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Critical Thinking Course (philosophy)
Instructions: Determine whether the following passages contain arguments, explanations, or descriptions. Explain and justify your answer with reference to the meaning of each of these terms.
Example: The film Patch Adams was an illuminating portrayal of medical education because it highlighted the importance of treating patients as people and not just as the locations of disease.
Govier, Trudy. A Practical Study of Argument, 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2001, p. 43.
Answer: This passage contains an argument because the author is attempting to convince the reader that Patch Adams is an illuminating portrayal of medical education, on the basis of the premise that this film shows how important it is to treat patients as persons, not as examples of diseases.

  1. The Surprise Quiz that Never Happens

A logic teacher announces, “There will be a surprise quiz given during one of the next three class-meetings.” . . . [A student in the class claims that] such a quiz is impossible. Here’s the proof: Will the quiz be given during the third meeting of class? If it were, then the quiz wouldn’t have taken place during either of the first two classes. At the end of the second class, we’d know that the quiz must happen during the third class, so we would be able to figure out the date of the quiz in advance. So a quiz during the third class wouldn’t be a surprise. Therefore, the surprise quiz can’t happen during the third class. So will it happen during the second? We already know that it can’t happen during the third class. At the quizless end of the first class, we’d be able to figure out that there must be a quiz during the second class. Thus a quiz during the second class wouldn’t be a surprise. So it follows that the quiz couldn’t take place during the second class either. The only remaining possibility is the first class; but we know this, so that wouldn’t be a surprise either. It follows that a surprise quiz is impossible.


Martin, Robert M., There Are Two Errors in the Title of This Book: A Sourcebook of Philosophical Puzzles, Problems, and Paradoxes. Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 2002, p. 81.

  1. A Heavenly Perfume

In Egypt, Persia, and Japan, orris powder was made from the dried root of the iris and used prodigiously in the art of perfumery. Orris has an odor not of iris but of violets. Until the recent development of chemical scents, most violet-perfumed products were made from orris, it being cheaper to produce than violet extract. Orris also has the ability to strengthen the odors of other perfumed substances and has been used for centuries as a fixative in the manufacture of powders and perfumes.


Orris came to prominence in Europe during the excesses of the French court prior to the Revolution. It was used to mask the unpleasant smells of stale body odor prevalent in high society, since bathing was considered unhealthy. One story tells of an argument between Louis XIV and his mistress Madame de Montespan that concluded with the lady telling the king that, for all her faults, she didn’t smell as badly as he.


Orris powder was employed to scent and preserve the odoriferous and often lice-infested coiffures of the French aristocracy. Orris was mixed with flour to make a stiffener, so that the hair could be molded into fanciful sculptures studded with ribbons, pearls, beads, and artificial flowers.


Large quantities of Iris germanica var. florintina are grown in Mexico today for their roots, which are shipped to France for use in the cosmetic industry.

Smith, Andrew. Strangers in the Garden: The Secret Lives of Our Favorite Flowers. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 2004, p. 83.

  1. Why does passing an electric current through the metal filament of a light bulb produce light? The explanation is that the electrical energy makes the electrons in some of the atoms of the filament metal jump outward to an orbit with a higher energy level. This higher orbit is unstable, and after a while the electron will pop back into its original orbit; when it does this, it emits energy in the form of light.

Martin, Robert M., There Are Two Errors in the Title of This Book: A Sourcebook of Philosophical Puzzles, Problems and Paradoxes. Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 2002, p. 165.

  1. I don’t understand why people object to using animals for medical research. First, medical research leads to our understanding of disease and disease prevention. This provides the foundation for the effective treatment of disease and the saving of lives. Even though there is the possibility that animals may suffer, researchers are always trying to minimize that suffering. If there was a choice between using animals in medical research and saving human lives or not using animals and putting human lives in jeopardy, which alternative do you think most people would support?


  1. I’ve often wondered how they get the caramel into the Caramilk chocolate bars. At first I thought they used large syringes to inject the bars with the caramel but that’s silly. I did some research and found out that they simply use moulds. They pour the top half of the chocolate into the moulds, once they are cool they fill them with caramel and then pour the bottom half of the chocolate bar.


  1. It is often said that natural peanut butter is a better option than processed peanut butter for those looking to lose weight. But if you take a look at the calorie count for 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter that contains only peanuts, compared to that of processed peanut butter that has sugar added, this claim comes into doubt. Kraft processed whipped peanut butter has 70 calories per tablespoon whereas Adams all natural peanut butter has 100 calories per tablespoon. In terms of calorie consumption, natural and processed peanut butter are not much different.

Part B
Instructions: Determine whether the following passages contain arguments. If so, analyze and diagram all arguments contained in the passage by bracketing and labeling the premises and conclusions in the passage and then diagramming them by using the circled numbers, direction arrows and brackets as shown in Units 1 and 2 of Study Guide I. If they are not arguments, determine whether the following passages contain explanations and descriptions. Explain and justify your answer with reference to the meaning of each of these terms.

  1. Some argue that file sharing is actually good for artists, because it is in effect promoting their work . . .

[However,] when recorded music is not paid for, there are clear and obvious implications for those who create the music—songwriters, performers and the record companies that make the actual sound recording. Consequently, since the rewards to production of music has gone down, it would seem reasonable to conjecture that the result will be less music, and less diversity of music, in the future. At a minimum, the possibility of recording artists and songwriters earning a living from selling their music is diminished. It is difficult to compete with “free”.


adapted from Hyatt, Doug, “Ethical Considerations of Reproduction Technologies in the Music Industry.” Management Ethics, Fall 2006, pp. 1–2.


  1. City Council should approve the proposed downtown arena, for several reasons. First, the need for the arena is obvious. Once the evidence is examined it becomes clear that the existing arena is inadequate. Moreover, it will revitalize the downtown and create an opportunity of other business to benefit from the increase in traffic. The question is whether or not the city can afford to build the arena. The problem is that the arena costs will run about $450 million. The city can raise another $250 million in a ticket tax and in property taxes for the new development over a 20 year period. The developer is willing to contribute $100 million, so that leaves a shortfall of $100 million. But, $100 million in a city of our size isn’t really very much money and wouldn’t take much to raise. I think that the city can afford the new arena.


  1. Dreams are not to be likened to the unregulated sounds that rise from a musical instrument struck by the blow of some external force instead of by a player’s hand, they are not meaningless; they are not absurd. On the contrary, they are psychical [mental] phenomena of complete validity-fulfillments of wishes.


Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams. New York, NY: Basic Books, 1969 [1899]. Quoted in Critical Thinking: The Art of Argument. Rainbolt, George and Sandra Dwyer, Boston, MA: Wadsworth, 2012, p. 28.


  1. When the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990, the general public and scientists in the aerospace field both held high hopes. . . . But blurry images caused by a flawed mirror sent those hopes crashing to Earth. The U.S. Congress demanded an explanation for the failure. . . . Stress and health problems afflicted many NASA engineers. “It was traumatic,” says the former director of NASA’s astrophysics division, Charles Pellerin, who oversaw the launch of the Hubble. Nobody could see how to fix the problem.


Well, nobody except Pellerin. He not only had insight on how to solve the problem but found the funding and resources to repair the telescope, for which he received NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal. But his real reward came over the next decade when the telescope provided spectacular images and important discoveries about stars, galaxies and other cosmic phenomena.


What was the secret of Pellerin’s success? Dozens of other people at NASA had high IQs and world-class technical knowledge—they were, after all, rocket scientists. So what gave Pellerin the edge? What made him persist until the telescope was fixed when others felt overwhelmed by the challenge? His mind perceived reality differently. He reframed the situation as an unfinished project, not a failed one. He never lost sight of the potential for a positive outcome—a space telescope that worked. He saw how that positive future could happen as the result of technical solutions—corrective optics-package repairs performed by a crew of astronauts—that were possible with a rearrangement of funding and resources that already existed within NASA. By reassessing the situation, recognizing the potential and envisioning the repaired telescope, he was able to help orchestrate the unfolding of events that changed the future.

Thatchenkery, Tojo, and Carol Metzker, “The secret to highly successful people.” Ode, Issue 34, June 2006. (accessed November 2006)

  1. Some people think that the law should require that all political poll results be made public. Otherwise, the possessors of poll results can use the information to their own advantage. They can act on the information, release only selected parts of it, or time the release for best effect. A candidate’s organization replies that they are paying for the poll in order to gain information for their own use, not to amuse the public.

Part C
Instructions: Write one or two paragraphs (approximately 250 words) summarizing the argument or arguments in the following passage, specifying the topic, the premises, and the conclusion or conclusions. Be sure to use indicator words to identify the topic and relationships between the premises and the conclusion or conclusions.


All food is organic. But for some reason people seem to think the “organic” label applies only to food grown without fertilizers or pesticides. The Canadian consumer has bought into the notion that “organic” foods are produced without harming the environment. Anything with chemicals is out. That idea is even in children’s books. One nature story I read to my daughter ended with the author urging children to “buy organic produce” so the environment would be healthy for butterflies. That’s so misguided. Farmers who refuse to use pesticides and fertilizers are not sin-free. Their production methods harm the precious topsoil.

To grow crops without pesticides, farmers have to use intensive tillage to control weeds and diseases. Tillage has a terrible effect on the land. It leaves the soil bare. It creates and promotes soil erosion. Topsoil, rich in nutrients and organic matter, is blown or washed off the fields into ditches and streams. It’s lost forever.


According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, soil erosion is one of the greatest environmental threats in the world. Tillage is not benign. It is the most destructive operation that can be done to soil.


Up until 15 years ago, I recall what would happen in dry, windy springs. . . . The entire landscape seemed to be on the move. The air was so filled with dust we called it a blackout. Driving could be dangerous. But spring dust storms are not so common anymore. And they are smaller than they used to be. It’s because crops on about 40% of the farmland in Saskatchewan are now seeded directly into last year’s stubble. Only one tillage operation is needed to put the seed in the ground. The stubble anchors the soil against wind and water. With minimal disturbance, the soil is healthier now than it has been since the plow was first put to the land.


