THE UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN ONTARIO
DEPARTMENT OF PHILOSOPHY
Undergraduate Course Outline
Philosophy 1200, 001: Critical Thinking (2012-13)
Lectures: W11:30-12:30, F11:30-12:30, in UCC 56
Fall instructor Winter instructor
David Bourget, office TBA Eric Desjardins, Stevenson Hall 2130
Office hours: M 2:30-3:30pm, W 2:30-3:30pm Office hours TBA
519-661-2111 / [email protected]
519-661-2111 x87769 / [email protected]
This course provides an introduction to basic principles of critical thinking and is designed to
enhance the student's ability to detect and analyze various forms of reasoning encountered in
everyday life, academic and professional contexts. Topics to be covered include: argument
identification and evaluation, fallacy detection, formal symbolization of arguments, deductive
and inductive reasoning, the influence of social and psychological factors on our judgments, the
structure of scientific reasoning, how to interpret statistics, theories of moral reasoning and how
to assess claims put forward by the media and popular press.
1 COURSE OBJECTIVES
Students who complete this course will have:
(a) acquired a basic set of concepts and technical tools
(b) learned how to use these concepts and tools to detect, represent and critically evaluate
arguments as well as to construct and appraise their own arguments
(c) developed skills that will enable them to think more clearly and critically about various
issues encountered in their personal, academic and professional lives.
Hughes, William & Jonathan Lavery. Critical Thinking: An Introduction to the Basic Skills, Fifth
Edition. Broadview Press, 2008. (Used during the Fall term)
Kenyon, Tim. Clear Thinking in a Blurry World. Nelson Education, 2008. (Used during the
Winter term, and for optional readings during the Fall term)
• Participation (4%)
• Assignments (36%)
◦ Five applied assignments (20%)
▪ AppliedAssignment #1 (Group, Fall) (2%)
▪ AppliedAssignment #2 (Group, Fall) (3%)
▪ AppliedAssignment #3 (Group, Fall) (5%)
▪ AppliedAssignment #4 (Group, Winter) (2%)
▪ AppliedAssignment #5 (Individual, Winter) (8%)
◦ Four theoretical assignments (16%)
▪ TheoreticalAssignment #1 (Fall) (4%)
▪ TheoreticalAssignment #2 (Fall) (4%)
▪ TheoreticalAssignment #3 (Winter) (4%)
▪ TheoreticalAssignment #4 (Winter) (4%)
• Midyear Examination (December) (30%)
• Final Examination (April) (30%)
Points are awarded for participation and good conduct in class and in tutorials. To obtain these
points, you need not speak frequently, but you must be present, be attentive, and respectfully and
constructively engage with peers during class activities and discussions.
The midyear and final examinations will take place during the examination periods. See the
course schedule distributed separately for a schedule of assignments.
2 Important rules regarding assignments and exams
All assignments must be submitted BOTH on Turnitin and on OWL unless otherwise specified
in class or the assignment instructions.
Mandatory statement regarding Turnitin:
All required assignments may be subject to submission for textual similarity review to the
commercial plagiarism detection software under license to the University for the detection of
reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of papers subsequently submitted to
the system. Use of the service is subject to the licensing agreement, currently between The
University of Western Ontario and Turnitin.com ( http://www.turnitin.com )
Assignments that are handed in late will incur a 5% penalty per day (including weekends) for up
Accommodation for medical or non-medical reasons, for exams and late or missing assignments,
must be obtained through the student's home faculty. Do not submit medical documentation or
any other documentation to the instructor. Your home faculty will decide if accommodation is
warranted. For more details, see the University's policy on accommodation for medical illness
No electronic devices are allowed during tests.
Students are reminded that University policy requires proficiency in English to be taken into
account in the assignment of grades in all courses (see Academic Calendar).
Scholastic offences are taken seriously and students are directed to read the
appropriate policy, specifically, the definition of what constitutes a Scholastic Offence, at the
following Web site:
More details on the department's and the university's policies can be found on their web sites at
www.uwo.ca and www.uwo.ca/philosophy.
It is your responsibility to understand the policies set out by the Senate and the Department of
Philosophy, and thus ignorance cannot be used as grounds of appeal.
Students wishing to audit the course should consult with the instructor prior to or during the first
week of classes.
(See also OWL/WebCt/Blackboard for an up-to-date schedule.)
3 Unit 1 Introduction to Critical Thinking
This unit introduces the student to the very idea of studying reasoning, offering motivation and
justification for its study.An explanation of what critical thinking is is presented, along with
many relevant terms. The basic notion of argument strength is presented, as are some initial steps
towards understanding the structure of an argument. It is emphasized that the key component of
an argument is its conclusion, as the whole point of the argument is to convince the
listener/reader that the conclusion is true or at least something to be believed given the evidence.
Arguments are distinguished from explanations, which have the same structure and reports of
arguments which are not intended to convince anyone of anything.
Goals and Objectives:
• Learn the technical notion of an argument;
• Learn to identify an argument;
• Introduce several terms such as proposition, validity, soundness, inference, inference
indicator, conclusion, premise;
• Identify basic argument structure using inference indicators.
AppliedAssignment #1: Find an article in a newspaper that presents an argument. List the
inference indicators used in the argument. Identify the conclusion and premises of the argument.
Unit 2 Language
This unit introduces language as it is studied by philosophers and linguists. Theories of meaning
are presented. Different uses of language are considered. Methods for forming definitions and
criteria for evaluating definitions are presented. It is shown how several features of language
influence the interpretation of arguments and how fallacies of interpretation arise. Specific
distinctions are made between use/mention, analytic/synthetic statements, and the
distributive/collective use of terms. The overarching principle for interpreting argument is the
Principle of Charity, which prescribes trying to put an argument in its best light so as to make it
as plausible as possible.
Goals and Objectives:
• Learn the basic categories by which language is studies: phonology, morphology, syntax,
semantics, and pragmatics;
• Learn the basic theories of meaning;
• Learn the different types of definitions and how to assess them;
• Understand the Principle of Charity and why it is adopted in argument analysis;
• Learn fallacies of interpretation.
Unit 3 Argument Analysis 1: Structure
This unit presents methods for understanding and representing the structure of arguments. The
notions of subconclusion and subargument are introduced along with lists of premise indicators
4 and conclusion indicators to help identify these substructures. The methods of interpretation
studied earlier are applied to paraphrasing arguments and reconstructing incomplete arguments,
known as enthymemes. The standard form of an argument is presented. The notions of joint and
independent support are introduced. Diagrams corresponding to each type of support are
presented.All of the parts are brought together to represent the structure of more complex
Goals and Objectives:
• Identify and distinguish premise indicators from conclusion indicators.
• Paraphrase and reconstruct arguments.
• Learn what the substructure of an argument is.
• Learn how to represent an argument’s structure in standard form.
• Distinguish joint support from independent support for a conclusion or subconclusion.
• Learn to represent each type of support in a diagram.
• Represent the structure of complex arguments.
AppliedAssignment #2: Determine the argument structure of a short philosoph