Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking

Dr. Uri D. Leibowitz


Course Description:

What should we believe? This is the central question that will occupy us throughout the semester. We all believe various things and disbelieve others. But why do we believe what we believe? Do we have good reasons to believe as we do? Are our beliefs (likely to be) true? What new beliefs should we accept? Which, if any, of the beliefs we already hold should we revise? To answer these questions, we will explore various methods for distinguishing claims that are likely to be true from those that are likely to be false. Among other things we will learn how to detect errors in our thinking, employ strategies for avoiding such errors, distinguish between good and bad arguments, identify common fallacies, extract arguments from texts, and present our own views clearly, carefully, and succinctly. Some case studies we may consider: The Sokal Hoax (“The Science Wars”), Bermuda Triangle, Conspiracy Theories, and Belief in God.


Reading List:

  • Recommended textbooks:
    • Voughn, L. (2015) The Power of Critical Thinking: Effective Reasoning About Ordinary and Extraordinary Claims 5th Edition. Oxford University Press


  • All required reading material will be made available on the course website.



  • 8 short (~half page and no more than 1 page) homework assignments: 3% each (total of 24% of the final mark).
    • NB: Homework assignments must be submitted electronically via Moodle before the start of lecture on the date they are due. No extensions will be given.
  • Attendance and participation: 10% of the final mark.
  • Mid-term essay (up to 1000 words): 16% of the final mark.
  • Final in-class exam: 50% of the final mark.


Texts we might read:

  • Sokal, Alan D. "A physicist experiments with cultural studies." Lingua franca 6.4 (1996): 62-64.
  • Hilgartner, Stephen. "The Sokal affair in context." Science, Technology & Human Values 22.4 (1997): 506-522.
  • Gaddis, Vincent H. "The Deadly Bermuda Triangle." Argosy. February (1964): 28-29.
  • Sand, George X. "Sea Mystery at Our Back Door." (1952): 11-17.
  • Keeley, Brian L. "Of conspiracy theories." The Journal of Philosophy 96.3 (1999): 109-126.
  • Pascal’s Wager, From: Pascal, Blaise, 1670, Pensées
  • Hájek, Alan, "Pascal's Wager", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),
  • Clark, Arthur C. "The nine billion names of God." (1953).
  • Rowe, William L. "The problem of evil and some varieties of atheism." American Philosophical Quarterly 16.4 (1979): 335-341.
  • Clark, Arthur C. "The Star" (1955).
  • Ariely, D “The Power of Price” (from Ariely, Dan. Predictably irrational. New York: HarperCollins, 2008.)


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