Conservation farmers do use commercial fertilizers and pesticides. But the fertilizers, in combination with crop rotations that include nitrogen-fixing legumes, maintain and enhance the soil’s fertility. Pesticides are applied judiciously, and at the recommended rate.


Direct seeding is a better way to conserve our soil which is, after all, a non-renewable resource. Direct seeding farmers are true stewards of the land. It’s important for Canadians to recognize this and appreciate their conservation efforts.


Next time you visit the market and reach for produce labelled “organic,” remember how it was produced. Is the loss of our topsoil really benefiting Mother Nature?


Polegi, Juanita. “Commentary,” in Reader’s Choice, 4th Canadian Edition, edited by Kim Flachmann, et al. Toronto: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2004, pp. 425–426. © Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Courtesy of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

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Some questions have more than one part. Please be careful to read and follow the directions. If you are unclear about the meaning of any of the questions, consult your tutor.

(10) 1. Say what conclusion the author probably intends readers to draw, and evaluate the argument using three (3) of the methods you learned in Unit 3 (that is, identifying the form of the argument, thinking of another argument of the same form with obviously true premises and an obviously false conclusion, thinking of circumstances in which the premises of the argument could be true and the conclusion false, questioning the premises, and discussing whether the language used in the argument is unacceptably vague or ambiguous).
    If there were “buffer zones” for wildlife protection around national parks, then it is possible that large mammals such as bears could have enough habitat to survive. But that is not so—we allow strip mining and every other type of development right outside of national parks, with no restrictions. The conclusion is obvious.
(10) 2. a. Test the following syllogistic form for validity using a Venn diagram. Be sure to label your diagram, and indicate whether the syllogism is valid or not.
      Some S are P
All M are S
Therefore, some P are not M
(15)   b. If possible, supply the missing premise or conclusion of the following enthymeme in such a way that the resulting syllogism is valid. Write the resulting syllogism in standard form and test it for validity using a Venn diagram. Be sure to indicate how you are abbreviating the terms involved, label your diagram clearly and indicate whether the syllogism is valid or not. In addition to determining whether the argument is valid or invalid, explain what other things you would take into account in evaluating it.
      Legislation that can’t be enforced leads to disrespect for the law, so legislation making marijuana possession a criminal offense leads to disrespect for the law.
  3. What fallacies, if any, are present in the following passages? Be sure to explain and justify your answer, that is, if you say that a fallacy has been committed, show where the fallacy occurred, how the passage exhibits the characteristics of the fallacy and explain why you think it is a fallacious argument.
(10)   a. Canadian military men died in foreign fields because Canada declared war on other countries, not vice versa. The mere fact that we fought does not necessarily make our cause or causes virtuous.

Few Canadians really paused long enough to really investigate the reasons for our foreign adventures.

I had a long talk with a veteran of World War II. He was a hand-to- hand-combat instructor and a guard at Allied headquarters in Italy. I questioned him on the reason for Canada’s involvement. He replied unhesitatingly that we fought because Britain told us to. That was the only reason.

It is quite clear that the only reason for world wars is that countries that have no business in the conflict get involved.

      From a letter to the Toronto Sun, November 17, 1983. Quoted in Leo A. Groarke and Christopher W. Tindale, Good Reasoning Matters! 3rd ed. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 284.
(15)   b. Background: In this passage, William Thorsell is arguing that the waging of war is a necessary means of opposing tyrants such as Saddam Hussein. His piece, “The Decisive Exercise of Power,” appeared in the Toronto Globe and Mail for December 19, 1999.
      In the 1930’s the aversion to war in France and the United Kingdom was so pervasive that some pacifists preferred their own subjugation to resistance in the face of violence. Dandies in the best schools developed. . . . eloquent rationales for inaction and appeasement, even treason, to avoid the contest for power that was so obviously rising in Europe. They rejected the wisdom that good and evil are perpetually in conflict, and that it is only for good men to do nothing for evil men to triumph. . . . Remarkably, some of the leading nations in the world still don’t appear to ‘get it’ when Saddam Hussein reappears. At root, it seems to be a matter of non-recognition. They just can’t see the man for who he is, just as many people just couldn’t see ‘Mr. Hitler’ for who he was (the limits of the parallel noted). If you cannot recognize your enemy, you will not defeat him, except by luck of circumstance, and that will rarely do.
      Thorsell, William. “The Decisive Exercise of Power.” Globe and Mail (December 19, 1999). Quoted in Trudy Govier, A Practical Study of Argument, 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2001, p. 206.
(40) 4. Read the following sections in the article “Nightmare in Green” by Jarrett Wollstein in the DRR:
    The Environmental Elite, Implementing the World Environmental Regime (from The Biodiversity Treaty to the end of the section), Sustainable Development, and Fighting Back.
    Write a short essay (approximately 1000 words) in which you summarize the arguments in these sections of Wollstein’s article and evaluate them according to any of the methods you have learned in the course so far that seem appropriate.


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