PHILOS 106 ONLINE: CRITICAL REASONING
SECTIONS 17046 (8/24-9/26) AND 17054 (8/24-10/17)
COC FALL 2015
Logic is the art of making truth prevail."
, from .Characters
"Language is a form of human reason and has its reasons
which are unknown to man" --
"The unexamined life is unworth living."
as recorded by Plato in his Apology
Office: On-line (Essentially, students will contact me
through Blackboard e-mail, discussions, and chat (if
applicable). In addition, students may visit me during my
office hours on the COC main campus. These will be posted at
the start of the semester.)
Please email me within the course via Blackboard mail (Click
on Blackboard E-mail - Click on Messages, Browse to select).
(If necessary, I can also be reached by email at
WHEN SENDING E-MAIL TO MY CANYONS.EDU ADDRESS, MAKE SURE YOU
SPECIFY YOUR NAME, CLASS, AND SECTION NUMBER SOMEWHERE IN
YOUR E-MAIL OR SUBJECT LINE.)
Are you a good thinker? Are you certain that the reasons you
have for believing what you do are good ones? How can you
tell? What sets you apart from those whom you might see as
“bad” or “irrational” thinkers?
Certainly, all of us have different opinions on a wide
variety of subjects, whether they have to do with moral and
political problems (e.g. reproductive rights, gay marriage,
the justification to go to war), religious questions, (e.g.
“Only Jesus saves,” “There is no God”), aesthetic concerns
(e.g. “That haircut looks horrible on you!”, “ Picasso is a
great painter”), and general issues in our culture (e.g.
“The First Amendment protects my right to burn the flag
during war time,” “No one should eat meat,” or “Buy Crest:
it’s better!”). These opinions are not just conveyed through
personal contact, but also through books, political
pamphlets, advertisements, lobbying, telemarketing, e-mails,
radio and television broadcasts, movies, and video games.
But whose opinions should we believe and why? Is it the case
that every person’s opinion is just as good as another’s? Or
is there a way of differentiating between good and bad
opinions? What, if anything, might help us figure out which
opinions to accept and which to disregard? How do we avoid
being taken advantage of in our everyday lives?
Generally, good critical thinking requires that our beliefs
be adequately supported by good evidence. Another way of
putting this is to say that we ought ideally to base our
convictions on facts, not hearsay, arguments and not
irrational conjecture or feeling.
This course aims to develop our critical thinking skills and
help us understand what it means to be a rational being in
an increasingly complex and confusing world. We will look at
the different--and sometimes confusing ways--we use language
to think, reason, and communicate. We will learn various
techniques to read and analyze English language texts, e.g.
newspapers, letters to the editor, court decisions, etc. In
particular, we will become more adept at identifying and
critically evaluating different types of arguments (both
deductive and inductive) which are often used to influence
our numerous beliefs about the world. In addition, we will
spend a good deal of time studying examples of bad
reasoning (formal and informal fallacies) so that we might
not only become more efficient at spotting other
people's bad reasoning, but also so that we can begin to
recognize (and overcome) our own. We will also gain a
general understanding of the different ways in which
reasoning is used in different fields of study, such as law,
politics, and the various sciences.
Bassham et al. Critical Thinking: A Student’s
Introduction. 5th Ed. McGraw Hill,, 2012.
Other required texts will be assigned as handouts, webpages,
Note: The Bassham text has a web-component which we will be
(This is actually the fourth edition site, which is openly
Some homework assignments will be accessible through this
STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOME
critical thinking standards to distinguish good
arguments from bad arguments, and better arguments
from worse. This will involve being able to
distinguish common fallacies (mistakes in reasoning)
encountered in everyday life, and the ability to
articulate the mistake.
Measure the important role critical thinking
plays in everyday decision making.
Define basic logical concepts such as argument,
validity, invalidity, deduction, induction, etc.
