Critical Thinking Philosophy Usyd

Philosophy. Study the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence.

Learn about philosophy the smart way with Philosophy courses at the University of Sydney.

This philosophy course aims to develop critical thinking skills through practical sessions and the study of informal logic techniques. We will learn the basics of a good argument and evaluate the problems which make an argument go wrong. We will work through practical exercises and evaluate examples from everyday life. The aim of the course is to give the student a better understanding of how to construct a clear and persuasive argument and to assess the clarity of the arguments of others.


Upon completion of this philosophy course, it is expected that participants will:

  1. Have a better understanding of the structure of arguments.
  2. Be better able to construct a good argument themselves.
  3. Be better able to critically assess the arguments of others.


This philosophy course will cover the following topics:

Introduction to Critical Thinking

Concepts and Ideas.

Elements of an Argument

An argument may be very simple with only a single premise and a conclusion, or may be composed of a convoluted series of premises and sub conclusions, one technique for working out the relationship between the different elements in an argument is to reconstruct it in the form of a structure diagram. We will take a variety of examples to learn this technique.

Language & Definitions

Many of the problem in arguments occur because of lack of clarity or precision in defining the terms in the argument. We will discuss Stipulative and Operational Definitions.

Appeals to Authority

Why do we accept the truth of some arguments as reliable and others as unacceptable? We will look at the ways in which arguments appeal to different authority sources for their justification and consider the merits of these appeals to truth.

Problems of Relevance

Many bad arguments work by diverting attention from the main issues of the argument. For example by attacking the personality of the opposition rather than debating his or her claims. We will discuss a number of these divisional fallacies including the Straw person fallacy; Ad Hominem; Tu Quoque; Appeals to Ignorance; The Gambler’s Fallacy.

Arguments from Analogy

Good persuasive arguments can be made through the use of analogies. For example the use of precedent in the legal system is a form of argument from analogy to a previous case. However in making these arguments one must be careful that the analogy supports the primary case.

Arguments from Experience

Arguments from experience use information about things we have experienced to draw conclusions about outcomes in the future, or they generalise the experiences of a few individuals to make claims about many others. We will evaluate the reliability of these forms of argumentation.

Statistical arguments

How reliable are statistics in arguments. What are the rules of statistical usage.

Application of techniques

In this last session, we will apply the techniques we have learnt to a number of complex arguments.

Contemporary debates

In this last session we will discuss some contemporary debates from the media and assess the quality of their argumentation.

Intended Audience

This philosophy course is suitable for personal interest learners: school, university students, adult and active retirees.

Delivery Style

This philosophy course will be delivered as an interactive lecture where questions and discussions are facilitated wherever possible.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Statement of completion

What others say.

PHIL2642 - Critical Thinking

Semester 2, 2018  |  Credit Points: 6

Coordinator: Luke Nigel Russell
Phone: +61 2 9351 3821


An introduction to critical thinking and analysis of argument. By examining arguments drawn from diverse sources, including journalism, advertising, science, medicine, history, economics and politics, we will learn how to distinguish good from bad arguments, and how to construct rationally persuasive arguments of our own. Along the way we will grapple with scepticism, conspiracy theories and pseudoscience. The reasoning skills imparted by this unit make it invaluable not only for philosophy students but for every student at the University.


1x1500wd Essay (30%), 1xin-class test (20%) and 1x2hr exam (50%)


1x2hr lecture/week, 1x1hr tutorial/week

Please Note: This timetable is a draft timetable and subject to change.

Lecture for PHIL2642

ClassCritical Thinking
Session Semester 2 2018
Day Tuesday
Time From 12pm
until  2pm
Location Carslaw Lecture Theatre 373 F07

The information displayed above is indicative only as online information is subject to change without notice. The Faculty Handbook and the University of Sydney Calendar are the official legal source of information relating to study at the University of Sydney

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