Phil 125 S11 Short Term: Schedule and Syllabus

PHILOSOPHY 125: Critical Thinking
Spring 2011 Short Term
Section 5642  W 6:00-9:50    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 (February 23)

Introduction, (ISD 11-16); Language (ISD 19-37)


1. Watch a local news cast and try to identify the use of video news release footage. Try and contact that local station (call or email) to ask if the news department used VNR footage for the story in question (Note: you may not get a truthful answer, but if you do, engage the person they are speaking with about the station’s policy on using VNRs.)

2. In the late 20th century, historian Daniel Boorstin coined the term “pseudo-events” to describe events and situations that are primarily created for the sake of generating press coverage. An early example is the Miss America contest, which was started more than 75 years ago and is still going strong. Try and find an example of such a pseudo-event from the past few years. What purpose is this pseudo-event serving? What interests are served or benefitted by the staging of this event?

3. Find an example of a front group using the Internet. What is this group really a front for? How might the funding source affect what you see as the group’s position on a specific issue?

Week 2 (March 2)

Language Continued and Syllogisms (ISD 38-54)
Find an example of: euphemism or dysphemism; vagueness, equivocation; amphibology; accentuation or eduction; weasel words; jargon; lexical definition; theoretical definition; stipulative definition; persuasive definition; etymological definition; definition by genus and difference; operational definition.

Week 3 (March 9)

Symbolic Logic (Handouts on Course Website)
Homework: Symbolic Logic 4: Section B #'s 1-10

Week 4 (March 16)


Week 5 (March 23)

Fallacies (ISD 55-85)
Find an example of each of the fallacies we discussed in class.

Week 6 (March 30)

On Bullshit (OB 1-67)

Week 7 (April 6)

Personal Experience (ISD 171-222)

Week 8 (April 13)

Review, EXAM 2

Week 9 (April 20)


Week 10 (April 27)

Empirical Science (223-266)
Homework: Pick a pseudoscience and then write a paragraph in which you state the claims made by that pseudoscience.

Week 11 (May 4)

Science continued, watch film in class, introduction to the Media (ISD 267-306)

Week 12 (May 11)

The Media Continued; Two copies of a draft of your paper due.

Week 13 (May 18)

Review, FINAL EXAM; Final Paper Due


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