Full course description
In this skills training we work from two fundamental assumptions regarding arguments:
- They have a specific structure, which can be made visible and evaluated.
- The quality of an argument depends on its structure as much as it depends on its content.
In order to “get a grip” on arguments the course is divided into four parts that introduce information and exercises to gradually develop the skill of argument analysis. The first part will serve as an introduction discussing the general characteristics and typology of arguments. Furthermore, in this part students learn how arguments can be standardized and how argumentative structures can be visualized by drawing patterns. The core question this part of the course seeks to answer is: What is the structure of arguments and how can one reveal this structure? This part of the course will also contain an introductory lecture, entitled “Standardizing Arguments”.
In part two an informal but systematic method for evaluating the quality of arguments, the ARG-method, is introduced. By assessing the acceptability of premises, the relevance of premises with regards to the conclusion they are supposed to support, and the logical connection between premises and the following conclusion, the ARG-method enables us to examine both structure and content of an argument. During this part of the course an introduction to bad arguments, so-called fallacies, is provided as well. A Lecture, “Evaluating Arguments”, will accompany this part of the course.
In the third part the knowledge and skills provided in the first two parts will be applied to complete texts, seeking to isolate the arguments they present in a systematic way and evaluate whether or not they are good arguments.
Part four moves beyond the analysis of already existing arguments. In this part, standardization and patterns of arguments, as well as the ARG-method, will be used to construct arguments. Furthermore it will be practiced how the skills learned throughout the course can be applied for the purpose of writing academic papers.
Note: Students considering enrolling for the skill trainings in argumentation should be aware that the course will not focus on rhetoric and debating skills (although it can be assumed that the analytical skills acquired in this course will be helpful for debates).
This skills training provides a general introduction to the analysis of arguments. At the end of the skills training students should be able to:
- Identify and carve out the underlying structures and logical connections of written and verbal arguments.
- Translate these structures into a visual representation by drawing patterns of these arguments.
- Evaluate arguments with regards to their structure and content by applying Govier’s “ARG method” (this entails the ability to identify fallacies).
- Build and present own arguments in a structured and cogent fashion, taking the evaluative criteria of the “ARG method” into account.
- Improve their approach to structure papers, exam answers and presentations.
Students who take the course need to have written at least one academic paper.
E-reader with various articles and chapters on argument analysis and logic.
- M.T. Kiefer