Logic of Everyday Reasoning

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Logic of Everyday Reasoning, 150911001
Monday and Wednesday, 9:25 – 10:40, Bosshart 316
Rowan University, Spring, 2005
Instructor: David Clowney

Syllabus and Course Requirements:

Logic of Everyday Reasoning is designed to help you reason more intelligently and effectively. Since you already know how to reason (or you wouldn't be here), you will spend most of your time in this course getting better at something that you already know how to do. If that weren't so, this would be a very bad logic course--like a math course that made up all new rules!

You may be thinking, "If I already know how to do it, how hard can it be, and why do I need a course in it?" The answer is that to become a better reasoner you will have to pay very close attention to the steps in your own reasoning and in the reasoning of other people. Making those steps clear and precise, and saying exactly what you think of them and exactly why, will be the hard part of the course. Your experience in this course will be like the experience of an untrained athlete who starts working with a coach. If you are that athlete, you may already be good; but getting better will mean unlearning some old ways, learning some new ones, and paying attention in a whole new way. The hardest part of all will be noticing what you're doing, so that you can change it. It may take a long time before you recover the intuitive "feel" for the sport that you had before working with the coach. But of course, that's the only way to get to the Olympics or the pros!

You will have assignments every day we meet, and you will need to plan on two hours study time outside of class for each day that we meet. If you can do all the work in less time, that's great. But don't feel overworked if you can't; you need to spend a lot of time to master a basic logic course. Break the time up according to the demands of your own schedule; but a smaller amount of time every day is much better than a big block of time all at once. If you can get away with 15 minutes per class hour, you should be taking a harder course. You must keep up with the work, because each piece of the course builds on the pieces that came before.

Tests: There will be a quiz or a test for every chapter. On average, this means a quiz or a test every week. Makeups will not be allowed except under extraordinary circumstances (e.g., serious illness, death in the family, auto accidents).

Text: The Elements of Reasoning by Conway and Munson, Wadsworth


- You must do all assigned exercises, and bring your work to class. (If you plan to sell your book, don't write in it, except for very light pencil marks that you can erase so no one can read them!) If I call on you and you are not prepared, your participation grade will suffer (ditto if I call on you and you are not there).

- You are required to keep an electronic argument notebook. This will be 30% of your grade. It will contain a series of assignment that I will give throughout the course, in which you will find, analyze and evaluate arguments, and create some of your own. The final entry will be a letter to the editor of a newspaper or magazine which you will submit (and maybe get published). For all sorts of reasons, including not wasting my time or yours, I expect you to keep the notebook as a series of Word or Wordperfect files, and e-mail the assignments to me by their due date. Please keep hard copies as well and bring them to class in a folder of some sort.


I got this idea from my colleague Ellen Miller, and I think it's a great one. Bring us a gift! It can be anything: an argument, a joke, an ad, an example of a fallacy…it just has to relate to the course in some way. Gifts aren't graded, but thoughtful ones can boost your participation grade. If you are late to class, you have to bring us a gift. (Me too!)


You are allowed three absences. After that your participation grade will suffer for unexcused absences. You are expected to be in class on time, and to stay for the entire period.

Course Outline:

Unit One: Recognizing and evaluating arguments. (Chapters 1-3). Learning to recognize arguments. Arguments and explanations; premisses and conclusions; informal evaluation of arguments. One or two quizzes, one test.

Unit Two: Evaluating deductive arguments. (Chapters 4 & 5). Test on each chapter.

Unit Three: Causal and Analogical arguments. (Chapters 6 & 7). One quiz, one test.

Unit Four: Logical Fallacies. (material from chapters 8-11). At least one quiz and one test.

Unit Five: Using what you've learned: presentation of arguments

Final Exam: May 9th, 10:15 - 12:15


60% of your grade will be determined by tests and quizzes. The remaining 40% will be divided between argument analyses (30%) and class participation (10%). This includes doing the exercises.

To do well in this course you will need to keep up with the work, and expect to be talking with others about it. I encourage you to study with others when possible (when this is inappropriate I'll say so). We will work in groups a lot, and there will even be one group test.

Logical thinking is a skill; learning it takes practice. You don't know it until you can use it. And if you're stuck, tell me about it, before we both find out about the problem the hard way on a test! I'll help any way I can. As you master these skills, you should begin to enjoy the feeling of control over reasoning and your new ability to analyze reasoning. This should be an empowering course. I hope you enjoy it!

Your first assignment is to read pp.1-13 of the text, and do exercise set A, pp. 13-14.

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