The Philosopher's Toolkit: How to Be the Most Rational Person in Any Room

Course No. 4253
Professor Patrick Grim, Ph.D.
State University of New York, Stony Brook
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87% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 4253
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Course Overview

Thinking is at the heart of our everyday lives, yet our thinking can go wrong in any number of ways. Bad arguments, fallacious reasoning, misleading language, and built-in cognitive biases are all traps that keep us from rational decision making—to say nothing of advertisers and politicians who want to convince us with half-truths and empty rhetoric.

What can we do to avoid these traps and think better? Is it possible to think faster, more efficiently, and more systematically?

The Philosopher’s Toolkit: How to Be the Most Rational Person in Any Room offers the skills to do just that. Taught by award-winning Professor Patrick Grim of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, this applied philosophy course arms you against the perils of bad thinking and supplies you with an arsenal of strategies to help you be more creative, logical, inventive, realistic, and rational in all aspects of your daily life, from the office to the voting booth.

Unlike courses in other disciplines, which are descriptive, this course is normative.
That is, instead of merely describing how we do think, the focus of this course is how we should think. Along the way, you’ll meet some of history’s greatest thinkers, from Plato and Aristotle to Einstein and John von Neumann. In addition to looking at what they thought, you’ll study how they thought—what strategies did they employ to come up with their great ideas? What tools can we adopt to make us better thinkers?

With a blend of theoretical and hands-on learning, these 24 stimulating lectures will sharpen your critical thinking skills and get the creative juices flowing with such topics as

  • the symbiotic role of reason and emotion;
  • conceptual visualization and thinking with models;
  • Aristotle’s logic and the flow of arguments;
  • heuristics and psychological biases;
  • polarization and negotiation strategies;
  • advertising and statistics; and
  • decision theory and game theory.

Study What You Didn’t Learn in School

Philosophy provides the foundations for an array of other intellectual fields. As Professor Grim explains, philosophy—“the love of wisdom”—is historically the core discipline of them all. Other fields have branched out from it over the centuries. And while we learn in school about these other disciplines—including mathematics, physics, economics, psychology, and sociology—the material in The Philosopher’s Toolkit is seldom taught, and has never been taught in quite this way.

But the material should be taught because it has an amazing, practical value. Whether you’re trying to decide which wine to bring to a dinner party or weighing the sides of a political debate, these lectures will help you think more rationally so that you can always make the optimal choice. In this course, you’ll

  • build problem-solving skills for greater efficiency at work;
  • become a savvier consumer by staying alert to common advertising tricks;
  • learn heuristics to make better decisions in a pinch;
  • and develop self-knowledge through awareness of built-in cognitive biases.

In addition to illuminating rational thinking, this course sheds new light on all the fields you studied in school. Professor Grim says that philosophy is best practiced with an eye to other disciplines, what he calls the children and grandchildren of philosophy. For example, when Pythagoras came up with his famous theorem about right triangles, he didn’t have a geometry textbook full of equations. Rather, he employed visualization, looking at literal squares to calculate areas.

To take another example, one of the most important ideas in the history of physics—special relativity—is a remarkably simple concept to visualize, but it took a visual thinker like Einstein to discover it. No matter what the field, The Philosopher’s Toolkit provides the clarity and insight necessary for success.

Systematic, Practical Lectures

As you would expect from a course about rationality, the material is presented systematically, with basic concepts building step by step toward advanced applications. Many of the concepts, such as Aristotle’s square of oppositions or the rigors of scientific experimentation, are intellectually challenging, but Professor Grim’s careful, clear presentation makes the material easy to understand. Over the course of these lectures, you’ll

  • see how words refer to concepts that build propositions that form arguments;
  • move from visualization to thought experiments to thinking with models;
  • analyze Aristotle’s airtight logic, then study the flow of syllogisms and the variety of logical fallacies;
  • explore the source of polarization, and how to negotiate between extreme positions; and
  • study the difference between science and pseudoscience and how to put your ideas to the test through factual experiment.

While the emphasis of this course is to think more rationally, one of the most interesting topics is the relationship between reason and emotion—“cool rationality” and “hot thought.” While rationality is certainly crucial for good decision making, it turns out that emotion is equally important.

