West Valley College Philosophy 17

Logic and Critical Reasoning

Course Title and Number
Philosophy 17 Logic and Critical Reasoning, 3 units

Catalog Description
This course is an introduction to critical thinking and critical writing. The student will learn techniques of practical reasoning and argumentation, with emphasis on application of these techniques in the writing of a sequence of argumentative essays. Topics include: critical reading, argument analysis, recognizing propaganda and stereotypes, clarifying ambiguity, meaning and definition, evaluating evidence, logical correctness vs factual correctness, and common mistakes in reasoning (formal and informal fallacies). Critical writing strategies are emphasized. Sample arguments for analysis are drawn from readings in philosophy and from culturally diverse sources in other fields. This course fulfills the IGETC Critical Thinking/English Composition requirement.

Grade of C or better in English 1A.

This prerequisite is enforced. However, you can still enroll in the class without having met the prerequisite. You just need to file a special request.

However, we would like you to be aware of the possible consequences of enrolling in the class without having met the prerequisite:

  1. IGETC requires the English 1A prerequisite. This means a CSU or UC can refuse to accept the class for transfer within IGETC if you don't have the prerequisite. However, for many students, this does not matter. If, for example, you are not interested in transfer (perhaps you already have a B.A.), or if you are planning to attend a school other than CSU or UC, or you are not following the IGETC pattern, you needn't worry about this.
  2. Philosophy 3 and 17 presuppose that you already have the skills taught in English 1A. They assume that you can write an argumentative essay or research paper in standard English. If you cannot read and write fluently in English, you will likely not succeed in Philosophy 3 or 17.

If, after considering these matters, you would still like to challenge the prerequisite, please do so! We'd love to have you in the class.

Texts for Philosophy 17 should include at least the following:

    A critical thinking text oriented towards informal logic, such as


  1. A critical writing text containing essays and other arguments for analysis,and emphasizing writing skills, such as

Supplemental materials may include

All primary texts should include awareness of ethnic and cultural diversity.

Course Objectives
Upon completion of this course, the student should be able to:

  1. Assess, for a wide range of arguments, whether or not, or to what extent, conclusions follow from, or are supported by, premises. The student should be able to articulate this assessment in competent written form.
  2. Demonstrate clearly, in writing, the ability to recognize and explain propaganda and stereotyping.
  3. Diagnose common informal fallacies, identify vagueness, and clarify meanings. The student should be able to carry out these tasks in competent written form.
  4. Demonstrate proficiency in written argument, including argument presentation and refutation techniques.
  5. Edit and critique his/her own thinking and writing, so his/her arguments become more precise, powerful, and persuasive.

Course Content

I.   WHY THIS CLASS IS IMPORTANT		2 weeks Arguments in everyday life Recognizing propaganda Advertising, visual imagery, and argument Media presentations of news and the deterioration of political     discourse "Meta-thinking" -- thinking about thinking -- and creative thinking Good thinking, good writing, and academic successII.  CRITICAL THINKING STRATEGIES		8 weeks1.  Critical reading- Distinguishing functions of language vs grammatical forms- Recognizing language with emotional connotations- Recognizing stereotypes (negative and positive) - Distinguishing meaningfulness vs nonsense    (discussion of the logical empiricist criterion)- Recognizing ambiguity- Recognizing figurative language and analogy2.  Diagnosing merely verbal disagreement vs    substantive disagreement- Denotative vs stipulative vs real (logical) vs persuasive definitions - Intension and extension- Paradigms and analogy3  Reading for the argument- Recognizing arguments in prose and non-verbal    arguments in media images - Distinguishing arguments from non-arguments- Recognizing stated premises and conclusions- Uncovering unstated premises (assumptions) and conclusions - Complex prose arguments4.  Identifying inductive and deductive arguments5.  Evaluating factual correctness: empirical, a priori andnormative claims and evaluation criteria for each6.  Evaluating logical correctness: concepts of validity and soundness7.  Recognizing inconsistency8.  Common valid argument forms: modus ponens, modus tollens, disjunctive syllogism, chain, dilemmas, etc.9.  Diagnosing common mistakes in reasoning (informal fallacies)At least the following should be covered: equivocation, composition, division, begging the question, accident, slippery slope, irrelevant emotional appeals, ad hominem, questionable authority, false dilemma, impromptu definition, loaded question, inductive fallacies, and causal fallacies.10. Argument from analogy and its importance for legal and moral reasoning11. Meta-thinking -- Philosophical questions raised by the enterprise of critical thinking: Why are some arguments and claims "better" than others? Is knowledge really possible?  What is a well-supported view?  Is everything a matter of opinion? Are scientific claims better supported than others?III. CRITICAL WRITING STRATEGIES		8 weeks- Organizing the argumentative essay- Standard gambits for beginning and ending an argumentative essay- Outlining techniques- Techniques for diagramming arguments (e.g., Scriven's casting method)- Writing appropriately for the target audience- Ordering arguments for best rhetorical effect- Keywords to clarify argument structure- The "principle of charity" -- putting the opponent's   position in the best light- Using analogies effectively- Marshaling and evaluating evidence- Using (and critiquing) authorities- Avoiding ambiguity- Avoiding fallacies- Avoiding racial, sexual, and cultural stereotyping- Writing dialectically (displaying argument    and counter-argument)- Techniques for writing refutations   --Refuting an argument by demonstrating       ambiguous premises and/or conclusion   --Refuting an argument by demonstrating bad logic    --Refuting an argument be demonstrating false,       misleading, or dubious premises   -- Refuting an argument by exposing false,       misleading, or dubious analogies- Critiquing and editing strategies

Earlier assignments should be relatively straightforward skill-building. However, essays are expected to exhibit progressively greater depth and sophistication, building on and incorporating previously-learned skills.

General Requirements
Students will write a minimum 8000-10000 words in this class; essays will be graded on the basis of demonstrated competence in both argument analysis and English composition skills. A final examination is also required. Other requirements are determined by instructor. These may include completion of one or more papers, oral reports, written exams, journal assignments, participation in class discussion, etc.

EvaluationSuggested Instructional Methods and Materials
Primarily lecture and discussion. These can be supplemented by films, videos, guest speakers, class debates, etc., as deemed appropriate and desirable by the individual instructor. |||


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