Course Syllabus

FALL 2016   #0459

Professor Doug

Doug McFerran

  • email:
  • office hours are online through email (I try to respond within 24 hours but I also attempt to be available for more immediate contact from 9 to 10:30 on Monday mornings)
  • phone: 818-364-7710


In LACCD we call it “Logic in Practice” but elsewhere it can have many titles, such as “Critical Reasoning” or “Informal Logic.” It is intended as an introduction to this business of deciding how well cases or arguments work, whether it is everyday life when we defend a decision or attempt to convince someone else to accept our own point of view or in a more specialized setting such as a courtroom. As a lower division requirement you are expected to take a course either like this or something ore specialized, such as symbolic logic (often required for computer science majors) or a course combining logic and writing (required for the IGETC program). It does satisfy the critical reasoning requirement for CSUN but not for UCLA. 

But why require logic at all?  Isn't good reasoning just a matter of common sense?  The answer is that, as the old Greeks who developed this as a distinct field of study well knew, something can sound reasonable and yet not be when examined more closely.  A faulty pattern of reasoning (a fallacy) closely resembles a good one and for that reason can be very seductive.  A goal of any course in critical thinking is to develop the skills necessary to avoid being taken in by one or another fallacy as well as to make sure that any case you present on your own does not involve such mistakes. 


By the end of the course you should be able to

(1)   Identify the structure of an argument.

     We try to make a case for something (a conclusion) by offering reasons to support it (premises).



(2)   Evaluate deductive arguments for validity and inductive arguments for strength.

     Some arguments are supposed to work because there is no chance of the conclusion being wrong if its premises are correct (deductively valid), others because the probability of being wrong is low (inductively strong).



(3)   Differentiate among various informal fallacies.

     We need to recognize things that can go wrong with inductive arguments so that the conclusion seems better supported than it really is.    



(4)   Design and create cogent arguments.

   We want to improve our ability to present arguments that work.





Everything you need is online (there is nothing that you need to buy, but you can download my text by going to and includes things to read and exercises to do, many of them in a collaborative mode with other students. Yes, there are quizzes and a midterm as well as a final exam with points for everything. Altogether there are 500 points available, and 425 points gives you an “A,” 375 points a “B,” 325 points a “C,” and 275 points a “D.” You will have a schedule to follow that calls on you to participate in the course on a weekly basis, just as though you were coming to campus, but it is sufficiently flexible so that you can set up your own time for everything. Do expect that since this a three-unit course the overall time needed each week may well be between six and nine hours.

We will be using CANVAS as our online course management system. If you have not worked with it before in another course, make sure you take advantage of the online tutorials. Start by going to (Links to an external site.) and let Professor J guide you through.


The course is divided into five sections.  On the CANVAS site you will see these as distinct modules, each with its own things to read and to do, either on your own or in a collaborative mode with other students.

Weeks 1-2  (August 29 - September 11):  Getting started

Weeks 3-4 (September 12 - September 25):  Seeing the structure of an argument

Weeks 5-9  (September 26 - October 30):  Deductively valid arguments (recognizing formal fallacies); Review and the first midterm

Weeks 10-12 (October 31 - November 20):  Inductively strong arguments (recognizing informal fallacies)

Weeks 13-15  (November 21 - December 17):  Developing a good case; the final exam



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