The Keefer Brain Gymnasium

Professor Julia Keefer

Saturday 2:00 to 4:30 p.m.

Writing Workshop II

How can you make your brain work better?

What is the best cognitive process and performance for your career?

How can you develop your optimal domain?

How can you be more creative?

What is the best brain workout for your gray matter?

Check out MIT's Brain Gymnasium

Writing workshop II combines intensive writing, reading, and research around the theme of Brain Gymnasiums.

Strength Endurance Coordination Focus Flexibility Speed Posture
The ability to identify, analyse, excamine and lift a thought and defend its meaning against the resistance of argumentation. This skill is best developed through Aristotelian rhetoric. Mental endurance is required to sustain intellectual activity against boredom, lethargy, frustration, hyperactivity, overstimulation. Coordination is the organization of parts into an efficient, working whole, which involves changes in speed, dynamics, resistance, spatial patterning and points of view.

Focus is the ability to concentrate on one idea to the exclusion of others. A dancer focuses on a spot on the wall when executing pirouettes, a useful cognitive application when surfing.


Flexibility is the ability to see all sides of an issue, exceeding the limits of dogma, fear, and prejudice. Because of the vast amount of information we must get through, it is important to develop speed. Aerobic training can help increase our ability to read, write and think quickly.

Posture refers to the body's alignment in relation to gravity, space and motion. Mental posture establishes voice or presence.


In the Brain Gymnasium, we work on mindbody conditioning, assessing and understanding our cognitive domains, and changing our cerebral grooves for more potent creativity. Creativity has three stages: 1) Childlike play and wonder where we become as free and careless as a child playing; 2) Working in our cognitive domain with the appropriate combination of logical and translogical thinking such as homospatial and Janusian processes, (which can lead to frustration, and angst as repressed unconscious drives are uncovered and designing our structure with right and left brain synchronicity; 3) Completing and presenting our work to an audience which can necessitate courage and fearlessness if the work is truly creative because it would go against the status quo. Creativity is closely related to destruction and therefore the mind must be constantly erased through meditation and cognitive colonics.

Extended Lectures:
Sharpen Argumentation at: and, /argue1.html and /argue2.html, and /basic.html


To complete a 15-20 page college research paper with a 3 page bibliography
To explore a personal methodology for creativity and research from brainstorming
To gather, organize and evaluate primary and secondary sources online, in the library, the community and through empirical research such as interviews and investigation
To engage in close and survey reading and to paraphrase, summarize, and integrate sources into personal research
To develop and refine a thesis
To structure the categories of an outline
To develop and refine critical and argumentative faculties
To establish credibility through research, audience analysis, (beliefs, values, attitudes and behaviors), critical thinking, decision making and persuasive tactics
To learn the constructs of classical (Aristotle) and contemporary (Toulmin, Roger, Monroe, Boolean, Cyber) argumentation
To constructively question and defend a claim or syllogism, identifying logical fallacies
To practice debates in workshop (cooperative and adverarial) and improve oral communication skills
To understand advocacy through role playing and argumentative writing in the voice of alter ego
To analyse media, politics, law, current events, religion, philosophy, literature, science, history in terms of controversy, conflict and conversion
To improve writing skills through improvisational, poetic and personal writing
To create a distinctive, original expository style, using MLA or APA parenthetical documentation

How the Internet Changes the Way We Think
Technical Writing and the Internet

Course Requirements:

Midterm: A 5-8 page midterm paper is due on a topic related to the above questions by February 28.

Final Paper: A 15 page final paper is due April 29. You choose the topic but it must be an argumentative, expository research paper in MLA or APA style with some descriptive and narrative writing to enhance originality.

Attendance: If you want to get an A, you cannot miss more than one class.

Weekly writing: You must submit at least 2-3 pages of writing every week.

Core Material and Required Reading:

Core material refers to the books we all read: Owner's Manual for the Brain, for the latest developments in Cognitive Science, Creativity and Madness, for an exploration of the cognitive dilemmas surrounding creativity in the arts and sciences, and With Good Reason, a logic book that clarifies common logical fallacies that cloud our thinking. In addition, you will need as reference the college handbook and style manual, APA or MLA of your chosen major. You should incorporate the concepts from the core material in both the midterm and the final paper.

Independent Research

Writing Workshop II is primarily a writing class but the special objectives of this level are to produce a college-level research paper on a specific original project with a 3 page bibliography, including books, articles, interviews, multi-media and community resources. Click on to the other WWII classes over the years at the Keefer web site to see what other students have done.

