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PHILOS-106 - Critical Reasoning - Andrew Jones-Cathcart


Course: Critical Reasoning
Professor: Dr. Andrew Jones-Cathcart
Format: Online

Bassham et al. Critical Thinking: A Student’s Introduction. 5th Ed. McGraw Hill, 2012. ISBN: 9780078038310. (The fourth edition is also acceptable.)

Note: This is not a complete syllabus, but only an orientation letter. The complete syllabus will be available within Canvas at the start of the semester.


Although students should usually contact me through the Canvas messaging feature contained within the course, should problems arise please contact me at This e-mail can also be used for messaging me prior to the start of the semester.


Course Description 

Are you a good thinker? Are you certain that the reasons you have for believing what you do are good ones? How can you tell? What sets you apart from those whom you might see as “bad” or “irrational” thinkers?

Certainly, all of us have different opinions on a wide variety of subjects, whether they have to do with moral and political problems (e.g. reproductive rights, gay marriage, the justification to go to war), religious questions, (e.g. “Only Jesus saves,” “There is no God”), aesthetic concerns (e.g. “That haircut looks horrible on you!”, “ Picasso is a great painter”), and general issues in our culture (e.g. “The First Amendment protects my right to burn the flag during war time,” “No one should eat meat,” or “Buy Crest: it’s better!”). These opinions are not just conveyed through personal contact, but also through books, political pamphlets, advertisements, lobbying, telemarketing, e-mails, radio and television broadcasts, movies, and video games. But whose opinions should we believe and why? Is it the case that every person’s opinion is just as good as another’s? Or is there a way of differentiating between good and bad opinions? What, if anything, might help us figure out which opinions to accept and which to disregard? How do we avoid being taken advantage of in our everyday lives?

Generally, good critical thinking requires that our beliefs be adequately supported by good evidence. Another way of putting this is to say that we ought ideally to base our convictions on facts, not hearsay, arguments and not irrational conjecture or feeling.

This course aims to develop our critical thinking skills and help us understand what it means to be a rational being in an increasingly complex and confusing world. We will look at the different--and sometimes confusing ways--we use language to think, reason, and communicate. We will learn various techniques to read and analyze English language texts, e.g. newspapers, letters to the editor, court decisions, etc. In particular, we will become more adept at identifying and critically evaluating different types of arguments (both deductive and inductive) which are often used to influence our numerous beliefs about the world. In addition, we will spend a good deal of time studying examples of bad reasoning (formal and informal fallacies) so that we might not only become more efficient at spotting other people's bad reasoning, but also so that we can begin to recognize (and overcome) our own. We will also gain a general understanding of the different ways in which reasoning is used in different fields of study, such as law, politics, and the various sciences.

Required Textbooks

Bassham et al. Critical Thinking: A Student’s Introduction. 5th Ed. McGraw Hill, 2012. ISBN: 9780078038310. (The fourth edition is also acceptable.)

Other required texts will be assigned as webpages, etc.

Overall Student Learning Outcome

Apply critical thinking standards to distinguish good arguments from bad arguments, and better arguments from worse. This will involve being able to distinguish common fallacies (mistakes in reasoning) encountered in everyday life, and the ability to articulate the mistake.

Course Objectives

  1. Measure the important role critical thinking plays in everyday decision making.
  2. Define basic logical concepts such as argument, validity, invalidity, deduction, induction, etc.
  3. Categorize language-related problems that commonly occur within arguments (e.g., ambiguity, vagueness, equivocation, inflammatory language, etc.). 
  4. Recognize arguments in the media, newspapers, political speeches, and college course curriculum, and will be able to assess the acceptability of the premises, their relevance to the conclusion, and the extent to which they support that conclusion.
  5. Consider an argument encountered in everyday life, and will be able to construct a sustained argument or critical essay in response, using critical thinking standards.

Students will be expected to apply these critical thinking skills in their writing and to construct a thesis offering evidence in support of their thesis in various writing assignments in this course.

Grade Calculations

The grade will be factored in the following manner:

  • 4 Tests – 100 points each, for a total of 400 points.
  • Final – 150 points
  • 1 Paper – 50 points
  • Class Discussions, Class Participation - 80 points
  • There will be five discussions this semester. All the discussions will be worth 10 points.

Total points = 680