Critical Thinking (PHIL*2100)
Term: Fall 2012
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. 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 The Pocket Guide to Critical Thinking. 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, scientific method, bad reasoning. It also
introduces important and useful concepts in the psychological study of reasoning.
Classes will be lecture-based, with plenty of opportunity for students to raise questions.
The ultimate objective of the course is practical: to help you develop useful tools for
reasoning in any context.