The Six Cognitive Domains
Linguistic Visual/Spatial Logical/Mathematical Kinesthetic Rhythmic/Musical Personal
Words Objects/Images Numbers/Symbols Bodies Sound People
Syntax Dimensions Sequences/Equations Movement Dynamics/Speed Understanding self and others

Since WWII is a writing class, the Brain Gymnasium is a way for you to develop your linguistic abilities using the other domains.For example, if you are more visual/spatial, use tables, graphs, collages, drawings, put original graphics into your webfolio, work on descriptive studies, consider writing novels. If you are more logical, always work with outlines, analyse your argments, build your linguistic house and give yourself plenty of time. If you are more kinesthetic, work out hard before you sit down to write, to get rid of excess energy or you may become one of the millions of writers addicted to drugs, alcohol etc. But don't exhaust yourself or you will fall asleep. Try working with 2 large computers at once to absorb more kinesthetic energy. When you jog, bike, and hike try to be alone as much as possible so you can think about your writing. Plan time to let it all come out at once like a cerebral snowstorm. If you are rhythmic, bring a tape recorder wherever you go, do oral presentations as much as possible and choose time-centered projects and genres. If your strengths are in the personal domain, do research with interviews, work on case studies and try collaborative writing. If you write best alone, try to find the silence, space and solitude or a very strong focus to block out noise and distractions.

None of the above hypotheses are truly scientific. They are only there to make you think, existing as rules to be broken or observations to be questioned.

Every class session consists of in-class writing, discussion, lectures, presentations and visits to the library. Remember that writing is due for every class so don't come empty-handed.

January 21: Diagnostic.

January 28 : Intro to theme, web site and each other. Write proposals for your research project for next week. Using your wildest imagination, construct an ideal Brain Gymnasium, (university, training center, playground and/or palace) to make you the smartest, most successful, most creative person in your chosen career. There are no economic constraints so try to exceed the norm and become even better than the best. Then while drawing interlocking figure eights, listen to an article and then write about it afterwards. Discussion and research in the lab. Choose a chapter from the Owner's Manual and research it for an oral and written presentation for next week. Naturally everything should apply to your area of research. Start collecting original poems, graphics, interviews etc. for the webfolio. Review of different kinds of writing--descriptive, narrative, lyrical, dramatic, expository and argumentative.

February 4: In-class writing on self-directed learning. Presentation of Owner's Manual for the Brain
individual projects. Research in the computer lab and Bobst. Lecture on claims of fact, value and policy.

February 11: Library trip to gather as many resources as possible. Individual conferences on midterm. Read Creativity and Madness.

February 18: Discussion and writing on Creativity and Madness. Conferences on midterms.

February 25: Strengthen argumentation for midterms.

For the rest of the semester, feel free to invent your own creative writing assignments, brain gymnasium exercises and class workshops for extra credit. : Although Writing Workshop II is a research course with stringent academic requirements, it should also be a time to explore the way you think, to develop your writing style, and to discover a personal methodology that works for you. As you write and improve your research skills, think about the following questions: 1) Do you prefer to build your own house or to evaluate, analyse and synthesize the contruction of others'? (Creative vs. Critical Thinking) 2) Do you start with a view of the big picture or do you need to piece together the details before you can understand what you're talking about? (Deductive vs. Inductive Thinking) 3) Do you prefer to see, read, hear or feel things? (Sensory Preferences) 4) Do you like clear-cut goals and definitions or do you prefer to wrestle with ambiguity, surprising yourself with different shades of meaning and interpretation? 5) Are you trapped in a compulsive rigidity of formulas and protocol or are you lost in a chaotic wilderness of creativity? 6) Are you afraid to play and make a fool of yourself or are you so wild you can't conform to anything? 7)Do you need more structure or do you need to let go?

March 4: Midterms due. Bring three copies for cross-editing and a self-evaluation.

March 11: Relax and research how to still and empty the brain, then open it up again to commit to your final project.3 page bibliography, outlines and proposals due for final 15 page paper. In-class writing and creative exercises.

March 25: Lecture on interviewing and developing original sources.

April 1: Bring interviews.

April 8: Oral Presentations.

April 15: Oral Presentations.

April 22: Cross-editing.




Keefer's Cyber-Logic Boot Camp

1)Inductive/deductive accordion
2) Pirouettes:Keeping your spot in a nonlinear world, developing speed and focus
3)Weaving: propositional logic through all evidence, refining and developing thesis
4)Searching for the Big 3 fallacies of ambiguity, presumption and relevance
5)Using Boolean logic and Venn diagrams to limit, expand and organize specific areas of research, especially online
6)Analysing the Persuasive Power of Images, including the homospatial imagery of collages
7)Using hypertext to make the surfer follow Your waves

Lecture and Learning Objectives: To understand the origin of claims.

