Why bother with reasoning clearly?

This course is designed to improve your ability to make and evaluate arguments. The skills that we are going to cover are easy to understand, but hard to master. A considerable amount of practice is required, so it is sensible to ask, is it worth the effort

Distinguishing good arguments from bad helps us make better judgments and avoid the pitfalls of bad reasoning. In almost everything you do, poor argument analysis can have serious consequences.

Intelligence analysts, for example, require exceptional reasoning skills and the lack of clear argumentation can hinder national security. In 2005 the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Commission reported:

Perhaps most troubling, we found an Intelligence Community in which analysts have a difficult time stating their assumptions up front, explicitly explaining their logic, and, in the end, identifying unambiguously for policymakers what they do not know.

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Commission

Clearly stating your assumptions, clearly explaining your logic, and unambiguously identifying what you don’t know are three of the skills this course aims to develop.

Clear thinking is a general skill. It doesn’t matter what you are reasoning about, the general principles and associated problems of argument analysis apply to any argument, regardless of subject matter.

Even if you are already good at argument analysis, you probably can improve with the right kind of practice.