Phil 125 F11: Schedule and Syllabus

PHILOSOPHY 125: Critical Thinking
Spring 2011
Section 4610  MW 9:30-10:45    Location: F-716

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, August 22: Introduction (ISD 11-16)

Wednesday, August 24: Language (ISD 19-37)
Homework: (1) Find example of each of the five functions of language; (2) find two sets of words that have the same denotation but different connotations.

Week 2: Language

August 29: Language (ISD 38-49)
Homework: Use the Nostradamus prediction on page 30 of the text to try and fit some recent or historical event.

August 31: Syllogisms (ISD 49-54)
Homework: Pick an issue that is interesting to you and write two paragraphs about it. The first paragraph should strongly favor one side of the issue, the second paragraph should strongly favor the opposite side. In writing your two paragraphs, try to use as many of the manipulative features of language we discussed in class as possible. Be sure to identify the features that you use.

Week 3: Symbolic Logic

September 5: NO CLASS

September 7: Symbolic Logic (Materials Available Online)
Homework: Find examples of each of the four types of definitions and the three ways to define.

Week 4: Symbolic Logic

September 12: Symbolic Logic (Materials Available Online)

September 14: Symbolic Logic (Materials Available Online)
Homework: Symbolic Logic I, problem set B #'s 5-15; Symbolic Logic II, problem set A #'s 1-5, 21-25.

Week 5: Exam

September 19: Review for Exam Symbolic Logic continued
Homework: Symbolic Logic III: Problem Set A, all except f, j, o.

September 21: FIRST EXAM Symbolic Logic continued
Homework: Symbolic Logic IV: Problem Set B, #'s 1-10.

Week 6: Fallacies

September 26: Review for Exam

September 28: FIRST EXAM

Week 7: Fallacies

October 3: Formal Fallacies (ISD 55-58)
Homework: Find examples of each of the fallacies we discussed in class.

October 5: Informal Fallacies (ISD 59-85)
Homework: Find examples of each of the fallacies we discussed in class.

Week 8: Bullshit

October 10: On Bullshit (OB 1-30)
Homework: Find examples of each of the fallacies we discussed in class.

October 12: On Bullshit (OB 31-67)

Week 9: Personal Experience 

October 17: Bullshit Continued 

October 19: Personal Experience (ISD 171-196)

Week 10: Personal Experience

October 24: Review for Exam Personal Experience (ISD 196-222)

October 26: EXAM 2 Personal Experience Con't

Week 11: Exam

October 31: Review for Exam

November 2: EXAM 2

Week 12: Science

November 7: Empirical Science (ISD 223-242)

November 9: Empirical Science (ISD 242-266)

Week 13: Science and Evolution

November 14: Introduction of Paper Topic; Watch Film in Class

November 16: Continue Film

Week 14: Evolution and Intelligent Design

November 21: Evolution

November 23: Intelligent Design

Week 15: The Media

November 28: Introduction (ISD 267-276), The Propaganda Model of Media (ISD 277-290)

November 30: In-Class Peer Editing (Bring two copies of your rough draft to class)
Homework: Watch a 30 minute news program and identify (i) what stories are covered, (ii) the order the stories are discussed, (iii) how much time is devoted to each story.

Week 16: The Media

December 5: Media Con't (ISD 290-306)

December 7: Review for Final (Final Paper Due)

The Final Exam for the course will be on Monday, December 12 from 9:30-11:30 AM in F-716.


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