Critical Thinking & Information Literacy
Across the Curriculum
Reading Critically & Identifying Arguments in Literature
Philosophy 115 Assignment 2:
Instructor will have the students read some short story, or excerpt from a novel, or
possibly watch a scene from a movie that contains an argument. Students will then
be asked to identify the argument. Hereís an example:
Students read an excerpt from Chapter 4, Book V of The Brothers Karamazov, by Dostoevsky.
They were asked the following questions:
1. What is the main claim that Ivan seems to be arguing for?
2. What argument does Ivan offer in support of this claim?
3. Do you think Ivanís argument is a good one? That is,
is there any possible response to his argument?
If students come up with different argument/or different interpretations of the text,
the instructor can use this opportunity to discuss what some standards might be for
evaluating interpretations. If we disagree about how to interpret a story, what
kinds of evidence might be appealed to in defending an interpretation? Is there
only one right way to interpret a story? Are some interpretations better than others?