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"Compositie IX" 1917-18, by Theo van Doesburg


Steven W. Patterson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Philosophy and Religious Studies Dept., Marygrove College

Contact Information

Office:346 Madame Cadillac Hall
Office Phone: 313-927-1539
Departmental Phone: 313-927-1556
e-mail: spatterson{AT}
Office Hours: TBA If you need to see me it is recommended that you schedule an appointment.

Note: The best way to reach me is via e-mail. Replace the '{AT}' with a standard '@' when e-mailing or just use this Contact form.

Course Information

Meeting Times: Mondays and Wednesdays, 1:30-2:45 PM in LA 235
Credit Hours: 3, Satisfies General Education Requirements
Prerequisites: None

Course Objectives

Critical thinking lies at the very heart of philosophy. Thus the principal aim of this course is to afford the student introductory exposure to philosophical methods of critical thinking. Together as colleagues we will practice techniques for identifying, analyzing and evaluating claims using the techniques and concepts of both formal and informal logic. These skills, once acquired, are easily and fruitfully transferred to nearly any problem requiring a thoughtful approach. A student who successfully completes the course requirements will thus advance his or her level of proficiency in some of the most important cognitive skills a person can have.

By approaching these questions through a diverse array of sources and media, and through focused attention to concepts such as relevance and expertise, the successful student will gain an appreciation for how good critical thinking skills can help to navigate through what is increasingly an overwhelming amount of information. This will afford the student with an enhanced ability not just to evaluate individual claims and their supporting reasons, but sources of claims. Hence the course has a secondary aim of enhancing students’ fundamental information literacy skills.

The ability to read, write, and think critically and carefully about difficult problems that resist easy solution is integral to leadership in any domain. Because they are so widely applicable to concrete problems, development of the sort of critical thinking skills that make up the philosophical method is a fundamental part of general education, and one of the chief benefits of a course of this nature. Students who successfully complete the course should find, as they carry the skills they learn forward in time, that their cognitive resourcefulness is enhanced as result.

Finally, because the techniques of critical thinking do take time and dedication to master, this course has been specifically designed to assist students in developing consistent routines and good habits for intellectual work. A student who completes the requirements, in doing so, will have cultivated not only these good work habits, but his or her intellectual discipline as well. Thus this course has the fourth objective of helping students become more effective, self-motivated and self-disciplined life-long learners.

Student Learning Outcomes

By the end of this class the successful student will meet the following objectives:
1. When presented with a choice between major theories of personal identity, the student will be able, in a short writing assignment, to justify his or her preferred theory by replying to the principal objections against it.
2. The student will be able, in a short writing assignment, to accurately describe the major positions in the debate between free will, determinism, and compatibilism, and explain the implications of each for accounts of moral responsibility.
3. When presented with a choice between major positions in the debate over the objectivity of morality, the student will be able, in a short writing assignment, to distinguish between them and justify his or her preferred theory with a concise written presentation of the philosophical reasons in its favor.
Disclaimer: The instructor will, of course, endeavor to help students achieve these outcomes, but real learning requires substantial effort on the part of the student as well. Students should therefore not expect to achieve these outcomes without engaging in the sustained, conscientious study and actual work necessary to complete all the class requirements at an adequate or better level and to observe all course policies.

Core Question

How do we decide between conflicting, incompatible claims? Should we decide on the basis of what just "feels right" or do we have to have good reasons for believing what we believe? If it's the case that we have to have good reasons for believing, then how do we know when the reasons we have are good enough?

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