Formal Logic…most of us never learned the rules in school and shudder at the very thought of teaching it in our home school! But if you are going to raise a classical scholar, you really need to become familiar with the concepts and terms. In fact, you may find after completing a few lessons that you actually enjoy this methodical way of constructing and evaluating arguments. Let me briefly introduce you to the study of logic in laymen’s terms.
The western version of classical logic originated in Classical Greece with Aristotle. He called his argument the “syllogism.” Each statement followed a particular order containing a subject and a predicate. There are many vocabulary words, but three important ones to remember when teaching logic in your home school are: argument, reason, and conclusion.
Reasoning shapes our thinking into intelligent patterns. When someone asks us for our reason for believing something, our minds have to go beyond the information given in order to decide, explain, predict, or persuade. Our reasons support our conclusion. So, a simple definition of logic is:
the system for using reasons and conclusions to construct and evaluate arguments
Whenever we give reasons to support our conclusions, we are presenting an argument. Officially, such reasons are called “premises.” Here is the structure of a formal logic argument:
Reason 1 (first statement to justify the conclusion – evidence)
Reason 2 (second statement to justify the conclusion – evidence)
Conclusion (statement that explains, asserts, or predicts based on the evidence or reasons)
Don’t know which logic books to buy for your homeschool? Traditional logic teaches methods for evaluating criteria like validity, truth, and soundness. Anthony Weston provides a brief overview of logic in his Rulebook for Arguments if you want an executive or top-level summary of the subject. In our own home, school we’ve used two logic curricula: Canon Press and Memoria Press. My recommendation would be to purchase Memoria Press’ Traditional Logic, books 1 and 2, for a full year of homeschool high school credit. Most homeschoolers are ready to tackle this methodical workbook sometime between the 7th and 8th year.
Critical thinking will skyrocket once your kids begin to understand traditional logic. In lesson five of the second book of the Memoria Press text, your homeschooler will learn how to apply all the methods for constructing and evaluating arguments to real-life. They can then take any newspaper article, identify the arguments including premises and conclusions, and evaluate with specific tools whether the argument is sound or not. This is a critical thinking skill that is rare in our culture and certainly unusual among teenagers; you owe it to your kids to give them these tools so that they are ready to take what they’ve determined and communicate their position effectively.
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