Reason, Logic, and the Idols of Thought

Reason, Logic, and the Idols of Thought Philosophy 8 Spring 2013 Instructor Jonathan Ellis 108 Cowell Annex [The Annex is in Cowell College but is not...
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Reason, Logic, and the Idols of Thought Philosophy 8 Spring 2013 Instructor Jonathan Ellis 108 Cowell Annex [The Annex is in Cowell College but is not the building called "Cowell"; it's just below Page Smith Library.] Office Hours: Thursdays 2:15-3:45, & by appointment Email: [email protected] Course Description The breadth and depth of the mistakes human beings make in reasoning about the world are sobering. We give more weight to what is salient than what is not (availability bias) and give unjustifiably more credence to what confirms our hypothesis than what disconfirms it (confirmation bias). We commit fallacies of probability and fallacies of logic. We beg the question, reason circularly, and construct false dichotomies. We confuse necessary conditions with sufficient conditions and are gravely uncritical in assessing numbers spun in the media. We conflate and confabulate, and engage in self-sealing reasoning. And we are easily duped by rhetorical tricks and maneuvers. Perhaps worst of all, even when we are certain that we are reasoning logically, we are often unwittingly reasoning with our emotions or underlying motivations (e.g., cognitive dissonance). These distorted ways of reasoning affect all facets of our lives—the theoretical and the practical, our decisions, our politics, our philosophies. And the consequences can be severe, as is made clear by recent studies demonstrating the frequency with which those in the medical profession commit probabilistic fallacies concerning cancer and false positives. The goals of the course are: • for students to be able to employ many of the most relevant concepts concerning inductive, logical, probabilistic, and statistical reasoning • for students to practice distilling and critically assessing the barrage of reasons and rhetoric they encounter everyday—on campus, in the media, on the web • for students to practice subjecting their own thinking and processes of belief formation—their own thoughts—to more rigorous standards.    

  The requirements for the course are these: Percent of Semester Grade: Assignments Quiz [April 18] Midterm [May 9] Audio Project [June 4] Group Project [June 6] Final Exam [June 11, 12-3pm]

35% 5% 10% 15% 15% 20%

The required texts are these: Books Innumeracy, by John Allen Paulos Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman Mistakes Were Made (but not by me) by Carol Tavris & Elliot Aronson [All books are available for purchase at The Literary Guillotine, 204 Locust St., one and a half blocks west of Pacific Ave. in Downtown Santa Cruz. (Tel.#: 457-1195)]

Selected texts posted in Resources on eCommons "Introducing Arguments," T. Bowell & G. Kemp "Rules for Calculating Probabilities," F.C. Swoyer "Conditional Probabilities," F.C. Swoyer "Chutes and Ladders and Serum Hemoglobin Levels," A. Vickers "The Two Concepts of Probability" (excerpt), M.G. Blumer "Testimonials and Case Study Evidence" (excerpt), K. Stanovich "Correlation and Causation" (excerpt), K. Stanovich "Getting Things under Control" (excerpt), K. Stanovich "Samples and Correlations" (excerpt), F.C. Swoyer "Faulty Reasoning," L. Vaughn "OJ Simpson, Sally Clark, George and Me," A. Vickers "The Barnum Effect," D. Levy "Uses of Arguments," R.J. Fogelin & W. Sinnott-Armstrong "The Probability of a Dry Toothbrush," A. Vickers "Michael Jordan Won't Accept the Null Hypothesis," A. Vickers "Beyond Replication: Misleading Reports of a Provocative Experiment," J. Ellis "The Gee-Whiz Graph," D. Huff "The Well-Chosen Average," D. Huff Further Supportive Reading (optional) Students looking for further reading might start with the following two texts: • Hacking, Ian, An Introduction to Probability and Inductive Logic (Cambridge) • Urdan, Timothy, Statistics in Plain English, 3rd ed. (Routledge)  



