PHIL447 ALL WEEKS DISCUSSIONS

WEEK 1

Making Claims (graded)Explain how you would teach the difference between subjective claims and objective claims (Moore & Parker, p. 5-6) to someone who had never heard of critical thinking. Give specific details in your answer.

Cognitive Biases (graded)Review the section of Chapter 1 on Cognitive Biases (p. 17-22). Find an example of one of the biases, identify the bias, and explain the distortion it causes. You may choose your example from personal experience, something you have read, heard on the radio, or seen on TV or the Internet. Be sure to cite your source if needed.

WEEK 2

Premises and Conclusions (graded)

Let’s spend some time sorting out the premises and conclusions in some examples.
Choose one of the statements below. Your task is to identify the premise(s) and the conclusion(s) of your example and to negotiate among yourselves if you disagree. Additionally, discuss whether the premises or conclusions are valid. This exercise works best if students do not all choose the first example. If one example has been well discussed, choose a different example to discuss.
Here are the examples:
Chances are I’ll be carded at JJ’s, because Kera, Sherry, and Bobby were all carded there, and they all look as though they’re about 30.Seventy percent of all freshmen at State College come from wealthy families; therefore, probably about the same percentage of all students at State College come from wealthy families.I am sure Marietta comes from a wealthy family. She told me her parents benefited from the cut in the capital gains tax.According to Nature magazine, today’s thoroughbred racehorses do not run any faster than their grandparents did. But human Olympic runners are at least 20% faster than their counterparts of 50 years ago. Most likely, racehorses have reached their physical limits but humans have not.”Let me demonstrate the principle by means of logic,” the teacher said, holding up a bucket. “If this bucket has a hole in it, then it will leak. But it doesn’t leak. Therefore, obviously, it doesn’t have a hole in it.”We shouldn’t take a chance on this new candidate. She’s from Alamo Polytech, and the last person we hired from there was rotten.Defining Terms and How We Do It (graded)

In this week’s lecture, we read about Socrates’ concern for defining undefined terms as the first step in critical thinking.
Choose one of the statements below. Your task is to determine how the term is used to define your chosen example, and whether the definition is by example, by synonym, by an analytical definition. If you experience difficulty in determining which method of definition is being used, describe the difficulty and try to negotiate agreement with other class members. This exercise works best if students do not all choose the first example. If one example has been well discussed, choose a different example to discuss.
And here are the examples:
Decaffeinated means without caffeine.Steve Martin is my idea of a successful philosophy major.The Cheyenne perfectly illustrate the sort of Native Americans who were Plains Indians.Data, in our case, are bits of raw information collected from survey forms, which are then put in tabular form and analyzed.Bifocals are glasses with two different prescriptions ground into each lens, making it possible to focus at two different distances from the wearer.Red is the color we perceive when our eyes are struck by light waves of approximately seven angstroms.
WEEK  3

Credibility (graded)List as many relevant (and maybe irrelevant) factors as you can think of that people often mistake for signs of another person’s truthfulness. Perhaps you can tell a story about a notable example. Here is a starter example: the firmness of somebody’s handshake as a sign of their truthfulness.

Euphemisms and Dysphemisms (graded)

Report an example of a euphemism or dysphemism that you have come across. Discuss when it is and is not appropriate to use such veiled language. Common subjects for which people use euphemisms are death, physical appearance, and commercials. Common subjects for which people use dysphemisms are politics and news reports.

WEEK 4

Inventing New Examples (graded)

There is a short list below of some of the most common fallacies that we meet in the Week 4 reading assignments. With your creative thinking caps on, invent (not find elsewhere but invent by yourself) a simple, clear, and original example of the fallacy you have chosen. Write it up and bring it to the online discussion so that everybody can read it and discuss it.
Be sure to name the type of fallacy your example demonstrates.
Here is a short list of fallacies to use in making your choice, though you may use others described in the textbook.

The Ad Hominem or genetic fallacyStrawman”Argument” from outrageScare tacticGroupthinkRed herring”Argument” from popularityHave some fun with this. Your invented examples can be either realistic or a bit silly, but they need to clearly exhibit the chosen fallacy.In the discussion thread, go ahead and speak to the examples that other students have brought in.

Baloney Detection (graded)

The astrophysicist Carl Sagan in his book The Demon Haunted World recommended that people be educated in a set of skills he called a “baloney detection kit.” These include such techniques as requesting facts to back claims and seeing whether a claim can be empirically tested. What techniques would you have in your baloney detection kit? Why would they help you distinguish logical and reasonable arguments from lies and nonsense?

WEEK 5

Working With Categorical Syllogisms (graded)Below are sets of three terms. Use one of the sets to construct a valid syllogism. Explain how you decided on the statements for your syllogism.
Dogmatists, theologians, free thinkersAfrican nations, countries deserving military aid, upholders of human rightsPranksters, exasperating people, teenage boysBusiness attire, expensive clothes, necessary clothesCorporations, unethical businesses, businesses that are never punishedEndangered species, animals needing protection, spotted owls
Sound Arguments (graded)A sound argument is valid (correctly formed) and has all true premises. Your book Chapters 8 and 9 discuss several ways to test the soundness of an argument. Now it is your turn to apply the tests. Go to a website that provides political opinion, such as the Huffington Post. Find a brief article that contains a clear argument. Evaluate the argument for its soundness. Link the article at the end of your response by copying its Web address.

WEEK 6

Inductive Reasoning (graded)

In America, we are bombarded by opinion polls. Such polls use the method of inductive generalizing from a sample, presuming that the answers given by a small number of respondents represent the attitudes of American voters as a whole. Do a search on the Internet for a recent opinion poll. Paste the results in your discussion response. Look at the report of the poll results and discuss how strong you believe these poll results are. Refer to such aspects of inductive generalizing as the sampling frame, how representative the poll sample was, and how biased the poll might be.

Hypotheses (graded)

According to the textbook, a hypothesis is “a causal explanation offered for further investigation or testing.” The book provides several methods for testing the quality of a hypothesis. Choose one of the statements below and use one or more of the tests provided in the textbook to evaluate the quality of the hypothesis. Identify the hypothesis in the statement, and then say why it is or is not a good one.
There were objects flying everywhere in that room. Either an earthquake or ghosts could have made those objects move. Since there was no earthquake reported, it must have been ghosts.Crop circles are complicated, symmetrical designs formed in grain fields through depressing grain stalks. Because of their complexity and symmetry, they cannot be natural phenomena. These crop circles appear overnight. Since it would take far too long and too much complex planning for one or two people to make these designs, which can be seen only from above, aliens from outer space must be making them.The other day, I was walking in the mall and suddenly remembered an old school friend whom I had not spoken to in years. Not five minutes later, there I was face to face with my old friend. There must have been some deep karmic connection that drew us together that day.Studies show that families who regularly eat their meals together have children who perform better than average at school. Clearly, communal family meals are essential to student success.WEEK 7

Moral Reasoning (graded)

Chapter 12 in the textbook describes six categories of moral perspectives: Consequentialism, Duty Theory/Deontology, Moral Relativism, Religious Relativism, Religious Absolutism, and Virtue Ethics. Which category of moral perspective do you think best describes your method of making moral decisions? Provide an example to illustrate your choice.