Phil 110: Critical Thinking and Composition

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PHIL 110: Critical Thinking and Composition

Fall 2013

Schedule # 22365

Section 4

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

11:00-11:50 A.M.

Montezuma Classrooms North 109

Course Description

This course is an introduction to critical thinking and writing. It is about argumentative writing and everything that should accompany argumentative writing: the evaluation and development of correct reasoning, effective style and organization, correct deductive and inductive reasoning, fallacies, the critical appraisal of evidence, and the construction of rebuttals and counter-arguments.


Emily Holguin

Office Hours

Arts and Letters 430

Mondays 12:30 PM-1:30 PM (or by appointment)

This syllabus is intended as a guide. Circumstances can change, and it is possible that this syllabus might too. You will be given fair notice of any changes that occur.

General Education

This course satisfies the Intermediate Composition and Critical Thinking requirement for general education. You may find more information regarding this requirement in the San Diego State University general catalog, under the Communication and Critical Thinking requirements. See

Outcomes and Assessments

This course is about thinking critically and arguing well. Students will learn how to do the following:

  1. Outline arguments in premise-and-conclusion form

  2. Distinguish between reliable and unreliable premises

  3. Properly use evidence and examples

  4. Properly use analogies

  5. Define important terms

  6. Properly cite sources

  7. Develop causal arguments

  8. Identify and use the different types of deductive arguments

  9. Identify the major fallacies

  10. Argue for and against common positions

Students will be assessed of these outcomes through various exercises:

  1. Ten homework assignments (the majority of these are from A Workbook for Arguments)

  2. Five quizzes

  3. Five in-class group exercises

  4. One short (1-2 page) writing exercise

  5. One short (2-3 page) essay

  6. One longer (3-5 page) essay

Required Texts

Morrow, David, and Anthony Weston. A Workbook for Arguments: A Complete Course in Critical Thinking. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2011.


The best way to reach me, outside of class and office hours, is through email.

You will receive emails from me through Blackboard. To ensure that you receive emails from Blackboard, please check that the email you have provided the university is correct. As some email systems block Blackboard emails as spam, it is pertinent that you either remedy this or get a SDSU email account. To get an SDSU email account, go to


  • Classes are held Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 11:00-11:50 AM in MCN 109.

  • On some days, you will be expected to complete homework assignments and/or readings from the textbook. Please see the course calendar for specific dates.

  • When readings are assigned, these should be completed before class.

  • Some class sessions will be interactive. On these days, please expect to present your work to the class—as a group, of course.

  • You should bring your book to class every day.


  1. Participation 10%

  2. Homework Assignments 20%

  3. Quizzes 25%

  4. Writing Exercise 10%

  5. Essay 1 15%

  6. Essay 2 20%

  1. Participation (10%): Five class sessions will require your participation! You will be asked to work with two or three of your classmates and present your work to the class. Please see the course calendar for these dates; each is worth two percent of your grade. If you must miss class on one of these days, please let me know ahead of time.

  1. Homework Assignments (20%): There will be ten credit/no credit homework assignments throughout the semester (these are usually exercises from the book). Each assignment is worth two percent of your grade.

  1. Quizzes (25%): There will be five pop quizzes throughout the semester. Each of these is worth 5% of your grade (the lowest grade is dropped). There will be no make-up quizzes, unless you have some sort of legitimate and documented excuse for missing class (i.e., a doctor’s note).

  1. Writing Exercise (10%): The first writing assignment of the semester, this short 1-2 page paper is meant as a “practice run” for the essays that follow. Essay topics will be posted two weeks before the writing exercise is due.

  1. Essay 1 (15%): In this 2-3 page paper, you will take a stance on an issue and use strategies from the book to argue your case effectively. A list of possible topics, along with an in-depth description of the assignment, will be provided two weeks before the essay is due. You may choose a subject that is not on the list, but I must approve the topic at least one week before the paper is due.

