PHILOS 106 ONLINE: CRITICAL REASONING
SECTION 20734 (1/4/2016 - 2/6/2016)
COC WINTER 2016
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
SECTIONS 20733 and 20732 (1/4/2016 - 2/6/2016)
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.