Fall 2023 - PHIL 105 D100

Critical Thinking (3)

Class Number: 5727

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Oct 6, 2023: Tue, 12:30–2:20 p.m.

    Oct 11 – Dec 5, 2023: Tue, 12:30–2:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 10, 2023
    Sun, 3:30–6:30 p.m.

    Dec 10, 2023
    Sun, 3:30–6:30 p.m.



An introduction to the tools of reasoning used in everyday life and in science. The overall aim of the course is to understand what makes good reasoning good, what makes bad reasoning bad, and how to do more of the former and less of the latter. Topics include: construction, analysis, and evaluation of arguments; logic and probability; updating beliefs and making decisions; designing experiments; interpreting statistics; identifying fallacies and biases. Open to all students. Students with credit for PHIL XX1 may not take this course for further credit. Q/Breadth-Social Sci/Sciences.


This is a course about how to think, and how to understand and evaluate what other people think. It won’t tell you what to think. You won’t prepare for exams by memorizing a lot of facts. Instead, you’ll develop general thinking skills for deciding what to believe and what to do. These are skills for you to use in any situation where having true beliefs matters, either because you simply want to know what’s true or because actions guided by true beliefs are the way best way to achieve your goals. These are also skills for clear and effective communication.

Here’s an overview of what we’ll do in this course:


An argument presents reasons to hold a belief. It’s an opportunity to learn from someone else, by seeing that their belief is well-founded. But it’s also an opportunity to discover that someone’s reasons do not support their belief. To take advantage of arguments while minimizing the risk of being misled by them, we need to analyze and evaluate them. To use arguments to show others that we have our own good reasons for a belief, we need skills for constructing and expressing them.

Logic and Probability

Logic and probability include some of the most basic rules of good reasoning. They help us notice when our beliefs should lead us to a new belief and when they conflict with one another. And they help us to see how strongly we should hold a belief based on the strength of our other beliefs, which is crucial for making good decisions and for thinking about risk and reward.

Explanation and Confirmation

Explanation and confirmation are fundamental to scientific thinking, to the careful use of evidence to arrive at reasonable beliefs about the world. There are standard patterns of explanatory and confirmatory reasoning that we can learn to use and recognize. And there are common forms of bias that are difficult to suppress by simple effort but that we can learn to notice and counteract.

Samples and Experiments

We rely on samples to learn about the world from the limited data that’s often available to us, and we’re confronted with their use in the statistics we see every day. They’re also used in the experiments by which we discover causal relationships and work out how to control the world to our advantage, such as in medical and environmental science.


  •  Read and reconstruct arguments.
  •  Recognize and construct valid deductive arguments.
  •  Suggest and describe counterexamples and formulate objections.
  •  Recognize and reconstruct explanatory and confirmation reasoning.
  •  Recognize and criticize some common forms of confirmation bias.
  •  Apply rules of probability in simple quantitative problems and in hypothesis testing.
  •  Evaluate reasoning by analogy.
  •  Explain the relevance of sample size and the flaw of a biased sample.
  •  Evaluate causal reasoning in informal and scientific (controlled experiment) contexts.
  •  Formulate and 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.

Videos: Why Study Philosophy? and Meet our professors!


  • Exam 1 28%
  • Exam 2 32%
  • Assignment 1 12%
  • Assignment 2 15%
  • Lecture (iClicker) 8%
  • Tutorial participation 5%



We’ll use i-Clickers (henceforth “clickers”) in lectures. Clickers allow everyone in our large room to respond to multiple choice questions during class, and allow me to show response statistics to the class. Every clicker question is scored for participation, and some are scored for correctness.


Free PDF course manual distributed through Canvas.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

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 philcomm@sfu.ca   More details on our website: SFU Philosophy

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website 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


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.