Oxford’s Free Course Critical Reasoning For Beginners Will Teach You to Think Like a Philosopher

Oxford_University,_Radcliffe_Camera,_a_Reading_room_of_Bodleian_libraryWhen I was younger, I often found myself dis­agree­ing with some­thing I’d read or heard, but could­n’t explain exact­ly why. Despite being unable to pin­point the pre­cise rea­sons, I had a strong sense that the rules of log­ic were being vio­lat­ed. After I was exposed to crit­i­cal think­ing in high school and uni­ver­si­ty, I learned to rec­og­nize prob­lem­at­ic argu­ments, whether they be a straw man, an appeal to author­i­ty, or an ad hominem attack. Faulty argu­ments are all-per­va­sive, and the men­tal bias­es that under­lie them pop up in media cov­er­age, col­lege class­es, and arm­chair the­o­riz­ing. Want to learn how to avoid them? Look no fur­ther than Crit­i­cal Rea­son­ing For Begin­ners, the top rat­ed iTune­sU col­lec­tion of lec­tures led by Oxford University’s Mar­i­anne Tal­bot.

Tal­bot builds the course from the ground up, and begins by explain­ing that argu­ments con­sist of a set of premis­es that, log­i­cal­ly linked togeth­er, lead to a con­clu­sion. She pro­ceeds to out­line the way to lay out an argu­ment log­i­cal­ly and clear­ly, and even­tu­al­ly, the basic steps involved in assess­ing its strengths and weak­ness­es. The six-part series, which was record­ed in 2009, shows no sign of wear, and Tal­bot, unlike some phi­los­o­phy pro­fes­sors, does a ter­rif­ic job of mak­ing the con­tent digestible. If you’ve got some time on your hands, the lec­tures, which aver­age just over an hour in length, can be fin­ished in less than a week. That’s peanuts, if you con­sid­er that all our knowl­edge is built on the foun­da­tions that this course estab­lish­es. If you haven’t had the chance to be exposed to a class on crit­i­cal thought, I can’t rec­om­mend Crit­i­cal Rea­son­ing For Begin­ners with enough enthu­si­asm: there are few men­tal skills that are as under­ap­pre­ci­at­ed, and as cen­tral to our dai­ly lives, as crit­i­cal think­ing.

Crit­i­cal Rea­son­ing For Begin­ners is cur­rent­ly avail­able on the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oxford web­site in both audio and video for­mats, and also on iTune­sU and YouTube. You can find it list­ed in our col­lec­tion of Free Online Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es, part of our col­lec­tion of 1100 Free Online Cours­es.

Ilia Blin­d­er­man is a Mon­tre­al-based cul­ture and sci­ence writer. Fol­low him at @iliablinderman, or read more of his writ­ing at the Huff­in­g­ton Post.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life: A Phi­los­o­phy Pod­cast

The His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy With­out Any Gaps – Peter Adamson’s Pod­cast Still Going Strong

Phi­los­o­phy Bites: Pod­cast­ing Ideas From Pla­to to Sin­gu­lar­i­ty Since 2007

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