Particularly when there is no time for careful deliberation, emotions, gut reactions, and rules of thumb are the way to go—just ask any firefighter, or a pilot who has been forced to land a plane in an emergency. But whether you need a heuristic for fast action or clear eyes for careful rumination, The Philosopher’s Toolkit gives you the strategies you need for both occasions.

Thinking from a New Perspective

Unlike other courses on logic and rationality, the interactive nature of this course hones your critical thinking with a series of mental calisthenics. This is not a passive course, and you’ll love the many hands-on examples Professor Grim provides throughout. In fact, he even presents one lecture as a “workshop” in creative, sideways thinking. In his words, creative thinking can’t be taught, but it can be cultivated through practice.

In nearly every lecture, he encourages you to hit "pause" to think through problems such as

  • the Tower of Hanoi game;
  • the Prisoner’s Dilemma in game theory;
  • the ultimatum game in behavioral economics;
  • the bicycle problem, which even tripped up mathematician John von Neumann; and
  • the three-stage model for the Hobbesian state.

With a sardonic wit and a healthy mistrust of authority, Professor Grim is the ideal guide for a normative course on rational thinking. He takes you on a tour of great minds through the ages, bringing them down from their lofty vantage points and showing you how they employed the strategies of The Philosopher’s Toolkit to develop their magnificent ideas. When you complete this course, you, too, will immediately be able to apply these strategies to nearly every aspect of your daily life—helping you simplify problems, think more creatively, and make better decisions.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    How We Think and How to Think Better
    Thinking is fundamental to our daily lives, and this introduction surveys the philosopher’s toolkit, strategies to improve our thinking—visualization, simplification, the principles of debate, and techniques for social reasoning. Because the best philosophy is done in conjunction with other disciplines, you’ll apply these tools to economics, psychology, and more. x
  • 2
    Cool Rationality and Hot Thought
    Which is a better tool for decision making, reason or emotion? As this lecture argues, both cool rationality and hot emotion have their place. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each can help us make better decisions, both in the heat of a moment and during long-term analysis. x
  • 3
    The Strategy of Visualization
    Pull out your pen and paper and put “conceptual visualization” to work. Humans excel at pattern recognition, and what we see in our mind’s eye can aid us in solving even the most daunting of puzzles, from the Pythagorean theorem to Special Relativity. You’ll see how sketches and matrices are powerful aids for information management. x
  • 4
    Visualizing Concepts and Propositions
    Explore the most basic elements of thought to prepare for the coming lectures. Concepts are the atoms of thought, expressed by words and illustrated by Venn diagrams and concept trees. Words form sentences—or propositions—which are the molecules of thought. Together, concepts and propositions provide a structural framework to express thought and convey information. x
  • 5
    The Power of Thought Experiments
    Harness the power of your imagination with this hands-on lecture, which introduces several strategies for solving real-world problems with thought experiments. As lessons from economics, business, ethics, and physics show, the imagination is one of our finest tools for exploring reality. x
  • 6
    Thinking like Aristotle
    So far, the course has emphasized visual techniques for logical thinking. In this lecture you’ll discover one of the greatest developments of human thought. Aristotle’s “square of oppositions” is the core of our logical system and provides a bridge to connect visualization with the flow of rational argument. x
  • 7
    Ironclad, Airtight Validity
    What makes an argument valid? Continue your study of Aristotelian logic by looking at how propositions form airtight arguments. By mapping out the logic of syllogisms with Venn diagrams, you’ll enhance your deductive reasoning skills—and you’ll see that the unfortunate trade-off for an absolutely airtight syllogism is that it doesn’t really offer any new information. x
  • 8
    Thinking outside the Box
    Creativity can’t be taught, but it can be cultivated. Take a break from the traditional lecture with this enjoyable workshop on creative, sideways thinking. Here you’ll participate in a number of engaging exercises designed to break your standard habits of thought and help you solve problems by thinking outside the box. x
  • 9
    The Flow of Argument
    Ironclad, deductive syllogisms won’t get us very far in terms of new information, so this lecture looks beyond that simple framework and introduces you to the flow of complex arguments. By understanding logical “flow,” you’ll have the tools to determine an argument’s strengths and weaknesses. Is the conclusion inescapable, or merely probable? How “sound” is the argument? x
  • 10
    Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart
    Dive into the world of heuristics, simple rules of thumb that guide us through immediate decisions when we lack the time needed for logical analysis. You’ll reflect on the wisdom of crowds, find out why German college students do better than Americans on U.S. demographic quizzes, and consider the utility of “good enough” solutions. x
  • 11
    Why We Make Misteaks
    The bad news is that to err is human. Thanks to information biases, selective memories, and unreliable heuristics, systematic error is built into the way we think. The good news is that once we become aware of these biases, we can compensate for them. This lecture shows you how. x
  • 12
    Rational Discussion in a Polarized Context
    How do you have a rational discussion with someone with a radically different viewpoint? Political polarization is real, and media gives us instant access to slanted sources. Here you’ll unpack several negotiation strategies to reconcile two sides in an argument—and examine the signs of a hopelessly irrational discussion. x
  • 13
    Rhetoric versus Rationality
    Guard yourself against the perils of rhetoric. By learning the ins and outs of ethos, pathos, and logos, you’ll be prepared to parry manipulative rhetoric as it comes—especially from the broadcast media. You’ll also develop your ability to visualize patterns of exchange, which can assist you with making persuasive presentations. x
  • 14
    Bogus Arguments and How to Defuse Them
    Tour the world of bad arguments. From ad hominem attacks to false alternatives and hasty generalizations, this lecture presents the most common logical fallacies and offers you the chance to test your knowledge against a myriad of examples. But be forewarned: There’s no guarantee that a bad argument is committing just one fallacy. x
  • 15
    The Great Debate
    Continue to hone your argumentative skills by evaluating a debate over the future of freedom and democracy. You’ll analyze the rhetoric and see the strategies at work in a real back-and-forth, and you’ll come away with a sharpened ear for appeals to emotion, syllogisms, and other rhetorical techniques of persuasion. x
  • 16
    Outwitting the Advertiser
    Recommended by doctors! Low fat! Call today! The world of advertising is filled with psychological manipulation, misleading half-truths, and magic words designed to get us to buy. This lecture cuts through the spin to show us the advertiser’s favorite techniques, from beautiful spokespeople to empty messaging. x
  • 17
    Putting a Spin on Statistics
    Facts and stats are clear and objective, right? Of course not. Statistics are great because they give us information in an easy-to-understand way, but they can also be dangerously misleading. Something as simple as the choice between mean, median, and mode can skew the facts. The ability to evaluate statistics allows you to draw your own conclusions. x
  • 18
    Poker, Probability, and Everyday Life
    Life is filled with chance, and unfortunately it’s not as easy to navigate as counting face cards. This survey of probability will allow you to deal with chance more rationally. You’ll study the law of large numbers, how to calculate the probability of one or more events, and the gambler’s fallacy that keeps casinos in business. x
  • 19
    Decisions, Decisions
    Turn your attention to decision theory, the surefire way to make the most rational decision with the evidence you have. The key is to maximize expected utility. Doing so can tell you everything from which wine to buy for a dinner party to how to respond to an influenza outbreak. Pascal even used decision theory to determine his belief in God. x
  • 20
    Thinking Scientifically
    What’s the difference between real science and pseudoscience? What’s wrong with astrology and phrenology? Find out how to build your own pseudoscience, complete with ambiguous phenomena and post-hoc modifications, so you’ll know what to watch out for when you’re presented with something that looks like science but doesn’t pass the test of a rigorous scientific theory. x
  • 21
    Put It to the Test—Beautiful Experiments
    Analyzing the structure of scientific experiments is an important part of the philosopher’s toolkit. The risks, power, and limits of experimentation can help you back your own claims and evaluate the claims of others. Here you’ll examine the parts of a good experiment—control groups, randomized testing, and what to do with unexpected results x
  • 22
    Game Theory and Beyond
    Where decision theory leaves off, game theory begins. This lecture walks you through the techniques of decision making in a social context. You’ll look at the cooperation and competition inherent to the Prisoner’s Dilemma, and you’ll reflect on behavioral economics, a field that studies irrational action. x
  • 23
    Thinking with Models
    Synthesize the earlier lectures on visualization, simplification, and thought experiments and check out the benefits of thinking with models. The three-stage model—input, mechanism, and output—is a great way to put your toolkit strategies to work, whether you want to predict tomorrow’s weather, explain why the moon exists, or understand segregated neighborhoods. x
  • 24
    Lessons from the Great Thinkers
    Conclude the course with a journey through the minds of great thinkers from Plato and Aristotle to Darwin and Einstein. You’ll consider what made them great thinkers, and you’ll pick up a few tips to improve your own thinking. x

