The Philosopher's Toolkit: How to Be the Most Rational Person in Any Room
Dr. Patrick Grim is Distinguished Teaching Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He graduated with highest honors in anthropology and philosophy from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He was named a Fulbright Fellow to the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, from which he earned his B.Phil. He earned his Ph.D. from Boston University. Professor Grim is the recipient of several honors and awards. In addition to being named SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor, Dr. Grim has been awarded the President and Chancellor's awards for excellence in teaching and was elected to the Academy of Teachers and Scholars. The Weinberg Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan in 2006, Professor Grim has also held visiting fellowships at the Center for Complex Systems at Michigan and at the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh. Professor Grim, author of The Incomplete Universe: Totality, Knowledge, and Truth; coauthor of The Philosophical Computer: Exploratory Essays in Philosophical Computer Modeling; and editor of the forthcoming Mind and Consciousness: 5 Questions, is widely published in scholarly journals. He is the founder and coeditor of 25 volumes of The Philosopher's Annual, an anthology of the best articles published in philosophy each year.
01: How We Think and How to Think Better
Thinking is fundamental to our daily lives, and this introduction surveys the philosopher's toolkit, strategies to improve our thinking-visualization, simplification, the principles of debate, and techniques for social reasoning. Because the best philosophy is done in conjunction with other disciplines, you'll apply these tools to economics, psychology, and more.
02: Cool Rationality and Hot Thought
Which is a better tool for decision making, reason or emotion? As this lecture argues, both cool rationality and hot emotion have their place. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each can help us make better decisions, both in the heat of a moment and during long-term analysis.
03: The Strategy of Visualization
Pull out your pen and paper and put "conceptual visualization" to work. Humans excel at pattern recognition, and what we see in our mind's eye can aid us in solving even the most daunting of puzzles, from the Pythagorean theorem to Special Relativity. You'll see how sketches and matrices are powerful aids for information management.
04: Visualizing Concepts and Propositions
Explore the most basic elements of thought to prepare for the coming lectures. Concepts are the atoms of thought, expressed by words and illustrated by Venn diagrams and concept trees. Words form sentences-or propositions-which are the molecules of thought. Together, concepts and propositions provide a structural framework to express thought and convey information.
05: The Power of Thought Experiments
Harness the power of your imagination with this hands-on lecture, which introduces several strategies for solving real-world problems with thought experiments. As lessons from economics, business, ethics, and physics show, the imagination is one of our finest tools for exploring reality.
06: Thinking like Aristotle
So far, the course has emphasized visual techniques for logical thinking. In this lecture you'll discover one of the greatest developments of human thought. Aristotle's "square of oppositions" is the core of our logical system and provides a bridge to connect visualization with the flow of rational argument.
07: Ironclad, Airtight Validity
What makes an argument valid? Continue your study of Aristotelian logic by looking at how propositions form airtight arguments. By mapping out the logic of syllogisms with Venn diagrams, you'll enhance your deductive reasoning skills-and you'll see that the unfortunate trade-off for an absolutely airtight syllogism is that it doesn't really offer any new information.
08: Thinking outside the Box
Creativity can't be taught, but it can be cultivated. Take a break from the traditional lecture with this enjoyable workshop on creative, sideways thinking. Here you'll participate in a number of engaging exercises designed to break your standard habits of thought and help you solve problems by thinking outside the box.
09: The Flow of Argument
Ironclad, deductive syllogisms won't get us very far in terms of new information, so this lecture looks beyond that simple framework and introduces you to the flow of complex arguments. By understanding logical "flow," you'll have the tools to determine an argument's strengths and weaknesses. Is the conclusion inescapable, or merely probable? How "sound" is the argument?
10: Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart
Dive into the world of heuristics, simple rules of thumb that guide us through immediate decisions when we lack the time needed for logical analysis. You'll reflect on the wisdom of crowds, find out why German college students do better than Americans on U.S. demographic quizzes, and consider the utility of "good enough" solutions.