First of all, we must be able to distinguish arguments/propositions/claims from other sentences such as questions (Are suicide bombers ever afraid to die?), proposals (Let's kill them.), suggestions (We recommend that you workout every day.), commands (Don't shop at Shoprite.), and exclamations (The Middle East is a bloodbath!) An argument is a group of statements, one or more of which (the premises) are claimed to provide support for, or reasons to believe, one of the others (the conclusion.) So warnings, statements of belief or opinion, loosely associated statements, reports, expository passages, illustrations, conditional statements and explanations are not arguments by themselves although they may lead to arguments. For example, a conditional statement can form the major premise of a conditional or hypothetical syllogism, but it is not an argument on its own. "If cigarette companies publish warning labels, then smokers assume the risk of smoking. Cigarette companies do publish warning labels. Therefore, smokers assume the risk of smoking."

To find out if we really have an argument we should 1) rule out typical kinds of non-arguments, 2) examine indicators such as therefore, it follows that, because, since etc. and 3) most importantly, the presence of an inferential relationship between the statements. The purpose of logic is to allow us to develop methods and techniques to distinguish good arguments from bad. Here is an example: All crimes are violations of the law. Rape is a crime. Therefore rape is a violation of the law. Symbolically, it is stated as A equals B. C equals A. Therefore C equals B. But the following is bad: Some crimes are misdemeanors. Rape is a crime. Therefore rape is a misdemeanor. This is a valid form: All A are B. All B are C. Therefore, all A are C. This is invalid: All A are B. All C are B. Therefore all A are C. For example: All cats are animals. All dogs are animals. Therefore, all cats are dogs. Remember this again when we go into testing soundness of deductive arguments.

You must be able to distinguish premises or claimed evidence (Toulmin's data or grounds) from conclusion or what is claimed to follow from the evidence. An inference is the reasoning expressed in an argument. Some arguments have more than one conclusion or more than two premises and can be described syllogistically, horizontally, vertically, in clusters, symbolically as alphabetical letters or Venn diagrams. Once we have clearly recognized the argument, it is then important to categorize it into induction or deduction. While some people often generalize and say deduction moves from general to specific, and induction from specific to general, this is not always true.

A deductive argument is one in which the premises are claimed to support the conclusion in such a way that if they are assumed true, it is impossible for the conclusion to be false, so that the conclusion follows by necessity. An inductive argument is an argument in which the premises are claimed to support the conclusion in such a way that if they are assumed true, it is improbable that the conclusion is false. Five examples of arguments that are typically deductive are arguments based on math, arguments from definition, and categorical, hypothetical or conditional, and disjunctive syllogisms. Pure math is deductive but statistics are inductive. Toulmin's method is largely inductive because his system is a rebellion against the rigors of formal logic and his 6 part chain includes a qualifier.
A categorical syllogism is a syllogism in which each statement begins with one of the words "all, no, or some. "All cats are animals. Some cats are black and white. Therefore some animals are black and white." Or use the famous Socrates syllogism "All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore Socrates is mortal." Socrates falls into the "some" category. A categorical syllogism relates two classes or categories, denoted respectively by the subject term and predicate term, and the proposition asserts that either all or part of the class denoted by the subject term is included in or excluded from the class denoted by the predicate term. We have four forms: All S are P. No S are P. Some S are P. Some S are not P. A hypothetical or conditional syllogism is a syllogism having a conditional statement for one or both premises. A disjunctive syllogism is a syllogism having a disjunctive statement for one of its premises: "Either you are with the terrorists or you are with the US and its allies. You are not with the US and its allies. Therefore you must be with the terrorists." Then try to construct a conditional syllogism to determine how such rogue states might be punished. In everyday conversation it is hard to always detect the purity of syllogistic argument. An enthymeme is an argument missing a premise or conclusion, but usually the missing element is implied. "The corporate income tax should be abolished; it encourages waste and high prices." The missing element is whatever encourages waste and high prices.

In general, inductive arguments are such that the content of the conclusion is in some way intended to "go beyond" the content of the premises. Inductive arguments include predictions about the future, arguments from analogy, inductive generalizations, (because some beans from the bag are chocolate, it is likely they are all chocolate,) arguments from authority (he could be stupid or misinformed in spite of his rep!), argument based on signs (or coexistential as the CT text says), and causal inference which isnÕt exactly the same as a conditional statement or hypothetical or conditional syllogism. In science, the discovery of a law of nature is generally considered to be inductive, while its application is deductive, proceeding from a true, valid premise.

