Fall 2020 - PHIL 105 D100

Critical Thinking (3)

Class Number: 3951

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 9 – Dec 8, 2020: Tue, 10:30–11:20 a.m.

    Sep 9 – Dec 8, 2020: Thu, 10:30–11:20 a.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 18, 2020
    Fri, 12:00–3:00 p.m.



An introduction to the evaluation of arguments as they are encountered in everyday life. The central aim will be to sharpen skills of reasoning and argumentation by understanding how arguments work and learning to distinguish those which actually prove what they set out to show from those which do not. Open to all students. Students with credit for PHIL XX1 may not take this course for further credit. Q/Breadth-Social Sci/Sciences.


The official name of this course, Critical Thinking, is not very informative because “critical thinking” means different things to different people. The unofficial name says what the course really is: How to Think. The purpose of this course is to think clearly and reason well.

The course is not “What to Think”. It will not give you a bunch of facts, and the exams will not ask you for facts. It’s not that we don’t care about truth. The ultimate purpose of clear thinking and good reasoning is to find, understand, and communicate truth. But our goal here is not to memorize facts. Our goal is to develop a set of thinking tools that we can use to get true beliefs and avoid false ones.

We’ll always need some true beliefs to begin with. The tools on their own are not enough. If we start with too many false beliefs, the concepts and skills of good reasoning alone will not help us. But if we care about truth, and are willing to learn about the world so that we have some facts to reason with, the tools of critical thinking are very powerful.

These tools include argument analysis, basic logic and probability, and scientific reasoning. Developing them requires hard work. But it’s worth the hard work because they empower us to better understand the world around us, to recognize when we should change our beliefs, to find and criticize other people’s errors, and to clearly organize, express, and defend our thoughts. So get ready to think!


  • Recognize and reconstruct arguments.
  • Analyze deductive arguments and evaluate them as valid or invalid.
  • Provide and describe counter-examples, and formulate objections.
  • Apply rules of probability to hypothesis testing.
  • Recognize and criticize some common fallacies of confirmation.
  • Reconstruct and evaluate reasoning by analogy.
  • Appreciate the relevance of sample size, and explain a biased sample.
  • Evaluate causal reasoning in informal and scientific (controlled experiment) contexts.
  • Diagram causal explanations.
PHIL 105 may be applied towards the Quantitative Requirement, and the Breadth-Social Sciences Requirement OR the Breadth-Science Requirement (but not both; student can choose which Breadth requirement to satisfy and plan enrollment in other courses accordingly).

: PHIL 105 has replaced PHIL XX1. If you have taken PHIL XX1 in the past and you enroll in PHIL 105, it will be considered a repeat.


  • 2 mid-term exams (each at 15%) 30%
  • Lecture participation (iClicker Reef) 10%
  • Tutorial participation 15%
  • 2 short assignments (each at 15%) 30%
  • Final exam 15%


Course and tutorial delivery: remote, synchronous. Online presence is required during scheduled lecture and tutorial time. Classes are live-streamed, not prerecorded. Tutorials are designed for real-time small group interaction. Exams are run live on Canvas.



Students need reliable high-speed internet access. Lectures and tutorials both use Zoom. Laptop or desktop computer is recommended. A tablet will also work. Smartphone is technically possible but not recommended.
We’ll also use iClicker Reef for student responses in lectures. This is the software version of iClicker. A one-term license costs US $9.99. For Reef to work correctly and record your marks, you must sign up with your SFU email address and SFU Canvas log-in info.


Custom text (PDF document) supplied with registration.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

Thinking of a Philosophy Major or Minor? The Concentration in Law and Philosophy? The Certificate in Ethics? The Philosophy and Methodology of Science Certificate?
Contact the PHIL Advisor at philmgr@sfu.ca   More details on our website: SFU Philosophy

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).