University of West Georgia Department of English and Philosophy

Critical Thinking:  Fall 2012

PHIL 2020: Section: 05

T/TR 8:00 – 9:15 am

Pafford 109 – Social Science Building

Instructor: Gary Senecal

Office: Pafford 304 D Ext: 91464

Office Hours: T/TH 10:30 – 12:00 or By Appointment


             This course will look to address the introductory questions which arise amidst logical thought, critical analysis, and philosophical inquiry regarding argumentation. Simply put, we live in a time where the art of dialogue, discourse, and sound argument seem to have eroded without great care. The founders of our democracy believed that without rigorous discourse the foundation of the republic would crumble. Thus, as students of critical analysis, we are left with this burden to raise our standard of thoughtfulness, acumen, and care regarding argument and inquiry. Ultimately, students must be able to set aside their respective view points on an issue and examine the credibility/lack thereof on all sides before making an evaluation. This process will become the foundation of our efforts and the apogee of our task. This course provides an introduction to logical reasoning and critical thinking. We will focus on the nature and analysis of arguments, deductive and non-deductive reasoning, informal fallacies, and the uses of language.

                   This course has many practical benefits. Every day we are met with a barrage of radio and television commercials, appeals by friends and families, speeches by politicians, and lectures in the college classroom. In many of these situations, we are asked to accept some claim about what we ought or ought not to believe (e.g., either endorse or reject a plan to increase taxes) or what we ought to do or refrain from doing. Sometimes when people attempt to persuade us to believe something or to buy their product, their reasons are good; other times they are not. We may be convinced that truth is on our side and that we can prove it, but can we? Do we have good reasons for thinking the way we do?

This course is about learning to reason well—learning to make good arguments and to evaluate the arguments of others. Your own education and efforts to live well are enhanced or diminished by your ability to reason well and think critically.

Learning Outcomes

• Distinguish fact and informed opinion from mere opinion in a variety of argumentative contexts.

• Organize evidence and compose persuasive arguments, both orally and in writing.

• Identify and distinguish formal and informal fallacies of reasoning.

• Identify, develop, and analyze reasons in support of a conclusion.

These course-specific learning outcomes contribute to the departmental learning outcomes of the Philosophy Program by enabling students better to:

• Ask philosophical questions and differentiate their types.

• Incorporate a philosophical position in oral and written communications.

• Critically outline and analyze philosophical issues.

• Exhibit critical thinking skills.

Requirements: Students will be required to thoughtfully engage all the required texts and be prepared for regular class dialogue on these texts. A primary goal in studying philosophy is to understand the perspective of the author regarding the question at hand. Without thoughtful engagement, there will be no room for understanding; without understanding there will be no room for true dialogue. Students will be asked to prepare several forms of assignments for homework. Homework, simply put, is not optional.

Teaching Procedures: The course will consist of a combination of lectures and seminars. On lecture days, students should expect quizzes from the reading. On seminar days, students should expect to be prepared to participate and share their thoughts.

Grading: Final = 25% (Paper and Presentation)

               Mid Term Exam = 25% (Explanation, Evaluation, Dialogue)

              Weekly Assignments = 25% (Quizzes)

               Class Participation = 25% (Verbal Class Participation in Seminar)

1. Quizzes

                On classes that follow a reading and/or problems from the text, students should be expected to begin class with a quiz on that material. Quizzes will be made mostly of homework questions assigned for that class period OR questions from the reading. These are intended to encourage students to keep up with the material; a ‘must’ for a course in which knowledge continually builds on itself.

                If after the first two quizzes a student’s average falls below 50%, the student is required to meet with the professor.

                Being late for a quiz does not warrant one reason for making up the quiz.

2. Midterm Exam

                There will be one mid-term testing the material from the first half of the course. No make-up exam will be given. (No hats, no cell phones, everything away, no leaving the class)

3. Final Exam - Argument Analysis (Presentation and Paper)

                Drawing from their knowledge of critical thinking skills and logic, students will write a paper analyzing one argument found in one publication related to the student’s major (e.g., textbook, journal, newspaper). Based upon their paper, students will make a 5-minute oral presentation of their analysis before the class. The paper is to be a minimum 1,400 words, double-spaced, standard margins. Extensive guidelines for the project can be found below.

