Philosophy Course: The Art of Critical Thinking

Philosophy Course: The Art of Critical Thinking

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Study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence with our Philosophy courses in Sydney.

Philosophy is a discipline that exercises reason and logic in an attempt to understand reality and answer fundamental questions about knowledge, life, ethics & morality and human nature. Learn Philosophy with our Philosophy courses in Sydney.

This philosophy course aims to develop critical thinking skills through practical sessions and the study of informal logic techniques. In this philosophy course we will learn the basics of a good argument and evaluate the problems which make an argument go wrong. We will work through practical exercises and evaluate examples from everyday life. The aim of this philosophy course is to give participants a better understanding of how to construct a clear and persuasive argument and to assess the clarity of the arguments of others.

Learning Outcomes

At the completion of this philosophy course you will:

  1. Know how to identify, analyse and construct cogent arguments.
  2. Have a better understanding of the structure of arguments.
  3. Be better able to critically assess the arguments of others.
  4. Have a better understanding of how to think of solutions to the central problems of philosophy.
  5. Have a better understanding of how to engage in philosophical conversations with others about topics that matter.

Course Content

This philosophy course will cover the following topics:

Introduction to Critical Thinking

Concepts and Ideas.

Elements of an Argument

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

Language & Definitions

Many of the problems in arguments occur because of lack of clarity or precision in defining the terms in the argument. We will discuss both stipulative definitions 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 for their justification 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. What are the rules of statistical usage. This week we will also apply the techniques we have learnt to a number of complex arguments.

Intended Audience

This philosophy course on the art of critical thinking is suitable for anyone interested in gaining insights into identifying, analysing and constructing cogent arguments. This philosophy course is designed for those interested in developing their ability of engaging in insightful philosophical conversations with others.

Delivery Style

This philosophy course will be delivered as an interactive workshop consisting of an instructor-led lecture, analysis of case studies and group discussions. This course strives to encourage active and informed participation, group analysis and debate of the facts, issues and insights into our changing world.

Course Prerequisites

This philosophy course has no prerequisites and is open to all members of the public.

Dr Kerry Sanders gained her PhD in philosophy at The University of Sydney and was recently awarded the title of Honorary Associate at the Department of Philosophy, The University of Sydney. She lectured at Sydney College of the Arts University of Sydney for 10 years, giving Hon and Masters Courses in the philosophy of aesthetics. Kerry has taught in the areas of Philosophy of Mind; Ethics; Critical Thinking; Political Philosophy; Contemporary Philosophy of Technology; Phenomenology; and the Philosophy of Music. She has a particular interest in the new developments in neurobiology which have significantly changed ideas about the nature of consciousness and the workings of the human mind. Kerry also participates in the Gifted Students Program, giving philosophy sessions to high school students who show an interest in a broad scope of ideas and wish to develop their thinking abilities through the challenge which philosophy gives. Kerry has also published a book of poetry.

Kerry’s Approach to Philosophy

Philosophy is a living practice which calls us to critique our own pre suppositions, and asks us to assess ideas in relation to our own lives and society. In engaging with the ideas of philosophy we both study philosophy but also do it. Philosophy can be thought of as engaging in an ‘adventure sport for the mind’, in which we can develop critical thinking techniques and learn to use the mind in new and exciting ways. The skills which are developed in the practice of philosophy are also relevant to many other areas of academic study, as well as in the complex living of our ordinary lives. Much of Western philosophy is based on the priority of reason and logic in human thought, however to fully understand the human condition we must also consider the role of experience, emotions and the body.

Other Academic functions

  • Supervision of Postgraduate Seminar Groups.
  • University Preparation Course in Philosophy 2000 – 2015.
  • Sydney College of the Arts University of Sydney.
  • Four years of Australian Postgraduate Research Award.
  • Vera Edith Thorpe Scholarship.
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