How to Be a Reasonable Person

I’ve started philosophy classes with a unit on critical thinking through my entire career. In typical logic teacher fashion, my critical thinking curriculum has largely been focused on seeking truth and knowledge through inquiry. Recent conversations with colleagues across campus have inspired me to think and write more broadly about what it means to be a reasonable person and what value this has beyond the pursuit of truth. Hence this OEM mini-book.

Critical Thinking is widely claimed as an “infused” general education outcome, not just at BC, but across higher education. However, examples of developed critical thinking curriculum suitable for infusion across disciplines are hard to find. So, here is my humble attempt to fill this gap. I teach philosophy as a vehicle for instilling good critical thinking skills. This does involve some dedicated instruction, generally a week and a half or so at the outset of every course. This is then followed by philosophy curriculum that is designed to cultivate and reinforce the critical thinking skills I start with.

You may find some or much of this short text useful for your own instruction, whether your course claims Critical Thinking as a general education outcome or not. As an OEM resource, you are free to adopt or adapt, in part or in whole, anything you find useful in this short text. Also, as an OEM resource, this short text will be a perpetual working draft. This means that feedback is always welcome. Do let me know if you think something is missing or improvable. I already expect the too short chapter on fallacies to grow significantly.

We face many crises right now, ranging from racism, to a global pandemic, the decline of democracy, and environmental destruction. Of course these are all inter-related. What needs to be understood about each of these is already understood by many of us. But the highest hurdle to broader understanding of these assorted crises, understanding that is sufficient to lead to effective action, is a societal crisis of reasonableness. I won’t develop or defend this thesis here. Instead I’ll simply offer this little book as my attempt to address the underlying morbidity that currently makes us all the more vulnerable to our other assorted social pathologies.