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Your professor

Patrick Grim

About Your Professor

Patrick Grim, Ph.D.
State University of New York, Stony Brook
Dr. Patrick Grim is Distinguished Teaching Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He graduated with highest honors in anthropology and philosophy from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He was named a Fulbright Fellow to the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, from which he earned his B.Phil. He earned his Ph.D. from Boston University. Professor Grim is the recipient of several...
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Reviews

The Philosopher's Toolkit: How to Be the Most Rational Person in Any Room is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 41.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worthwhile for Anyone Who Thinks. Seriously. This is a very well done overview of the usually unspoken and too often underutilized characteristics of rational thought. (Cf. our current political climate.) I sincerely recommend it for anyone who thinks, and I am not trying to be cute in saying this; the more we are aware of the operations of good thinking, the more we can recognize and correct ourselves when we go astray. I will not review the areas covered; others have done this well, I do agree that little here is deep, and much will seem obvious once it is mentioned. That is perhaps the point - all of us can and should understand this material, if only we would make the effort. As a small aside, I would characterize a great deal of the subject matter as psychology rather than philosophy, but these subjects seem to be dancing closer together these days. (Did you know there is a field of experimental philosophy?) Professor Grim is superb. He speaks clearly and eloquently, and is a pleasure to listen to. The course is well-organized and focused. The Course Guidebook is excellent, and includes a glossary as well as an annotated bibliography. The video included a fair number of charts and other visualizations of the material which I found quite helpful. So - please take this course, and put it to use. We will all benefit.
Date published: 2016-10-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent content and presentation. Far from being purely academic, this course gave helpful information, analyses, and tips to add to one's rationality and logic in practical terms.
Date published: 2016-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Re-calibrate your thinking DVD Review If you have experience in logic and/or analytic methods, then this course will likely not expose you to much new materiel, but it will certainly set the materiel in such a context that it will cause you to reflect on your own deliberate cognitive methods and background cognitive habits. If you do not have prior experience in logic or analytic methods then I have to believe this course will be most revelatory both in terms of facts and concepts and will result in the same salutary effect as for those with experience. Dr. Grim follows his normal entertaining form; he is a model teacher by all measures. If you haven’t viewed his other courses, then I will brazenly plug for them here: take them. Of note, much of the materiel in this course overlaps with Dr. Grim’s “Philosophy of Mind” course, albeit provided in the context of how one can apply the materiel to your everyday thinking; therefore, they nicely complement each other. The bottom line is that everyone, regardless of background, will benefit from this course; it is a great investment.
Date published: 2016-01-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Watch this before you get into your next argument There's nothing quite like a course that makes you feel just that little bit smarter at the end than you did at the beginning! This is a very valuable course. It delivers on its promise to provide a toolkit for reevaluating how you explore the world in a more critical and logical way. The initial lectures exploring the historical context of philosophy are denser than the later ones, but still provide a necessary and interesting grounding for the course. This is one course too where it's useful to refer to the course notes and do the suggested exercises as you go along. Professor Grim is an engaging and highly entertaining lecturer.
Date published: 2015-11-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent tools for critical thinking I enjoyed this course. Professor Grim is an excellent teacher. A lot of the material was not new to me, but the way those topics were presented gave me a new perspective. I will try and incorporate the material that I didn’t know into my decision making in the future. Like so many things in life, it takes practice and time to change the way you think (e.g. keeping an open mind debating an issue). The tools presented to help you think critically and reason are practical and I feel most people would benefit from watching the course. I watched lecture 16, about advertising, with my 13 year old son and we have lots of fun picking commercials apart now. I agree with another reviewer that the lectures on logic are excellent. That was one of the subjects that I’ve studied, but hadn’t really put the pieces together in such an organized and practical way. I don’t think any prerequisites are necessary for this course and I definitely recommend it.