General Education Course This course satisfies the Statistical Reasoning requirement. It also satisfies the Q requirement from the older set of GE requirements. Two Tracks The course consists of two tracks that run concurrently throughout the quarter. The first concerns probability and statistics, and the decisions and judgments made on their basis. The second concerns (i) informal logic, and (ii) our minds, often as illuminated by recent work in the cognitive sciences (that is, those features of the human mind that it is typically most important to understand for the purpose of improving one's reasoning). In a typical lecture period, half the class will focus on one track, the other half on the other. The course is structured in this way for two reasons: 1) some of the topics in each track require sustained reflection over the course of a term; and 2) thinking about topics in one track in light of those in the other will often generate deeper understanding. Discussion Sections You are required to attend lectures and a weekly discussion section to which you will be assigned. You are strongly encouraged to participate actively in these sections. Students who miss three discussion sections (without prior permission) will fail the course. Assignments The weekly assignments (of which there are seven) will be due on Tuesdays. Taken together these assignments are worth 35% of your grade. With two exceptions, the prompts for these assignments will be posted on eCommons on the Tuesday before they are due. Components of assignments that are due in hard copy will be due at the beginning of class on Tuesdays, at 10:00am sharp. We will be very serious about this 10:00 deadline as we do not want students walking into lecture late in order to turn in assignments. Assignments will not be accepted after 10:00am. If you anticipate having difficulty making it to class by 10:00am (on account of another class across campus, for instance), you must contact your TA about this at least 24hours in advance, and we will assess the situation. Components of assignments due via eCommons will typically be due by 9:00am that morning. Some of the assignments will involve students engaging with other students' work from previous assignments. If ever you are uncomfortable with an assignment of yours being read by other students, please contact Professor Ellis or your TA, and we will work something out.



  Quizzes and Mid-Terms The quiz and the mid-term exam will be held at the beginning of lecture, 10:00am sharp. Students who are absent will not be given an opportunity to take a make-up quiz or exam without a doctor’s note or without notifying the T.A. of the absence at least 24 hours in advance. eCommons We will be using eCommons in this course. If you run into technical difficulty using eCommons, you can contact the ITS Help Desk:  

Online:   Phone: (831) 459-HELP Email: [email protected] In-Person: Kerr Hall Rm. 54 - M-F 8am to 5pm Also, ITS recommends using the latest version of Firefox or Internet Explorer to access eCommons. Safari and Google Chrome are not recommended. Firefox Javascript addons can conflict with eCommons and may need to be disabled.

Other Course Policies and Suggestions 1. My regular office hours are Thursdays, 2:15-3:45pm. Please drop by to continue class discussion or to discuss other matters. If you have another class or other obligations during my office hours, talk to me after class or send me an email, and we can schedule another time to meet. 2. All questions about assignments, grades, eCommons, etc. should be directed first to your TA. The teaching assistants for the course are Zach Feigenbaum ([email protected]) and Kyle Robertson ([email protected]). 3. If you qualify for classroom accommodations because of a disability, please get an Accommodation Authorization from the Disability Resource Center (DRC) and submit it to me in person outside of class (e.g., office hours) within the first two weeks of the quarter. Please also notify your TA. Contact DRC at 459-2089 (voice), 459-4806 (TTY), or for more information on the requirements and/or process. 4. You are responsible for being familiar with UCSC’s policies on plagiarism and proper sourcing. Plagiarism is a grave offense, which we take very seriously. Helpful guidelines can be found at the following two sites: NetTrail: (Section XI, Info Ethics)




Introduction to Course

Thurs, April 4

Introduction to Probability Introduction to Arguments

Reading: "Introducing Arguments," pgs. 3-13 (Bowell & Kemp) Thinking, Fast and Slow, Introduction Innumeracy, Preface Note: For those who haven't secured the books yet, the Introduction to TFS and the Preface to Innumeracy are both on eCommons. Also, the Preface to Innumeracy is to the 2001 edition, so those who purchase earlier editions of Innumeracy will need the Preface on eCommons.

