Think of this course as a lab, a workshop, or a studio where you can hone your thinking skills. We will work to build up your ability to think more probingly, more systematically, and more incisively.
This is a 100% on-line course and will run from June 5th until July 28th. There will be no specific meetings which you must meet. Rather, work will be in units that normally span a week. You work when you please within the week's work load.
Please contact me as soon as possible to give me your e-mail address and get on the class e-mail list. Also, see my course web site for more details on the course itself, including details of what an internet course is all about and how it works.
First about the content: This is a basic skills course in thinking critically and analytically. I'm not sure that this is a skill that can be taught from scratch. I find it much more in the category of a sport or an art. I can teach and work with you and others in various skills and strategies for improving the skill, but these skills build on what you already have. A good football coach or director of a film can't really "teach" a quarterback or actor, but can be useful in enhancing talents there are there.
We will work on the basic distinction between the activity of analysis (getting someone's idea straight) and criticism (the process of evaluating the truth of some claim). Within the area of analysis we will devote considerable time to the translation or conversion of a piece of discursive prose into an analytic tool -- an argument form, in which we try to identify the key thesis (or belief) and the reasons given for it. We will look at various tactics of criticism, such as the paradigm case as a model to measure against, looking at the logical consequences, and the logic (or non-logic) of the argument itself.
The form of the course is a 100% on-line course. I will set up a special web site for the course and post all the readings and assignments there. There will be no text book for the course, all readings will be posted on my web page.
Our readings will be a series of non-connected essays, each used for a different purpose.
Our primary mode of communication will be e-mail. I will post various student assignments and comments in addition to all my posts. Students will be expected to reply to me and to their fellow students in the course of the very short term.
Given the mode of the course -- internet and all communication in print -- and the dreadful shortness of summer sessions, the course will be fairly intense.
There will be no formal tests, but quite a few short assignments along the way.
There will be no explicit times which one must meet the group. That never occurs. Work will be assigned on a weekly or 3-4 day basis and you may do it whenever you wish within that frame. One need never leave home if your computer is there. If you have a laptop you may do the course from some luxurious beach in Greece or a remote forest in Nepal!
Don't hesitate to drop me further questions if you have them.
Thanks, Bob Corbett
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