Monday, September 23, 2013

Review: "Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher" -- A gem of a critical thinking game

by Derek Spencer

I don't know about you, but I think looking at logical arguments and probing for weaknesses is a pretty good time. It's also the sort of thing that keeps critical thinking skills sharp.

In Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher, a flash-based game you can play in your web browser, you play as the titular character (who, it turns out, is actually an accountant) as you dissect the arguments of some of history's greatest philosophers in search of the true source of morality.

But you won't go it alone! Socrates' daughter, Ariadne, a philosophy student herself, will be by your side to offer advice and help you focus your inquiries.

A typical scenario unfolds as follows: First, a philosopher will present his ideas. Next, you'll have the opportunity to ask some questions — you can ask the philosopher to clarify what he just said, provide evidence to back up his claim, or explain the relevance to his argument of a particular point. If you question the right portion of an argument in the right way, the philosopher might update a statement, explicitly state assumed premises, or remove statements altogether.

You also might open up a new "idea" which you can use to attack his argument. If you think you know the weak point of a philosopher's argument, you can challenge that statement using one of your ideas from the "Idea Slate." If you're right, you'll either force the philosopher to present a refined version of his argument that takes your objections into account, or you'll prove his argument to be flawed — thus progressing to the next philosopher. If you're wrong, you'll take a hit to your "Credibility Meter." If your credibility runs out, it's game over.

Snappy dialogue and entertaining animations add to the fun factor. Sometimes it's difficult to tell which ideas should be used against which premises, however. When I played, there were several instances in which I knew what I should say to prove an argument was flawed, but it wasn't always clear which idea to use to cause Socrates to make that point.

Students could use this game to develop their critical thinking skills. The game can also help students meet Common Core State Standard #8 under Reading: Informational Text for grades 6 – 10:
There are three uses of (very) mild profanity in the game, so do please take that into account before recommending it to students. If I were to give it a movie-style content rating, I'd rate it PG.

If you decide to give the game a try, I'd love to hear what you think of it! And if you want to build students' logical thinking skills further, why not look into our book Rhetoric, Logic, & Argumentation?

Also . . . Immanuel Kant is one tough cookie.

Derek Spencer is a Marketing Communications Associate at Prestwick House.

No comments: