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UMass Philosophy 105: Practical Reasoning

Fall 2019 – Prof. Kevin C. Klement and TA Anupam Devkota

Tuesdays and Thursdays 11:30am–12:20pm in LGRT 123 with Friday discussions

Course description and objectives

This is a 4-credit analytic reasoning (R2) general education course. Its primary objective is to strengthen your critical thinking and analytic reasoning skills.

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? How can we understand and overcome cognitive biases? The goals of this course include increasing students’ ability to reason well, and evaluate the reasoning of others charitably and critically. It aims to familiarize students with what makes an argument logically sound or cogent, and what makes one uncogent or unsound. Students should gain the ability to analyze, reconstruct and diagram arguments, as well as identify common sources of errors in reasoning, including fallacies and biases, as well as understand the nature of evidence and potential distortions to evidence. These skills will be applied to everyday reasoning, political contexts, scientific contexts, statistics and more specific contexts such as cause/effect reasoning. This is an analytic reasoning (R2) course, and 4 credits.

Contact information

Prof. Klement’s email is klement@umass.edu, and his office is South College E319. Office hours are Wednesdays 11am–noon, Fridays 2pm–3pm. You can also schedule an appointment at https://logic.umasscreate.net/appts/?view=klement., or click here to schedule an appointment.
TA Anupam Devkota’s email is adevkota@umass.edu, and his office is South College E306. Office hours are Mondays and Wednesdays 2pm–3pm and by appointment.

Lecture notes

Unit 1 Lecture Notes (September 3rd – October 3rd)
Unit 2 Lecture Notes (October 8th – November 7th)
Unit 3 Lecture Notes (November 12th – December 13th)


The website for this course is located at https://logic.umasscreate.net/reasoning/. You can also log in through the UMass Moodle LMS https://umass.moonami.com. There you can find lecture notes and course readings, check your grades, complete homework exercises, and more.

Course readings

We will be using a mixture of book chapters from various sources, typically logic and critical thinking textbooks. These are available to download as PDFs. We will be reading multiple chapters from the following books; you may download the entire texts here if you wish.

These are available to download from our website.

Requirements and grading


Your final grade is based on (a) three in-class exams (20% each / 60% total), consisting primarily of multiple choice, definition and short-answer questions; (b) weekly homework assignments (30% total); and (c) your participation in discussion section (10% total). A score out 500 total points will be generated, and your final grade will be determined according to the chart on the right.

Homework exercises

Weekly homework assignments are completed through our website, and are typically due by 5pm on Mondays, covering the material from the previous week. There are some weeks when no homework is due. See the homework exercises page (link below) for the full schedule.The full schedule can be found on the website.

Click here to visit the homework exercises page

Study guides for exams

Study Guide for Exam 1 (October 3rd)
Study Guide for Exam 2 (November 7th)
Study Guide for Exam 3 (December 13th)

Answers to past exams

Answer Key for Exam 1 (October 3rd)
Answer Key for Exam 2 (November 7th)
Answer Key for Exam 3 (December 13th)

Academic honesty

Academic honesty is defined in the University Academic Regulations document (page 5), available at http://www.umass.edu/registrar/sites/default/files/academicregs.pdfthis link. 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.

Attendance Policy

Common courtesy demands that you come to class on time, and refrain from leaving early without special permission. Cell phones must be turned off for the duration of class. While attendance is not taken in lecture, attendance is vital for success. Attendance will be taken in discussion sections, and will factor into your participation grade.


I would like to hear from anyone who has a disability and may require special accommodations regarding exam-taking, note-taking or similar. Please obtain the appropriate paperwork from Disability Services and inform me far enough ahead of time to make the appropriate arrangements.

Lecture topics and reading schedule

Subject to change.

Day Topic Readings
Unit 1: Argument Analysis
Tu 3 Sept Course Introduction
Th 5 Sept Arguments, Premises, ConclusionsDownload Hurley, section 1.1 (pp. 1–13)
Tu 10 Sept Distinguishing Arguments from Other DiscourseDownload Hurley, section 1.2 (pp. 14–25)
Th 12 Sept Induction and DeductionDownload Hurley, section 1.3 (pp. 33–44)
Tu 17 Sept Evaluating Arguments: Key ConceptsDownload Hurley, sections 1.4–1.5 (pp. 44–64)
Th 19 Sept Argument MapsDownload Hurley, section 1.6 (pp. 64–75)
Tu 24 Sept Argument ReconstructionDownload Bowell and Kemp, chap. 5, start (pp. 133–153)
Th 26 Sept Argument Reconstruction, continuedDownload Bowell and Kemp, chap. 5, rest (pp. 153–183)
Tu 1 Oct Evaluating Arguments: Best PracticesDownload Feldman, chapter 7, sections I–II (pp. 191–212)
Th 3 Oct — Exam #1 — (in class, 11:30am, LGRT 123)
Unit 2:
Tu 8 Oct Class cancelled.
Th 10 Oct Fallacies of RelevanceDownload Hurley, sections 3.1–3.2 (pp. 119–138)
Tu 15 Oct No class. University follows Monday schedule.
Th 17 Oct Inductive Fallacies, Fallacies of PresumptionDownload Hurley, section 3.3–3.4, start (pp. 138–159)
Tu 22 Oct Begging the Question, Fallacies of MeaningDownload Hurley, section 3.4, remainder (pp. 160–178)
Th 24 Oct Rethinking Traditional Fallacy TheoryDownload David Hitchcock, “Do The Fallacies Have a Place in the Teaching of Reasoning Skills or Critical Thinking?”; J. A. Blair, “The Place of Teaching Informal Fallacies in Teaching Reasoning Skills or Critical Thinking” (pp. 319–338)
Tu 29 Oct Cognitive Biases: OverviewDownload Lau, chapter 20 (pp. 185–193)
Th 31 Oct Cognitive Biases: Examples“List of Cognitive Biases” (Wikipedia)
Tu 5 Nov Cognitive Biases: Theoretical IssuesDownload Gilovich and Griffin: “Introduction – Heuristics and Cognitive Biases: Then and Now”
Th 7 Nov — Exam #2 — (in class, 11:30am, LGRT 123)
Unit 3: Weighing Evidence and Thinking Well
Tu 12 Nov Belief, Knowledge and TruthDownload Bowell and Kemp, chapter 8 (pp. 264–288)
Th 14 Nov Evidence and Acceptable ReasonsDownload Hunter, chapter 4 (pp. 97–129)
Tu 19 Nov Causation and CorrelationDownload Lau, chapter 15 (pp. 133–140)
Th 21 Nov Statistical ReasoningDownload Hurley, chapter 12 (pp. 571–592)
24–30 Nov No class. Thanksgiving break.
Tu 3 Dec Hypotheses and Scientific ReasoningDownload Hurley, chapter 13 (pp. 593–614)
Th 5 Dec Open-MindednessDownload Baron, chapter 9 (pp. 199–227)
Tu 10 Dec Creative ThinkingDownload Lau, chapters 23–24 (pp. 215–231)
Fr 13 Dec — Exam #3 — (1pm, LGRT 123)
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