12 x 1-hour lectures per semester
12 x 1-hour seminars per semester
Enrolment not permitted
PHIL1060A has been successfully completed
Assignment(s); Examination(s) (30%).
Topic description
Critical Reasoning is the ability to judge what we should and should not believe. It is an ability to assess what arguments are good and what arguments are bad, and in particular, why they are good or bad. It makes you better equipped to decide what you should believe on any kind of question, and for resisting subtle attempts at manipulation.

The general skill of critical reasoning is applicable to all issues, but we will develop those skills by focusing on how to assess "weird things": claims about telepathy, astrology, ghosts, conspiracy theories, etc. We will do so by looking at what makes something count as knowledge, how our minds play tricks on us, at various reasoning mistakes and manipulation attempts, at basic logic for assessing arguments when their truth or lack thereof is not obvious, and at scientific reasoning.
Educational aims
This topic aims to teach students about basic concepts and aspects of critical reasoning, such as:

  • the difference between arguments and opinions

  • the structure of arguments

  • the conditions for an argument being valid

  • common fallacies of reasoning

  • basic rules of categorical and propositional logic

  • the nature of evidence and what counts as reliable evidence

  • scientific reasoning

  • truth relativism
Expected learning outcomes
On completion of this topic students will be able to:

  • distinguish arguments from opinions and explanations

  • represent arguments formally

  • recognise whether an argument commits one of the common fallacies, e.g., fallacies of relevance

  • understand the nature of different kinds of evidence and its reliability

  • determine whether a deductive argument is valid

  • understand what characterises scientific reasoning

  • understand and be able to discuss various schools of thought on truth relativism