/seminar

Materials

Course notes are provided electronically.

Features

  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

What others say.

  • The presenter was outstanding in this course, a sharp mind is the best demonstration of critical thinking. The explanations raised everyone’s thinking capabilities. Very thought-provoking and entertaining.

  • A very interesting and informative course with lots of interaction, most enjoyable!

Philosophy Course: The Art of Critical Thinking

<p>{block name:“Course Tagline - Philosophy”}</p><p>This philosophy course aims to develop your critical thinking skills through practical sessions and the study of informal logic techniques. We will

...

What others say.

  • The presenter was outstanding in this course, a sharp mind is the best demonstration of critical thinking. The explanations raised everyone's thinking capabilities. Very thought-provoking and entertaining.
  • A very interesting and informative course with lots of interaction, most enjoyable!
We acknowledge the tradition of custodianship and law of the Country on which the University of Sydney campuses stand. We pay our respects to those who have cared and continue to care for the Country.