Phil 125 S11: Schedule and Syllabus

PHILOSOPHY 125: Critical Thinking
Spring 2011
Section 5643  MW 9:30-10:45    Location: F-506

INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Ian Duckles
         Office Hours: By Appointment

TEXTBOOK: There are two texts required for this class:
  • Baillargeon, Normand. A Short Course in Intellectual Self-Defense. Seven Stories Press: 2007.
  • Frankfurt, Harry G. On Bullshit. Princeton University Press: 2005.
COURSE DESCRIPTION: “Introduction to critical thinking with emphasis on analyzing and constructing both inductive and deductive arguments. Critical reasoning will be applied to a variety of situations such as making sound decisions, evaluating claims and assertions, avoiding fallacious reasoning, etc.” (Grossmont College Catalogue 2008-2009, p. 192).

COURSE OBJECTIVE: Students will learn the basic elements of critical thinking with a particular focus on logical fallacies and then will learn to apply these tools to real world problems and issues.

COURSE CALENDAR (topics and important dates included): Homework will be due daily and assignments will be announced in class. Do not be concerned if we fall ahead or behind on this schedule. The most important goal is that everyone understand the concepts and problems. This schedule is subject to change. All changes will be announced in class and posted on the course website. The schedule uses the following abbreviations:
  • ISD for A Short Course in Intellectual Self-Defense
  • OB for On Bullshit

Week 1: Introduction

Monday, January 24: Introduction, (ISD 11-16)
Wednesday, January 26: Language (ISD 19-37)
For Monday: take a look at the State of the Union Address and find example of each of the five functions of language we discussed in class. A video and transcript of the speech can be found here.

Week 2: Language

January 31: Language (ISD 38-49)
Homework: Pick a controversial topic (abortion, gay marriage, immigration, etc.) and write two short paragraphs (3-4 sentences) that have the same denotation, but very different connotations.

February 2: Syllogisms (ISD 49-54)
Homework: find an example of vagueness; equivocation or amphibology; accentuation or eduction; weasel words; jargon.

Week 3: Language

February 7: Formal Fallacies (ISD 55-58)
Homework: Find examples of each of the four functions of definitions (Lexical; Theoretical; Stipulative; Persuasive) and examples of each of the three ways to define (Etymological; Definition by Genus and Difference; Operational)

February 9: Informal Fallacies (ISD 59-74)Homework: Find two arguments and determine is the argument deductive or inductive; Valid/Not Valid or Strong/Weak; Sound/not sound or Cogent/Not cogent

Week 4: Language

February 14: Informal Fallacies (ISD 74-85)
Homework: Find examples of the following fallacies: False Dilemma; Hasty Generalization; Red Herring/Smoke Screen; Ad Hominem; Appeal to Authority.

February 16: Extra Day
Homework: Watch a half hour news program and identify the fallacies that are committed. Feel free to stop once you reach two pages of fallacies.

Week 5: Language

February 21: NO CLASS
February 23: Extra Day

Week 6: Exam

February 28: Review for Exam

Week 7: Bullshit

March 7: On Bullshit (OB 1-30)
March 9: On Bullshit (OB 31-67)
Bring two examples of bullshit to class.

Week 8: Personal Experience

March 14: Personal Experience (ISD 171-196)
March 16: Personal Experience (ISD 196-222)

Week 9: Personal Experience 

March 21: Extra Day
March 23: 
Extra Day

Week 10: Exam

March 28: Review for Exam
March 30: EXAM 2

Week 11: Science

April 4: Empirical Science (ISD 223-242)
April 6: Empirical Science (ISD 242-266)

Week 12: Science

April 11: Extra day
Homework: Find an example of a pseudoscience.

April 13: Extra day
Homework: Evaluate your pseudoscience using the five criteria for evaluating hypotheses we discussed in class (testability, Fruitfulness, Scope, Simplicity, Conservatism).

Week 13: Spring Break!!

April 18: NO CLASS!!
April 20: NO CLASS!!

Week 14: Media

April 25: Introduction of Paper Topic; Watch Film in Class
April 27: Continue and Discuss Film
Homework: Bring in examples of two fallacies committed in the film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

Week 15

May 2: Introduction (ISD 267-276), The Propaganda Model of Media (ISD 277-290)
May 4: Media Con't (ISD 290-306)

Week 16

May 9: Media Continued
May 11: In-Class Peer Editing (Bring two copies of your rough draft to class)

Week 17

May 16: Extra Day
May 18: 
Review for Final (Final Paper Due)

The Final Exam for the course will be on Monday, May 23 from 9:30-11:30 AM in F-506.