Once we categorize arguments, we must then analyze them. We need to look at two things: the claim that evidence exists, and what kind of evidence that is, and the claim that the alleged evidence actually supports that claim. Deductive arguments are analyzed as valid or invalid, sound, or unsound. To test the validity of an argument, we must examine whether the premises support the conclusion in such away that if they are assumed true, it is impossible for the conclusion to be false. Here is an example of an invalid argument having true premises and a true conclusion: "All banks are financial organizations. Wells Fargo is a financial organization. Therefore, Wells Fargo is a bank." Any deductive argument having true premises and a false conclusion is obviously invalid. But you can have a valid argument that is unsound such as: "All wines are soft drinks. Ginger ale is a wine. Therefore ginger ale is a soft drink."

A sound argument is a deductive argument that is valid and has all true premises.

Inductive arguments are evaluated as weak/strong or cogent/uncogent. Thus, a strong inductive argument is: "This barrel contains one hundred apples. 80 apples selected at random were found to be ripe. Therefore, probably all one hundred apples are ripe." A weaker version is as follows: "This barrel contains one hundred apples. Three apples selected at random were found to be ripe. Therefore, probably all one hundred apples are ripe." Hence, strength and weakness, unlike validity and soundness, relate to degrees. A cogent argument is an inductive argument that is strong and has all true premises, the inductive analogue of a sound deductive argument. Classically it is without qualification, but Toulmin added a qualifier to his reasoning chain. However for classical cogency, the premises must not only be true but also not overlook some important factor that outweighs the given evidence and requires a different conclusion.

When you are debating in a rush, keep asking these two questions: Do the premises (data, grounds) support the conclusion (claim)? Are all the premises true? As you write research papers or debate you will develop extended arguments such as: "American Doctors who attend elderly people in nursing homes in NY State in 2002 often prescribe tranquilizers to keep these people immobile. This practice is often unwarranted, and it often impairs the health of the patients. These tranquilizers often have damaging side effects in that they accentuate the symptoms of senility, and they increase the likelihood of a dangerous fall because they produce unsteadiness in walking. Furthermore, since these medications produce immobility, they increase the risk of bedsores. Doctors at the Center for Aging and Health say that physicians who care for the elderly are simply prescribing too much medication."
Often we get snowed under in our evidence and we drown instead of resurfacing to test the premises or data and use it to back up our claim or proposition.

To review: The Toulmin model--data, warrant, backing, qualifier, reservation and claim--is more flexible and field dependent than formal logic but there are some similarities. The data function like evidence and premises on which the argument is based. The claim is the conclusion. The warrant states the reasoning used to move from the data to the claim, and it functions like an inference. The backing consists of facts or information used to support the inference made in the warrant. The qualifier modifies the claim and indicates the rational strength the arguer attributes to it. The reservation states circumstances or conditions in which the claim would not be true. The Toulmin model often presents difficulties such as misidentifying unstated warrants, confusing the data and the warrant, confusing data and backing, and applying incorrect standards to diagrams of complex and subtle arguments.

Lecture and Learning Objectives: To further your study of argumentation, comparing Aristotle to Toulmin.

In an age when we are submerged with information twenty four hours a day, the study of logic is essential-- not only traditional informal logic, but also simplified formal logic, so that we can evaluate the information we receive and create.The specific nature of web design with complementary graphics, bullets, different colors and fonts emphasizes lists and facts as opposed to linear connected thinking through traditional linguistic syntax has its own persuasive power, but like informal fallacies, it can also mislead and deceive. The hypertext links open up a multidisciplinary world which needs to be defined, limited and organized for purposes of research and understanding. Inter-, cross- and trans-disciplinary approaches can be clarified through Boolean logic and Venn diagrams.

Traditional logic first began with Aristotle (born 384 B.C.) who taught and wrote his treatises to explain his system of thinking and to refute the sophistry of emotional rhetoricians like Isocrates. A student of Plato and the son of a physician, Aristotle had a lifelong interest in empirically-based knowledge. He was a great categorizer and divided knowledge into 4 categories:1) theoretical, physics, math and theology, 2) practical, politics and ethics, 3) productive, arts, crafts and medicine, and 4) organa, or tools of methodology, logic and dialectic. He used his methodology to write the Poetics, the Physic, the Logic, the Metaphysic so that the content was multidisciplinary but his method of inquiry was similar. He divided rhetoric into three species: deliberative (future), judicial (past), and epideictic (not time bound but incite the audience to praise or blame.) Rhetoric was an indispensable part of public life in Athens and remained a potentiality, a way of constantly evaluating knowledge through dialectic, not dogmatic means. Rhetoric deals with probabilities and uses evidence and logic to convince.

