Course Syllabus


Philosophy 105[G]: Critical Thinking

  • Lecturer: Andrew Withy
  • Tutors:  Chantelle, Conor, Eric, Fifi, Lars, Seth, Xin
  • Course Director: Matheson Russell

PHIL 105[G] is a 15pt Stage I Course for Philosophy (BA major), and for General Education.

Well-being always comes first

We all go through tough times during the semester, or see our friends struggling. There is lots of help out there - for more information, look at this Canvas page, which has links to various support services in the University and the wider community.


Go beyond your majors with skills-based learning

Did you know this course forms part of the Critical Thinking Module? Find out here how Modules can boost your degree.

Find out here about the Faculty of Arts’ new career-focused skills course, ARTSGEN 102, Solving your Future, coming in Semester 2, 2019.

Delivery format

This is a blended course. All course material, including readings, videos, quizzes, discussions, and lectures recordings, are available online. Both streams cover the same material, and have the same assessment. You can switch between delivery formats at any time.

  • The Lecture stream has two lectures and tutorials every week.
  • The Online stream is completely online except for the final exam.

Course Description

We are constantly being given reasons to do and believe things: to believe that we should buy a product, support a cause, accept a job, judge someone innocent or guilty, that fairness requires us to do some household chore, and so on. Assessing the reasons we are given to do or believe these things calls upon us to think carefully and accurately. This course will help you improve your skills at giving and assessing reasons for beliefs and actions.

The course is divided into four parts:

Basic Arguments: We explore the principles of argumentation and how we might represent and analyse arguments. We will learn to analyse and evaluate deductive arguments, and understand their limitations.

Inductive Arguments: Building on our understanding of deductive arguments, we will analyse and evaluate simple non-deductive arguments. We will identify good and bad arguments, and patterns we find in the wild.

Abductive Arguments: We develop systematic methods to represent and analyse a particular, commonplace type of argument that reasons backwards to identify the best explanations and most reliable recommendations for action in our current circumstances.

Arguing in Context: We apply our newly acquired reasoning tools to investigate the inner workings of specialised contexts for reasoning: science, morality, and a field of your choice. In each context we will consider how and why the techniques we have learned vary in that context, and how good reasoning varies in each context.

Course Outcomes

You'll learn how to:

  • identify and avoid common thinking mistakes and habits that lead to the formation of bad beliefs
  • recognise, reconstruct and evaluate arguments
  • critique and improve your own arguments
  • reason both about abstract knowledge, and for practical action
  • apply reasoning tools in areas such as science, morality, and law.

Recommended & Prescribed Texts

All the material you need is available on Canvas, including video presentations and written texts. We will provide links to optional, additional resources for those interested in pursuing topics further.


The University of Auckland expects that students spend 150 hours learning & studying for any 15-point course. This is roughly 10 hours per week in standard semester. Students must manage their academic workload and other commitments accordingly. Students are expected to engage with the written material, view videos, attempt exercises, complete quizzes, contribute to discussions, plan and write assignments, and prepare for the exam. Our expectations are the same for online courses as they are for more traditional courses with scheduled lectures and tutorials.


Weekly Quizzes: 10%
Weekly Discussion: 10%
Assignments: 30%
Final Exam: 50%


Deadlines for coursework are non-negotiable. In extreme circumstances, such as illness or legal difficulty, you may seek an extension for assignments but you will be required to provide a certificate from Student Health or a relevant authority such as your Parole Officer. Assignments that are late without cause will be penalised. There are no extensions for Quizzes or Discussions.

Weekly Topics

The material is broken into 12 modules corresponding to the 12 weeks of a normal semester. The modules are:

Module 1 General Introduction: an introduction to logical and critical thinking and common obstacles and fallacies.
Module 2 Argument Basics: an outline of the basics of argumentation.
Module 3 Deductive Arguments: reasoning by rules with guaranteed outcomes and no uncertainty.
Module 4 Non-Deductive Arguments: reasoning with doubt, uncertainty, exceptions, incomplete information, and changing circumstances.
Module 5 Argument Evaluation: specifics on how to evaluate arguments.
Module 6 Complex Arguments: dealing with large arguments, and our first specific argument form - arguments from analogy.
Module 7 Best Explanations: finding and structuring arguments from effect to cause to find the best explanation.
Module 8 Investigations: a study of the role of argument in investigations and predictions.
Module 9 Recommendations: generating and evaluating guidance and solutions under hard and soft constraints, leading to reasonable and justified actions.
Module 10 Science: application of argumentation to scientific explanation.
Module 11

ONE of:

Law: applications to legal decision making, with an emphasis on analogical reasoning and precedent.
Business: applications to economics, including game theory; to marketing, and to contingency planning in management.
Creative Arts: applications to the creative arts, including painting & sculpture; music and dance; architecture and planning.
Health: applications to health sciences, medicine, and biomedical sciences, both research and clinical practice.
Engineering: applications to civil, mechanical, electrical and environmental engineer.
: applications to mathematics, computer science, linguistics, and abstract reasoning.
Module 12 Morality: application to moral and normative decision making, with an emphasis on recommendations.

Course Summary:

Date Details