PHIL 4: Critical Thinking syllabus, SPRING 2020 - see specific CHANGES due to pandemic on ANNOUNCEMENTS page in CANVAS

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. In-class and online quizzes are designed for students to exercise critical thinking skills, evaluate their understanding, and also earn points. Philosophy Department General Education Courses listed here.

In-class participation requirement: A short quiz occurs in each class meeting using Canvas, so you need to have a mobile device or laptop. Quizzes are about the 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 are available online in digital form not to exceed $30

1. Digital 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, it is expensive and many cheap copies have missing chapters. Rent the digital version of it for 180-days from for appx. $30. 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. You may view the first chapter of the text at Google Books, go to this website and click on “Preview this book” -

2. Learning Modules, lecture/slideshows and other required material beyond the assigned text are all within Canvas or online. START HERE with online content:

3. Visit the Blog page where I post weekly commentary on course material and assignments. Find a link to the Blog within each Learning Module in Canvas. It is required reading.


Course Structure

This course is designed to provide a hybrid learning 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: Quizzes in Canvas, several videos, handouts, a weblog, and email. To access course material in Canvas you will need to use the Internet and a supported Web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome).

Students in courses with online content should be self-reliant, independent, disciplined, motivated learners. Courses with online content can be more difficult, you will need to be pro-active and diligent when any confusion or problem arises. In addition to processing all of the material presented online, it is important that you stay in touch with me, let me know how it is going via email. Notice that there are numerous required activities you must accomplish on your own by specific deadlines.

Tutorials for Canvas. Each short video introduces components of the course we use.

  1. Canvas Overview:
  2. Quizzes:
  3. Grades:


Use the Schedule on the Syllabus to see what is due for each week. Students in hybrid courses with large online components should be independent, self-disciplined, self-motivated learners with good study skills. There are many required activities you need accomplish on your own by specific deadlines, i.e. readings, exercises, slideshows, videos, and quizzes.

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 Canvas announcements or email.


When exactly are the quizzes in Canvas?

See the Schedule below. Each quiz is not available until it is visible in Canvas. 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
1 Jan. 22

Ch. 1.1: Arguments, Premises, Conclusions

Review the syllabus

Wed. in-class quiz


2 Jan. 29 Ch. 1.2: Recognizing Arguments and Explanations

Wed. in-class quiz

Canvas quiz 1 opens

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 Feb. 5 Ch. 1.3: Deduction and Induction

Wed. in-class quiz

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 Feb. 12 Ch. 1.4: Validity, Truth, Soundness, Strength, Cogency

Wed. in-class quiz

Canvas quiz 2 opens

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 Feb. 19 Ch. 1.5: Argument Forms: Proving Invalidity

Wed. in-class quiz

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


6 Feb. 26 Chs. 3.1 & 3.2 & 3.3: Informal Fallacies

Wed. in-class quiz

Canvas quiz 3 opens

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


7 Mar. 4 Chs. 3.4 & 3.5: Informal Fallacies

Wed. in-class quiz

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

8 Mar. 11 Ch. 9.1: Analogical Reasoning & Fallacies review

Wed. in-class quiz

Canvas quiz 4 opens

9 Mar. 18 Ch. 9.2: Legal Reasoning

ON-CAMPUS meets henceforth cancelled due to COVID-19

  • Review the summary for Ch. 9: Analogies, Legal, and Moral Reasoning in Canvas
10 Mar 25 Ch. 9.3: Moral Reasoning

Wed. in-class online quiz

Canvas quiz 5 opens


11 April 8

Ch. 10: Causality and Mill's Methods

Wed. in-class online quiz

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


12 Apr. 15 Ch. 10: Causality and Mill's Methods (cont.)

Wed. in-class online quiz

Canvas quiz 6 opens

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


13 Apr. 22

Chs. 10 and 13: Causality and Scientific Reasoning

Wed. in-class online quiz

14 Apr. 29 Ch. 13: Scientific Reasoning

Wed. in-class online quiz

Canvas quiz 7 opens

Ch. 13: Part I: 1-10


15 May 6 Ch. 13: Scientific Reasoning (cont.)


Wed. in-class online quiz


16 finals week - no instruction, no office hours

Final Exam in Canvas

official final exam availability:

  • opens: 8 a.m. Friday May 8, 2020
    closes: 8 p.m. Thursday May 14, 2020
    (online only)



Assignments, Grades and Attendance

When is assigned work due? Readings and homework should be completed by the time we meet on-campus each week, quizzes occur as listed on the Schedule above. 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 complete 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.


13 in-class tests (appx. 100+ points total), 7 online tests in Canvas (20 pts. each, 140 pts. total), and 1 online final exam in Canvas (60 pts.)



How do I determine your overall course grade? Grades are NOT based on averages, grades are based on TOTAL points earned. At the end of the semester I add all of the points you earn, then assign the final letter-grade based on my grading scale (below, on this page). For instance, if you earn a total of 209 points, then this corresponds to a C - on my grading scale. Therefore, you earn 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 = Course Letter-Grade

270+ = A

260-269 = A -

250-259 = B +

240-249 = B

230-239 = B -

220-229 = C +

210-219 = C

200-209 = C -

190-199 = D +

180-189 = D

170-179 = D -

less than 170 = F




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 quiz using Canvas 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.


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 (SSWD)

Sacramento State is committed to providing an inclusive environment that allows access to its resources regardless of ability. 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))

Here is the Accessible Technology Policy. 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. 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.

If you are registered with SSWD and require the use of the Campus Testing Center in 2302 Lassen Hall, then for any 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 Canvas quizzes (online). Doing so requires the use of Canvas, a commercial portal such as a textbook publisher’s website, GoogleDocs or another publicly available website, a website set-up by the instructor, and sometimes content from relevant online course material outside of Sacramento State.