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Course, academic year 2022/2023
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Academic English II - JLM002
Title: Academic English II
Czech title: Academic English II
Guaranteed by: The Language Centre (23-KJP)
Faculty: Faculty of Social Sciences
Actual: from 2022 to 2022
Semester: summer
E-Credits: 3
Examination process: summer s.:
Hours per week, examination: summer s.:0/2, C [HT]
Capacity: unknown / unknown (40)
Min. number of students: unlimited
4EU+: no
Virtual mobility / capacity: no
State of the course: not taught
Language: English
Teaching methods: full-time
Teaching methods: full-time
Note: course can be enrolled in outside the study plan
enabled for web enrollment
priority enrollment if the course is part of the study plan
Guarantor: Daniel Baxter Jackson III, M.A.
Class: Courses for incoming students
Pre-requisite : JLM001
Examination dates   Schedule   Noticeboard   
Aim of the course - Czech
Last update: Daniel Baxter Jackson III, M.A. (25.01.2023)

Reasoning for the Digital Age - How to Fool and Be Fooled

As the primary way that students and the general public encounter claims and arguments is online in social networks, our peers influence our beliefs and lower our guard, making us especially susceptible in accepting poorly-supported claims and arguments on a wide variety of topics. This course, Reasoning for the Digital Age - How to Fool and Be Fooled, will redress this susceptibility.

Note: this course has been adapted from an online course of the same name developed by Amitabha Palmer.

Aims of the Course: 

1. Identify arguments and distinguish arguments from non-arguments in actual discourse.

2. Identify components of arguments – conclusions and premises (both explicit and implicit).

3. Identify assumptions used in actual arguments

4. Reconstruct arguments in order to make logical structure explicit.

5. Evaluate Arguments for:
a. strength of inference: validity vs. invalidity; strong vs. weak
b. type of inference: deductive, inductive, causal, analogical, statistical
c. truth/plausibility of premises: soundness or cogency

6. Identify, distinguish and classify fallacious forms of reasoning.

7. Distinguish types of definitions and their use in argumentation.

8. Identify, distinguish and classify typical argumentative forms:
a. standard deductive forms
b. standard inductive forms (e.g. Mill’s Methods)
c. statistical forms
d. analogies
e. causal arguments

9. Construct and defend reasonable arguments of your own.

Teaching methods -
Last update: Daniel Baxter Jackson III, M.A. (29.01.2023)

Most of the lessons will be taught “backwards.” Rather than explain a concept or fallacy then illustrate it with examples, the instructor will givea  set of examples first and ask students to figure out the common problem underlying all of them. Once they think they’ve figured out the common problem, they have to create their own instance of an argument that contains or corrects the same error.

For example, suppose the fallacy of composition is being taught. The following arguments will be put up on the screen: 

A: Everything in the universe has a cause, therefore the universe also must have a cause.
–William Paley’s Teleological Argument
B: If everyone pursues their own best interest, societies best interests will also be served.
C: Since everyone cares about their own individual happiness, they will also care about the aggregate happiness of society.
–J.S. Mill in Utilitarianism
D: This dinner is going to taste delicious: Every ingredient it’s made from is delicious.
–My mom.
E: Every person in the class was born to a mother therefore this class was born to a mother.
F: He/She’s got every quality I like in a person. I’m sure we’ll get along.

In groups they have to identify the common feature that causes each argument to fail. Obviously, they don’t need to know the name of the fallacy, only how to explain what the problem is. Since recognizing a problem only requires a mostly superficial understanding of its structure, each group also has to create their own example of an argument that contains the same error. If they can do this, then it's clear they really understand the concept or structure being studied. 

Figuring out the exact common problem with a set of arguments or claims is difficult and for this reason, a lot of group work will be used. Usually the class will be put into teams of 3-5 and the names of the teams will be written on the board. When a team thinks they’ve figured out the common problem and have created their own example they put their hands up. The instructor goes over to see if they got it. The first 3 teams to correctly identify the common error and create their own example get a point. Because of time constraints, the instructor cannot wait until everyone has it figured out. 

Once three teams have figured out the answer, the teacher asks them to explain their answer to the rest of the class and give their own original examples. After their explanation, the teacher puts the name and definition up on the screen. At the end of the class, the top 3 teams get a nominal prize. Offering a bonus point on their next exam does wonders for their motivation.

The underlying reason for this teaching method is that when students (or humans generally) have to puzzle through a problem on their own, they’ll remember the knowledge that comes from the solution. When the solution is merely handed to them (as in a traditional lecture), it’s gone from their heads in 30 seconds.

At the heart of this method is the belief that critical thinking is a skill not a set of beliefs to be memorized. Acquiring any skill requires practice, and trial and error. You cannot become a musician or basketball player by merely by reading about it. The same goes for critical thinking. To acquire and gain competence in any skill one must practice, make mistakes, have them corrected, and practice some more!

For this reason it will also be important to either post answers to the HW and/or go over at least some of the questions in class. If students’ errors are never corrected, they cannot improve. To quote Neil Adams (judo gold-medalist), “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”

The homework assignments follow a similar structure to the ‘lectures.’ The first set of problems focus on mere recognition of particular errors or concepts. The second set requires students to employ the concept themselves and create their own instances or at least explain why a particular argument fails. The last section of the homework requires students to apply the concept from that lesson to a complex (and usually contentious) political, social, or scientific problem.

