Philosophy 1100: Critical Thinking
Summarized Class Notes
1. Read the passage carefully several times, making sure that you understand it.
2. Confirm that the passage you are dealing with actually contains an argument. It
contains an argument if, and only if, the author is trying to support a position with
claims offered in its defense.
3. Identify the main conclusion, the premises used to support that conclusion, and any
sub-arguments put forward to support those premises. Indicator words should help.
Context may also be helpful. In a context in which one person argues against another,
his conclusion will be the denial of the other person’s position. His premises will state
his reasons for denying that position.
4. Omit any material that serves purely as side comments, background information, or
the setting of the context for the argument.
5. Omit material that you have already included. This instruction applies when the same
premise or conclusion is stated several times in slightly different words, except in one
1. If the repetition is present because there is the same content in both a premise and a
conclusion of the same argument or sub-argument, then do put the statement twice. In
other circumstances, do not repeat the statement.
6. Omit such personal phrases as “it disgusts me to see that,” “I am concerned that,” “I
have long thought,” “in my humble opinion,” and so on. These are not part of the
content of the argument but are indicators of how the author feels about what he or
she is saying.
7. Number each premise and conclusion, and write the argument in the standard form
with the premises above the conclusion. 8. Check that each premise and conclusion is a self-contained complete statement.
Premises and conclusions should not include pronouns such as they, my, it, that, and
this. Instead, the appropriate nouns should be used. Premises and conclusions should
be in the form of statements—not questions, commands, or exclamations.
9. Check that no premise or conclusion itself expresses an argument. For instance, if one
premise says, “The party will do poorly in the election because the leader has made
serious mistakes,” you need to break down this premise further into (1) the leader of
the party has made serious mistakes and (2) the party will do poorly in the election. In
your standardization, (1) and (2) will be distinct statements, and (1) should be shown
as supporting (2) in a sub-argument. That sub-argument would not be clearly
indicated if yo