Traditional Rhetoric began in a confined place and time-- Classical Athens with a specific audience of free men. Cyber rhetoric exists in perpetual time and malleable space with an unpredictable global audience. The only sure thing is that everyone is trying to sell something-- either a product or themselves or their way of doing things. However rhetoric is still judged in terms of Aristotle's qualities of correctness, clarity, ornamentation and propriety in order to prove, to delight, and to move. (Click here for synopsis and excerpts of Aristotle's work.)

The Syllogism (Deductive): All men are mortal. (the general principle)
Socrates is a man. (the case)
Therefore, Socrates is mortal. (the conclusion)
Premises must follow by NECESSITY, while in Inductive Syllogisms, they follow by PROBABILITY:
These candies come from that bag.
All the candies in that bag are chocolate.
Therefore, these candies are chocolate.

There are often fallacies in inductive syllogisms because that second clause cannot always be proven. One jumps from a case study to a general principle too quickly, as in many clinical medical trials with pharmaceutical sponsorship. As the world becomes more complex and invisible, deductive syllogisms are harder to prove.

Today we use rhetoric to sell our products and ourselves; Aristotle tried to use rhetoric to express logic which sincerely searched for the truth. Since truth in the twentieth century has been relative, to say the least, most leaders are really persuading people to worship the god of consumerism. Logical fallacies are exploited ruthlessly, as in courts of law. (Cases of O.J.Simpson, the Menendez brothers etc.)

Over the years rhetoric has become more complex. Authorities such as the Church, Hitler, Mao Tse Tung et al have had supreme persuasive abilities because of their institutional and/or personal power. "Do what I say because I say it." Rhetoric is also more directly connected to the manipulation of language.

In 1958 the British philosopher Stephen Toulmin realized that this form of argumentation is not what one encounters when listening to a public speech, arguing with a roommate about what music to listen to, or talking politics at a bar. Consequently, Toulmin developed his theory in order to explain how argumentation occurs in the natural process of everyday argument. Consequently, Toulmin wanted to explain how real people (not philosophers) argue. Although Toulmin's position on formal logic -- that formal rules of logic do not fit well with common practices of argument -- may seem obvious, one must remember the time period in which Toulmin developed his theory. Students of public speaking, rhetoric, and logic were only taught formal logic. Using a contemporary example to illustrate: Students were taught how to program a computer before they were taught how to click a mouse. When one recognizes the traditions of the time period, Toulmin's theory of argument seems even more revolutionary.

Toulmin developed his system of argumentation, in part to respond to twentieth century relativity, field specialization, and the need to attach data to every claim, especially in the areas of law and medicine. To understand the Toulmin model, think of the quck chain of reasoning you would need to make in an Emergency Room or a criminal trial, where you would move empirically from data to warrant to backing to qualifier to reservation to grounds to claim. An appropriate claim requires (a) initial grounds for the argument (b) a warrant that allows the speaker to move from grounds to claim (c) a qualifier that states the "strength" of the claim (d) reservations or rebuttals that state the exceptions to the claim. You can also reverse the order as follows:

The first element is the claim. The claim of the argument is the conclusion that someone is trying to justify in the argument.
The second element is the grounds . The grounds of an argument are the facts on which the argument is based.
The third element of the argument is the warrant. The warrant of the argument assesses whether or not the claim is legitimate based on the grounds.
The fourth element is the backing. The backing of the argument gives additional support for a warrant by answering different questions.
The modal qualifier is the fifth element of the argument. The modal qualifier indicates the strength of the leap from the data to the warrant.
The sixth and final element of the argument is the rebuttal. The rebuttal occurs when the leap from grounds to claim does not appear to be legitimate.

Ideally you want to be familiar with Aristotle's more formal reasoning, Toulmin's chain of reasoning from data to claim, and contemporary theories and applications of cyberargumentation.

In cyberspace we can't rely on the pitch and resonance of our voices, the warmth of our facial expression, the impressives stature of our bodies and the expense of our wardrobe to convince people to believe us. We have to convince with the speed, frequency and prevalence of our messages and the hypnotic, timely and informative nature of our web sites.

Discussions in Cognitive Science:Aaron Dobbs, Yuko Oyama, Lost Dreams by Felix Lipov

Students Brain Gyms

Classical Thinkers on Intelligence


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