Date published: 2015-07-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from useful course This course is a bargain for what I paid for it. Especially, the section on fallacious arguments. I don't think I can listen to a politician again without trying to figure out "how" he is lying. BTW, President Obama's favorite tactic is the straw man. However, I am still trying to find an answer to the age old question, "What is proof?". The professor suggests the only iron clad 100 percent proof will be found in mathematics and in syllogisms where the conclusions are correct if the premises are correct. This is troubling to me. Everything else requires belief to some degree. Hopefully, our "experts" apportion their belief to the evidence.
Date published: 2015-03-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Philosopher's Toolkit While the word "Logic" does not appear in the title, this is the best course in logic I have ever been through. I would highly recommend it to my friends, family, and students.
Date published: 2015-03-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Helpful reminder to make rational decisions The course summary hits the nail on its head with its short description of what the course is about. Every day, we have to make decisions about our actions, and unfortunately, they are not always based on rationality. Professor Grimm makes the student aware of it and explains why we make wrong decisions — be it due to our own fault or due to being fooled. I find that many lectures cover very practical applications and observations (e.g., heuristics, rhetoric, bogus arguments, advertisements, statistics), and that was the part I liked a lot about this course. Especially the use of rhetoric and all the fallacies we fall for affect us on an almost daily basis in our life when watching or reading news, when watching TV, and in our conversations on the workroom-floor or with friends and family. However, some of the lessons are rather theoretical, and while they are interesting and fitting, their every-day usefulness is somehow limited, even though they surely deserve to be covered in the course (e.g., categorical propositions, game theory). The theoretical content is kept at a rather basic level. Topics like probability and decision theory are described understandably for the average person without becoming too difficult to follow, which is adequate for the main goal of the course. Due to the logical structure of the content, many of the rather theoretical lessons are in the beginning. Thus, I personally struggled slightly to make it through about the first third of the lectures, before I began enjoying the course — the content was just at times a bit tedious in my opinion. Professor Grimm’s presentation is excellent. He speaks very fluently without much slip of tongue and without any bad habits that distract the viewer. He is very comfortable with the changing views of the camera, and his voice is pleasant. Overall, this is an excellent course that addresses the most common reasons for making bad decisions and gives helpful recommendations to become a more rational person.
Date published: 2015-02-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from very worthwhile course This is the second course I have purchased by Dr. Grim. Both have been quite good. This course, while perhaps it could be considered a survey course, is very stimulating and has motivated me to explore in more detail various of the lecture topics. The course book is useful for post lecture reading to reinforce and sometimes expand on the lecture topic. Dr. Grim presents topics clearly and uses helpful on-screen aids to explain details, such as Aristotle's Square of Opposition, Venn diagrams, etc. Many years ago my undergraduate minor was philosophy. I think that Dr. Grim would have been an excellent addition to that department.
Date published: 2015-01-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The Philosopher's Toolkit This is a good course for one who is familiar with philosophical vocabulary. It is well organized, has numerous examples to make the content meaningful for the lay person. That said, for me, this material would have to viewed a couple times to get the most from the course. For many, this course can be very valuable, for others, like me I feel left behind at times. The pace is good but I guess I don't have the interest in the subject to keep up.
Date published: 2015-01-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Did exactly what it promised! It was a great course, mostly because it explored many different ways which one can Think Rationally. Providing numerous tools for doing so. It was also really practical, because all courses included examples and questions that stimulated me to try these tools and come-up with not just an answer but an attitude to solve real life problems and decisions by using them. Presentation of lecturer was also exceptional, with lots of passion for subject and wise choices.
Date published: 2015-01-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great lecturer, good content, fair format The Philospher's Tookkit was the 10th course i've heard from The Great Courses. My lecture hall is the inside of my car on weekdays or some part of the backyard on weekends. It's a calm place where I can listen attentively, but it is not a place where I can focus my visual attention. For these reasons I only download audio courses and only those that "work well in either format". Unfortunately, Toolkit does not work great in audio format. TGC noted in their blurb that the course was the audio portion of lecture series, and since I like the topic, I decided to give it a try anyway. I now know I should probably not download courses with this description, that is, if I want to get the most out of it. There were some lectures where you really need to see what he's talking about to fully get what he's saying. The lecturer, Patrick Grim, is great. I would definitely listen his other offerings (if there are any) assuming the correct format. I wish I had his speaking voice, and his ability to lecture. Among the 10 courses I've listened to, he has the best speaking ability of all of them. He could easily be a network news anchor. His voice carries clarity, authority, and credibility. The course content was good. Though he covers mostly familiar ground from the variety of courses I've taken previously, he does it well, and since I'm not that smart I like some reinforcement from another perspective. But this is not to say it was all review, not by a long way. Overall the content was interesting, useful and provided insights into how we know things. Though I'll never be the most rational person in the room, this course did move me up a couple of slots.
