PHIL XX1 Critical Thinking

Fall Semester 2012 | Day | Burnaby




One of the fundamental aims of being a responsible thinker, consumer and citizen is the ability to efficiently and accurately distinguish true claims from false ones: how else can you prevent being taken in by deceitful politicians, corporations and others who want something from you? However, this is no easy task. After all, it typically cannot be done just by understanding the claims; rather, we must consider what can be said in favour of and against them and how such reasons or pieces of evidence relate to the claims themselves. In short, in order to evaluate claims as true or false, we must understand the arguments that can be given for the claims and whether such arguments are good ones. Critical thinking is the study of the logic of arguments, and it is our primary topic for this course.

The term "argument" takes many meanings in English. We shall begin by disambiguating this term and uncovering its precise meaning in the context of critical thinking. We shall then focus on the nature and structure of arguments in general, the different types of arguments and the criteria of evaluating them. In the last third of the class, we shall apply what we have learned to arguments concerning causation, testimony and morality. Finally, we shall consider some common (but tempting) fallacies.


  • Feldman, Reason and Argument, Custom Edition for SFU, Pearson/Prentice Hall.


  • Five short assignments, due in tutorial - 25%
  • Two midterm examinations - 20% each
  • A final examination - 35%

Philosophy XX1 has no prerequisites.

NOTE: Philosophy XX1 may be applied toward the Certificate in Liberal Arts and the Q-requirement.