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Logic and Tools of Reasoning

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Logic and Tools of Reasoning

Assignment 1: The Promise and Perils of Inductive Reasoning (Discussion)


Shortly after 9/11 there was an interview with an FBI agent who said that had he been armed and on one of the planes he would not immediately have taken action.  This sounds somewhat odd, but there was reasoned thought behind his statement.  In the past hijackers had always wanted something—someone released from prison, or some amount of money, or sometimes just a statement to be released to the press; based on thirty years of experience with hijackers a doctrine had been very carefully developed and tested.  First, get the plane on the ground by any means necessary.  Second, once the plane was on the ground, continue negotiations and prepare an armed response (specially trained units were in place around the world); as a last resort, storm the plane and attempt to kill the hijackers and free the hostages.  Honed over many years and taught to all aircrew, air traffic controllers, and others, these tactics had proven effective. However, on 9/11 all of this past knowledge—all of this inductive reasoning—was useless.

Craft a post (150-200 words) in which you critically examine a contemporary example of the use of inductive reasoning.  In your critical examination, carefully review the example you have provided and summarize your conclusions: did the inductive method work well, or did it fail to resolve the problem at hand (and if so, say why).

Your first post is due no later than 11:59 pm (MST) Thursday this week. Respond to at least one of your classmates no later than 11:59 pm (MST) Sunday of this week. In your response, focus on what additional information you need to know to evaluate the example that has been chosen.

Reminder: This is a First Post discussion. This means that you need to make your first original post on the discussion board before other posts will be revealed.


Assignment 2: Name that Fallacy (Discussion)

A fallacy is a defective argument, where the reasons for a conclusion may sound compelling, but the justification is not present in the premises. We see this often in the media, in the news, commentary, and commercials. What was the last fallacy you encountered? What was the context? Be sure to identify the fallacy (review the required video) and specifically explain how the fallacy is evident in your example.

Craft a post (200-250 words) in which you critically examine your chosen fallacy. Name the fallacy you have identified and show us how it is evident in your example. Feel free to provide a link if you can.

Your first post is due no later than 11:59 pm (MST) Thursday this week. Respond to at least one of your classmates no later than 11:59 pm (MST) Sunday of this week.

Reminder: This is a First Post discussion. This means that you need to make your first original post on the discussion board before other posts will be revealed.


Assignment 3: Falsification (VoiceThread Presentation)

In a famous and much discussed essay Anthony Flew applied the method of hypothesis falsification to the discussion of the existence of God.  Could we, he asked, treat the hypothesis “God exists” as a meaningful one?  His answer is “no” because those who believe in the existence of God would accept no evidence that would falsify such a belief; hence the hypothesis “God exists” is not a valid hypothesis.

NOTE: This VoiceThread activity asks you to create your own individual VoiceThread like a mini presentation.

First, craft a PowerPoint presentation (about 4-5 slides) that outlines and critically examines the argument made by Flew.  Specifically, how does he demonstrate that no theist would ever accept any evidence that would falsify the hypothesis “God exists”?  What is his key example and how does it work to support his conclusion?  What critical response could be made to Flew’s argument?

Upload your slides to VoiceThread by creating a NEW VoiceThread. Refer to the VoiceThread Guide. Add your audio to each slide. Share with the class.
You should have your VoiceThread set to share by 11:59pm Thursday. Visit and listen to at least 2 other classmate presentations. Add some voice feedback and perhaps ask questions.  In your reply, focus on different ways you understood Flew’s argument from that of your classmate.

Reminder: Review the VoiceThread Student Guide. Access the portal to VoiceThread  in the link provided in this week’s module.







