Stanford “Rigorous and Precise Thinking Course”

Source: Stanford website, Sep 2012

1. We will think about learning from the ground up. This includes how we discover or invent as a species, and how one (and you in particular) might learn in this particular undergraduate environment. What are possible purposes of an education, and of learning? Is the way you think altered by what you think about? Is it possible to shape your way of thinking in a conscious way? How will you shape the next four years of your life, and how will they shape you?

2. We will consider the particular way of thinking common to the “formal sciences”, which includes much of mathematics and computer science; theoretical physics; much of statistics; parts of philosophy; and more. What is this “structural” way of thinking? In what ways does thinking in this particular way sharpen your mind? (Are there costs?)

3. Writing, and more generally expressing yourself in a thoughtful, convincing manner, is central to the thinking process. Some believe that writing is unrelated to scientific thinking, but there is no basis for this. Writing well is important not just for convincing others; it can clarify your own thinking. We will also discuss why and how writing is essential to thinking. This course is designed to make you a better and more disciplined writer.

Thinking Matters Learning Goals

This course also serves to satisfy your Thinking Matters requirement. As such, students in this course will be expected to:

Develop a sense for what a genuine question or problem is, and what it means to think about an important idea with the sort of disciplined, creative, and critical reasoning characteristic of a university-trained mind.


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