Tues, April 9

Calculating Probabilities Arguments (cont'd); System 1 & System 2

Assignment #1 due Reading: "Introducing Arguments," pgs. 14-23 (Bowell & Kemp) Thinking, Fast and Slow, chs. 1-3 "Rules for Calculating Probabilities" (F.C. Swoyer) Thurs, April 11

Calculating Probabilities (cont'd) Cognitive Energy and Impulse

Reading: Thinking, Fast and Slow, chs. 4, 5, & 7 (ch. 6 is optional) Innumeracy, pgs. 22-32 (pgs. 3-21 are optional) Tues, April 16

Chance & Coincidence; Normal Distribution Evaluating Arguments

Assignment #2 due Reading: Thinking, Fast and Slow, chs. 9&10 (ch. 8 is optional) Innumeracy, pgs. 33-46 & 57-65 (pgs. 46-57 optional) "Conditional Probabilities," pgs. 249-254 Note: Pages 254-259, while helpful, are optional, but you should be able to do the exercises in this section. We will be reading pgs. 259-264 later. "Chutes and Ladders and Serum Hemoglobin Levels" (A. Vickers)  



Thurs, April 18

Kinds of Probability Cognitive Dissonance

Quiz--begins at 10am sharp. Note: The quiz may include questions on the Introduction and ch. 1 of Mistakes Were Made (below). Reading: Mistakes Were Made, Introduction and chapter 1 "The Two Concepts of Probability" (M.G. Blumer, excerpt) Tues, April 23

Causal Reasoning; Biased Samples Confirmation Bias

Assignment #3 due Reading: Mistakes Were Made, chs. 2 & 3 "Samples and Correlations," pgs. 287-299 (F.C. Swoyer) Note: skip over pgs. 273-286 for now "Testimonials and Case Study Evidence" (K. Stanovich, excerpt) "Correlation and Causation" (K. Stanovich, excerpt) Thurs, April 25

Introduction to Statistics Dissonance Thinking

Reading: Mistakes Were Made, ch. 4 "Samples and Correlations," pgs. 273-287 (F.C. Swoyer) Tues, April 30

The Experimental Method Fallacies

Assignment #4 due Reading: "Getting Things under Control" (K. Stanovich, excerpt) "Faulty Reasoning" (L. Vaughn) Thinking, Fast and Slow, chs. 11-13



  Thurs, May 2

Pseudoscience & Poor Sampling Fallacies (cont'd)

Reading: Innumeracy, pgs. 70-79 Thinking, Fast and Slow, chs. 14-15 "OJ Simpson, Sally Clark, George and Me" (A. Vickers) "The Barnum Effect" (D. Levy) Tues, May 7

Regression to the Mean; P-Values Arguments & Objections

No Assignment Due This Week Reading: Thinking, Fast and Slow, chs. 17&18 (ch. 16 is optional) "Uses of Arguments" (R.J. Fogelin & W. Sinnott-Armstrong) "The Probability of a Dry Toothbrush" (A. Vickers) "Michael Jordan Won't Accept the Null Hypothesis" (A. Vickers) Thurs, May 9

Mid-Term Exam

Exam begins at 10:00am. No Reading Tues, May 14

Statistics and Causal Explanation (more) Confidence by Coherence

Assignment #5 due Reading: Innumeracy, finish ch. 3 (pgs. 79-96) and read ch. 5 (ch. 4 is optional) Thinking, Fast and Slow, chs. 19 & 20 Thurs, May 16

Statistics in the Media Love & Logic

Reading: "Beyond Replication: Misleading Reports of a Provocative Experiment" (J. Ellis) "The Well-Chosen Average" (D. Huff) Mistakes Were Made, chs. 5 & 6



  Tues, May 21

Graphs in the Media Expert Opinion

Assignment #6 due Reading: "The Gee-Whiz Graph" (D. Huff) Thinking, Fast and Slow, chs. 21-24 Thurs, May 23

Expected Utility Theory Being Wrong

Reading: Thinking, Fast and Slow, ch. 25 Mistakes Were Made, chs. 7-8 Tues, May 28

Prospect Theory Odds (and Ends)

Assignment #7 due Reading: Thinking, Fast and Slow, chs. 26-28 "Conditional Probabilities," pgs. 259-264 (F. Swoyer) Thurs, May 30

Reasoning about Risk Framing Effects

Reading: Thinking, Fast and Slow, chs. 31, 32, & 34 (chs. 29, 30, & 33 are optional) Tues, June 4

Reason & Happiness

Audio Projects due Reading: Thinking, Fast and Slow, ch.38 (remaining chapters optional) Thurs, June 6

Last Class: Wrap-Up

Group projects due No Reading Tues, June 11, 12:00-3:00pm: FINAL EXAM