In the second of this two-part series, Lori Watson, Ph.D., professor of philosophy and chair of the Department of Philosophy at University of San Diego, provides insight into “A Concise Introduction to Logic, 13th Edition” by Patrick J. Hurley, co-authored by Watson. As you use this text in your course, utilize Watson’s best practices in your own classroom.
Students really enjoy Chapter Three on fallacies. Again, I find an effective teaching method is to get them excited about applying what they’re learning in class to material they come across outside class.
An effective assignment here is to ask them to bring in an argument from some source—news media, another class, even something a friend posted on social media—they think contains a fallacy. To make this a low stakes assignment, I don’t require students to turn it in, but provide class time for each student to give their example and for class discussion. Students need not be confident they know which fallacy is being committed—they just need to think there’s one. We examine the argument as a class and consider which fallacy we think is being committed by the example. An additional benefit to this assignment is that it often demonstrates how more than one fallacy can be committed at the same time.
Whenever we’re in an election year, I always give students extra credit for watching the Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates and identifying fallacies the candidates make during the debate. I use this an extra credit assignment because not all students have the time to watch the debates in full—given their other commitments. However, generally over half of the students in a particular class choose to do this assignment.
Advertising also provides an excellent venue for finding fallacies. Ask students to look for an ad—whether online, or in print material or even on TV—that relies on a fallacy to market the product being sold.