Grading:  20% Midterm Examination 1
20% Midterm Examination 2
20% Final Examination
10% Final Paper Due Last Day of Class. Though this is only worth 10% of your grade failure to complete this assignment of the associated pre-writing will result in an F in the course.
10% Homework. Homework will be due at the start of the class for which it is assigned. I will not accept late assignments.

20% Pop Quizzes. These will be given at the start of class, they cannot be made up if missed.

A: 93-100 %

A-: 90-92 %

B+: 88-89 %

B: 83-87 %
B-: 80-82 %
C+: 78-79 %

C: 70-77 %
D: 60-69 %
F:  <60 %


Student Responsibility to Drop/Withdraw: It is the student’s responsibility to officially add, drop, or withdraw from the course stated in the class schedule. Failure to do so can result in a failing grade.

Class Attendance: A student may be disenrolled from the course after two absences; however, a student will be disenrolled from the course after eight absences without exception. (This count will begin at the first session of Week 3.) ATTENDANCE IS VERY IMPORTANT FOR THIS PARTICULAR COURSE.

Tardiness/Early Departure: If a student arrives unreasonably late or leaves early without notifying the instructor before the event, then that student will be considered absent for that class session.

Professionalism: It is assumed that students will conduct themselves in a professional manner with a positive attitude. An open mind is one of the most important tools required for success in academia. If a student is negative and feels as is there is nothing of value to be gained by the college experience or this course, he or she will not do well in this course.

Student Code of Ethics and Conduct: Students must abide by the Student Code of Conduct published in the Grossmont College Catalogue 2006-2007 24-25. Students who obstruct the instructor’s ability to convey knowledge, or disrupt their fellow students’ ability to learn, will be dealt with under the terms delineated in the Grossmont College Student Code of Conduct. Such dealings may include, but are not limited to, warnings, written reprimands, disciplinary probations, instructor-initiated suspensions, terminations of financial aid, short or long-term suspensions from campus, and temporary or permanent expulsions. These consequences are serious and can easily be avoided.

Examples of disruptive activities that will not be tolerated are: repeated cell phone ringing, repeatedly falling asleep in class, excessive talking, texting, passing of notes, entering and leaving class several times during a session, verbal rudeness directed towards the instructor and/or other students, and non-verbal rudeness directed towards the instructor and/or other students. Finally, ACADEMIC DISHONESTY IS GROUNDS FOR DISMISSAL FROM THE COURSE. If you are unsure of what academic dishonesty is, ask the instructor.

This instructor is charged with maintaining a positive learning experience for all students in this course, and that responsibility is a serious one. Disruptive behaviors will not be tolerated in this course.

TEN TIPS FOR SUCCESS IN THIS COURSE (Thanks to Professor June Yang):

  1. Be optimistic about your ability to learn from the textbook, the instructor, and each other.
  2. Do all homework. It will be collected every time, and spot-checked.
  3. Do all assigned reading.
  4. If you find you fall behind in your understanding, contact the instructor.
  5. Be prepared to spend at least two hours per hour spent in class in order to master this material. If you do not, you probably will not receive a grade of C or better.
  6. Have confidence in your ability to do the work.
  7. Use all resources at your disposal.
  8. Remember that you are gifted with more education and intelligence than many persons on this planet. If you try, you are sure to get it, or at least most of it!
  9. Remember that we are all here to learn.
  10. Remember that you are being trained, or acquiring a skill. Studying, like anything else, is a craft, i.e. an activity. No one is born a good student; we must all transform ourselves into excellent students.
Academic Integrity: Cheating and plagiarism (using as one’s own ideas, writings or materials of someone else without acknowledgement or permission) can result in any one of a variety of sanctions.  Such penalties may range from an adjusted grade on the particular exam, paper, project, or assignment to a failing grade in the course.  The instructor may also summarily suspend the student for the class meeting when the infraction occurs, as well as the following class meeting.  For further clarification and information on these issues, please consult with your instructor or contact the office of the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities: Students with disabilities who may need accommodations in this class are encouraged to notify the instructor and contact Disabled Student Programs and Services (DSPS) early in the semester so that reasonable accommodations may be implemented as soon as possible. Students may contact DSPS in person in room A-113 or by phone at (619) 660-4239 (voice) or (619) 660-4386 (TTY for deaf) or online at