PHILOS 106 ONLINE: CRITICAL REASONING
SECTION 21839 (6/6/2016 - 7/9/2016)
SECTION 21847 (7/11/2016 - 8/13/2016)
COC SUMMER 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 Canvas 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 e-mail me within Canvas using the Inbox feature.
(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.
The 4th edition is also acceptable.
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 21836 and 21838 (6/6/2016 - 7/9/2016)
SECTION 21846 (7/11/2016 - 8/13/2016)
Dr. Andrew Jones-Cathcart
College of the Canyons
Although students should usually contact me through the
Canvas e-mail 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.
INTRODUCTION TO COMPARATIVE RELIGION
SUMMER 2016, 6/13 – 8/6
Dr. Andrew Jones-Cathcart
(Essentially, students will contact me through Blackboard
e-mail and discussions.
E-mail: Please e-mail me within the course via Blackboard
mail. (If necessary, I can also be reached by e-mail at
This course introduces students to the study of comparative
religion, which is an attempt to analyze, compare and
contrast the key themes and ideas found in the religious
traditions of different cultures, historical periods, and
ethnic groups. Examples of these traditions include Judaism,
Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism,
Taoism, Confucianism, Zen, Shinto, Zoroastrianism, and the
native traditions of Africa, Australasia, and the Americas.
In addition to exploring the religious beliefs of these
traditions, we will also study the philosophical
implications and assumptions found within them. Questions
addressed in this course typically include:
What is religion? How does religion differ from other concepts
and practices such as science, philosophy, and culture?
How does myth function within religion? How does myth differ
What is sacred space? How does it differ from profane space?
How do life circumstances, such as
historical setting, economics, language, and culture,
shape--and, in turn, get shaped by--religious practices and
What is religious experience? How do religious experiences
differ from non-religious ones? How, if at all, is it
possible to know whether one's religious experiences are
What evidence might be used to support belief in
the divine? What evidence might be
used to weaken such beliefs? What are miracles? Is there any
good evidence for or against the existence of miracles?
What are the many ways in which the divine can be understood?
To be religious, must one believe in only one god? Must one
believe in any god at all? Must there be only one
"right" path to god? Or can the divine be approached equally
well through a diverse number of faiths?
What is the relation between morality and the divine? Can
one be moral without god?
How do the various religions of
the world--including so-called bygone religions that are no
longer practiced--compare and contrast with one another?
What beliefs and practices overlap in different religious
traditions? What differences exist among different religious
traditions? How does each tradition understand the natural
world and human nature? How does each define concepts such
as "soul," self, the afterlife, the divine, morality, and so
What are the main scriptural and historical sources for the
religions of the world, e.g. the Koran, the Bible, the
How does the presence of evil in the world affect our
perspectives on the divine? Would an all-good, all-powerful
god allow evil to exist? Why or why not? (The problem of
If god exists, can humans still have free will? Or would the
existence of such a being make free choice an impossibility?
(The problem of free will)
Given the sheer diversity of religious beliefs and practices
in the contemporary world, does enough common ground among
these traditions exist to allow humans to live in peace with
one another, respecting a shared sense of moral values,
including a respect for the sacredness of life? Or does
religion by its nature lead to inevitable conflict and
violence? Is tolerance in a religiously pluralistic world
possible or even desirable?
At the conclusion of this course, students should be able to
1. Explain the origin, practices, worldview, and goals of
each religion studied;
2. Compare and contrast the different religions studied with
regard to historical development, view of God or the Divine,
and how each religion's view of what is ultimate about
reality informs its teachings, doctrines, and practices; and
3. Analyze and assess differing religious viewpoints in
relation to how well they address the underlying
religious-philosophical problems of reality, self,
knowledge, religious experience, ethics, and death.
Molloy, Michael. Experiencing the World's Religions. 6th ed.