Real-World Reasoning:
Informal Logic for College

8:30 - 11:45 MTWThF Peter Suber
Lilly Library 304Summer 1999

We will explore what makes some reasoning good and other reasoning bad. We'll learn how the validity of reasoning differs from the truth of statements. We'll learn a number of common fallacies, how to recognize them, criticize them, and avoid them. We'll spend a good deal of time practicing fallacy-detection on actual specimens of reasoning from political speeches, argumentative essays, advertisements, and letters to editors. Our goal is to be readers who are well-armed against fallacies and deception, and writers whose reasoning is honest, rigorous, and persuasive.

Reaching me



    There are three levels of doing exercises for this course.

  1. Do them all, for your own sake. You'll learn the material much better. This is just a recommendation, not an assignment. In the back of his book, Damer gives short answers to each exercise; you can use these to grade yourself.
  2. Do half of them, in your notebooks. This is an assignment. I won't ask to see your notebooks, but your notes should be clear and complete enough to enable you to present your answers in class. Sometimes I will ask and sometimes I won't. On the first day of class I'll divide you into two groups, the Evens and the Odds. If you are an Even, then prepare all the even-numbered exercises for a given day. Do the odds if you are an Odd. Since Damer's answers in the back of the book are limited to the names of the fallacies committed, you should go further and add a sentence or two on exactly what has gone wrong. Try to do this before reading Damer's answer.
  3. Do one quarter of them, in writing (legible, complete sentences) to turn in. This is an assignment. If you are an Even, write up your answers to the first half of the even-numbered exercises for a given day. Do the first half of the odds if you are an Odd. Again, go beyond the names of fallacies to the pertinent details of what has gone wrong. On your papers, don't forget to include your name, your parity (Even or Odd), the page numbers of the exercises, and the exercise numbers. They are due at class time every day that exercises are assigned (Days 3-7). I will not grade them for correctness, but only note whether you did them. You will get feedback on their correctness from class discussions.

Other work

On the days listed below, we will discuss or presuppose the Damer pages assigned, which you should therefore read in advance.

Monday, June 21 Day 1

Tuesday, June 22 Day 2

Wednesday, June 23 Day 3

Thursday, June 24 Day 4

Friday, June 25 Day 5

Monday, June 28 Day 6

Tuesday, June 29 Day 7

Wednesday, June 30 Day 8

Tuesday, July 1 Day 9

Friday, July 2 Day 10

The final exam on Day 10 will cover all of Damer except Chapter VIII. We may do some preliminary grading of it in class on the day that you take it.

Your final grade will consist your quiz on Day 5 (10%), your final exam (30%), your written exercises and explications (30%), and the quality of your class preparation and participation (30%).

As you'll soon see, I have a teaching archive of real-life arguments for analysis in this course —advertisements, editorials, letters to editors, political speeches, and so on. Use the library or your casual reading to help me enlarge and improve my collection. Photocopy choice specimens for me. Whenever possible include a full citation (author, publication, date, page). If you find any during our 10 days together, I will try hard to use them in class. If you find them later and mail them to me (Peter Suber, Department of Philosophy, Earlham College, Richmond, IN, 47374), I will be grateful.

I would appreciate similar help in enlarging and improving the list of course-related web links.

Return to the course home-page.

Ribbon] Peter Suber, Department of Philosophy, Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana, 47374, U.S.A. Copyright © 1999, Peter Suber.