Required Resource


Theology and Falsification

The following excerpt was published in Reason and Responsibility (1968). by Antony Flew et us begin with a parable. It is a parable developed from a tale told by John Wisdom in his haunting and revolutionary article “Gods.”[1] Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle. In the clearing were growing many flowers and many weeds. One explorer says, “Some gardener must tend this plot.” The other disagrees, “There is no gardener.” So they pitch their tents and set a watch. No gardener is ever seen. “But perhaps he is an invisible gardener.” So they set up a barbed-wire fence. They electrify it. They patrol with bloodhounds. (For they remember how H. G. Well’s The Invisible Man could be both smelt and touched though he could not be seen.) But no shrieks ever suggest that some intruder has received a shock. No movements of the wire ever betray an invisible climber. The bloodhounds never give cry. Yet still the Believer is not convinced. “But there is a gardener, invisible, intangible, insensible, to electric shocks, a gardener who has no scent and makes no sound, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves.” At last the Sceptic despairs, “But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?” In this parable we can see how what starts as an assertion, that something exist or that there is some analogy between certain complexes of phenomena, may be reduced step by step to an altogether different status, to an expression perhaps of a “picture preference.”[2] The Sceptic says there is no gardener. The Believer says there is a gardener (but invisible, etc.). One man talks about sexual behavior. Another man prefers to talk of Aphrodite (but knows that there is not really a superhuman person additional to, and somehow responsible for, all sexual phenomena).[3] The process of qualification may be checked at any point before the original assertion is completely withdrawn and something of that first assertion will remain (Tautology). Mr. Wells’ invisible man could not, admittedly, be seen, but in all other respects he was a man like the rest of us. But though the process of qualification may be and of course usually is, checked in time, it is not always judicially so halted. Someone may dissipate his assertion completely without noticing that he has done so. A fine brash hypothesis may thus be killed by inches, the death by a thousand qualifications. And in this, it seems to me, lies the peculiar danger, the endemic evil, of theological utterance. Take such utterances as “God has a plan,” “God created the world,” “God loves us as a father loves his children.” They look at first sight very much like assertions, vast cosmological assertions. Of course, this is no sure sign that they either are, or are intended to be, assertions. But let us confine ourselves to the cases where those who utter such sentences intended them to express assertions. (Merely remarking parenthetically that those who intend or interpret such utterances as cryptocommands, expressions of wishes, disguised ejaculations, concealed ethics, or as anything else but assertions, are unlikely to succeed in making them either properly orthodox or practically effective). Now to assert that such and such is the case is necessarily equivalent to denying that such and such is not the case.[4] Suppose then that we are in doubt as to what someone who gives vent to an utterance is asserting, or suppose that, more radically, we are sceptical as to whether he is really asserting anything at all, one way of trying to understand (or perhaps to expose) his utterance is to attempt to find what he would regard as counting against, or as being incompatible with, its truth. For if the utterance is indeed an assertion, it will necessarily be equivalent to a denial of the negation of the assertion. And anything which would count against the assertion, or which would induce the speaker to withdraw it and to admit that it had been mistaken, must be part of (or the whole of) the meaning of the negation of that assertion. And to know the meaning of the negation of an assertion, is as near as makes no matter, to know the meaning of that assertion.[5] And if there is nothing which a putative assertion denies then there is nothing which it asserts either: and so it is not really an assertion. When the Sceptic in the parable asked the Believer, “Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?” he was suggesting that the Believer’s earlier statement had been so eroded by qualification that it was no longer an assertion at all. Now it often seems to people who are not religious as if there was no conceivable event or series of events the occurrence of which would be admitted by sophisticated religious people to be a sufficient reason for conceding “there wasn’t a God after all” or “God does not really love us then.” Someone tells us that God loves us as a father loves his children. We are reassured. But then we see a child dying of inoperable cancer of the throat. His earthly father is driven frantic in his efforts to help, but his Heavenly Father reveals no obvious sign of concern. Some qualification is made — God’s love is “not merely human love” or it is “an inscrutable love,” perhaps — and we realize that such suffering are quite compatible with the truth of the assertion that “God loves us as a father (but of course…).” We are reassured again. But then perhaps we ask: what is this assurance of God’s (appropriately qualified) love worth, what is this apparent guarantee really a guarantee against? Just what would have to happen not merely (morally and wrongly) to tempt but also (logically and rightly) to entitle us to say “God does not love us” or even “God does not exist”? I therefore put to the succeeding symposiasts the simple central questions, “What would have to occur or to have occurred to constitute for you a disproof of the love of, or the existence of, God?” Logic and Tools of Reasoning


Notes 1. P.A.S., 1944-5, reprinted as Ch. X of Logic and Language, Vol. I (Blackwell, 1951), and in his Philosophy and Psychoanalysis (Blackwell, 1953). 2. Cf. J. Wisdom, “Other Minds,” Mind, 1940; reprinted in his Other Minds (Blackwell, 1952). 3. Cf. Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, II, 655-60. 4. For those who prefer symbolism: p = ~ ~ p. 5. For by simply negating ~ p we get p: = ~ ~ p = p. ( Antony Flew, “Theology and Falsification,” University, 1950-51; from Joel Feinberg, ed., Reason and Responsibility: Readings in Some Basic Problems of Philosophy, Belmont, CA: Dickenson Publishing Company, Inc., 1968, pp. 48-49. )


Online Discussion Guidelines

Online Discussions

The learning in a fully online course is greatly enhanced through the exchange of student ideas in the discussion forums and is in lieu of traditional face-to-face discussions. Thus the discussion forum is an integral part of this course.

