PHIL XX1 Critical Thinking

Summer Semester 2013 | Day | Burnaby


INSTRUCTOR: Dai Heide, WMC 5655 (dheide at


The extent to which we succeed as responsible thinkers, consumers and citizens depends upon at least two skills: how well we analyze and evaluate what we are told by others and how clearly and consistently we think about how to succeed in achieving our individual goals. How else can you avoid being taken in by deceitful politicians, corporations and others who want something from you? And how else might you ensure that the decisions you make are really rational and free from manipulation? The primary aim of this course is to reflect and improve upon these two skills. These skills crucially depend upon our ability to understand the nature of evidence. What counts as good evidence for the truth of some claim? Can evidence ever be deceptive? What is the best way to evaluate complex (or even simple!) explanations of everyday phenomena? How should I adjust my beliefs in light of new evidence? Even if my beliefs about the future are rational, what role do my desires play in determining what course of action to take? These shall be some of our guiding questions, and along the way we shall consider many more.

We shall begin at the beginning: by considering the nature of arguments. We shall consider what makes for a good argument, but we shall also consider a range of poor but deceptive arguments. With this background in the basic tools of critical reasoning, we shall explore a number of its applications: causal reasoning, the confirmation of hypotheses, and reasoning about probability, value and decision-making. By the end of the course, students should be equipped to think clearly about, and to evaluate, fundamental claims and methods in all areas of academic inquiry and in their own day-to-day lives.


  • Salmon, Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking, 6th ed. Wadsworth Publishing. ISBN: 9781133049753


  • Five short assignments, due in tutorial - 20%
  • Two midterm examinations - 20% each
  • A final examination - 40%

 Philosophy XX1 has no prerequisites and may be applied towards the certificate in Liberal Arts and the Q-Requirement.