  1. Essay 2 (20%): In this 3-5 page paper, you will argue the opposite of whatever stance you took in the first essay. For instance, if your first essay is about why green is better than blue, then your second essay should maintain that blue is better than green. This assignment might prove to be difficult, but the ability to see both sides of an issue is a strength that you should learn. This essay will be due at the beginning of the last class session.

Grading Criteria for Essays:

Your goal is to address the prompt by taking a position for or against some claim. You want to identify your position and to explain why your position makes sense.

To Earn an F, you do nothing or your paper does not fulfill any of the conditions listed below.

To earn higher than a D, your paper meets all of these conditions:

  • Your name or other form of identification is on each page.

  • You identify your main point (thesis statement), though not so clearly.

  • You offer some reasoning—though not so good or not so clearly—to support this thesis (whether or not it’s stated).

To earn a C or higher, your paper must meet all of these conditions:

  • You clearly define special and/or new terms.

  • You use appropriate terms to identify concepts and ideas in context.

  • Your thesis statement is clearly and identifiably expressed.

  • You offer some sort of evidence and/or reasons to support your thesis.

  • Your writing is relatively free from spelling and grammatical errors.

To earn a B or higher, your paper must fulfill all of these conditions:

  • Your position is well supported by valid or strong argumentation.

  • You use at least one original example (your own) to illustrate points that are either your own or someone else’s (if ideas are someone else’s, you must give them credit).

  • You acknowledge some alternative position to your own.

  • You follow an acceptable style guide like Chicago, MLA, or APA (Essay 2 only).

To earn an A, your paper meets at least one of these conditions:

  • Your work is interesting to read (e.g., your style is easy to follow or humorous or you use very original or new examples to support your point)

  • Your work either suggests a new idea and/or it applies concepts in a novel way.

  • You support your thesis with solid argumentation.

  • You state an alternative position and state why your position is stronger.

Learning Disabilities

All students with special needs due to a documented medical condition should avail themselves of the resources of the Student Disability Services: Suite 3101, Capulli Center (across the street from the Gateway Center). Student Disability Services may be reached by telephone at (619) 594-6243.

If you think that something might prevent you from doing well in this course, please meet with me outside of class time (during office hours or by appointment) so that I may make the necessary accommodations.

Academic Misconduct: Cheating and Plagiarism

You should be familiar with—and follow—all SDSU rules regarding academic integrity and plagiarism. Please see:

Classroom Etiquette

As there is no way for me to ensure that you are using your electronic devices for purposes relating to the class, I ask that you refrain from using these during class time. In other words, please do not use cell phones, iPads, computers, etc. during class! If you do need to use an electronic device (like recording equipment) because of a disability, please let me know. This is always okay.

You should arrive to class on time and stay for the whole session. (Please keep in mind that quizzes are not always given at the beginning of class.)

Course Schedule



Readings and Assignments

M 8/26


W 8/28

Rule 1: identify premises and conclusion

Pages 3-8

F 8/30

Rule 2: develop your ideas in a natural order (premise-and-conclusion form)

Pages 8-14

Exercise Sets 1.1-1.2

M 9/2



W 9/4

Rule 3: start from reliable premises

Rule 4: be concrete and concise

Exercise Sets 1.1-1.2 due

Pages 16-25

F 9/6

Rule 5: build on substance, not overtone

Rule 6: use consistent terms

Pages 25-32

M 9/9

Rules 1-6: putting it all together!

