Critical Thinking

Department: Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Instructor: Tanya Hall
Instructor Email:
Prerequisites: None

Course Description

In this course we will study good thinking and bad thinking from the perspectives of both psychology and philosophy. We will learn about (1) our brains and the psychology of reasoning and decision making, (2) how identify, analyze, and evaluate arguments by other people (including politicians, used car salesmen, and teachers), and (3) how to construct arguments in order to decide what to believe or what to do. Insofar as we will be learning to evaluate (and construct) arguments, we will learn and use a good deal of both formal and informal logic. The instructional format will be exercise-centered, with interactive lectures, discussion, and group activities.

Course Goals / Learning Objectives

  1. Thinking and Reasoning with Brains
    Your Deceptive Mind: The Psychology of Reasoning and Decision Making
  2. Understanding Arguments
    Identifying, Dissecting, and Reconstructing Arguments
  3. Evaluating Arguments: Deductive Standards
    Formal Logic: An introduction to Propositional and Categorical Logics
  4. Evaluating Arguments: Inductive Standards
    Inductive Reasoning: statistics, probability, causation, and explanation
  5. Cognitive Biases and Informal Fallacies
  6. Applications: Critical Thinking in Real Life
    Applying the tools of critical thinking to interpersonal relationships, advertising, science denial, conspiracy theories, fake news, social justice, and more!

Course Goals and Expectations

A course in critical thinking is a course in self-improvement. It is a chance to look inside yourself and examine your own ability to think. It is a place where you can learn about the difference between good thinking and bad thinking. It is an opportunity to acquire reasoning skills that should serve you well in whatever pursuit you engage in. —Michael O’Rourke