AP/MODR1760 6.0 G: Reasoning About Morality and Values
Calendar Description / Prerequisite / Co-Requisite
This is a skills-based course focusing on critical thinking, critical writing, and logical and linguistic analysis. The course uses examples drawn from areas in the humanities where value judgements are made. Different sections will stress different topics in ethics, aesthetics, religion or law. Course credit exclusions: AP/MODR 1730 6.00, AP/MODR 1770 6.00.
Prof. J.A. Allen , (Ph.D)
Office Location: S445 Ross Building
Phone Number: (416) 736-2100 Ext. 77541
Office Hours: Monday 4:00 – 5:30, Wednesday 1:00 – 2:00, Friday 10:00 – 11:00 (by appointment)
This is a skills-based course focusing on critical thinking, critical writing, and logical and linguistic analysis. The course uses examples drawn from areas in the humanities where value judgments are made. The first half of the course will focus on arguments — their structure, type, construction and evaluation. This portion of the course will also include an emphasis on the identification of fallacious forms of arguments. The second half of the course will focus on passage analysis and applying the analytical skills to a range of writings drawn from philosophy, literature, history, politics, and various forms of media. Students will learn a set of techniques for tackling vague and ambiguous concepts and students will develop their own writing and argumentation skills. We will consider questions such as, Is self-interest always selfish? Should marijuana be recriminalized? Should homosexual marriage have been sanctioned? What is the basis of religious valuations? How is morality connected with judgments regarding humans in relation to the environment? Is pleasure the only valuable thing in life? What value judgments should we make regarding animals and nutrition? Are values subjective or objective? Should an agent always follow the dictates of her conscience, and so forth.
- Jill Leblanc, Thinking Clearly: A Guide to Critcal Reasoning,W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1998
- Learning Evaluation Makes Understanding Real (LEMUR). www.wwnorton.com/lemur = Homework exercises
3 A custom edition of the Title: "The Power of Critical Thinking" Author:
Chris MacDonald and Lewis Vaughn Edition: York University Custom Edition, MODR 1760G/K/N N.B. This custom edition will not be needed or available until January 2020.
- Argument Standardization & Categorical Claims Test 20%
- Conditional Claims, Fallacies & Relevance Test 20%
- Essay outline + Short essay 20%
- Class Participation, Homework, group discussion, &
experiential participation assignments 15%
- Take home assignment/exam 25%
** Each student is expected to read the assigned material for each class meeting. The class participation grade will in part reflect an assessment of preparedness. This assessment will be based both upon literal "participation", informal debates, experiential contributions, group work and on surprise in-class assignments based on attendance, readings and lectures.
This is a full year course, thus a 6 credit course, which runs for 24 weeks for 3 hours each week. Success in this skills based course requires regular attendance and participation. Frequent absences from class will undermine the possibility of developing the skills associated with the learning objectives of this course.
Students will develop the skills essential to critical thinking, clear and concise analysis and critical writing. This will be accomplished:
- by working through the fundamentals of argument analysis & standardization,
- by assessing the validity & invalidity of various forms of deductive argument,
- by studying criteria for the acceptability or unacceptability of premises
- by studying criteria for the relevance or irrelevance of premises
- by working through the fundamentals for the standardization and assessment of inductive arguments including generalizations, causal arguments, statistical arguments, and arguments from analogy.
We will also consider the details concerning reasoning about health care as well as specific arguments about morality and value from the perspective of three different forms of moral theory.
During the second portion of the course, the tools of critical analysis will be applied to a series of passages/texts wherein values and morality are considered from a range of areas in the humanities. In class exercises will include the analysis and critique of relevant passages and short texts.
Additionally, students will have opportunities for experiential learning outside of the classroom. Experiential participation assignments will include: real life counter examples to the truth of psychological egoism; syntactic or semantic ambiguity hunt; the fallacies search and the performance of random acts of kindness. Details regarding these participation assignments will give students the opportunity to boost their in class participation grade will be announced at the appropriate junctures during the course.
SUMMARY OF TERM DEADLINES
- TEST DATES: ** TEST #1 Wednesday Oct. 30th .
