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Teaching Philosophy

Volume 43, Issue 1, March 2020

Shelagh Crooks
Pages 1-27

The Concept of Argument in Philosophy as a Threshold for Learners

It is commonplace for undergraduate students to find certain concepts inherent to the disciplines of study troublesome. While some concepts are troublesome simply because they represent new vocabulary for the students, other concepts are troublesome in a more significant sense. Concepts of this kind are troublesome because they highlight an aspect of the deep structure of the discipline, a way of thinking and inquiry, that the students are likely to find strange and even, counter-intuitive, relative to their own pre-existing conceptual frameworks. In this paper, I will argue that the concept of ‘argument’ in the discipline of philosophy, is one such concept. To make the case for this, I will be drawing upon a relatively new and important framework for inquiry into troublesome disciplinary concepts, known as “threshold concept theory” (Meyer and Land 2006, 2008). In addition, I propose to consider the implications, in terms of the design of curriculum and pedagogy for the philosophy classroom, of conceiving argument in threshold concept terms.

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