Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Scrambling their argumentative eggs

Being able to extract arguments from philosophical texts, especially historical texts, is a central philosophical skill. But it's one that (in my observation) students struggle with immensely. The reasons for this aren't hard to discern: You have to understand the words. You have to understand the sentences within which the words appear. You have to understand the larger setting of the text in which those sentences appear. You have to see those words as having an underlying logic. Etc.

Yet extracting arguments from texts is the core philosophical skill. So how can we help students do this? Here's an idea I've used recently that I hope might help.