Radu Atanasiu

Critical Thinking - Reason and Fair Play in Communication

  • FREE
  • English
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Certificate included

What is the course about?

Course Summary

This MOOC is an introduction in Critical Thinking, with an emphasis on using reason in our daily communication. Its main topics cover the structure and analysis of arguments, the study of inductive reasoning as basis for scientific knowledge and as key ingredient in how we understand reality. Next we will focus on fallacies (like loaded question or hasty generalization) and on guidelines for structuring a presentation, an argumentative essay or a debate. Furthermore, the course gives you an overview of cognitive biases (a fashionable topic nowadays), and on the use of emotional tools in persuasion. The teaching is accompanied by tons of documented experiments and fun examples, guided practice, quizzes, links to additional materials (like TED talks) and short homework.

What do I learn?

After taking this course you will have the tools to analyze the truth of all kinds of statements, from opinion articles to court verdicts and investment proposals. You will better understand the philosophical basis of human knowledge, also you will be more persuasive in domestic talks as well as in good structured presentations, debates or argumentative essays. Furthermore, a main goal of this course is that you will be able to recognize and refute the most common fallacies (reasoning errors), and understand irrational behavior.

What do I need to know?

No prior knowledge is needed for this course, participants should only come equipped with natural curiosity and a respect for the truth.

Course Structure

Chapter & Topic

Chapter 1: Introduction to Critical Thinking - what is critical thinking, why study it, a short history
1.1: Road Map
1.2: Is Man the Reasoning Animal?
1.3: Critical Thinking. Some Definitions and a Short History

Chapter 2: Arguments ABC - understanding arguments as building blocks of reason; argument structure and analysis
2.1: Simple Argument. Definition and Structure
2.2: How to Analyze an Argument
2.3: Simple Argument Analysis. Practice
2.4: Complex Arguments
2.5: The Analysis of Complex Arguments

Chapter 3: Deductive vs. Inductive, or Definitely vs. Probably - describing and analysing the two main types of arguments
3.1: Deductive Arguments vs. Inductive Arguments
3.2: Deductive Arguments. Validity. Soundness
3.3: Syllogisms
3.4: Inductive Arguments. Strength. Cogency

Chapter 4: Inductive Reasoning - the scientific method as basis for all sciences; a short instructions manual on the use of inductive reasoning in day to day communication
4.1: The Scientific Theory. Is It All Just Guessing?
4.2: The Scientific Method
4.3: Arguments from Analogy
4.4: Arguments from Generalisation
4.5: Arguments from Causality

Chapter 5: Fallacies - tricky arguments that seem right, but are not; how to spot them and call them out using fancy Latin names; 10 fair play rules
5.1: 10 Fair Play Principles in Argumentation
5.2: Fallacies
5.3: Fallacies (again)
5.4: Name That Fallacy!

Chapter 6: Argumentation - how to structure essays, presentations, and debates; how to use and quote sources
6.1: Argumentative Essay
6.2: Debates and Other Oral Arguments
6.3: Presentations
6.4: Credibility and Sources

Chapter 7: Irrationality. Cognitive Biases. Emotional Approach - what’s going on when we are irrational?; what is the place of emotions in persuasion?
7.1: Cognitive Biases
7.2: Cognitive Biases
7.3: Persuasion. The Emotional Tools
7.4: Conclusions


Approximately 2 hours per week for watching video lectures, taking quizzes and completing homework assignments.

Course instructors