Course Syllabus


Philosophy 105[G]: Critical Thinking

  • Lecturer: Andrew Withy
  • Tutors: Sam, Freddy, Gabby, Lars, Seth, Tristan
  • Course Director: Gillian Brock

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

Delivery format

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

  • The Lecture stream has two lectures every week 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 three parts:

Basic Reasoning: We explore some challenges of reasoning well, and how we might represent and analyse our reasons via arguments. We will learn to analyse and evaluate simple written arguments, and recognise the limitations of both deductive and non-deductive arguments.

Complex Reasoning:  We lean hope to identify good and bad arguments, and how to repair them. We develop systematic methods to represent and analyse specific common type of argument, including those for analogies, explanations and selecting a choice of action.

Topical Reasoning: We apply our newly acquired reasoning tools to investigate the inner workings of specialised contexts for reasoning: Causation; Science; Morality & Ethics; and a topic of your choice (Law, Medicine, Engineering, etc). 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
  • reflect on your own reasoning habits, errors, and assumptions
  • 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 Discussion: 10%
Assignments: 30%
Final Exam: 60%


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 Discussions.

Weekly Topics (draft)

The material is broken into 12 modules corresponding to the 12 weeks of a 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: reading, writing, and evaluating large arguments. Including visual techniques.
Module 7 Premise Types: Introducing premise types for contrary information, goals and desires, and analogical reasoning.
Module 8 Weighing Arguments: Evaluating rival arguments, including selecting the best explanation, and reasoning within hard and soft constraints, leading to reasonable and justified actions.
Module 9 Graphs & Trends: Statistical reasoning with minimal numbers to identify which patterns matter.
Module 10 Science: application of argumentation to scientific explanation.
Module 11 Morality: application to moral, ethical, and normative decision making, with an emphasis on the many ways people can, do, and shouldn't reason ethically.
Module 12

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 & advertising; and to contingency planning in management.
Creative Arts: applications to the creative arts, including painting & sculpture; music and dance; architecture and urban planning.
Health: applications to health sciences, medicine, and biomedical sciences, both research and clinical practice.
Engineering: applications to civil, mechanical, electrical, and environmental engineering, and physics.
: applications to mathematics, computer science, linguistics, and abstract reasoning.

Course Summary:

Date Details Due