Date published: 2014-12-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Get it if youre a nerd like me!! this was the first GL course that I took, and was pleased with the results. i listened the courses on my way to work and found it a great start to my day, especially this course, which helped my technical reasoning. this course does a great job with intertwining "boring" yet highly important and foundational skills of logic with practical, real-world applications. the lecturer is excellent: he is an expert in his field, and this is proven by his ability to explain things lucidly and easily - a true mark of a great teacher who understand the fundamentals and all mechanisms at play. he also does a great job of realizing that formal, theoretical knowledge is not enough, and he complements the theory with interesting research, practical tools, and anecdotal stories. the thought exercises during lectures are also very illustrative. furthermore, the coursebook is great because i could not take notes on my drive/metro to work, so i could focus on just listening and could recap the lecture afterwards with the coursebook summary. very, very great job, both by the lecturer as well as great courses for this amazing resource.
Date published: 2014-11-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Too basic for my taste This is the first series I have returned. I worked my way through the first five or six lectures but found them too obvious and at what I would consider a middle school or junior high school level. I was hoping for undergraduate level. If I had received this in first year university, I would have complained and withdrawn. The examples are just too obvious. I did skip ahead to a later lecture on statistics and data representation but did not find it challenging enough. It covered things like adjusting scale on a diagram and how it misrepresents facts - way too simple. Why three stars? The professor is superb. His mannerisms and explanation are the best I've seen on a TTC course. He is direct and ambiguous and a pleasure to listen to and watch. I just didn't learn anything that common sense hadn't already told me; I got no new insights. My kids would have liked this in Grade 9 or 10.
Date published: 2014-01-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Tedious start; Brilliant finish I found the first six lectures so tedious that I almost discontinued the course. However, I persisted and found the subsequent eighteen lectures to be brilliant. The final lectures; bogus arguments, use of statistics, use of probability in game theory and decision-making, explanation of the scientific method, and finally--lessons from the great thinkers--were brilliant! One lesson from the great philosophers--be persistent. I am glad I persisted with this excellent course.
Date published: 2013-12-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Substantial! In this series of lectures, Professor Patrick Grim succeeds in presenting simply the various facets of rationality: Aristotelian logic, heuristics, probability, the scientific method, etc. He also discusses irrational approaches, such as many found in advertising and rhetoric in general. His lectures not only include presentations but are also based on a workshop approach whereby he introduces questions or problems and asks the listener to press the ‘pause’ button and think things through. This original feature certainly enhances what one actually retains from the course. The potential buyer should be aware that the audio version is in fact the soundtrack of the video edition and that many references to tables and charts are therefore lost and require an additional effort by the listener. Overall, however, this series is very worthwhile and should prove interesting to all.
Date published: 2013-12-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant The best thing I've found anywhere on rhetoric, logical thinking and discernment. Pair it with a general grammar course and call it the Trivium.
Date published: 2013-11-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Much Better Than I Thought It Would Be Don't let the title fool you....Dr. Grim may be a professor of philosophy, and this course does touch on the thoughts of greatest philosophers in history, but this is really a 24 lecture mental toolkit on thinking rationally, identifying and avoiding fallacies, biases, and traps in statistical thinking, and much, much more. Grim's presentation style is clear, cogent, easy to follow, unemotional, with no annoying quirks such as repetitive head or hand movements, or overly dramatic speech styles that other lecturers have subjected me to. It will fit nicely on my bookshelf with the other courses in rational thinking that I have recommended below. This course is more than a toolkit, it's a guide for navigating an increasingly complicated world. I highly recommend this to everyone.
