ILS 200 Spring 2020

Download Syllabus - ILS 200 S20 Promisel

What does it mean to think critically? In an 1894 report defending the freedom of professor
Richard Ely to promote a Socialist agenda on campus, then-President of UW-Madison, Charles Kendall
Adams, wrote: “Whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere, we believe the great
state University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by
which alone the truth can be found.” This process of “sifting and winnowing” is a great metaphor for
critical thought and has a distinguished tradition at UW-Madison. The aim of this course is to continue
this tradition. In other words, we will learn what it means to “sift and winnow” and how to express the
fruits of this process persuasively.
This course will achieve these goals by exploring the arguments of famous political speeches.
We will observe critical thought and persuasion “in action” by reading, rehearsing, scrutinizing, and
imitating some of the greatest speeches in our collective heritage. By engaging an array of speeches
meant to inspire, provoke, contest, and transform their audiences, we will learn the principles of what
constitutes an effective argument. In addition, we will practice drafting, delivering, and arguing
speeches of our own creation and will examine the relationship between arguments that seek truth and
arguments that seek to persuade. Finally, to pay homage to Alexander Meiklejohn, the founder of ILS
and author of Free Speech and Its Relation to Self-Government (1947), we will examine threats to critical
thinking, including limitations on free speech and the tyranny of majority opinion.