Thinking Straight

Spring 2006

Revised April 1, 2006

Faculty:  David Paulsen, Lab I 1009, email:

Tentative Program Topic and Reading Schedule

Program Overview

This program is ideal for first and second year students as well as others with an interest in exploring techniques of critical reasoning. The program will be taught in a discussion/workshop format with only occasional mini-lectures to set the stage for class work.  We will use substantial portions of the three texts listed below and apply them to a variety of short readings, structured workshop explorations, and short group projects.  The program is scheduled to meet on Tuesday and Friday , 9:00-12:00, 1:00 to 5:00 in Seminar 2 E2107.

Revised Description: (Note that due to staffing changes the program will not include specific material about economic reasoning and limited discussion of historical reasoning. )

Do you want to work on improving your critical reasoning skills?  The program will focus on techniques of understanding and criticizing arguments and theories.  It will emphasize a cooperative, dialogic approach to deciding what to believe. Thinking Straight will cover standard topics in informal logic including argument reconstruction, assessment of validity, and fallacies. It will explore as well statistical, ethical and scientific reasoning   We will apply critical reasoning techniques to a number of contemporary, contentious issues found in a variety of texts  including selections from books, as well as newspaper editorials and columns, Internet documents, and journal articles. We will discuss the controversy over “intelligent design” as an alternative to evolutionary science in greater detail than other issues.  We will also discuss the extent to which standards of reasoning are general and how patterns of reasoning might differ in specific domains such as history.  Students will be expected to gather both quantitative and qualitative material and make frequent presentations that clarify and assess the reasoning underlying important current issues.  They will be evaluated on the basis of performance on assignments, in class discussion and project work,  an annotated portfolio of material they collect over the quarter as  well as exams (each having an in-class and take-home component). Students will deal with the elements of the program through a series of structured workshops, including small and large group discussion as well as mini-lectures and assignments.  They will be evaluated in terms of their participation in program activities, assignments, and performance on exams and quizzes.  In addition, students will be expected to submit essays growing out of the topics covered in the ethics component of the program and participate in  a team project leading to a cooperative, critical exchange that debated  two sides of a question in front of the class by providing arguments and appropriate criticism.


Course Equivalencies:   Informal Logic and Critical Reasoning,  Introduction to Ethical  Reasoning ,  Introduction to Statistical Reasoning, and  Introduction to  Issues in the Philosophy of Science  


Basic Texts:

Jerry Cederblom and David Paulsen, Critical Reasoning:Understanding Arguments
                                                            and Theories
(6th edition)

David S. Moore, Statistics: Concepts and Controversies (5th edition)

James Rachels, The Elements of Moral Philosophy, (4th edition)

            (Note:  we will read a variety of short articles, essays and web documents)

TypicalWeekly Schedule (All sessions in Seminar 2, E2107)
Tuesday 9-12 Critical Reasoning Workshop,
1:30-5 Ethical Reasoning Workshop

Friday 9-12 Statistical Reasoning lecture, workshop, project time.
1-5 Special Topics Seminar/Workshop and on occasion spill-over workshops from critical reasoning, ethical reasoning or statistical reasoning sessions
























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Made by: David Paulsen
Last modified: 3/01/2005