- TEST #2 Wednesday Nov. 27th
- ESSAY OUTLINE & SHORT PAPER Wednesday February 12th
- TAKE HOME ASSIGNMENT/EXAM Wednesday April 1st
- Ongoing Participation as measured by quizzes, discussion contributions, informal/formal debates, in class group exercises and experiential fieldwork.
Tentative Schedule of Topics and Readings
N.B. Not all topics are addressed in the Leblanc text. Lecture attendance is a necessary though not a sufficient condition for success. Leblanc’s text will be supplemented with turnitin handout posting.
September 4th – October 30th
Chapters 1 to 3 as assigned for reading at the end of each class & announced on Turnitin
Propositions versus Sentences
Objectivism versus Subjectivism about Truth
Inadequate theories of Truth, relativism and skepticism
Philosophical theories of Truth:
Coherence theories, pragmatism & correspondence theories
Necessary truth/ falsehood, empirical truth/falsehood
Chapter 1. Identifying Arguments
Arguments, Propositions, Explanations
Validity and Soundness
Objectivism versus subjectivism about Value
Good and Evil ….moral and non moral valuations
Consistent versus inconsistent propositions
God and the problem of evil
Leblanc Text plus in class examples
Chapter 2. Standardizing Arguments
Linked & convergent Premises
Leblanc Text plus in class handouts regarding Categorical Sentences & Venn Diagrams
Chapter 3 Categorical Logic
N.B. you will need an in class handout for Venn Diagrams in addition to the textbook material.
Translations of ordinary language
Distributed & Undistributed terms
Boolean interpretation of Sentences
Venn Diagrams for Sentences
The Square of Opposition
Immediate Inferences/ operations
Categorical Arguments &Venn Diagrams
Categorical claims and moral/value judgments
Universal statements and absolute moral assertions
Psychological Egoism, Hedonism and Egoistic Hedonism
Altruism and counter examples.
November 6th – November 27th
Chapter 4. Necessary and Sufficient Conditions
All and only
The proper interpretation of logical connectives such as:
Only if, unless, without, if and only if variants
Conditional Arguments: Valid/invalid
Morality and conditional claims (Hypothetical claims versus Categorical claims)
The truth or falsity of condition/hypothetical assertions
Nozick and the experience machine, hypothetical claims and thought experiments.
January 6th – February 12th
Chapter 5. Language
Stipulative, ostensive, real, essential, lexical,
operational, persuasive definitions and their evaluation
Fallacies of Language
Persuasive definitions, emotional force in language,
Ambiguity and Vagueness
Chapter 6. Accepting premises
Reasons to accept premises, common knowledge,
authority, apriori acceptability and knowledge of the world.
Dichotomy arguments and their evaluation
The fallacy of begging the question.
Chapter 7. Relevance
Fallacies of counter arguments:
Straw person fallacy, Ad hominem, Tu Quoque
Fallacious appeal to authority, Appeal to Tradition
Appeal to popularity, appeal to ignorance, Appeal to the select few/exceptional, the gambler’s fallacy.
Chapter 8. Analogies
Structure, analysis and evaluation
Fallacy of two wrongs
God and the argument from Design/analogy
Chapter 9 Arguments from Experience
Types, analysis and evaluation
Researching sensitive topics
Ethical issues in research
Evaluating Statistical Arguments
The problem of Induction
Chapter 10 Causal Arguments
Structure, analysis and evaluation
Post hoc fallacy
Correlation, Cause, and Causal Factors
The fallacy of jumping from Correlation to
Types of studies
Evaluating Causal Arguments
Additional Topics and Exercises:
Schedule to be announced at the beginning of Winter Term
Inference to the best explanation
Reasoning about ethics & passage analysis
Reasoning about health
Random acts of kindness
Acting in accordance / contrary to conscience
Morality and Gay marriage passage analysis
Morality and terrorism
Morality and Marine Parks
Morality and the science of cloning
- Academic Honesty
- Student Rights and Responsibilities
- Religious Observance
- Grading Scheme and Feedback
- 20% Rule
No examinations or tests collectively worth more than 20% of the final grade in a course will be given during the final 14 calendar days of classes in a term. The exceptions to the rule are classes which regularly meet Friday evenings or on Saturday and/or Sunday at any time, and courses offered in the compressed summer terms.
- Academic Accommodation for Students with Disabilities