PHIL 4: Critical Thinking syllabus, Fall 2015

Course Description

PHIL 4. Critical Thinking. Study of the basic skills of good reasoning needed for the intelligent and responsible conduct of life. Topics include: argument structure and identification, validity and strength of arguments, common fallacies of reasoning, use and abuse of language in reasoning, principles of fair play in argumentation. 3 units.

This course satisfies General Education Area A3 requirements: Critical Thinking (3 units). It provides an environment for students to sharpen three critical abilities: Clear thinking, cogent writing, and effective speaking. We study and apply the basic skills of good reasoning essential for the intelligent and responsible conduct of life. Students will be able to: (1) Detect errors of reasoning and show how the reasoning is in error; (2) Analyze evidence and make appropriate inferences from that evidence; (3) Evaluate inferences and explanations made by others. How do we accomplish this? The course teaches appx. 6 weeks of basic logic, 3 weeks of fallacy analysis, and 6 weeks of inductive reasoning, esp. scientific reasoning. Students are tested in every class meeting using clickers and almost every week via online tests in SacCT. Tests are designed for students to exercise critical thinking skills, evaluate their understanding, and also earn points. Philosophy Department General Education Courses listed here.

Participation requirement: You must have and use your clicker when you come to class. In every class meeting, expect an in-class clicker-test that exercises your conceptual understanding and critical thinking skills. Each test will be based upon reading and exercises from the course text for that week (as listed on the Syllabus) and all previously assigned or presented material. Also, students must bring a version of the text with them to class each meeting, since we discuss examples and exercises in it.

Required: Instructional materials available online in digital form total cost not to exceed $70, also you will need a clicker to take in-class tests.

  1. Text: We use 5 chapters from A Concise Introduction to Logic, by Patrick Hurley, 11/e (2012).Only chapters 1, 3, 9, 10, 13 from this edition will suffice. There is no need to buy a paper copy of the text. Rent the digital version of this for 180-days from for appx. $70. You may also rent the Kindle version from Amazon. You do not need to have a paperback version of the text and I recommend against using one. Used paperback versions of this text take too long to locate and are often missing required chapters.

  2. Clicker: Turning Technologies QT device available from the Bookstore, appx. $55 - register your response device within SacCT using the Turning Technologies Registration Tool link on the "Tools" page. Bring your clickers with you to every class meeting, we will use it on the very first day. Use only this model, it is the one the campus offcially endorses and supports. Here is a User Guide for the clciker.

There is also a Blog for this course. Find the link to it in SacCT. I update it weekly, so check it frequently to see what is happening.


Course Structure

This course is designed to provide a hybrid experience, using both face-to-face and online environments. Contact time is divided in the following way: Appx. 50% face-to-face and 50% online. Face-to-face sessions occur in the classroom scheduled for your specific section, please bring the text with you for every meeting so that we can discuss the text and its exercises. Online activities include: Tests in SacCT, several videos, handouts, worksheets, a weblog, and email. To access course material in SacCT you will need to use the Internet and a supported Web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome).

This is the login page for SacCT: If you have questions about SacCT or need technical help, click on "student resources" on that page for further information.

Hybrid courses are more demanding than non-hybrid courses. There are many required activities one must accomplish on one's own by specific deadlines. Students in such courses should be independent, self-disciplined, self-motivated learners with good study skills. Students who have good time management skills will generally do very well in this type of learning environment. (See the eLearning section of this syllabus for more.)

Important: This syllabus, along with course policies, assignments and due dates, is subject to change. Don't print it, instead use this online version as a reference. Any changes will be clearly noted in course announcements via SacCT or email. See the schedule below for weekly details, also see the Blog page for this course in SacCT for current events and announcements.


When exactly are the online tests in SacCT?

Here is a screenshot of the schedule for tests in SacCT for this semester. Each test is not available until it is visible in SacCT. None of these online tests are visible or available until week 3. Notice that the Final Exam is also an online test.


wk date topic/reading to complete before discussion events homework and exercises in text due

Sept. 1

Ch. 1.1: Arguments, Premises, Conclusions

Review the syllabus

Tues. in-class clicker test


2 Sept. 8 Ch. 1.2: Recognizing Arguments and Explanations

Tues. in-class clicker test

Ch. 1.1: Part I: 1-30, Part II: 1-10, Part IV: T or F
Ch. 1.2: Part I: 1-35, Part II: 1-10, Part III: 1-10, Part V: T or F


