Argument and persuasion are features of all of our lives that can be as challenging and fraught as they are unavoidable and essential; what is the best way for us to handle them?
Our lives are awash in argument and persuasion. This course aims to teach you how to manage argument and persuasion in your own life – not just with skill, but ethically. Accordingly, we will have two main goals. The first is to develop your skill at recognizing the myriad ways in which language can be used and misused as a tool for persuasion, by teaching you a variety of techniques drawn from formal logic, linguistics, and the discipline of argument-mapping. Master this skill, and anytime someone attempts to persuade you of something, you will be able to understand the structure of their attempt so deeply that you need not fear manipulation, but can decide for yourself whether you wish to sign on to the conclusion they want you to reach. Our second goal is even more important: we hope to show you how you can – and why you should – construct your own arguments with such clarity, honesty, and logical transparency that the people you direct them to will be optimally placed to decide, for themselves, whether and why they ought to agree with you. In this way, you will come to see argument not primarily as a contest to be won or lost, but as something that should be reclaimed for a more noble purpose: building genuine understanding between people, even across profound differences of viewpoint.