Date published: 2013-09-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well stocked toolbox This is one of the best programs I have watched in over 15 years of being a customer. Professor Grim blends intellect, imagination and creativity, not only as he presents his lectures, but he teaches how to connect with those tools, through practical examples and thought experiments throughout the course. You will have to get used to his presence as the professor evokes, at least in me, a quaint image of an American West gentleman of the late 19th Century who may have sat down to play poker with Wyatt Earp.
Date published: 2013-09-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Philosopher’s Toolkit: How to Be the Most Rati This course is valuable, well presented, engaging, and thorough for a survey course. It has been immensely valuable in assisting me in preparing a student to take the LSAT. Prof. Grim delves into and celebrates the basis of critical thinking, and fills his lectures with interesting examples its successful use. Critical thinking is presented as the basis of a great democracy, great innovations, and the general betterment of mankind. The discussions give specific ideas for tools to use in enhancing one's success in thinking critically. One of the best courses I have ever taken - from the perspective of one who has studied at both Yale and Harvard.
Date published: 2013-07-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sharpen your tools I like professor Grim's lecture style. He speaks in clear, simple declarative sentences. His logical flow is flawless. He explains deep concepts simply with clear examples. He uses visualization effectively to advance understanding. Even when listening to something I already feel I understand, his presentation crystallizes the concepts further. I personally had an "Aha" moment when he discussed visualization. Sometimes, just seeing is understanding. No wonder we say "I see" when we mean "I understand". From Ethos, Pathos, Logos and Aristotelian systemization of thought to tit for tat in game theory, Grim draws on the historical record to sharpen the tools in his kit. At the end of the course he reviews why he believes the great thinkers were great by describing the thinking tools they used most effectively. Just glancing at the notes from this last lecture will help you make more thoughtful decisions. This is truly a great course. Because it is a survey course, be warned that it contains a good deal of overlap with other Great Courses in its treatment of cognitive biases, argumentation, game theory, philosophy of science and other topics. Grim's style makes any review material just as enjoyable as new learning
Date published: 2013-06-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A++ MATERIAL AND PRESENTATION Extremely professional presentation...clear and no annoying mannerisms!
Date published: 2013-05-16
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good Start The first few lectures were really good - as I expected. I would rate them to be first year university level. Then they became too simple - I would say high school. But I love the Professor's style.
Date published: 2013-05-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Stellar Performance by Grim As much as I enjoyed professor Grim's "Philosophy of Mind: Brains, Consciousness, and Thinking Machines," for its treatment of a subject just outside the ambit of human knowledge, I enjoyed this, his latest course, for its eminent practicality within the scope of human reason. Vis-a-vis professor Grim's multifarious exercises in logic, I was able to catch various "blind spots" in my critical thinking skills that I had previously overlooked. Some of the exercises seemed risible and easy to me. Others, which seemed just as easy as these, found me either missing them or not having knowledge of the formal proofs underlying what I had a fairly intuitive grasp of. On whole, the course provided me with the extremely valuable experience of helping me to identify strengths and weaknesses within my own powers of reasoning. This course both satisfies the purpose of those wishing to review many of the formal logic concepts they learned in school or those new to the subject. I would further note that professor Grim possesses the rare ability of rendering the most difficult concepts into their most comprehensible terms, making his lectures at once enjoyable and accessible to all.
Date published: 2013-03-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Designed for a specific audience. Video download. In his introduction to THE PHILOSOPHER'S TOOLKIT, Dr. Grim states that his main purpose is to help viewers think more clearly. We now work in a "knowledge economy" where well thought-out opinions attract favorable attention. We are also assailed daily by self-interested claims designed to attract our votes or lighten our wallets. Obviously clear, informed thinking is a valuable commodity. But this course offers more, in my opinion. Clear thinking involves three closely-related activities: dealing with proffered opinions, individual analysis and persuading others. We balance all three seamlessly every work day, but they remain distinct skills. TOOLKIT pays more attention to analysis, while giving you a good head start on the other two. Finally, TOOLKIT covers a fourth element partially: creativity. Can philosophy or the biographies of great thinkers — Grim often uses both — help us accelerate the skill-acquisition process AND boost our native abilities in this department? Grim does not promise the sky. But he offers some solid pointers. Let's break them down. INDIVIDUAL ANALYSIS Elementary as it may seem, Grim covers the nature of concepts and propositions very well before launching on a clear, concise overview of Aristotle's logic and its centerpieces: the syllogism and square of opposition. For homeschoolers with children potentially interested in highly deductive disciplines like law or