4. Homework

                For many of the assigned readings there is homework that corresponds to it. If you wish to excel in this course, do the homework. Most students who come to me with difficulty in the course have not been keeping up with their homework from class period to class period. Keep on top of this, or your understanding (and grade!) will suffer. You may also find that forming study groups and homework groups early on in the semester will benefit your learning. Quizzes will be made up primarily of homework questions. Thus, to excel on a quiz, it behooves you to have completed the homework.

5. Seminar Participation

                On seminar days, students will be expected to thoughtfully engage the reading and participate in the class seminar that day.  Students should be prepared to comment at least twice during seminar to be considered for a full credit grade. A comment is not just raising your hand and saying ‘some-thing.’ A comment must be on the text or on the content where the debate is moving at that moment in class. If you plan to change the topic during seminar, you must refer back to the text to do so. To put it simply, not all words put into a sentence will be considered an actual comment in seminar participation; not all comments are created equal.

Required Text

Frances Howard-Snyder, Daniel Howard-Snyder, Ryan Wasserman, The Power of Logic, 4th Edition (McGraw Hill Publishing Company). ISBN: 9780073407371

All seminar readings can be found on CourseDen or will be e-mailed to the students.

Course Policies and Structure

Attendance will be kept, and it is students’ responsibility to keep up with their attendance and make sure their understanding of their attendance record coincides with the professor’s.

Official UWG statement on Attendance: “Class attendance policies are determined by each instructor for his or her own classes, subject to the following principles: class attendance policies shall be stated clearly during the drop-add period; each student is responsible for everything which happens in class and is responsible for making specific arrangements with the instructor for the work missed, including that missed during illness or university-sponsored activities; students absent from class while officially representing the University should not be penalized in the calculation of final grades; students may be dropped from the class by the instructor for violation of the instructor's attendance policy with a grade of W up to the midpoint of the semester or with the grade of WF following the midpoint of the semester; any student who is unable to continue attendance in class should either drop the course, withdraw from the University, or make appropriate arrangements with the instructor; any student who must be absent for more than three successive days is required to notify the Student Development Center, Parker Hall, telephone 678-839-6428. It is also recommended that the student notify the instructor or department. Faculty members have the authority to drop students who do not contact them or attend the first two class meetings for classes which meet daily (or the first class meeting for classes which meet less frequently). Faculty does not, however, automatically drop students who miss these first classes. Students who do not intend to remain in a course must drop the course before the end of the official drop/add period. Failure to drop a course during the drop/add period may result in grades of F in courses not attended.”

Absences: Students should obviously attend all classes, but are permitted to miss up to three without   penalty (no questions asked, etc.). Every absence after the third (up to the sixth) will result in a 5% reduction of the final grade. At seven absences a student will be given a failing grade for the class. I will do my best to let you out on time, so do your best to be on time. Students who leave class and do not return will be counted absent. Students who leave class and return should not make a habit of this; if they do, they will be counted absent.

Tardiness: I will take attendance at the beginning of every class. Once I complete taking attendance and close my attendance book, students who arrive in class by 8:05 are officially deemed ‘tardy.’ Each tardy counts as half an absence. Thus, 2 tardies = 1 absence. If you arrive after 8:05, you will be marked as absent. If you are tardy, it is YOUR responsibility to come to me at the end of class and notify me of your, albeit late, presence in class that day.

Perfect Attendance: Students who have zero absences and zero tardies (and who do not leave class early) will have 4 points added to their final grade.

Texting and other Disturbances: Texting, Face-booking, surfing the web, IMing, using the cell phone, listening to music, or any other class disturbances constitute a violation of the definition of attendance above. EACH TIME you distract yourself in class, expect to be called out and thereafter marked absent; you can accrue more than one absence per day this way. All electronic devices should be in a locked and upright position (turned OFF) for the duration of class. Don’t bring your computer to class; it’s not necessary or useful. If there is an emergency situation where someone is expecting a call, the professor should be notified prior to class and students should receive the call outside the classroom.

Automatic withdrawal: I will withdraw all students on the day of their seventh absence. If this occurs after the W date, that student will receive a WF.

                Make-up work and late work: No assignment of any sort may be made up. Extenuating circumstances must be discussed with me as early as possible.

Extra Credit: Students should not plan to rely on extra credit as a way of achieving a desired grade in this class, though opportunities may be given throughout the course of the semester. Extra credit will only be extended to students who have not had attendance and tardiness issues throughout the semester.

Miscellaneous: Papers submitted in other courses (whether college, high school, etc.) may not be submitted again for this course.

Cheating and Plagiarism

                The Department of English and Philosophy defines plagiarism as taking personal credit for the words and ideas of others as they are presented in electronic, print, and verbal sources. The Department expects that students will accurately credit sources in all assignments. An equally dishonest practice is fabricating sources or facts; it is another form of misrepresenting the truth. Plagiarism is grounds for failing the course. Papers submitted in other courses (whether college, high school, etc.) may not be submitted again for this course.



Date                        Assignment/Reading/Topic                                                                                         Homework

Aug         21           Introduction, 5-Part Course Methodology, Deductive Statement Logic                                   

23           Deductive Syllogisms         Read: Pp. 1- 10; Answer: Pp. 13-14 (C - #’s 1- 15, D - #’s 1 – 15) 

28           Deductive Syllogisms                                          Read: Pp. 14 – 28: Pp. 28 – 32 (B - #’s 1 – 15)

 Sep        30           Deductive Syllogisms                                                               Answer: Pp. 31-32 (C - #’s 1 – 15)               

4              Deductive Syllogisms                                                  QUIZ Answer: Pp. 31 – 32 (D - #’s 1- 15)                

                6              Deductive Categorical Syllogisms          Pp. 226 - 228 (Part A/C, Answer, do NOT Diagram)          

                11           Deductive Categorical Syllogisms                                                                           QUIZ Handout

                13           Inductive Syllogisms                                 Rd: Pp. 50  - 56 Answer: Pp. 58 – 60 (C - #’s 1 – 20)

                18           Inductive Syllogisms                                                                                          QUIZ  D - #’s 1 - 10

                20           Informal Fallacies                         Read: Pp. 147 – 160 Answer: Pp. 161 – 163 (A - #’s 1 – 30)              

                25           Informal Fallacies                              Read: Pp. 166 – 174; Answer: 174 - 176 (A - #’s 1 – 30)

                27           Informal Fallacies                                     Read: Pp. 177 – 189; Answer: 189 - 191 (#’s 1 – 27)

Oct          2              Informal Fallacies & Identifying Sub Topics                                                                           QUIZ

4              Mid Term #1

9              (S) National Defense                           Cheney’s Speech on National Security – Oct 22, 2009

11           (S) National Defense                            Obama’s Speech on National Security – Oct 22, 2009

16           (S) Gay Marriage                                                    Ross Douthat & Catholic Church Argument  

18           (S) Gay Marriage                                The Conservative Case - Teddy Olsen; Andrew Sullivan

23           (S) Immigration                                                          Reform Obama’s Speech Against Arizona)

25           (S) Immigration Reform                Brewer’s Speech in Defense of Arizona’s SB 1070 Reform                            

                30           (S) Health Insurance Reform                      Romney’s Reaction to Supreme Court Upholding

Nov         1              (S) Health Insurance Reform                              Obama’s Defense of the Affordable Care Act

6              (S) Open Debate – VOTE!                                                           (Final Exam Paper Topics Due)           

                8              (S) Gun Control                                                                                                             David Brooks

                13           (S) Gun Control                                                                                                          Fareed Zakaria

15           (S) OPEN

20           No Class – Thanksgiving Break                                                                                                    

22           No Class – Thanksgiving Break                                                                                                

                27           FINAL – PAPER PRESENTATIONS

                29           FINAL – PAPER PRESENTATIONS       

Dec         4              FINAL – PAPER PRESENTATIONS        [Class meets from 8-10:30am today]

*Any part of this syllabus is subject to change at the instructor’s discretion; advance notice will be given should the syllabus change.

Final Exam – Paper

                Drawing from their knowledge of critical thinking skills and logic, students will write a research paper (1,400 words, double-spaced) analyzing the full spectrum of one argument/topic. This topic can be drawn from one’s major, one’s social/political interests, or a topic we have covered this semester. Research sources for this paper should be taken from a textbook, journal, trade magazine; online sources of these kinds are o.k., but blogs are not acceptable.

                Students are required to have their argument approved by October 27th; failure to do so in that time will result in a 5% deduction from the paper grade each day after. The paper is due electronically at midnight the evening before the student’s presentation, and a hard copy is to be brought to class. 10% will be deducted from the paper for every day the paper is late.

                Students must present clearly their thesis and subtopics throughout the paper. All evidence must be cited immediately after it is presented. Failure to do so will be considered as plagiarism and you will fail the paper. Students should also point out objections to the conclusion being defended; sometimes these objections are considered in the argument, and sometimes you need to supply them yourself.

                Your analysis of the topic will be graded on the degree to which it demonstrates familiarity with and proper application of the many concepts covered in the course, as well as its clarity and organization.

                At the end of your paper please list a word count. If your word count is erroneous, you will fail the paper.


Based upon their paper, students will make a 5-minute oral presentation of their work before the class, and this presentation will be followed by questions from fellow classmates. While conversational, your presentation should be polished. Thus, one should not read directly from his or her paper, nor should one present without notes. It should appear that you have practiced your presentation before. Clarity of analysis should be the highest priority. Both a polished and clear presentation may be achieved, in part, through practice in front of a roommate or friend, and then asking them for feedback.

Students are to dress professionally. 1 point will be deducted for improper dress. If students have questions about this, ask ahead of time. Students who are scheduled to present and are absent will fail the presentation and receive penalties for a late paper.

PowerPoint is permitted though not required (advance notice is required). Handouts are permitted though not required. Students in the audience may not use computers during presentations (and of course no phone usage, etc.)

Students who are not presenting their papers must still be present in class. On the 2 days students are not presenting their own papers, they will be given a regular seminar grade for their engagement in their peers’ presentations via inquiry and comment. If a student does not show up to their peers’ presentations because it is not ‘my-day-to-present,’ will be given 2 absences and 2 ‘0’s for a seminar grade per-day missed. Simply put, it is important not to check out at this point whether you are presenting or not for you will still be graded.

Students tardy on a presentation day may not enter the classroom during another student’s presentation, but must wait until a presentation ends (listen for applause).

Do not overuse the ‘argument from authority.’ Students sometimes claim an argument is an argument from authority simply by virtue of having an author who is qualified to write an argument. This is NOT an argument from authority. An argument from authority is one whose conclusion is defended on the grounds that some authority said it was so.



·         You may not use laptop computers, cell phones, or other electronic devices while class is in session. Turn off all laptops, cell phones, headphones and other electronic devices before class begins.

·         Please do not eat when class is in session; drinks are OK.

·         Leaving the classroom while class is in session (e.g., to visit the restroom) is both disrespectful and distracting. Do not leave the room during class unless it is absolutely essential that you do so.

·         Do not study material from other classes while this class is in session. While you are in this class, I expect your attention to be focused on it rather than on your other courses.

·         Students may be dismissed from any class meeting at which they exhibit behavior that disrupts the learning environment of others. Such behavior includes – but is not limited to – arriving excessively late (more than 10 minutes) for class, allowing cell phones to ring, speaking disrespectfully to the instructor and/or to other students, checking email or surfing the web, and using personal audio or visual devices. Each dismissal of this kind will count as an absence and will be applied toward the attendance policy above. If you are dismissed twice from class for disruptive behavior, you will be automatically withdrawn from this class.




·         I pledge to do my best to work with the University to provide all students with equal access to my classes and materials, regardless of special needs, temporary or permanent disability, special needs related to pregnancy, etc.

·         If you have any special learning needs, particularly (but not limited to) needs defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and require specific accommodations, please do not hesitate to make these known to me, either yourself or through Disability Services in 272 Parker Hall.

·         Students with documented special needs may expect accommodation in relation to classroom accessibility, modification of testing, special test administration, etc. This is not only my personal commitment: it is your right, and it is the law.

·         For more information, please contact Disability Services at the University of West Georgia.



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