Writing in Philosophy Lesson Plan: Identifying Arguments

Lesson Objectives: To introduce students to the notion of an argument, and the key associated concepts. To begin to familiarize them with argumentative structure and reasoning. Use easy examples to make the idea as clear as possible.

Total time: 75 min

Coursework Underway: Can use the same readings as Lesson Plan on Identifying Conclusions.

Sources:

Any piece of philosophical or argumentative writing

Any introductory chapter on informal reasoning or critical thinking

Pre-Lesson Homework: Have students read chapter on informal reasoning. Have students return to readings from Lesson on Identifying Conclusions. In premise-conclusion structure (can be bullet points, but bullet points have to be written in full sentences), have students state the author’s main argument for her conclusion.

Sequence of Classroom Activities:

Introduce students to the notion of an argument, and basic argument structures and concepts (premise, conclusion, soundness, validity, moral premises & conclusions where appropriate, etc.). Explain why they are central to thinking and writing in philosophy. Introduce the notion of an argument schema and explain how they differ from summaries. Provide a few sample toy arguments (preferably from readings) and explain them. (15 min)

Write the author’s main conclusion on the board. (Can refer to previous class on conclusions.) Return to text. Direct students to author’s statement of his argument. Identify key words or phrases signaling the presentation of an argument (or a premise). Write main argument on board. Illustrate why this is the author’s main argument for the main conclusion identified last class. Show why the argument is valid. Explain the difference between validity and soundness; only validity has been established. Explain that if students disagree with an author’s conclusion, they must show either that the argument is invalid or that it is unsound (it is valid but one of the premises are false). This structures all debate in philosophy. Show how the argument in the text shares the same features (premises, conclusions, validity, soundness) as the toy examples. (30 min)

Follow-up: Have students return to their first attempts, and correct them. Have students evaluate how they think they did. (5 min)

Turn to chapter on informal reasoning. Have students schematize the 2-3 sample arguments from the text, individually or in groups. (15 min)

Posted in Thesis & Argument

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