As in a traditional class, student discussions should be conducted in a respectful, courteous manner. All perspective are considered as we learn with each other and response posts should reflect your professionalism and leadership. Please refrain from threats, ad hominem attacks, and other disrespectful rhetorical tactics. Failure to conduct oneself in a respectful manner in the discussion forums will adversely affect your grade.

A discussion post is a thoughtful and complete comment or response to a question or topic. Discussion forums take the place of classroom discussion and usually involve one or more classmates in dialog. The purpose of discussion is to dialog with classmates and faculty about ideas presented in readings and learning activities as well as to enhance learning through application of concepts and key points.

You are expected to respond to two other learners or as the assignment dictates. This response needs to reflect your reading and analysis of the response and your thoughts regarding it. Plan your posting early in the week to allow for some exchange before week’s end. Stay current with your postings and responses to each week’s discussion, as it will not only help the discussion process, but is a requirement for the successful completion of the course.

Grading is based on both quantity and quality (relevance, clarity, completeness) of your response. Quality postings are more than “Good job!” or “I agree with you!” If you agree with a classmate, explain the reasons for this. If you disagree with a classmate, provide reasons to support your position.

Socratic Questioning

Thinking is driven by questions. Throughout your discussion activities you will be expected to use Socratic questioning. Socratic questioning is a method that not only keeps the discussion moving but may provide healthy debate or even a little ‘devil’s advocate’ questioning. As you participate in the discussion, strive to dig deep beneath the surface of the issue, topic, or problem at hand. Examine assumptions and perspectives posted by others. Certainly, if you don´t understand what has been said in the discussion, ask a question for clarity. This form of questioning is meant to push your thinking so please don´t ask questions only for questions sake.

*Socratic Questioning includes:

  • Conceptual clarification questions
  • Probing assumptions
  • Probing rationale, reasons or evidence
  • Explores viewpoints and perspectives with an open mind
  • Probing implications and consequences


Tips for a successful online discussion

  • Check grammar and spelling. Use the spell check. Read or preview your message before posting it.
  • Use a subject line that is short, descriptive, and distinctive so as not to confuse the class. For example, if a message´s subject line in week 8 reads simply “week 8,” it provides no clue as to content. A subject line that reads “product costs” at least tells us what the message is about.
  • Change the subject line if the conversation has changed or if the focus has shifted.
  • Format the message. Use lists and spaces between paragraphs to make the message easy to read and respond to.
  • Reference other messages from your classmates.
  • Use citations and references if you are quoting another author or your textbook, or any ideas that are not originally your own in both your inital posting and in replies.
  • Think value-added. To reduce anxiety about the number of messages, ensure that your message adds value to the discussion. Messages that are appropriate face-to-face yet do not add value to online discussions include the common courtesies of saying “Thanks” and “You´re welcome.” In an online course, everyone does not need to read these. When replying you may reply to the sender or to the discussion topic, so use reply to the sender privately when appropriate so that the number of non- value-added messages is kept to a minimum.
  • Add links. Reference your research just as you would in a written paper. For example, use quotation marks for direct quotes and cite sources as appropriate. Also test the URL by previewing your message. To test links you may have added, formatting, and spelling, preview the message before posting it.

Discussion Grading Rubric

90 -100%
(Outstanding) on the discussion:  Student reads and evaluates the flow of the discussion and responds or summarizes as the discussion unfolds.

The entries include both understanding of the reading and personal observation. An “A” student, in my experience is not necessarily “smarter”, but may have more time to devote to the course.

An “A” discussion participator demonstrates excellence by contributing one or more of the following:

Asking good questions;
Extending previous ideas;
Finding a fresh angle;
Coaching other students;
Writing observations and reflections;
Agreeing/disagreeing thoughtfully;
Summarizing ideas;
Incorporating readings and outside resources;
Providing proper citation;
Using recent and relevant sources; or
Providing leadership to group assignments.

Regularly contributes discussion postings by deadline.



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