critical thinking

course description

What are we humans doing when we think and reason?  What is the purpose of reasoning?  How do we usually make decisions?  How should we? 

The primary goal of this course is to begin exploring these deep philosophical questions in an informal context.  In the first half of the course, we will begin by learning some techniques to recognize arguments and understand their structures.  We will then discuss good and bad forms of reasoning and learn to identify common fallacies.  In learning how we ought to think and reason, however, we should begin with a firm understanding of the ways that we actually do make decisions, and how those natural forms of decision-making succeed and fail.  In the second half of the course, we will review recent work in psychology on intuitive judgment, discussing intuition’s strengths and weaknesses.  In these discussions, we will talk about decision problems in a wide variety of contexts, from picking the optimal investment portfolio and best public health policy to deciding whom to marry and what to eat for dinner.