These last questions don’t have any obvious ‘right’ answers and are designed to challenge the students, broaden their understanding of these problems, as well as set up a brief discussion for the next next class. The last question could also be assigned in-class within the context of group work.

Requirements to the exam
Last update: Daniel Baxter Jackson III, M.A. (29.01.2023)

Students will be expected to perform analyses of arguments and similar exercises done in class and in groups, individually on the exam. 


Quizzes ~ every 2 weeks    =25% of final grade

Test 10% each x2 =20%

Take-home Midterm =10%

Final Project =20%

Participation     =10%

HW =15%
Quizzes: Every 2 weeks you will do an online quiz that must be completed before class. The purpose of the quiz is to give you an opportunity to gauge how you are doing with the course concepts before you get to the exam. This gives you an opportunity to determine how much work you’ll need to do to do on each concept to do well on the exam.

Tests: There are two tests. Each test will cover about 5 to 6 weeks of content. Most of the material on the test will have previously been covered in quizzes. It is strongly recommended that you find a study partner or group for tests. Tests will be in class.

Final Project: Approximately 2 weeks before the end of the semester you will be assigned a group project. The final project will be an opportunity for you to apply all the skills you have learned throughout the semester to a topic/controversy that interests you. I will offer a selection possible of topics. You may select your own so long as I approve it beforehand.

Participation: There is a very strong correlation between attendance and performance.

HW: Homework is assigned after each lecture and is due before the beginning of the subsequent class.
I do not grade individual homework sets. I only verify if it is either complete or incomplete. In this course, I encourage you to work with a partner or small group. If you decide to do this, submit your work individually but be sure to include everyone’s name that you worked with.
So how does homework affect your grade? Your homework is worth 15% of your final grade. Failing to complete homework assignments will pull down your grade.

But what if I get sick and can't do my homework that week? Don't fret little grasshopper. You have 3 get out of jail cards—use one! Can I make them up if I miss more that 4? Nope. You have 3 get out of jail cards—that should be enough to cover most excuses over a semester. Each missed assignment above 3 will cost you THREE percent of your HW grade.

But what if I get abducted by aliens, taken to a planet far far away, have disturbing medical experiments performed on me, and dropped off on another continent with no clothes, money, or phone? Nope. However, there may be the occasional bonus assignment throughout the semester which I will allow you to trade in for a used get-out-of-jail card.

But what happens if I don't know the answer to a question on the homework? That's ok. The reason you are in the course is presumably because there are things you don't already know about critical thinking. That said, this does not give you carte blanche to say of every question “I didn't understand!” Instead, what I expect is for you to explain why you don't understand how to do the problem or how to come up with the answer. A big part of my asking you to do homework is for me to be able to assess what the class does and does not understand well, and why. Your homework provides me with valuable insight into your comprehension and how I am doing with my teaching.

WARNING: If you miss 7 homework assignments or more, you fail the course.

Last update: Daniel Baxter Jackson III, M.A. (24.01.2023)

1. Overview of the Course and RRAR! Method
2. RRAR! Worksheet

A. Basic Components of Arguments

1. Arguments, Premises, and Conclusions
2. Premise Indicators, Serial and Convergent Premises, and Argument Diagrams
3. Dependent/Linked Premises

B. Obstacles and Core Concepts

1. Systems of Belief and Kinds of Audiences
2. Biases and Conflicts of Interest
3. Confirmation Bias, Total Evidence Requirement, and Falsificationism
4. Relevance: Contextual Relevance: Straw man, Red Herring, and Moving the Goalposts
5. Acceptability: Burden of Proof and Conditions of Premise Acceptability
6. Assessing Online Sources and Debunking
1. How to Avoid being Fooled Online and List of Reliable Websites by Topic
2. Classroom Activity

1. Validity, Soundness, Sufficiency, and Inductive vs Deductive Arguments
2. Conditional Reasoning 1: Modus Ponens, Modus Tollens.
3. Hidden Assumptions, Enthymemes, and Making Inductive Arguments Valid


1. Vagueness, Ambiguity, Fallacies of Equivocation, Composition, and Division
2. Failures of Relevance 1: Ad Hominem, Genetic Fallacy, Poisoning the Well, Tu Quoque, Argument from Ancient Wisdom/Tradition, Naturalistic Fallacies
3. Failures of Relevance 2: Ad Populum (Appeal to Popularity), Appeal to Emotion, Appeal to Unqualified Authority
4. Misleading with Language: Comparisons, Weasel Words, Enthymemes, and Other Rhetorical Tricks
5. Relativity: Misleading with Numbers 1

1. Generalizations and Associated Problems: Part 1
2. Generalizations, Polls, and Measurement Errors: Part 2
3. Statistical Syllogisms and Mean, Median, and Distribution
4. Causal Reasoning 1: Mill’s Methods and Common Errors
Bonus: More Kinds of Measurement Errors
5. Causal Reasoning 2: Abductive Reasoning and More Common Errors
6. Pseudoscience vs Science: Examples and Causes of Belief
7. Scientific Reasoning and Clinical Trial Design
8. Causal Reasoning 3: Arguments from Ignorance and Personal Incredulity, and Anomaly Hunting

Entry requirements
Last update: Daniel Baxter Jackson III, M.A. (25.01.2023)

C1 Level in English AND credit received for Academic English 1

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