Categorize language-related problems that
commonly occur within arguments (e.g.,
ambiguity, vagueness, equivocation, inflammatory
Recognize arguments in the media, newspapers,
political speeches, and college course
curriculum, and will be able to assess the
acceptability of the premises, their relevance
to the conclusion, and the extent to which they
support that conclusion.
Consider an argument encountered in everyday
life, and will be able to construct a sustained
argument or critical essay in response, using
critical thinking standards.
Students will be expected to apply these critical thinking
skills in their writing and to construct a thesis offering
evidence in support of their thesis in various writing
assignments in this course.
PHILOS 101, INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY, SECTION 17020
FALL 2015, AUGUST 24 - SEPTEMBER 26
Dr. Andrew Jones-Cathcart
College of the Canyons
Although students should usually contact me through the
Blackboard email contained within the course, should
problems arise please contact me at
(SENDING E-MAIL TO MY CANYONS.EDU ADDRESS, MAKE SURE YOU
SPECIFY YOUR NAME, CLASS, AND SECTION NUMBER SOMEWHERE IN
YOUR E-MAIL OR SUBJECT LINE.)
"Men are born ignorant, not stupid. They are made stupid by
This course will introduce you to philosophical reasoning
and the kinds of problems that have fascinated philosophers
for well over 2500 years. These problems can be grasped most
easily in the form of different questions which philosophers
ask about the world and try to answer in a rational
manner. Examples of these sorts of questions include:
What is the nature of reality? What makes something
real? How can I know that what seems to me is not an
Do I have free will? Am I responsible for my decisions,
or is my conduct predestined or programmed like a robot
or a computer?
What is truth? How do I know that something is true? Is
anything; ever absolutely true (or false), or is truth a
social construction, i.e. something created by our
What is the relation between the mind and the body? Is
there a "soul"? Does "soul" exist after the body
perishes? How do I know that other minds or people
Am I the same person I was ten years ago or the same
person I will be ten years from now? What makes me a
person (or a self) in the first place?
Is anything ever right or wrong absolutely? Is it ever
right (or wrong)to judge other people's choices? What
makes an action good or bad in a moral sense? Can we
ever know that an action is morally good or bad?
What is the relation between religious faith and reason?
Is there a god? Is it possible to prove that God exists?
If an all powerful, all good God does exist, then why is
there evil and suffering in the world?
Does life have a meaning, or is it a meaningless
These questions have proved to be difficult to resolve to
any satisfactory degree in other disciplines, such as the
natural sciences, mathematics, and social sciences, which
you may have studied already or will study in the future.
Nevertheless, these are the sorts of questions which
human begins have always asked out of a sense of
philosophic wonder or curiosity, and as long as human
beings exist, there will be a need to go on looking for
answers to questions such as these.
Philosophy is the rational search for a resolution to these
questions, and in this class we shall look at a number of
philosophical readings which attempt to resolve some of
them. In particular, we shall concentrate on three major
areas of philosophy: epistemology (which asks what
knowledge is and how we know anything at all),
metaphysics (which asks about the nature of reality),
and ethics (which asks about the nature of morality).
The readings will be drawn from a variety of contemporary as
well as historical sources. Although the bulk of the
readings are from the Western philosophical canon, whenever
possible, we shall point out similarities and differences
between Western and Eastern traditions. Thinkers and
historical periods in philosophy typically explored in this
course include: ancient philosophy (Socrates and Plato),
mediaeval philosophy (Anselm and Thomas Aquinas), modern
philosophy (Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Paley,
Holbach, Kant), late modern/nineteenth-century philosophy
(Mill, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche), and
twentieth-century/contemporary philosophy (James, Stace,
Russell, Taylor, Benedict, Rachels, Lamont, Moreland,
Churchland, and Searle).
1. Robert Arp and Jamie Carlin Watson. Philosophy
Demystified. McGraw-Hill, 2011. 978-0-07171766-3
2. Lavine, T.Z. From Socrates to Sartre. New York:
Bantam Books, 1989. (ISBN = 0553251619)
Other readings will be accessible as online links.
