Arguments and Logical Analysis
Arthur Paul Pedersen
Baker Hall 138
"People would rather die than think. And they do." -- Bertrand Russell
What is an argument? What is a good argument? What is a bad argument? How do we tell if an argument is good or bad? What does it mean to be rational? What does it mean to reason rationally? These are some of the questions that have plagued philosophers for centuries, and we in the 21st century are no different. Aristotle (ca. 350 BCE) was the first to develop a system of logic, and near the end of the 19th century, a formal system for evaluating arguments was introduced by Gottlob Frege and further developed by Bertrand Russell. This system is called Formal Logic or Modern Logic. The idea was to systematize many of the intuitions we have about what constitutes a good argument. Thus, a line of reasoning that can be formulated as a valid argument was considered rational. This class will introduce logic as a tool for evaluating arguments.
An introduction to this topic is important for many reasons. First, the study of logic will help you develop skills in critical thinking. By being able to evaluate arguments, you will be better able to analyze any text you might read, be it in philosophy, history, environmental science or evolutionary biology. Second, modern logic is now such an integral part of the discipline of philosophy that you are bound to encounter it in any philosophy class or reading. Let me emphasize, however, that modern logic is only a tool, or theory about rational reasoning. As we delve into the subject, we will see not only the power, but also the limitations, of modern logic as a theory that tries to capture our intuitions about rationality.
At the end of this course I would like each of you to be able to critically analyze any argument you might find in a textbook, a journal article, or even the newspaper. I would also like each of you to be able to communicate your analysis to a friend, a teacher, your congressional representative, or to anyone with whom you might have a critical discussion.