Ashleigh Hastings studies media and politics at Melbourne Uni. Her hobbies include singing in inappropriate places, dying her hair inappropriate colours and struggling to sum herself up in two sentences.
Reason is a level 1 Arts subject taught in semester 1. Reason is also an Arts foundation subject, meaning it’s designed to help you develop basic analytical skills, critical thinking and the conventions of academic writing. These skills will come in handy later on in your degree. In my experience, Reason definitely fulfilled this purpose. Every Bachelor of Arts student must choose one out of six Arts foundation subjects in their first year, so why not make it something interesting?
Reason covers both the history and philosophy of reason from Ancient Greece to the present day. This subject also explores tensions between our passionate and rational sides, and between science and faith.
Don’t be alarmed if the somewhat heavy philosophical content at the start of the course is a challenge. Plato and Aristotle form a good foundation for the weeks to come and things won’t stay so old fashioned forever. Thankfully, Reason jumps quickly through time to the Enlightenment period, the abolition of the slave trade, first-wave feminism and eventually lands in modern debates around the roles of science and religion. This broad range of content is covered by frequently changing lecturers, so the whole subject won’t be ruined if one topic doesn’t suit you.
Assessment wise, this was my least stressful subject in the daunting first ever semester at university. The assessment for Reason consists of:
- A Bibliographic Exercise (500 words) worth 15% and due in Week 5
- An essay (2,000 words) worth 45% and due in Week 9
- A take-home exam (which was in essay form in 2015) worth 40% and due during the exam period
You can find more information in the handbook here.
Taking Reason means you must attend three skills workshops in addition to the regular lectures and tutorials. A special feature included in all the Arts foundation subjects, skills workshops are sessions covering basics like using the library, structuring your essays and avoiding plagiarism. These workshops are admittedly a little boring, but they are useful and compulsory. Like, fail if you don’t go compulsory.
Perhaps not surprisingly given the vast content, I found Reason very intimidating to begin with. We moved through topics so quickly that I felt like my grasp on the content was too weak. But don’t be discouraged! After my first assessment was returned, I realised that Reason is not about memorising facts and dates, it’s about learning to argue and evaluate well! Even better, the later assessments give you a lot of freedom to write about things that interest you.
Why you should take it
Reason really does improve your rational argumentative skills. Because the whole subject focuses on thinkers who analyse reasoning, your attention is continually drawn to the flaws and hidden gaps in the way people argue. Before you know it, this new way of thinking about reason will be reflected in all your essays, not just the ones for this subject. Reason is basically ‘critical thinking’ 101 – a must for any argumentative Arts student who plans to write critical essays in the future. For these reasons (pun intended), this subject is definitely one to consider.