Do You Want to Win Every Argument?

Do you want to win every argument? Well, then stop reading right away because one of the first things that Think Again: How to Reason and Argue will teach you is that arguments aren’t about winning. But don’t be completely dismayed, the course is far from a happy-​​go-​​lucky “everyone’s a winner” course, it is a hardcore course in formal logic, reason and argument. I hope that excites you as much as it excited me!

Those of us who try to reason, enjoy a productive argument and wish that there was more critical thinking in the world should all try and study formal logic (of the “All A’s are B’s” variety) and informal reasoning (logic in regular language) at some point. If you fit into that category then you’re lucky because Duke University (on the Coursera platform) are offering another sitting of this online course starting on August 26th!

I did this Critical Thinking 101 course back during this 2012 – 13 summer (in Australia that’s November to February) and enjoyed it greatly. Although I was already well-​​versed in logical fallacies, communication and persuasion it was very insightful to go through formal training in the topic.

This 12 week course is run by Professors Walter Sinnott-​​Armstrong and Ram Nata (Sinnott-​​Armstrong is an author of the popular textbook Understanding Arguments: An Introduction to Informal Logic) with the lecture component taking about 1 – 1.5 hours per week to watch.

Like many MOOC courses, this class is broken into many 5 – 20 minute lectures, short quizzes, readings and exams. If you want to just download all the videos and watch them on your computer or portable device then that’s just fine. However, I found a lot of value in completing the entire course, especially streaming the videos because you are interrupted with short quizzes along the way to help assist your learning.

The production quality was higher than videotaped lectures but much lower than some of the science videos on YouTube that I wrote about earlier this year. It was fairly easy to follow if you devoted your attention to it and took notes along the way. I would not be surprised if they address some of the shortfalls in the new incarnation of the course starting next week.

Another great thing about the course is that you can do it at your own pace. If you miss a few weeks then you can catch up. If you don’t want to get a grade then you can download it all and do it later.

All in all, the professors are zaney (particularly Walt) and the content provides a great foundation for all those out there who value critical thinking.

It can’t hurt to watch a few lectures between episodes of Game of Thrones or The Simpsons, can it?
(I have no sound reasoning behind that rhetorical assertion.)

[Creative Commons licensed Flickr photo by jakecaptive]