Overall Student Learning Outcome
Evaluate (using rational argument) competing philosophical
views in order to synthesize and justify their own
philosophical viewpoints in relation to the philosophical
questions that are being investigated.
Grading, Expectations, and Requirements
TESTS (total = 350 points)
-Test 1 - September 4-5 (100 points)
-Midterm - September 18-19 (100 points)
-Final - September 25-26 (150 points)
The final is cumulative. (Note note that all material on
exams must be in your own words. No copying or pasting from
Papers: 100 points total
-Paper #1 - September 1 (40 points)
-Paper #2 - September 23 (60 points)
Class Discussions, Class Participation -- 50 points. There
will be five discussions this semester, each of which will
be valued at 10 points.
Discussion Dates: August: 26-28; September: 2-4, 9-11,
(Note: Participation in discussions is expected during the
whole discussion period. Do not begin to post on the
The Demystified textbook contains quizzes at the ends of
each chapter, as well as a practice final. Doing these is
not part of the grade, but they are useful study aids.
Total Points = 500
See your course schedule and announcements for further
instructions and details, including specific dates.
Some Advice on Taking On-line Courses
Some students think that taking a course on-line is
preferable to taking a "real" course, i.e. one where you
actually have to show up several times a week at a physical
location on campus. For this reason, on-line courses are
perceived as being more "flexible" or "student-friendly."
Although it is true that on-line course are more
convenient in this sense, it is a misconception to believe
that on-line courses are easier than normal courses or that
they require less work. In fact, in some cases the opposite
is true, since you do not have the benefit of being in an
actual classroom setting where the instructor and your
classmates are by your side helping you learn the material
through lectures and class participation. Ideally, what a
good on-line course should do (and what we will do in this
course) is to find ways of reproducing these elements found
in the normal classroom situation in an electronic format.
This means that in place of an actual "physical" class
discussion and meetings, we will have other tasks,
such as participating in threaded discussions and handing in
various exercises. So please do not forget that this is a
M-F, I will typically check my Blackboard e-mail once a day.
You can usually expect a response within 24-48 hours of
sending me mail. This will vary to some extent, however,
depending on the nature of your question, e.g. how complex,
urgent, or technical it is. In many cases, I will need to
work on technical problems with the course in order to
effectively to answer some questions, e.g. 'Why won't the
site let me take the exam?' or 'Is this hyperlink supposed
to work?' In any case, I will always try to get back to you
as quickly as I can, and prior to exam times, you can be
sure that the turn-around time will always be as quick and
efficient as possible (teachers have to sleep too
sometimes!). Weekends will tend to be slightly slower and
you can be assured that you will hear back from me bright
and early Monday morning. The main thing is not to panic if
you don't immediately hear back from me. I will get to your
questions and concerns in the order I receive them and be
assured that we will work out whatever the problem is
regardless of timing or other restraints.
A Word About Pacing
Some web-based courses are designed to allow students to
pace themselves, i.e. each student decides when he or she
will take an exam or complete an assignment and determines
how fast (or slowly) to work through the material. This is
NOT the way this course is designed. There are two
good reasons for this. First, this course requires
participation in discussions, and this means that each of us
needs to be as up to date as possible with the course
materials in order to participate effectively. Consequently,
we all need to stay focused and not fall behind. And second,
this is the sort of material that is best learned through
constant practice and repetition , and this means that
following a homework, reading, and testing schedule is the
best way to insure that we all learn the material as
effectively as possible.
Philosophy is a difficult subject to learn, and these
readings require very careful reading (and re-reading).
Although some of the assignments may appear short or easy,
students are forewarned that simply passively reading
assignments without taking notes, logging in to class,
asking questions, and reflecting on the content are not
sufficient for doing well in the class.
