Phil 125 S15: Schedule and Syllabus

PHILOSOPHY 125: Critical Thinking
Spring 2015
Section 5643  TR 8-9:15    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. ISBN: 978-1583227657
  • Frankfurt, Harry G. On Bullshit. Princeton University Press: 2005. ISBN: 978-0691122946
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

Tuesday, January 27: Introduction (ISD 11-16)

Homework: Explain the three reasons Baillargeon gives for why he wrote our text.

Thursday, January 29: Language (ISD 19-37)

Homework: Find examples of each of the five functions of language. Find an example of a euphemism and an example of a dysphemism. 

Week 2: Language

February 3: Language (ISD 38-49)
Homework: Find an example of each of the deceptive features of language we discussed: vagueness, accentuation, eduction, equivocation, amphibology, weasel words.

February 5: Language Continued
Homework: Find an example of jargon. Then find an example of each of the four types or functions of definitions. 

Week 3: Symbolic Logic

February 10: Syllogisms (ISD 49-54)
Homework: Find examples of the three ways to define. 

February 12: Symbolic Logic (Materials Available Online)
Homework: Symbolic Logic I; Problem Set A #'s 6-15; Problem Set B #'s 21-25.

Week 4: Symbolic Logic

February 17: Symbolic Logic (Materials Available Online)
Homework: Symbolic Logic II, Problem Set A #'s 20-25.

February 19: Symbolic Logic (Materials Available Online)
Homework: Draw up truth tables for problems 6-10 and 25 that were on the board in class. 

Week 5: Symbolic Logic

February 24: Symbolic Logic Continued
Homework: Symbolic Logic 4: Problem Set B #'s 1, 3, 5, 7, 9.

February 26: Symbolic Logic Continued
Homework: Symbolic Logic 4: Problem Set B #'s 2, 4, 6, 8, 10.

Week 6: Exam

March 3: Review for Exam


Week 7: Fallacies

March 10: Formal Fallacies (ISD 55-58)
Homework: Find examples of five of the fallacies we discussed in class. 

March 12: Informal Fallacies (ISD 59-
Homework: Find examples of five of the fallacies we discussed in class. 

Week 8: Personal Experience

March 17: Personal Experience (ISD 171-196) 

March 19Personal Experience (ISD 196-222)
Homework: Find examples of two optical illusions. See if you can find an explanation for them. 

Week 9: Spring Break

March 24: NO CLASS!!

March 26: NO CLASS!!

Week 10: Science

March 31: Personal Experience Continued
Homework: Find an example of a memory you had that turned out to be incorrect or false? How did you discover that the memory was mistaken?

April 2Empirical Science (ISD 223-242)

Week 11: Science

April 7: NO CLASS!!

April 9: Empirical Science (ISD 242-266)

Week 12: Evolution and Intelligent Design
April 14: Evolution

April 16Intelligent Design

Week 13: Exam
April 21: Review for Exam

April 23: EXAM 2

Week 14Bullshit
April 28: 
On Bullshit (OB 1-30)
Homework: Choose a topic for your final paper. 

April 30: On Bullshit (OB 31-67); Discuss paper topics

Week 15: Bullshit and the Media
May 5: 
Introduction (ISD 267-276), The Propaganda Model of Media (ISD 277-290)

May 7: In-class peer editing. Bring two copies of a draft of your essay to class.

Week 16: The Media
May 12: Media Continued
Homework Due May 19: Find an example of a VNR and an example of a Front Group. For the VNR, indicate where you found it, and try to figure out who made it. Make an effort to contact the station where you found that VNR and ask them their policy regarding VNR's. For the Front Group, identify the mission of that group and identify the main organization behind it.  

May 14: Media Continued (ISD 290-306) (Final Paper Due)

Week 17: The Media
May 19: Media Continued

May 21: Review for Final 

The Final Exam for the course will be on Thursday, May 28 8-10 AM in F-716.

  • 20% Midterm Examination 1
  • 20% Midterm Examination 2
  • 20% Final Examination
  • 10% Final Paper. 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.
Grade Scale:
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: During the first two weeks of the semester, you will be dropped for missing any class. After that, 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. 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. 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.

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

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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 time outside of class working on class material, doing readings, homework, preparing for quizzes and exams, etc.
  6. Have confidence in your ability to do the work.
  7. Ask questions if you don't understand something.
  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.