AP/MODR1730 6.0 H: Reasoning About Social Issues

Offered by: MODR


Fall 2019






Calendar Description / Prerequisite / Co-Requisite

This is a skills-based course focusing on critical thinking, research-based writing, and qualitative and quantitative analysis. The particular focus will be on different positions taken within the social sciences on issues such as abortion, euthanasia, pornography, immigration etc. Typical examples are to be analyzed. Course credit exclusions: AP/MODR 1760 6.00, AP/MODR 1770 6.00.

Course Website

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    Additional Course Instructor/Contact Details

Jon Short, PhD

e-mail: jshort@yorku.ca

office hours: Wednesday 5:30 – 6:30

Location: S401 Ross

    Expanded Course Description

This course aims to provide students with a grounding in critical thinking, argumentative skills, and the basics of political philosophy as applied to social issues we grapple with in everyday life. The course focuses on skills-development as much as abstract knowledge. Students who attend lectures, participate as fully as possible in the course, and keep up with their assignments, will experience an increase in their reading comprehension and ability to think critically, to the end of improving their sensitivity to reasoned discussion. This course seeks to present an “intellectual antidote” to some of the deeply anti-intellectual and anti-critical attitudes increasingly prevalent in North American culture.


The course will be broken down into roughly two parts. The first part will focus on the basics and mechanics of argumentation, identifying logical fallacies, reading comprehension, and the use of statistics. With these skills as a background, the second half of the course will go on to think specifically about different approaches we find in political philosophy about different social issues. Students will be asked to look at a social issue from various perspectives in order to appreciate both the complexity of the issues and the different approaches to them.

    Required Course Text / Readings

Critical Thinking: Argument and Argumentation. 2014. 2nd Edition. Authors: Jean Saindon and Peter John Krek. ISBN: 978-0-17-666100-7. Publisher: Nelson Education.

Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? 2009. Author: Michael J. Sandel. ISBN: 978-374-53250-5. Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux: New York.

    Weighting of Course
  1. Analyzing Arguments In Class Quiz: 15% October 23rd
  2. December Exam: Fallacies and Non-Deductive Arguments 20% December Exam
  3. Passage Analysis Take-Home 15%                                                 January 8th
  4. Critical Response Paper 15% March 18th
  5. In-Class Final Test 20% April 1st
  6. In-Class Attendance and Exercises: 15% Throughout but assigned at the end of the class

Total: 100%

    Organization of the Course

Class Schedule:

September 4 (Week One) Introduction and Course Overview

September 11 (Week Two) What is Critical Thinking? Should I Care?

September 18 (Week Three) Introduction to Arguments: What is an Argument? Why does it matter? Saindon and Krek Module 1

September 25 (Week Four) Analyzing Arguments: Saindon and Krek Module 3

October 2nd (Week Five) Non-Deductive Arguments S&K Module 5

October 9th (Week Six) Assessing Claims S&K Module 6

October 16th (Fall Reading Week)

October 23rd (Week Seven) In-Class Quiz

October 30th (Week Eight) Fallacies I S&K Module 7 (pp. 164-184 up to Section 7.4)

November 6th (Week Nine) Fallacies II and Neutralizing Fallacies S&K Module 7 (pp. 184-209)

November 13 (Week Ten) Fallacies III and Neutralizing Fallacies

November 20 (Week Eleven) Passage Analysis part I

November 27 (Week Twelve) Passage Analysis Part II

Passage Analysis Take-Home

Winter Break: December 3rd – January 6th

January 8th (Week Thirteen) Overview of the Term

Passage Analysis Assignments Due In Class

January 15th (Week Fourteen) Sandel Chapter 1“Doing the Right Thing”

January 22nd (Week Fifteen) Sandel Chapter 2 Utilitarianism

January 29th (Week Sixteen) Libertarianism

February 5th (Week Seventeen) Markets & Morals

February 12th (Week Eighteen) Kantian Ethics

February 19 (Winter Reading Week)

February 26th (Week Nineteen) Rawls: “Justice As Fairness”

March 4th (Week Twenty) Arguing Affirmative Action

March 11th (Week Twenty-One) Aristotle and Virtue Ethics

March 18th (Week Twenty-Two) Dilemmas of Loyalty

Critical Response Paper Due In Class

March 25th (Week Twenty-Three) Justice and the Common Good: Course Wrap-Up

April 1st (Week Twenty-Four) In-Class Test


    Course Learning Objectives


    Relevant Links / Resources