Participation Assignment 1

W 9/11

Rule 7: use more than one example

Rule 8: use representative examples

Pages 38-48

F 9/13

Rule 9: background rates may be crucial

Rule 10: statistics need a critical eye

Pages 48-60

M 9/16

Rule 11: consider counter examples

Overview of rules 7-11

Pages 60-71

Exercise Sets 2.6-2.7

W 9/18

Rule 12: analogies require relevantly similar examples

Exercise Sets 2.6-2.7 due

Pages 72-86

Writing Exercise topics posted on Blackboard

F 9/20

Rule 13: cite your sources

Rule 14: seek informed sources

Pages 87-90

M 9/23

Rule 15: seek impartial sources

Rule 16: cross–check sources

Rule 17: use the web with care

Pages 90-105

Exercise Sets 4.3-4.4

W 9/25

Rule 18: causal arguments start with correlations

Rule 19: correlations may have alternative explanations

Exercise Sets 4.3-4.4 due

Pages 106-111

F 9/27

Rule 20: work toward the most likely explanation

Rule 21: expect complexity

Pages 111-115

M 9/30

Rule 22: modus ponens

Rule 23: modus tollens

Pages 124-126

W 10/2

Rule 24: hypothetical syllogism

Rule 25: disjunctive syllogism

Writing Exercise due

Pages 126-128

F 10/4

Rule 26: dilemma

Overview of rules 22-26

Pages 128-141

Participation Assignment 2

M 10/7

Rule 27: reductio ad absurdum

Rule 28: deductive arguments in several steps

Pages 141-155

W 10/9

Rule 29: explore the issue

Rule 30: spell out basic ideas as arguments

Pages 156-165

Exercise Sets 7.1-7.3

F 10/11

Rule 31: defend basic premises with arguments of their own

Rule 32: consider objections

Pages 165-175

Exercise Sets 7.1-7.3

M 10/14

Rule 33: consider alternatives

Rule 34: jump right in

Exercise Sets 7.1-7.3 due

Pages 175-187

Homework Assignment 5: improving a sample paper (pages 441-444)

W 10/16

Rule 35: make a definite claim or proposal

Rule 36: your argument is your outline

Pages 188-193

Homework Assignment 5: improving a sample paper (pages 441-444)

F 10/18

Rule 37: detail objections and meet them

Rule 38: get feedback and use it

Rule 39: modesty, please!

Pages 194-203

Homework Assignment 5: improving a sample paper (pages 441-444)

M 10/21

Rule 40: reach out to your audience

Rule 41: be fully present

Pages 204-208

Homework Assignment 5: improving a sample paper due

W 10/23

Rule 42: signpost your argument

Rule 43: offer something positive

Pages 208-217

F 10/25

Rule 44: use visual aids sparingly

Rule 45: end in style

Pages 217-221

M 10/28

Some common fallacies

Pages 222-234

Participation Assignment 3

Exercise Sets 10.1-10.2

W 10/30

Some common fallacies

Exercise Sets 10.1-10.2 due

Pages 222-243

Essay 1 topics posted on Blackboard

Exercise Sets 10.3-10.4

F 11/1

Rule D1: when terms are unclear, get specific

Rule D2: when terms are contested, work from the clear cases

Rule D3: definitions don’t replace arguments

Exercise Sets 10.3-10.4 due

Pages 250-261

M 11/4

Argument mapping

Pages 262-277

W 11/6

In-class debates

Essay topics not on the list must be approved by today

Pages 451-455

Participation Assignment 4

F 11/8

Essay workshop

M 11/11



W 11/13

Formatting: style guides

Review: sources

Essay 1 due

Homework Assignment 8: practice proper formatting

F 11/15

Grammar day

M 11/18

In-class debates: arguing the other side

Homework Assignment 8 due

Participation Assignment 5

W 11/20

Review: extended arguments



Review: major fallacies

Pages 222-249

Exercise Set 10.6

M 11/25

Review: premise-and-conclusion form

Review: reliable and unreliable premises

Pages 8-21

Exercise Set 10.6

W 11/27

Review: generalizations

Exercise 10.6 due

F 11/29



M 12/2

Review: deductive arguments

Pages 124-155

Exercise Set 6.4

W 12/4

Review: argumentative essays

Pages 182-203

Exercise Set 6.4

F 12/6

Essay workshop

Exercise Set 6.4 due


Essay workshop

W 12/11






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