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The Battle for Your Brain: Thinking Like a Philosopher

Session:
Session B: July 27 – August 6, 2020
Time:
1:30 p.m. - 4 p.m.
Category:
English and Writing
Philosophy and Society
Instructor:
Raphael Krut-Landau
Description:

A battle is raging — for your brain.

Politicians want your brain to love their policies. Businesses want it to love their products. Propaganda, BS, and nonsense are everywhere. In this course, you’ll cultivate a skill that will help you find the good ideas amid the noise.

What’s the skill? Reasoning carefully, like a philosopher! In this course, to strengthen this skill, you’ll read some of the most intriguing arguments ever written.

But you won’t just read them.

You’ll develop your X-ray vision — your ability to see through a piece of writing, to uncover the structure of the author’s argument.

This skill will help you read more conscientiously and openly. And it’ll help you write and speak more movingly.

Learning outcomes

  • To learn from diverse voices.
  • To learn how to detect, and mend, an argument’s weak points.
  • To develop critical thinking and writing abilities.
  • To get better at listening in an encouraging way.

Assignments:

Six short essays and drawings of arguments.

Calendar:

  • Day 1: X-Ray Vision. Why is it valuable to uncover the structure of an argument?
  • Day 2: Nuts and Bolts. What is a premise? What is a conclusion?
  • Day 3: The Argument Lab. We’ll practice detecting premises and conclusions in ethical arguments.
  • Day 4: The Argument Hospital. We’ll practice mending an argument’s weak points by introducing additional supporting premises.
  • Day 5: The Argument Museum. We’ll practice making pictures of arguments, so we can better understand how they work. We’ll use one of these pictures to guide our conversation.
  • Day 6: Politics, Part One. We’ll use our new skills on arguments used in political debates and in op-eds. We’ll detect arguments’ weak points, and try to mend these. We’ll begin by studying conservative arguments.
  • Day 7: Politics, Part Two. This time, we’ll study progressive arguments.
  • Day 8: Advertising. Does it threaten your autonomy?
  • Day 9: Using your argument-analysis skills beyond the classroom.