UMass Phil 105 — Practical Reasoning

Fall 2016 — Prof. Kevin Klement / TA Daniel Hadad
Tuesdays and Thursdays 1:00–2:15pm in 123 LGRT
(Plus Wednesday discussion sections.)

Course description:

This course covers methods for understanding and evaluating reasoning, arguments and inferences, of the sort found in daily life, political speeches, academic writing and beyond. We address such questions as: What is the structure of an argument? What considerations are relevant for determining its strength and cogency? What sorts of appeals to quantitative and scientific data are appropriate, and what sorts aren’t? What, if any, kinds of reasoning patterns can be identified as fallacious or abusive? This is an analytic reasoning (R2) course, and 4 credits.

Contact info:

Prof. Klement’s office is 358 Bartlett Hall. My office hours are Wednesdays and Fridays 11:00am–12:00pm or by appointment. The best way to contact me is by email at Our TA, Daniel Hadad, will distribute his own contact info.

Web pages:

This course has a site on the UMass Moodle server (, which contains all course information, a calendar, readings, grades, a discussion board and more. Use your UMass OIT account username and password to log in. We also have a “public” website at, which contains only this syllabus.

Required readings:

We will be using a mixture of book chapters from various sources, typically logic and critical thinking textbooks. These will be made available in electronic form on our Moodle site. No additional required texts are assigned.

Requirements and grading:

Your final grade is based on three in-class exams (22.5% each / 67.5% total), consisting primarily of multiple choice, definition and short-answer questions, as well as weekly homework assignments (22.5% total) and participation in discussion sections (10% total). Homework is turned in each week at the start of, or prior to, your Wednesday discussion section, and may be either handwritten, typed or emailed. Assignments will be listed on Moodle.

Academic honesty:

This is defined in the University Academic Regulations document, available at (page 6). Plagiarism and cheating are serious offenses that strike at the very heart of academic life, and will result in serious penalties, including minimally (but not limited to) receiving an F in the course.

Common courtesy:

Please come to class on time, and refrain from leaving early without special permission. Cell phones and other noisy electronics must be turned off for the duration of class.

Course Schedule

Subject to change.

Day Date Topic
Unit I: Argument Analysis
Tu6 SeptCourse Introduction
Th8 SeptArguments, Premises, Conclusions
Tu13 SeptDistinguishing Arguments from Other Discourse
Th15 SeptInduction and Deduction
Tu20 SeptArgument Maps
Th22 SeptArgument Reconstruction: Implicit and Explicit
Tu27 SeptArgument Reconstruction: Clarifying Meaning, etc.
Th29 SeptEvaluating Arguments: Key Concepts
Tu4 OctEvaluating Arguments: Best Practices
Th6 Oct— Exam #1 — (in class, 1pm, 123 LGRT)
Tu11 OctNo class. University follows Monday class schedule.
Unit II: Fallacies and Cognitive Biases
Th13 OctTraditional Fallacies of Relevance
Tu18 OctTraditional Inductive Fallacies
Th20 OctFallacies of Presumption; Begging the Question
Tu25 OctTraditional Fallacies of Meaning
Th27 OctRethinking Traditional Fallacy Theory
Tu1 NovCognitive Biases: Overview
Th3 NovCognitive Biases: Examples
Tu8 NovCognitive Biases: Theoretical Issues
Th10 Nov— Exam #2 — (in class, 1pm, 123 LGRT)
Unit III: Weighing Evidence and Thinking Well
Tu15 NovKnowledge and Truth
Th17 NovEvidence and Acceptable Reasons
20–27 NovNo class. Thanksgiving break.
Tu29 NovCausation and Mill’s Methods
Th1 DecStatistical Reasoning
Tu6 DecHypotheses and Scientific Reasoning
Th8 DecOpen-Mindedness
Tu13 DecCreative Thinking
We21 Dec— Exam #3 — (in 123 LGRT at 10:30am)

Specific reading and homework assignments for each week are subject to change, and are tentatively listed in Moodle.

Links: Course Moodle site | Prof. Klement’s Homepage | UMass Philosophy