Critical Thinking (PHIL*2100) | College of Arts

Critical Thinking (PHIL*2100)

Code and section: PHIL*2100*01

Term: Winter 2020

Instructor: Don Dedrick


An argument is a set of statements (the premises of the argument) that is intended to provide rational support for some further statement (the conclusion of the argument). We use arguments to convince ourselves and others that some view or position is rationally supported. By “rationally supported” we mean “based on good reasons.” The purpose of a critical thinking class is to make you better at identifying, analyzing, criticizing, writing about, and constructing arguments. The core text for this course is THow to Reason. It provides the basic tools for recognizing, analyzing, and criticizing arguments. The other course text is How To Think About Weird Things. The authors of this book focus on various pseudoscientific topics in order to emphasize where people tend to go wrong when they come to believe weird things (e.g. that a flashing light is an alien UFO; that the world was created 8000 years ago, that truth is what you believe is true, that there is nothing special about science as opposed to, say, astrology). The course ranges widely over a number of important philosophical topics: truth, knowledge, bad reasoning. It also introduces important and useful concepts in the psychological study of reasoning as well as basic logical concepts. The course is lecture-based, with plenty of opportunity for students to raise questions and to engage in argument. Tutorials, described below, occur once a week, at various times. Lectures and tutorials differ in their goals and purpose: lectures are designed to introduce students to basic concepts in a somewhat decontextualized way; tutorials are designed to give students a chance to critically assess longer pieces from magazines, the internet, academic writing, etc. The ultimate objective of the course is practical: to help the student develop useful tools for reasoning in any context. 


Course outline

The University of Guelph resides on the land of the Between the Lakes Treaty No. 3, the territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit. This land is part of the Dish with One Spoon, a covenant between Indigenous nations to live peaceably on the territories of the Great Lakes region. We recognize that today this gathering place is home to many First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples and acknowledging them reminds us of our collective responsibility to the land where we learn, live and work.