Note that your class will NOT appear in your list of Blackboard courses and be available in Blackboard at until the first day of the semester


Students that do not sign into the course and complete the instructions on the first day of class will be dropped from the class, per COC policy.


Note:  There are several letters below for each of the classes I teach this semester.  Please be sure to scroll down to the view the appropriate letter for your particular class section.






SUMMER, 2014

SECTION:  12913 (July 14 - August 15)

SECTION:  10286 (June 9 - July 11)

 and SECTION 10290 (June 16 - July 25)

Professor: Dr. Andrew Jones-Cathcart
Office: On-line (Essentially, students will contact me through Blackboard email, 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.)
E-mail: Please email me within the course via Blackboard mail (Click on Communication - Click on Messages, Browse to select).
(If necessary, I can also be reached by email at



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.  (ISBN = 9780078038310)

Other required texts will be assigned as webpages, etc.


In general, the purpose of the course is to teach students critical thinking standards to help 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.

At the conclusion of the course, students ought to be able to

1.  Measure the important role critical thinking plays in everyday decision-making;

2.  Define basic logical concepts such as argument, validity, invalidity, deduction, induction, etc.;

3.  Distinguish common fallacies (mistakes in reasoning) encountered in everyday life;

4.  Categorize problems with language that occur within arguments, e.g. ambiguity, vagueness, equivocation, inflammatory language, etc.;

5.  Analyze and diagram the structure of reasoning in argument encountered in everyday life;

6.  Assess the acceptability of premises, their relevance to a conclusion, and their support of the conclusion;

7.  Question and appraise claims disseminated by the mass media;

8.  Construct arguments on the basis of critical thinking standards;

9.  Evaluate arguments on the basis of critical thinking standards







SPRING, 2014

SECTIONS:  10262 and 10263 (June 9 - July 11)


SECTION 10267 (June 16 - July 25)



Professor: Dr. Andrew Jones-Cathcart
Office: On-line (Essentially, students will contact me through Blackboard email, 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.)
E-mail: Please email me within the course via Blackboard mail (Click on Communication - Click on Messages, Browse to select).
(If necessary, I can also be reached by email at


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 illusion?

  • 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 social circumstances?

  • 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 exist?

  • 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 absurdity?

These questions have proved to be difficult, if not impossible, 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).

Required Text

1.  Philosophy Demystified, by Arp and Watson, McGraw-Hill, 978-0071717663

2.  From Socrates to Sartre by T.Z. Lavine, Random House, 9780553251616

In addition, there will be many online required readings inside the Blackboard course.