Leah M. Ceccarelli
Examines public debate in a democracy by developing a rhetorical perspective of public argument and skills to evaluate debates critically. Develops an understanding of rhetoric, values, audiences, tests of reasoning, and sources of information. Sharpens critical skills and applies them to contemporary controversies in the public sphere.
This is a College Course, designed to help students achieve learning goals in the liberal arts. In particular, this course gives you the tools to critically scrutinize public debates. You will develop a rhetorical perspective on argument, learning to recognize what is at issue in a particular debate, analyze and identify types of arguments, spot fallacies, detect and evaluate language tools, and scrutinize the use of various appeals, topoi and value hierarchies. In the final weeks of class, distinguished speakers from the community will conduct live debates for the class on issues of current importance in the public sphere, and you will apply all that you have learned to the analysis, interpretation, and evaluation of those debates. After completing the course you will appreciate the complexity of public debate and understand better how to assess public arguments.
Student learning goals
* You will learn to identify what is at issue in a debate.
* You will learn to identify argument types, fallacies, and tropes and figures in public arguments.
* You will learn how to evaluate public arguments, recognizing problems with the use of logic and evidence and critically scrutinizing the deployment of values and emotional appeals.
* You will improve your understanding of some contemporary debates on issues of public importance.
General method of instruction
This is a large lecture course. There are no sections.
This is an entry-level course in argumentation theory and criticism; there are no prerequisites.
Class assignments and grading
There will be a number of homework assignments where you apply the theories learned in class to arguments that you find in contemporary public debates. You will be expected to read newspapers and blogs, and watch or listen to political debates to find public arguments to analyze in these homework assignments.
Grades are determined from the evaluation of homework assignments, in-class quizzes, and multiple-choice midterm and final exams.