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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

PHIL1250 How to Think Clearly and Argue Well

20 creditsClass Size: 240

Module manager: Dr Ellen Clarke

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

In philosophy (as in everyday life) we spend a lot of time thinking about the best way to resolve problems and persuading others of our solutions. This module develops tools that allow us to do so in a way that is clearer, more precise, and more effective. The starting point is the notion of a valid argument: an argument that guarantees that, if the premises are true, the conclusion is true. You will learn how to reconstruct arguments that you find in texts; how to recognize common fallacies; how to translate sentences in English into a notation that makes it easy to test for validity. In addition, you will learn a toolkit of basic distinctions that are often used in philosophy such as that between a priori and a posteriori claims. Finally, you will learn about some widespread but mistaken patterns of thinking (so-called cognitive illusions) that often affect ordinary reasoning.


On completion of this module, students should have a basic ability to:
• Reconstruct arguments in a wide range of philosophical texts in premise-conclusion form.
• Employ the notions of soundness and validity while analysing an argument.
• Use truth tables for classical propositional logic and formalize English sentences into first-order classical predicate logic.
• Master some basic elements of probabilistic reasoning.

Learning outcomes
By the end of the module, students will be able to:
• display an understanding of the methods and tools studied;
• analyse an argument, formalise the relevant claims in first order logic, and assess it for validity;
• use basic probabilistic reasoning.


Topics covered will include:
• Argument analysis and reconstruction; the notions of validity and soundness.
• Truth tables for propositional logic.
• Formalisation of English sentences into first order predicate logic.
• Basic probabilistic reasoning.
Other topics covered might include:
• Basic distinctions that are part of the philosophical toolkit: a priori/a posteriori, analytic/synthetic.
• Features of relations: reflexivity, transitivity, symmetry.
• Cognitive illusions, such as e.g. the base rate fallacy or the conjunction fallacy.
The module leader may choose to focus on one topic from each subfield, or to cover more topics in less detail

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Group learning81.008.00
Private study hours166.00
Total Contact hours34.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Via tutorial participation and formative mock assessment.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
AssignmentMulti-question test, including argument analysis, short answer questions, essay, and logic and reasoning exercises (end of module)100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2022 15:26:27


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