Time Management and Technical Ability
Normally, I require students to sign in at least 3-4 times a
week. Since this is a compressed summer class, students
ought to check into the course and, in particular, check
their e-mail, noting any changes in the schedule, at least
4-5 times per week. Students are expected to spend a good 2
hours inside the course reading lectures, getting
assignments, participating in discussions, and asking
questions. (In many cases, students will of course simply
print out lectures and read them at other times.) In
addition to spending time inside the course itself, students
will need to spend several hours each week reading your
textbook, studying for quizzes and completing their
assignments (just like any other 3 credit course). This adds
up to 3-6 hours a week that you need to have consistently
free each week to succeed in this course. We keep to a
weekly schedule in this course. I do not accept late work.
So please plan accordingly.
You will need to have some computer and online technical
ability to do this course. You will also need to have
Microsoft Word software (or know how to save a file in Works
as an .rtf (rich text file)). Students must know or be able
to learn minimally the following things:
1. Be able to log into and out of the course.
2. How to attach, upload and download documents.
3. How to identify, open, and close links within the course.
This is so important. Students must take the initiative to
really explore the entirety of the course and be able to
find the assignments, and information necessary to follow
and keep up with the rest of the class.
4. How to e-mail and receive e-mail within the course
(Blackboard E-Mail). You will need to be able to open, read
and respond to the e-mails I send you.
5. How to post, read, and respond to multiple discussion
boards within the course.
6. How to take on-line quizzes and exams.
7. Understand a minimum amount of HTML computer language in
order to build a web-page.
I have had many first time on-line students. It is
absolutely possible for all of you to learn all the
technical things necessary to succeed in this course. It
will take some effort and patience on your part and most
importantly you must not give up! I am available along with
technical support to get you through all your on-line
technical difficulties. You CAN do it! If you have no
computer or on-line ability then this is not the course for
The tasks which you are required to complete upon beginning
the course, walk you step-by-step through most of the
technical aspects of the course. If you can get through all
the tasks listed and feel reasonably confident that you can
replicate them on your own then you should do fine in this
course (on a technical level).
Students with Disabilities
Any student with a disability or any other special condition
should immediately contact the appropriate person in
Disabled Student Programs and Services (D.S.P.S.) in
SCOH-103 in order to obtain a letter of accommodation to be
presented to the instructor. Please do this at the beginning
of the semester. D.S.P.S. can also be reached via phone at
(661) 362-3341. Other information may be obtained
Policy Regarding Late Work and Make-Ups
I will not accept late work. This is non-negotiable. I just
don't do it. I won't grade or look at any work that is dated
late or turned in after its due date. Paper and discussion
due dates will be posted at the beginning of the semester so
plan accordingly and know now that if turned in late you
will not receive a grade.
No form of academic dishonesty, e.g. cheating, plagiarism,
etc., will be tolerated. Here is the COC statement on
If you do not understand what constitutes dishonesty in an
academic setting, please consult your instructor. Here is a
recommended internet link resource about one form of
academic dishonesty, plagiarism:
This link is included here because every student is expected
to understand what plagiarism is and how to avoid it.
According to C.O.C. policy, it does not matter whether or
not a student commits plagiarism or cheats knowingly;
if you are a student at the college-level, you are
responsible for insuring that your work is really your work,
and not someone else’s. Although completely unnecessary and
avoidable, academic dishonesty is a sad reality for some
students. All cases of academic dishonesty will be reported
to the philosophy department chair, as well as the
appropriate C.O.C. dean(s) who will determine what
consequences will follow. Plagiarism and/or cheating of
any kind typically results in a failing grade for the
assignment or course, probation, or even explulsion from the
Note: All papers you submit for this class must be properly
cited according to a recognized and accepted style. The most
common styles for humanities courses are the M.L.A. format,
the Chicago style, or the Turabian style. A good online
resource for styles can be found at:
The specifics of this course syllabus is, like the schedule,
subject to change to reflect the needs of this specific
class. Any changes will be announced prior to going into