  1. Definition of an argument (4:17)
  2. Definition of a claim, or statement (4:25)
  3. Definition of a good argument (I) (3:59)
  4. Identifying premises and conclusions (5:34)

3 Sept. 15 Ch. 1.3: Deduction and Induction

Tues. in-class clicker test

SacCT test 1
(opens Monday at noon, closes Friday at midnight)

Ch. 1.3: Part I: 1-30, Part III: T or F


  1. The truth condition (6:30)
  2. The logic condition (5:49)
  3. Valid vs. invalid arguments (5:30)
  4. Strong vs. weak arguments (6:38)
  5. Definition of a good argument (II) (1:58)

4 Sept. 22 Ch. 1.4: Validity, Truth, Soundness, Strength, Cogency

Tues. in-class clicker test

SacCT test 2
(opens Monday at noon, closes Friday at midnight)

Ch. 1.4: Part I: 1-15, Part II: 1-15, Part III: 1-20, Part V: T or F


  1. Deduction and valid reasoning (2:18)
  2. Induction and invalid reasoning (1:41)
  3. Induction and scientific reasoning (9:42)

5 Sept. 29 Ch. 1.5: Argument Forms: Proving Invalidity

Tues. in-class clicker test

SacCT test 3
(opens Monday at noon, closes Friday at midnight)

Ch. 1.5: Part I: 1-10, Part II: 1-10


6 Oct. 6 Chs. 3.1 & 3.2 & 3.3: Informal Fallacies

Tues. in-class clicker test

Ch. 3.1: 1-10
Ch. 3.2: 1-25
Ch. 3.3
: Part I: 1-15, Part III: 1-30


7 Oct. 13 Chs. 3.4 & 3.5: Informal Fallacies

Tues. in-class clicker test

SacCT test 4
(opens Monday at noon, closes Friday at midnight)

Ch. 3.4: Part I: 1-25, Part III: 1-50; Ch. 3.5: Part I: 1-60

IEP: Fallacies article (review)

8 Oct. 20 Ch. 9.1: Analogical Reasoning & Fallacies review

Tues. in-class clicker test

9 Oct. 27 Ch. 9.2: Legal Reasoning

Tues. in-class clicker test

SacCT test 5
(opens Monday at noon, closes Friday at midnight)

Ch. 9: Part I dialog
10 Nov. 3 Ch. 9.3: Moral Reasoning

Tues. in-class clicker test

SacCT test 6
(opens Monday at noon, closes Friday at midnight)

Ch. 9: Part II: 1-15
11 Nov. 10

Ch. 10: Causality and Mill's Methods

Tues. in-class clicker test

SacCT test 7
(opens Monday at noon, closes Friday at midnight)

Ch. 10: Part I: 1-10, Part II: 1-15, Part III: 1-5


12 Nov. 17 Ch. 10: Causality and Mill's Methods (cont.)

Tues. in-class clicker test

SacCT test 8
(opens Monday at noon, closes Friday at midnight)

Ch. 10: Part I: 1-10, Part II: 1-15, Part III: 1-5 (cont.)


13 Nov. 24

Ch. 13: Scientific Reasoning

Tues. in-class clicker test

SacCT test 9
(opens Monday at noon, closes Friday at midnight)

14 Dec. 1 Ch. 13: Scientific Reasoning (cont.)

Tues. in-class clicker test

SacCT test 10
(opens Monday at noon, closes Friday at midnight)

Ch. 13: Part I: 1-10


15 Dec. 8 Ch. 13: Scientific Reasoning (cont.)


Tues. in-class clicker test

  • Course Review - come to class with specific questions
16 finals week - no instruction, no office hours

Final Exam in SacCT
(opens Monday at noon, closes Wednesday at Midnight)

official final exam availability:

  • section 9:
    Monday 14 December 2015
    - Wednesday 16 December 2015
    (online only)



Assignments, Grades and Attendance

When is assigned work due? Readings and homework are due on the Tuesday of the week listed on the schedule, tests occur as scheduled on the calendar. Homework is comprised of exercises in the text and any videos or weblinks described under the "homework and exercises in text due" column of the Schedule (above) for each week. I do not collect or grade homework assigned in the text, instead I want you to do the specific exercises in the text listed in your own notes, and then be prepared to discuss some of these in class when we meet.


12+ in-class tests (120 points total), 10 online tests in SacCT (10 pts. each, 100 pts. total) , and 1 online final exam in SacCT (50 pts.)



