Prof. Michael Kagan Office Hours in RH-422   (445-4489) 
PHL 312-01, An Introduction to Informal MWF 8:30am-9:20am; 
Logic and Critical Thinking   and by appointment. 
Syllabus for Spring 2000 email:

COURSE OBJECTIVE  The main aim of this course is to help students to:

  • develop their abilities to detect and defend themselves from deceptive arguments and attempts to persuade;
  • evaluate arguments and attempts to persuade
  • construct better arguments of their own.



    1. We will introduce and examine the techniques of informal logic as answers to the general question, "When ought one accept a given conclusion on the basis of argument?" To do this, we will consider the classical sources of logic in the analysis of debates, and what is now called "informal logic." This will be the focus of the earlier lectures and the readings.
    2. We will apply these skills to attempts at persuasion addressed to general audiences as well as to other encounters.  A major focus of our study will be defense against fallacies and frequently used types of attack and illegitimate persuasion. We will consider these techniques as used in a wide variety of fields (psychology, ethics, politics, and advertising among them) as well as in our own argument experiences. Students will be required to find examples of arguments addressed to the public, and to relate or create examples of their own debates on issues of their own choosing.


    1. In-Class Midterm  [there is also a take-home option]  (25%)
    2. Final Project and its presentation (25%)
    3. The eight short writing assignments  (25%)
    4. Participation, in-class writings, optional writings and extra credit assignments  (25%).  Since you are not participating when you don't attend class, you will need to make up any absences with extra-credit assignments and journalling.
    Failure to complete any of (1)-(4) can result in a failing grade. Plagiarism will result in a failing grade.

    Students are expected to be familiar with the material in the lectures, discussions, and the required text.
    Final Projects and other assignments will be determined on the basis of each student's goals. Possibilities include the following:

    This version of the  final project consists of a written presentation and analysis of both sides of a debate on some controversial moral, political, religious, philosophical or other issue (please check with the instructor). This presentation may take a variety of forms. For example, the student may write a dialogue or story presenting arguments for both sides of an issue, or comment on and analyze a series of letters to the editor or editorials on the chosen issue. If the argument is presented [e.g., from the editorial page], the student will be obliged to show how the weaker arguments might be strengthened. If a clear loser emerges in the debate, the grade will be weighted in terms of the performance of the loser [as augmented by the student's suggestions for improvements in the case of a presented debate].


    In coordination with the Academic Support Center (ASC), reasonable accommodations are provided for qualified students with disabilities. Please register with Anne Herron in the ASC Office for disability verification and determination of reasonable accommodations. After receiving your accommodation form from the ASC, you will need to make an appointment with me to review the form and discuss your needs. Please make every attempt to meet with me within the first week of class so your accommodations can be provided in a timely manner. You can either stop by the ASC, Library, 1st floor, or call (445-4118 - voice or 445-4104 - TDD) to make an appointment with Ms. Herron.

    STUDENT PRESENTATIONS:  For every presentation, you will be required to turn in an outline or abstract of your presentation, complete with a list of all works used.  Also, if you use any web pages, not only should these be listed on the outline with the rest of your bibliography, but you are also required to turn in a printout of all web pages used in preparing the presentation.  If you present with a group that divides the work into separate parts, each member of the group will need to provide his or her own outline/abstract and printouts.  Outlines/abstracts,  and printouts are to be given to me BEFORE the presentation.  Failure to do so BEFORE  the presentation will result in a 30% deduction from the relevant presenter's presentation grade.  If the outline and printouts are not turned in by the next class, there will be an additional 30% deduction.  You may use up to but not more than 5 minutes of videotaped material for your presentation. If the class is meeting in a room with a built-in VCR, make sure you know how to use it.  If you need to bring in a VCR for the presentation, you may order one from AV by calling 445-4380 or on the web at
    In the event of a technical glitch or delivery problem make sure you can present without the videotaped material.


    NO CLASSES  1/17, 2/21 & 2/22
    FRIDAY, MARCH 3:  MIDTERM  (In-class given; take-home midterm distributed)
    Monday, March 6:  Take-home midterm due.
    NO CLASSES  3/ 20 - 3/24 Spring Break
    Friday, Mar. 10:  PROJECT PROPOSALS DUE.
    Friday, April 7:  WRITTEN PROJECTS DUE.
    Monday, April 10:  Student presentations on projects begin.
    Monday, May 1:  Last day of class.

    TENTATIVE COURSE SCHEDULE AND ASSIGNMENTS: The course is divided into 15 weekly divisions; assignments are due as indicated: