PHIL 110-42 – Introduction to Critical Thinking

Department of Philosophy

San Francisco State University

Fall 2013

TTH, 12:35-1:50 pm

HUM 119

Instructor:        Ashlie Meredith


Office Hrs:        TW 2:00 – 3:00 pm, or by appointment

Office:                Hum 391 A


“If all ideas have equal validity then you are lost, because then, it seems to me, no ideas have any validity at all”                                          -Carl Sagan. “The Burden of Skepticism”

“For various reason most people get so caught up in everyday affairs that their astonishment at the world gets pushed into the background… a philosopher never gets quite used to the world.  To him or her, the world continues to seem a bit unreasonable--bewildering, even enigmatic”

-Jostein Gaarder Sophie’s World

In this class we will be building the tools necessary to critically think about the world around us.  We will learn what arguments are and how to tell the difference between the good and the bad;  we will do formal logic exercises that will show us how to make and analyze arguments with scientific precision; we will explore what science has to offer and what sort of access we can have to “truth”.  Most importantly we will learn how to avoid biased and unreasonable thinking in the hopes of making better decisions on what to believe and what to do about those beliefs.

This course satisfies the following General Education requirement: A3: Critical Thinking.



We will also be reading philosophical literature, logic texts, psychological studies, and news articles--all of which I will make available on iLearn:



This course relies heavily on group discussions and working through exercises in the classroom.  Therefore, attendance will be correlated to your grade regardless of an official attendance grade. However, your dedication to attending class will help you earn a percentage of your final grade. You are permitted 1 absence no questions asked, after which each absence will cost you 15 pts.


Your homework is to do the assigned readings and turn in either (1) a discussion question based on the reading (2) a response to a question posed on iLearn regarding a particular reading, or (3) worksheets, presentations, and exercises done in class.  Homework is graded credit/no credit and will be worth 10 pts each.


There will be two, non-comprehensive quizzes given throughout the course. They will cover the terms and concepts most recently covered in class and be worth 100pts each.

Final Project/Library Research/Civic Engagement Assignment

Your final project will be a multi-stage report in which you utilize library resources to identify an issue that affects our community, evaluate information and sources to determine causes and possible solutions to the problem, and cite those sources appropriately.  I will be encouraging you to start thinking about this project early in the semester.  Your final report will require that you explain how the tools of critical thinking discussed throughout the course influenced both the issue you chose and the solutions proposed.


The course grade will be based on 900 total points, distributed as follows:


150 pts


300 pts

Exam 1

100 pts

Final Project

250 pts

Exam 2

100 pts


Excused Absences

If you are going to be absent for an extended period of time due to illness, family emergency or religious observance, speak with me as much in advance as possible. Please be ready to provide proof. Absences for university required events will also be excused.  Quizzes and Exams are scheduled far in advance and cannot be missed or made up unless prior arrangements are made with me.

Arriving late

We all know how to get where we need to be in a timely matter. However, emergencies do happen, so if you’re going to come to class late, please do so QUIETLY.

Late Work

Late work will not be accepted unless arrangements are made with me in advance due to extenuating circumstances, illness, family emergency, etc. If you must miss class please email me your homework BEFORE class begins, otherwise I will not grade it.

Electronic Devices

Did you know you can turn your cell phone on “airplane mode”? Your phone can stay on but it won’t receive any calls or texts! Please no cell phone use in class, if I hear your phone go off I will ask you to leave. Laptops are allowed, but keep in mind that checking your Facebook is extremely distracting for the students next to you.


Students with disabilities who need reasonable accommodations are encouraged to contact the me. The Disability Programs and Resource Center (DPRC) is available to facilitate the reasonable accommodations process. The DPRC is located in the Student Service Building and can be reached by telephone: voice/TTY 415-338-2472 or by email:


Plagiarism is a form of cheating or fraud; it occurs when a student misrepresents the work of another as his or her own. Any assignment found to be plagiarized will be given an "F" grade. A second instance of plagiarism will result in an “F” for the course. All instances of plagiarism in the College of Humanities will be reported to the Dean of the College, and may be reported to the University Judicial Affairs Officer for further action.

The Learning Assistance Center

The Learning Assistance Center (LAC) provides free, on-campus writing tutoring for SF State students. It offers both one-time and ongoing tutoring sessions, with some same day appointments available. For more information and to schedule an appointment, see

Campus Safety & Title IX

SF State fosters a campus free of sexual violence including sexual harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and/or any form of sex or gender discrimination. If you disclose a personal experience as an SF State student, the course instructor is required to notify the Dean of Students. To disclose any such violence confidentially, contact: The SAFE Place - (415) 338-2208; Counseling and Psychological Services Center - (415) 338-2208;


Tasks labeled [READ] and [TURN IN] are readings and assignments to be completed before class time on the date listed

Week 1

What is Philosophy?

Aug 25

Introduction, Syllabus, iLearn, Belief Exercise

Aug 27

Plato’s Cave, Ch 1 “What is Critical Thinking” Lecture, Ex 1.2-1.4 in class

Week 2

What Can We Know?

Sep 1

Ch 2 “Obstacles to Critical Thinking” Lecture, Ex 2.2 in class

Sep 3


READ: Descartes's Meditations, TURN IN: Discussion Questions “Skepticism vs. Incredulity” Lecture

Week 3

What is an Argument?

Sep 8

Ch 3 “Argument Basics” Lecture, Ex 3.3 in class

Sep 10

READ: Teller Ch 2, Ex 2-2 a-j, 2-3 a-e in class

Week 4

Transcribing and Truth Tables

Sep 15

Ch 6 “Propositional Logic” Lecture, Ex 6.1, 6.3, 6.4 in class

Sep 17

Teller Ch 4 “Conditionals” Lecture, Ex 4-2 (a-e)

Week 5

Logical Equivalence, Contradiction, Truths

Sep 22

READ: Teller Ch 3 Lecture, Ex 3-2 (a-e), Review for QUIZ

Sep 24


Week 6

What is Science?

Sep 29

“Science vs. Wonder” Video, Ch 10 “Scientific Arguments” Lecture, Ex 10.2 in class

Oct 1

READ: “The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science”, TURN IN: Discussion Question

Week 7

Inductive Arguments

Oct 6

Ch 8 “Induction” Lecture, Ex 8.1 & 8.4 in class

Oct 8

“Necessary vs. Sufficient” Lecture & Worksheet

Week 8

How Does Thinking Go Wrong?

Oct 13

“The Asch Effect”, Ch 5 “Fallacies” Lecture, Ex 5.1 in class

Oct 15

“More Fallacies” Lecture & Exercises

Week 9

How Reliable are Our Senses?

Oct 20


“Identifying Fallacies” game. “The McGurk Effect” video, Ch 4 “Fooling Ourselves Lecture”

Oct 22

TURN IN: Advertisement response, Ex 4.2 in class

Week 10

Is There Such a Thing as Fate?

Oct 27

“Free-will vs. Determinism” Lecture, Astrology Experiment, “Cosmos” Video

Oct 29


Week 11

Who are You?

Nov 3

READ: “Names”, TURN IN: Discussion Questions

Nov 5

“White Privilege and Male Privilege”. Written Response

Week 12

What is the Right Thing to Do?

Nov 10

Ch 11 “Evaluating Moral Arguments” Lecture, Ex 11.4 in class

Nov 12

READ: Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics TURN IN: Discussion Questions

Week 13

Ethics Debate Projects

Nov 17

Group work analyzing issues and preparing arguments. **TOPIC DUE FOR FINAL PROJECT**

Nov 19

Three 20 minute Debates

Week 14


Week 15

What is the Purpose of the State?

Dec 1

TURN IN: Ethical Research Assignment.  “Hobbes: Leviathan” Lecture

Dec 3

“Aristotle’s Politics” Lecture **PRELIMINARY PROPOSAL DUE**

Week 16

Political Engagement Final Projects

Dec 8


Dec 10

Extra Credit Presentations


Dec 15 10:45 am-1:15 pm

Papers due on iLearn or in my office at the end of this period.


Jan 5

*Subject to change