How do I determine your overall course grade? Grades are NOT based on averages, grades are based on TOTAL points earned. There are 250+ total points available. I add the scores you earn on all of the tests and any possible extra points, then assign the final letter-grade based on my grading scale (above). For instance, if you earn a total of 179 points, then this corresponds to a C on my grading scale. Therefore, one receives a C for the course. Since my grading scale is generous and rounding introduces error, I will not round scores up or down.

total points needed
< 120
to earn this course grade
D -
D +
C -
C +
B -
B +
A -



Class meeting attendance and participation is mandatory on all Tuesdays. If you miss a class meeting, then you will miss something important, for instance, in all meetings we will have an in-class clicker-test which you cannot make up. Visit me in my office, email me, or meet with others in the class for what material you missed. Also, try not to be late to class, but it is better to come to class late than not to come to class at all.

Laptops and mobile devices are permitted but please refrain from using them in ways which distract fellow students and yourself. Please, no eating or texting during class meetings, if you distract us, then you will be dismissed.

How does one succeed in this course? I recommend that you read assigned chapters and do the homework for each section before class meetings, form or participate in study groups, don't skip class or tests, and never hesitate to ask me questions.


Learning Objectives for Critical Thinking

General knowledge and skills developed in this course include:

- Logical analysis and the identification and construction of arguments
- Understanding logical relations, in particular the relations between premises and conclusions
- Recognizing the more common forms of formal and informal fallacies
- Evaluating the relevance, validity, and strength of arguments
- Understanding the logical structure of deductive and inductive arguments
- Awareness of the abuses of language, including connotation, ambiguity, and definition.
- Recognizing arguments in a variety of contexts, including other disciplines as well as in public affairs
- Improve information competence: the ability to find out what one needs to know in order to have a responsible position on an issue
- Acquiring an immunity to propaganda
- Developing not only the capacity but the disposition to use good reasoning in a variety of contexts
- Developing a sense of fairness and respect for opposing positions

Specific objectives: At the end of the course the student should have the ability to:

- Locate the argument in a passage
- Detect errors of reasoning and describe how the reasoning is in error
- Engage in cogent and respectful discussion
- Analyze specific arguments for consistency and credibility
- Apply good reasoning to issues in professional and personal contexts
- Evaluate evidence and make appropriate inferences from that evidence
- Determine what evidence is necessary and know how to find that evidence, if possible
- Evaluate evidence for relevance and determine the degree of support it provides
- Construct and defend arguments in support of or in opposition to particular propositions


Services to CSUS Students with Disabilities

If you have a disability and require accommodations such as the use of assistive technology, you need to provide me with your official documentation from Services to Students with Disabilities (SSWD), which is in Lassen Hall 1008, (916) 278-6955. Please discuss accommodation needs with me ASAP during my office hours or by appt. early in the semester so that we may make a plan to help you out.

SSWD at Sacramento State offers a wide range of support services and accommodations for students in order to ensure students with disabilities have equal access and opportunity to pursue their educational goals. The Assistive Technology Act of 2004 defines an assistive technology device in the following way: “…any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.” (29 U.S.C. Sec 2202(2))

If you are registered with SSWD and require the use of the Campus Testing Center in 2302 Lassen Hall, then for any in-class test, you will need to complete a Testing with Accommodations Instruction Form to give to your instructor, so that we can make a testing schedule.


CSUS Policies and Procedures Regarding Academic Honesty

Review all academic responsibilities, definitions, sanctions and rights described here. Students may work together on essays but each student must submit their own answers on each of their tests. Sharing or copying answers on tests is cheating, which is dishonest and violates campus codes of conduct.

Plagiarism is a serious academic offence and will not be tolerated in this class. Always use quotation marks and a footnote citation to indicate sentences or passages you borrow from another author. Assignments in which plagiarism is found will at the least be graded at 0 (not just an F). ALL incidents of plagiarism will be reported both to the Department Chair and to the Judicial Officer in the Office of Student Affairs for possible further administrative sanction.


More about the specific hybrid nature of this course - eLearning

This hybrid course includes both online and face-to-face activities. Online texts, articles, handouts, videos, tutorials, and graded tests are part and parcel of any online/hybrid/web-assisted course. For example, in this course, students will use a university or personal computer, laptops, tablets, or smartphones as tools to access course content. On a regular basis students complete online-only learning activities such as submitting graded writing assignments and SacCT tests. Doing so may require the use of SacCT/Blackboard, clickers, a commercial portal such as a textbook publisher’s website, GoogleDocs or another publicly available website, a website (not SacCT) set-up by the instructor, and sometimes content from relevant online course material outside of Sacramento State.