Sherlock Holmes and the Art and Science of Reasoning
"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth!" This is a famous maxim of Sherlock Holmes, a rule used to reason through crimes and solve mysteries. In this course, we will use Holmes as a guide to understand how to reason critically and responsibly. Students will learn techniques for mapping arguments, identifying their logical structure, and evaluating their merits. We will explore many of the most interesting Holmes stories, both in Doyle's original novels and short stories and in television and film adaptions, to figure out exactly how he reasoned, and to evaluate it ourselves - was Holmes that good, or just that lucky?
Students will practice understanding and evaluating arguments both from the Holmes stories and other related texts on topics ranging from friendship to fingerprinting. Over the course of the semester, we will practice these skills by pulling arguments from these texts, developing original arguments, and even writing some Holmes stories of our very own (with well-crafted arguments at the heart of them!). By the end of the course, students will be better prepared to reason through complex issues, both in and out of the classroom (but no promises about one's ability to solve crimes).