A true-life vignette from Khawaja’s Phil 100 Critical Reasoning class. We’re reading passages from David Kelley’s The Art of Reasoning textbook (Chapter 5, Exercise D), and determining whether or not the passages contain arguments. All quotations are given verbatim.
I’m a sick man…a mean man. There’s nothing attractive about me. I think there’s something wrong with my liver….
I’ve been living like this for a long time, twenty years or so. I’m forty now. I used to be in government service, but I’m not any more. I was a nasty official. I was rude and enjoyed being rude….
Student response: “Ohmygod, this passage is soooo long! I do not want to read about his liver!”
And the Underground Man thought he was mean.
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul simply has nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today. [Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance“]
Student response: “Ohmygod, this passage is like sooo stupid! What is he even saying? Like, what is a ‘hobgoblin‘? It’s like not even English.”
Careful what you wish for, Ralph.
We had a useful and productive discussion about the nature of argument. Class adjourned on time.