80-150 The Nature of Reason

Summer Two, 2001


Instructor:     Dirk Schlimm
Email: dschlimm@andrew.cmu.edu
Office: Baker Hall A 60 B
July 2 - August 9 2001
Mo, Tu, We, Th, Fr  12:00-1:20pm
Porter Hall A 19
Webpage: http://www.contrib.andrew.cmu.edu/~dschlimm/80-150summer01

About the course.
In this course, we will explore the nature of reasoning. The following questions will guide us through the course:

We will follow a historical approach and trace the different ideas that philosophers have had since the ancient Greeks about what human reasoning is. Philosophers soon became interested in what the best way to reason is, as well as how it is that humans have been able to do it so well (and sometimes not so well!). Among others, we will encounter and discuss the views of Aristotle, Euclid, Descartes, Pascal, Hume, Bayes, Kant, and Frege. With the advent of artificial intelligence, these questions became even more exciting: perhaps we could design a machine that reasons like us.

The material is based upon the textbook Thinking Things Through by the CMU philosophy professor Clark Glymour which will be read in the course.



Homework: A small set of homework will be assigned every day: Typically some reading and a few questions from the textbook. In order to obtain a better grade written assignments can be redone and handed in on the next day of classes after they were handed back. This allows you to go over your work again and the opportunity to learn from previous errors.

You are free to collaborate on homework, but not to copy answers from friends. Assignments are due at the beginning of class on the date mentioned in the assignment, and have to be turned in on paper. You may type them up or turn them in in legible handwriting. If you use a word-processor, make sure to use the spell-checker.

Journal: A journal should be kept by the student in which notes and assignments are collected. For each lecture the main concepts and ideas should be summarized.These will be useful when reviewing the material, and for the essay you are expected to write. 

In addition, a few remarks about what you find interesting or puzzling about the lectures should be written down. Briefly answer the following questions: (a) What did you find most interesting in today's lecture? (b) What did you find most confusing in today's lecture? (c) What would you like to know more about that was mentioned in today's lecture? (d) Say one thought you had during today's lecture (does not have to be related directly to the material presented in the lecture). Please, don't write just one-word answers, but take a few minutes after each lecture to review the lecture. By answering these questions you learn how to reflect about the material presented in class.

The journal has to be handed in once during the semester and at the end of the course. Only the version at the end of the course counts towards the final grade. Handing the journal in during the semester allows you to receive constructive feedback about your journal. The final grade for the journal will be based on completeness of content and clarity of exposition. What I will look for in particular is the following: Are all pages legible? Is there at least a page for each lecture? Are the main topics of each lecture summarized briefly? Are there personal remarks about interesting or puzzling points? Are all homeworks included (all versions of the ones which were redone)? (The content of the homeworks does not contribute to the journal grade, but to the grades for the homeworks.)

Although it might at first sound complicated and time-consuming, keeping the journal is really just a matter of a few minutes every day. The students's responses in previous courses that I've taught has been very positive about it.

Class participation: Class participation is expected. This includes showing up regularly (if you have to miss a class, please tell the instructor), showing up prepared, making an effort to answer questions posed, contribute to class discussions, and present short summaries and small problems in class. It is a well-known fact that active learning (e.g., participating in discussions) is much more effective than passive learning (e.g., reading). Thus, you get more out of the course if you are actively involved.

Test: After the section on logic and probability there will be an in-class test. The exact date will be announced in class.

Essay: A 4-10 page essay on a topic related to the course must be handed in by the end of week five. The topic can be chosen by the student, but must be approved by the instructor. An outline must be presented to the instructor by the end of week four. In the last week of classes I will ask you to lead a class discussion on the topic of your essay.

The essay provides you the possibility to study in more detail a particular subject of the course that interests you most. In the introduction to the essay you should explain the relation of the chosen topic to the course. Starting early with the essay gives you the advantage of having more time to work on it, discuss it with the instructor, and allows you to avoid being cluttered with work at the end of the semester.

The grade in this course depends on your continuous effort during the semester. The final grade will be based on six components according to the following weights: 

Homework:  40 %
Journal: 15 %
Essay: 20 %
Discussion:    5 %
Test 20 %
Grades for homeworks, journal, essay, and test will be on a scale between 0 and 10. The corresponding letter grades are: 10-9 A, 8-7 B, 6-5 C, 4-3 D, below 3 F.