The Humanists of Minnesota is pleased to sponsor an integrated series of sessions--in essence, a course--entitled “Thinking Critically, Thinking Effectively.” Conducted by Jerry Smith, a professor at the University of Northern Iowa, this course consists of ten sessions, to be offered one per month beginning in September. It is based on a course he teaches to undergraduate business majors at UNI. As suggested by its title, the course covers traditional “critical thinking” topics, but it also addresses topics like creativity, problem solving, and decision making. Thus, broadly understood, it’s about “effective thinking.”
Critical thinking is an essential skill for the humanist lifestance, and many of us are quick to credit ourselves with that attribute. But critical thinking is also a habit that needs to be practiced and reinforced. This in-depth course is designed to help attendees foster good mental habits more consistently. While there is some “content-dependency” across sessions—later sessions might refer to material covered in earlier ones—interested parties can benefit from and are welcome to attend any sessions that fit their interests and schedules.
There are no required readings for the course; there may be some informal “homework” for a few sessions—for instance, arguments to analyze beforehand—but these are not hard-and-fast requirements. Each session will be from 90 to 120 minutes in length; attendees will be provided with handouts of Powerpoint slides that will be covered. Though our instructor will have much to say about each topic, there will be plenty of time for questions and group discussion.
The following is a brief synopsis of each of the ten sessions.
September 8: Foundations. What is thinking? Good mental habits. How is thought related to reality? Types of questions.
October 13: Cognitive Psychology/Thinking Mistakes. How the mind works and how it too often screws up.
November 10: Language and Thought. The role of language in thinking. Concepts and their definitions. Threats to clarity. How language misleads. Critical reading.
December 8: Science and Practical Inquiry: Elements of scientific thought. Scientific method and habits of mind. Evaluating sources of information.
January 12: Reasoning: Deductive logic, its uses and limitations. Conditional and categorical reasoning. Practical reasoning.
February 9: Inferential Errors. How our reasoning goes wrong. The fallacies of informal logic.
March 9: Argumentation. Components of arguments. Rhetoric. Argument structures. Constructing arguments. Analyzing arguments. Debate tactics.
April 13: Analyzing Arguments. Analyze and evaluate the arguments in our daily lives.
May 11: Problem Solving. What is a problem? Why are they difficult? Problem types. Problem identification, definition, and analysis. Diagnosis and design.
June 8: Creativity. Alternative generation. Creative products, the creative process, creative people. Creativity techniques.
July 13: Decision Making. Rational models of choice. Predicting outcomes. Evaluating alternatives. Heuristics and biases. Framing. Decision making mistakes. Intuition.
May 5, 2012: Ecoliteracy
Sometimes the word “humanism” limits our purview. An evolving understanding of human flourishing must include the broadest perspective, one that encompasses the whole of the natural world. The human condition is inextricably linked to the health of the natural and manufactured environments we inhabit. Ecoliteracy--knowing and understanding the connections of all the species and systems in our environments--is essential for maintaining a livable and humane world.
In this session of Habits of Humanism, we will review the basics of ecological literacy and consider the impacts of this knowledge on our personal behavior and public policy. Try to make time to read the essay in the link below in preparation for our discussion.
If time and interest permit, here are some additional links for your perusal:
http://www.climatedots.org/thingshappen/ (2 min. video)
http://www.ecology.com/2011/09/19/zoe-weil-world-teach/ (18 min. video)
We will be in the Gamble and Skogmo Conference Room on fourth floor—N 402—to your left as you exit the elevator or stairs. Pick up a beverage at the Dunn Bros. on first floor if you’d like.
The library is readily accessible by bus. Free street parking is available on week-ends two blocks east of the library on Second Ave. An underground parking facility costs $5/day; some other nearby lots are $4/day.
April 7, 2012: Critical thinking
These and other questions will be addressed during this interactive session in the Habits of Humanism series. It will be led by Jerry Smith, a member of the Humanists of Minnesota who teaches problem solving, decision making, and critical thinking to business students at the University of Northern Iowa.
March 3, 2012--Habits of Humanism: The Practice of Mindfulness
Simply put, mindfulness means being fully present in the moment, to be self-aware. The practice of mindfulness meditation is growing in popularity and credibility in the secular world as it branches out from its Buddhist origins. The scientific and therapeutic communities are exploring its benefits and Humanists are embracing this long-time “spiritual practice” in increasing numbers.
This session of Habits of Humanism, let’s discuss our understanding of mindfulness, our experiences with (or resistance to) meditation, our knowledge of its benefits and our critique of its assumptions. Is mindfulness possible without meditation? Are there other practices that might produce similar results: exercising, journaling, spending time in nature, listening to music, reading poetry, personal reflection, critical thinking?
What value does mindfulness practice bring to a humanist way of life? Come share your insights and pose your questions.