AP/MODR1760 6.0 G: Reasoning About Morality and Values

Offered by: MODR


Fall 2019






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.

Course Website

Many courses utilize Moodle, York University's course website system. If your course is using Moodle, refer to the image below to access it.

    Additional Course Instructor/Contact Details

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)

    Expanded Course Description

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.

    Required Course Text / Readings
  1.  Jill Leblanc, Thinking Clearly: A Guide to Critcal Reasoning,W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1998
  2. 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.

    Weighting of Course


  • 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.

    Organization of the Course

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.

    Course Learning Objectives

Students will develop the skills essential to critical thinking, clear and concise analysis and critical writing.  This will be accomplished:

  1. by working through the fundamentals of argument analysis & standardization,
  2. by assessing the validity & invalidity of various forms of deductive argument,
  3. by studying criteria for the acceptability or unacceptability of premises
  4. by studying criteria for the relevance or irrelevance of premises
  5. 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.

    Additional Information / Notes

Additional Information:



  • TEST DATES: ** TEST #1 Wednesday Oct. 30th .
  1. TEST #2 Wednesday Nov. 27th
  2. ESSAY OUTLINE & SHORT PAPER Wednesday February 12th
  3. TAKE HOME ASSIGNMENT/EXAM Wednesday April 1st
  4. 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

Logical truths

Inadequate theories of Truth, relativism and skepticism


Philosophical theories of Truth:

Coherence theories, pragmatism & correspondence theories

Necessary truth/ falsehood, empirical truth/falsehood


Leblanc Text

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

Missing premises/conclusion



Counter considerations




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.


Categorical Propositions

Standard form

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


Propositional logic

Conditional statements

All and only


Conjunctive claims

Disjunctive claims

Biconditional claims


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.


Empirical Acceptability

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

Slippery precedent

Slippery Assimilation

God and the argument from Design/analogy


Chapter 9           Arguments from Experience

Types, analysis and evaluation

Hasty Generalization

Statistical Arguments

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


Control groups

Types of studies

Evaluating Causal Arguments


Additional Topics and Exercises:

Schedule to be announced at the beginning of Winter Term


Mill’s Methods

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

    Relevant Links / Resources