Critical Thinking

PHIL 259/3.0

A discussion of the general principles of reasonable discourse, with a focus on persuasive and cogent writing.

Learning Outcomes


Module 1Claims: Recognising, Identifying, Distinguishing, Normative vs. Non-normative
Issues: Recognising
Arguments: Recognising, Identifying, Distinguishing, Features, Deductive vs. Inductive, Structure, Standardising
Module 2Argument Forms
Translation Tips
Truth Tables
Module 3Credibility of Claims
Credibility of Sources
Rhetoric: Distinguishing Between Rhetoric and Argument Fallacies
Module 4Inductive Arguments: Generalising
Scientific sampling: Sample, Target, Feature, Typicality
Polls: Random Sample, Error Margin, Confidence Level Fallacies
Arguments by Analogy
Cause and Effect Fallacies


In this class you will learn how to think critically; you will learn how to evaluate arguments, claims, beliefs, and so on as well as how to make solid arguments of your own. You will learn how to think clearly, a powerful skill indeed. Since the complement to thinking clearly is writing clearly, this critical thinking course also includes a writing component. Many of the assignments require short essay or paragraph-style answers. These will be marked on content, grammar, and style. Please make sure you proofread your assignments before handing them in.


Fall 2016
Course Dates: 
Sept 12 - Dec 2, 2016
Exam Dates: 
Dec 7 - 21, 2016


  • Three Assignments (12% each – 36%): Short answer, essay, argument evaluation
  • One Blog Argument (12%)
  • One Blog Critique (12%)
  • One Final Proctored Exam (40%): Scheduled. Short answer, essay, argument evaluation, possibly some multiple choice.

**Evaluation Subject to Change**

Each assignment will focus on the material of the current section, but assignments 2, 3, & 4 will also contain questions that cover material from the previous sections.

Late Penalties

Late penalties are set at 5% per day late. The turnaround time for getting comments on a late assignment could be considerably longer than for those which are submitted on time.

Final Examination

Students must write their exam on the day and time scheduled by the University. The start time may vary slightly depending on the off-campus exam centre. Do not schedule vacations, appointments, etc., during the exam period.

The final exam will test you on your understanding of the material covered in the course as a whole, as well as on your ability to apply the skills you have learned. It will be a closed-book exam in a form similar to that of the assignments. By the time you take the exam, the style of questions should be familiar to you since you will have encountered similar questions in the textbook exercises, as well as on your assignments.


Professor Nancy Salay (

Instructor message

Hello and welcome to PHIL 259, Critical Thinking. My name is Nancy Salay and I am your instructor for this session. Please feel free to call me Nancy, but if you are uncomfortable with this or find it too familiar, you may address me as Professor Salay or Dr. Salay. This is the first time the philosophy department is offering this class on-line so please bear with us as we explore the new technologies that we hope will make this on-line experience as interactive as possible.  Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.

My research interests are in the philosophy of cognitive science predominantly and I teach in both the Philosophy Department and the School of Computing. Recently I have founded an Institute  — still in its very fledgling stages — called ESC, Embodiment, Systems, and Complexity: Research Institute for Embodied Cognitive Science. If you’re interested in finding out more or attending some of our brown bag lunch sessions, please visit the website at

Courses I’ve taught in the recent past include Philosophy of Psychology, Science and Society, Topics in Artificial Intelligence, Minds and Machines, and Logic. If you are interested in any of these areas or you have questions about our class, please feel free to drop by my during office hours for a chat. You will find me in Watson Hall 322. I’ll post my office hours on the website, but be sure to check for the current week before you come in — if something has come up and I can’t make it, I will post that information on the site.

Nancy Salay

Time Commitment

To complete the readings, assignments, and course activities, students can expect to spend, on average, about 10 hours per week (120 hours per term) on the course.

Course Resources


SOLUS is Queen’s Student On-Line University System. You’ll have access to a SOLUS account once you become a Queen’s student. You’ll use SOLUS to register for courses, add and drop courses, update your contact information, view financial and academic information, and pay your tuition.

About OnQ

OnQ is Queen's online learning platform. You'll log into Moodle to access your course. All materials related to your course—notes, readings, videos, recordings, discussion forums, assignments, quizzes, groupwork, tutorials, and help—will be on the OnQ site.

About Credit Units

Queen’s courses are weighted in credit units. A typical one-term course is worth 3.0 units, and a typical two-term course is worth 6.0 units. You combine these units to create your degree. A general (three-year) BA or BSc requires a total of 90 credit units.

Computer Requirements

To take an online course, you’ll need a high speed internet connection as well as a microphone and speakers to be able to watch videos, hear sounds, and participate in interactive online activities. A webcam is recommended but not necessary.

System Requirements:

  • Laptop or Desktop computer purchased within the last 5 years. (mobile devices are not supported)
  • Windows Vista SP2/Mac OSX 10.9 or higher
  • Up to date versions of Firefox, Internet Explorer or Safari. Please note that Google Chrome is not recommended for use in our courses.
  • Most recent version of Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash

 See also Getting Started.


The deadlines for new applications to Queen’s Arts and Science Online courses are in our Upcoming Application Dates section.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees vary depending when you start, your year, faculty, and program. Fees for 2016-17 first-year Distance Career Arts & Science Canadian students are as follows: for a 3.0-unit course, $648.40; for a 6.0-unit course, $1296.80. See also Tuition and Fees.

Grading Scheme

The information below is intended for undergraduate students in the Faculty of Arts and Science. Academic Regulations in other Faculties may differ.

Letter Grade Grade Point

GPA Calculators
Have your SOLUS grade report handy and then follow the link to the Arts and Science GPA calculators.

How does this affect my academics?
See the GPA and Academic Standing page.

Follow the link above for an explanation of how the GPA system affects such things as the Dean’s Honour List, requirements to graduate, and academic progression.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Grading Scheme
Please follow this link to the FAQ's

Campus Bookstore

All textbooks can be purchased at Queen’s Campus Bookstore.

Non-Queen’s Students

All Queen’s Arts and Science Online courses are open to students at other universities. Before applying as a visiting student, request a Letter of Permission from your home university that states that you have permission to take the course and apply it to your degree. See also Apply.

Academic Integrity

Please see Queen’s policy statement on academic integrity for information on how to complete an online course honestly.