PHIL XX1 Critical Thinking

Summer Semester 2011 | EVENING | BURNABY


INSTRUCTOR: Kent Schmor, WMX 5605


  • The Power of Critical Thinking, 2nd Canadian edition, Lewis Vaughn and Chris MacDonald, 2010.
  • Additional readings will be made available online.


“Space aliens abducted your neighbours. You were a medieval stable boy in a former life. Herbs cure AIDS. Levitation is possible. Some people can see ghosts. We are all God. Near-death experiences prove there’s life after death. Bigfoot exists. Elvis lives.”

Do you believe any of the above claims are (or might be) true? Do you believe any of them should be dismissed as crazy or laughable? Why? How should we go about evaluating such claims?

This course is an introduction to the nature of critical thinking. Our investigations will begin with the logic of arguments (i.e. how evidence can be used to support conclusions). Logic can be a course entirely of its own. It can be studied rather abstractly, much as in a math course. It can also be studied with an eye towards its practical relevance. This is how we will approach the subject. In particular, of interest to us is the general question: What tools can we use to determine whether or not we have a good argument before us? Answering this question will require that we learn to identify and understand different types of arguments, distinguish arguments from other forms of persuasion, and recognize different types of fallacies.

We will then look at how these tools can be applied to the investigation of various weird phenomena and controversial theories. Topics will include creationism, astrology, conspiracy theories, UFO abductions, ESP, ghosts, and near death experiences. This course may or may not change your mind on any of these topics. However, it will teach you some of the most general principles and procedures that underlie good reasoning on any topic whatsoever.



  • Homework assignments 20%
  • First midterm exam 25%
  • Second midterm exam 25%
  • Final exam 30%

Note: Philosophy XX1 has no prerequisites and may be applied towards the Certificate in Liberal Arts and the Q-requirement.