SOAS University of London

Department of Religions & Philosophies, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Introduction to Logic, Critical Reasoning and Argumentation

Module Code:
158000193
Credits:
15
Year of study:
Year 1 or Year 2
Taught in:
Term 1

This course is designed as a practical introduction to the basic concepts of logic and to various informal methods of argument analysis.  The objective of the course is to equip students with the necessary analytical tools to understand and engage critically with philosophical texts, as well as to write and reason in an ordered way. Rudimentary logical concepts such as inference, deduction and induction, and validity and soundness will be explained and illustrated with reference to passages from a wide array of European and non-European texts.

The modes of language use and a discussion of the general differences between logic and rhetoric will be discussed, followed by the introduction of the structure of a simple argument, along with the concepts of proposition,  premiss and  conclusion. After surveying the variety of premiss- and conclusion-indicators utilised commonly in English, students will be introduced to the technique of diagramming written arguments and rendering them into standard form. Extensive in-class exercises are designed to build confidence in applying the methods in a wide variety of circumstances and to increasingly complex arguments.

A discussion of ambiguity and equivocation in language will precede the introduction of connotative and denotative definition, once again accompanied by in-class exercises to illustrate the principles and ensure practical competency. Types of logical fallacy will be treated, and students will be given practice in identifying them through the analysis of tabloid editorials, broadsheet editorials, and party-political speeches.

Standard-form categorical syllogisms in ordinary language will also be treated as a means to illustrate the formalisation of logical method. A brief introduction to methods of symbolic logic will provide a general orientation to the field.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this course a student will be able to:

  • Recognise arguments and distinguish them from explanation, etc.;
  • Diagramme arguments;
  • Reconstruct complex arguments from written sources;
  • Evaluate the validity of deductive arguments;
  • Understand the importance of probability for the evaluation of inductive arguments;
  • Define terms by genus and species;
  • Render arguments in ordinary language into standard-form categorical syllogisms where appropriate;
  • Identify logical fallacies, ambiguities, and  confusions introduced by the use of natural language;
  • Appreciate the purpose of the development of formal systems of symbolic logic;
  • Identify some key themes in the philosophy of logic.
  • Produce well-reasoned arguments in written work.

Workload

Three hours lecture per week

Method of assessment

  • One 2500 word essay (40%)
  • One in-class practical test (20%)
  • One 3 hour examination in May/June (40%)

Suggested reading

  • Bowell, Tracy and Gary Kemp. Critical Thinking: A Concise Guide, 4th Ed. Routledge, 2015. [Selected Chapters].
  • Copi, Irving M. and C. Cohen. Introduction to Logic, 10th Ed. Prentice Hall, 1998. [Selected Chapters].
  • Morrow, David R. and Anthony Weston. A Workbook for Arguments: A Complete Course in Critical Thinking. Hackett. 2011. [Selected Chapters].
  • Grayling, A.C. An Introduction to Philosophical Logic, 3rd Edition. 1997.
  • Perelman, Chaim. The Realm of Rhetoric. University of Notre Dame Press. 1982.

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