Philosophy 4
Critical Thinking
Prof. Dowden


Overview of the course

Let's face it. There are three kinds of people in the world: the kind who are good at a course like this, and the kind who are not.

Throughout your day, you will want to keep your critical eye on the situation around you, and not blindly accept everything you see, hear or read, even if it's from your professor, who was joking in that last sentence.

Our course is designed to develop your critical thinking skills, the basic skills of good reasoning that you need for the intelligent and responsible conduct of your life. The goal is to improve your ability to think and act reflectively, creatively and responsibly. Critical thinking skills involve the ability to reason, to assemble evidence in order to develop a position, and to communicate complex ideas.

When you are using the yellow pages of the telephone book to locate a gorilla costume for Halloween, you don't look up "gorilla," do you? You already have that critical thinking skill.  Our course will improve your higher level skills.

The major topics in our course include:

  • thinking logically
  • identifying argument structure,
  • assessing the strength of arguments,
  • generating arguments and explanations,
  • avoiding fallacies of reasoning,
  • demonstrating the principles of fair play in argumentation.

The course is also designed to improve your writing by demonstrating that writing is a kind of problem-solving design process.

3 units of semester credit.



There are no prerequisite courses, but to enroll in this course, you must be directly descended from two homo sapiens. If you weren't, then click here. You should enroll in this course the same way you would enroll in any other CSUS course, through standard registration procedures with CMS. If you are not a CSUS student, you may enroll to take this course through the College of Continuing Education (phone 278-4433).  If you are still in high school, you may take this course through the ACE program.


Sales pitch:

Not only will this course help to make you more logical and smarter and better prepared for all your other college courses, the material covered in this course should be especially helpful in improving your performance on tests you may take later to get into law school, business school, or graduate school such as the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test), the GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test), or the GRE (Graduate Record Exam).



The textbook you will need for the course is available free online. It is discussed in the syllabus. See below.

Technology requirements for our course:

The course is 100% on the Internet, so you will need computer access to the Internet. You will take this course wholly on some computer or other and won't attend in a regular classroom setting.

You can use either your home computer or a campus computer or both. You can work on the weekly assignments for our course at any time that is convenient for you during the week, but you can't work ahead beyond the current week. You never need to work at the time of the week mentioned in the class schedule.

For computer help you can ask the student assistant in a campus computer lab at

  • Mendocino Hall Rooms 2004/2008
  • Mendocino Hall 2003/2007
  • Library 2000
  • Solano Hall 2001/2003
  • Tahoe Hall 1006/1007

If you don't own a computer, then you can use one in the campus computer labs.

To take our course, you will need a SacLink account and password. You also will get a university email account. If your Saclink account is, say, sac12345, then your e-mail address will become

For more help with the computer details, call the Saclink helpline at 278-7337.

A final thought: Think of the glow of your computer monitor as being indoor sunshine.

To contact me about the course, send e-mail to me (Professor Dowden) at

Getting started:

To read the syllabus and start working in the course, click on the highlighted word syllabus. 

Overview / Course Resources
Instructor / Philosophy Dept.
College of Arts and Letters / Admissions / CSUS

The web address of this overview page is