11: Why We Make Misteaks
The bad news is that to err is human. Thanks to information biases, selective memories, and unreliable heuristics, systematic error is built into the way we think. The good news is that once we become aware of these biases, we can compensate for them. This lecture shows you how.
12: Rational Discussion in a Polarized Context
How do you have a rational discussion with someone with a radically different viewpoint? Political polarization is real, and media gives us instant access to slanted sources. Here you'll unpack several negotiation strategies to reconcile two sides in an argument-and examine the signs of a hopelessly irrational discussion.
13: Rhetoric versus Rationality
Guard yourself against the perils of rhetoric. By learning the ins and outs of ethos, pathos, and logos, you'll be prepared to parry manipulative rhetoric as it comes-especially from the broadcast media. You'll also develop your ability to visualize patterns of exchange, which can assist you with making persuasive presentations.
14: Bogus Arguments and How to Defuse Them
Tour the world of bad arguments. From ad hominem attacks to false alternatives and hasty generalizations, this lecture presents the most common logical fallacies and offers you the chance to test your knowledge against a myriad of examples. But be forewarned: There's no guarantee that a bad argument is committing just one fallacy.
15: The Great Debate
Continue to hone your argumentative skills by evaluating a debate over the future of freedom and democracy. You'll analyze the rhetoric and see the strategies at work in a real back-and-forth, and you'll come away with a sharpened ear for appeals to emotion, syllogisms, and other rhetorical techniques of persuasion.
16: Outwitting the Advertiser
Recommended by doctors! Low fat! Call today! The world of advertising is filled with psychological manipulation, misleading half-truths, and magic words designed to get us to buy. This lecture cuts through the spin to show us the advertiser's favorite techniques, from beautiful spokespeople to empty messaging.
17: Putting a Spin on Statistics
Facts and stats are clear and objective, right? Of course not. Statistics are great because they give us information in an easy-to-understand way, but they can also be dangerously misleading. Something as simple as the choice between mean, median, and mode can skew the facts. The ability to evaluate statistics allows you to draw your own conclusions.
18: Poker, Probability, and Everyday Life
Life is filled with chance, and unfortunately it's not as easy to navigate as counting face cards. This survey of probability will allow you to deal with chance more rationally. You'll study the law of large numbers, how to calculate the probability of one or more events, and the gambler's fallacy that keeps casinos in business.
19: Decisions, Decisions
Turn your attention to decision theory, the surefire way to make the most rational decision with the evidence you have. The key is to maximize expected utility. Doing so can tell you everything from which wine to buy for a dinner party to how to respond to an influenza outbreak. Pascal even used decision theory to determine his belief in God.
20: Thinking Scientifically
What's the difference between real science and pseudoscience? What's wrong with astrology and phrenology? Find out how to build your own pseudoscience, complete with ambiguous phenomena and post-hoc modifications, so you'll know what to watch out for when you're presented with something that looks like science but doesn't pass the test of a rigorous scientific theory.
21: Put It to the Test—Beautiful Experiments
Analyzing the structure of scientific experiments is an important part of the philosopher's toolkit. The risks, power, and limits of experimentation can help you back your own claims and evaluate the claims of others. Here you'll examine the parts of a good experiment-control groups, randomized testing, and what to do with unexpected results
22: Game Theory and Beyond
Where decision theory leaves off, game theory begins. This lecture walks you through the techniques of decision making in a social context. You'll look at the cooperation and competition inherent to the Prisoner's Dilemma, and you'll reflect on behavioral economics, a field that studies irrational action.
23: Thinking with Models
Synthesize the earlier lectures on visualization, simplification, and thought experiments and check out the benefits of thinking with models. The three-stage model-input, mechanism, and output-is a great way to put your toolkit strategies to work, whether you want to predict tomorrow's weather, explain why the moon exists, or understand segregated neighborhoods.
24: Lessons from the Great Thinkers
Conclude the course with a journey through the minds of great thinkers from Plato and Aristotle to Darwin and Einstein. You'll consider what made them great thinkers, and you'll pick up a few tips to improve your own thinking.