math, this section is particularly important. Aristotle's brand of airtight reasoning is rarely used in the more empirical physical or social sciences, of course. Grim does a good job of parsing out arguments through flow diagrams and distinguishing between dependent and independent reasons. Does Grim cover this subject exhaustively? No. The strength of TTC courses is that they offer quick overviews of complex subjects so that you do not quickly lose heart when hitting the books, if you want to go further. To quote a cliché "Expect a map; not the territory." ASSESSING OPINIONS AND PERSUADING The previous section on logic is obviously pertinent here. But avoiding falsehoods and detecting illogical reasoning are purely negative goals. Life often forces us to make choices with imperfect information or limited time. We are also influenced by subconscious desires and decisional shortcuts. These may or may not be "bad". Grim covers rhetoric, advertising, and psychology sufficiently to guide you further if you want. An exhaustive overview of specific mistake and bias types is not very productive. Much more useful is his explanations of bogus argument strategies, statistical spin, probability, decision theory, pseudo science and game theory. I'm repeating myself, I know, but do NOT expect detailed presentations of these complex subfields. What impressed me with TOOLKIT was how succinctly and clearly their practical aspects were explained. Listen to Grim carefully, review his detailed guidebook, and you are well-prepared to go forward from there. CREATIVITY This whole course is structured around the creative leverage provided by —VISUALIZATION: drawings, charts, matrices — SIMPLIFICATION: modelling, thought experiments, input-mechanism-output distinctions —PATTERN SEEKING through analogy within limits —SYSTEMATIC THINKING: statistics, probability, decision theory, frequent testing —SOCIAL THINKING: Seeing the same social phenomena from different perspectives, avoiding absolute good-bad simplifications. __________________ To sum up, Grim spends a lot of time explaining and evaluating common tactics used to "think outside the box" productively. Avoiding mistakes, when pushed too far, kills creativity. This course covers many disciplines in a good, but cursory way that is ideal for high school- or college-level students or for those who teach them. It's a wonderful resource at that level. For adult TTC clients, it is a good refresher, but will seriously disappoint if you are only interested in one topic like game theory or Aristotle's logic. Space is too limited for detail. If you train others, however, it offers great pointers. Grim is an excellent speaker who uses the "overview—presentation—recap" method very well. The driest speed bump is probably lectures 6-7 on Aristotle, but even there, the guidebook is a great supplement. Audio-only courses should therefore suffice even though this course is NOT passive entertainment. Without reading the guidebook, I would have been lost. Bravo, Dr. Grim.
Date published: 2013-03-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great return on investment I wish all Great Courses were this good. He definitely knows his stuff and presents it in a simple, clear style. Though this is irrelevant to the course itself, and having grown up in the West, his appearance is also an asset because he reminds me of a consummate ol' West gunfighter. Keep plugging holes in ignorance, professor!
Date published: 2013-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Strap Yourself In ! This is an amazing course -- Professor Grim has done himself proud. His other courses were great, this one even better. There are no fairy-tales from this Grim. My advice is to play each lecture twice -- there is so much to learn. This is not an easy course -- you'll sweat a bit, but that's good. Right? We've all heard of these folks who call themselves 'Life Coaches' -- No, Professor Patrick Grim is the REAL Life Coach. Bottom Line: Deep, Profound, Rewarding.
Date published: 2013-03-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exellent review This was an excellent review of a number of TC courses covering perception, argumentation, evidence evaluation, reasoning, mathematics, and decision making. It was a remarkable achievement for 24 lectures. Patrick Grim is probably my favorite TC professor. His other two courses (Philosophy of Mind and Questions of Value) were masterpieces of clarity, presentation and content, and this course was no exception. He has a wonderful sense of humor and is extremely knowledgable on a variety of subjects outside philosophy. Lectures go by quickly and most of the course can be grasped without the video portion (as in a commute) Students should note that the focus of this course is on rationality tools for humanity and not just the individual. As such, tools such as scientific experimentation or model making are also presented, though most individuals do not utilize these methods to test their conclusions. The lectures on probabilty and statistics, though clear and concise, focused more on basic concepts than the relevance to daily life. As such, examples were usually drawn from dice, playing cards, or simple distributions. The TC course 'Mathematics, Philosophy, and the Real World' (also a masterpiece) did a slightly better job of applying mathematics to the real world (examples included the mean survival rates for patients with cancer as well as probabilty and free will). In summary, this is a valuable course and a good overview of everything one should master to become a better problem solver. It also serves as a gateway to many other TC courses. I highly recommend it.
Date published: 2013-03-22
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