AP/MODR1730 6.0 B: Reasoning About Social Issues

Offered by: MODR


Summer 2021






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 Start Up

Course Websites hosted on York's "eClass" are accessible to students during the first week of the term. It takes two business days from the time of your enrolment to access your course website. Course materials begin to be released on the course website during the first week. To log in to your eClass course visit the York U eClass Portal and login with your Student Passport York Account. If you are creating and participating in Zoom meetings you may also go directly to the York U Zoom Portal.

For further course Start Up details, review the Next Steps webpage.

For IT support, students may contact University Information Technology Client Services via askit@yorku.ca or (416) 736-5800. Please also visit Students Getting Started UIT or the Getting Help - UIT webpages.

    Additional Course Instructor/Contact Details

Course Director:      Jai Chetram

Email:                         jaichetr@yorku.ca and jaichetram@rogers.com

Website:                    See Moodle.yorku.ca MODR 1730_F

University Phone:   647 967 1930

Office:                        TBA [E-mail is the best method of contact]

    Expanded Course Description

Please note that this is fully online course. The entire course, including the submission of assignments, participation/discussion and test-taking, will take place on the Moodle website. The format is asynchronous, meaning, you can access the lectures and slides at your own time and pace within the weekly schedules, however,  I will have a few synchronous lectures through Zoom when it comes to tests, and assignment reviews. You will be notified in advance as to the time and dates of live interactive lectures.

The purpose of this course is to teach critical reasoning skills that are applicable and invaluable to your academic studies, professional career and your life in general.  The goal is to develop a rational and critical viewpoint that can be applied in general to analyze concepts, statements, arguments or theories. This aim is achieved by examining modes of reasoning drawn from the area of morality and values. (Issues and topics from a Multi – Disciplinary perspective; from such diverse disciplines as the  Social Science, Sociology, the Humanities (Religious and Literary, and Philosophical texts.)


The course will be divided into three sections.  The first section of the course is devoted to learning analytical techniques. The use and misuse of language will be examined. Conceptual, factual and evaluative issues will be distinguished.  The basic forms of reasoning, their uses and limits will be analyzed.  Fallacies that are frequently found in ordinary discussion, academic texts, mass media, advertising, etc. will be carefully studied.   The avoidance of these fallacies and learning the analysis of arguments and fallacies will be a major concern in the first third of the course.


The second section of the course will concentrate on the techniques of conceptual analysis. The aim in the second third of the course is to master a step by step set of techniques for working out the meanings of unclear concepts and questions.  For example, we may work on questions of concept like: “Is Religion compatible with Evolution?”; “Does Morality apply to Humans outside Social Conventions?” and “Is Democracy a Universal Value?”  The techniques teach you to describe the way concepts work in concrete cases and to analyze their abstract characteristics and uses.

The third section of the course, we apply these skills to the analysis of texts.  We will put into practice the techniques learned in the first section on argument and in the second section on concept analysis. As this course take a Multi – Disciplinary approach to current issues in mass media, advertisements, and thorny issues such as Euthanasia, Abortion, Pornography, Same Sex marriage and Religious Pluralism. This part of the course will apply the skills of argumentation and concept analysis on a number of passages and articles from the Social Science, Sociology, the Humanities (Religious and Literary, and Philosophical texts.)

    Required Course Text / Readings

Engel, S. Morris.  With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies.  Sixth Edition.  New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000.

    Weighting of Course

Fallacy test = 25%

Conceptual Analysis Assignment = 25%

Passage Analysis Test = 20%

Article Analysis Assignment = 20%

Homework/Presentation = 10%


The two tests will be written Online and Submitted to Turnitin.com.

Unlike Assignments, the test are Time Sensitive. For each test, you will be given 4 hours access on Moodle to complete and submit to Turnitin.com.

Weekly homework will be posted on Moodle. The homework is graded by virtue of completion and not correctness. The correct answers will be posted on Moodle. This is an excellent way to study for the Fallacy Test.

    Organization of the Course

Module 1, Argumentation and Argumentation, Module 2, Conceptual Analysis and Module 3, Passage and Article Analysis.

    Course Learning Objectives
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Active reading; deconstructing others’ ideas; reading between the lines
  • Critical Thinking Skills
  • Critically evaluating what we hear and read; rational decision –making; presenting strong arguments; being aware of cognitive and illegitimate biases (self-bias and others’ bias.)
  • Awareness of Persuasion Techniques
  • Recognizing manipulative persuasion; developing persuasive tactics, ethically.
  • Personal Development discourse
  • hone the disposition of a competent layperson (the ability to engage in civil discourse
  • , even if one isn’t an “expert on the topic; clarity and confidence when presenting views.
  • Writing Skills
  • Improve general writing skills (grammar, writing style, thesis development, etc.); essay organization; writing persuasively; improving self-editing techniques.

(1) How to reason correctly by distinguishing valid and invalid arguments, (Deductive,) to distinguish strong and weak arguments, (Inductive.)

 (2) How to identify fallacies or errors in reasoning committed in everyday discourse.

(3) How to use concepts properly, to distinguish conceptual claims from empirical and normative claims. To separate empirical facts from conceptual meanings and analyzing conceptual questions.

(4) How to apply critical skills to passages and articles that committed errors in reasoning, vague and ambiguous expressions and to diagnose assumptions that underpins concepts and statements. These skills will be applied to passages/articles concerning issues in Social Science,

Humanities, Philosophy, Political Science and Religion.

    Relevant Links / Resources