PHL111: Valid Reasoning
Professor: Craig DeLancey
Office: Campus Center 212A
Office Hours: MWF 1:30 p.m. -- 3:00 p.m. and by appointment
What this course is for
Logic teaches many things, but perhaps the most important is how to
reason. Logic will teach you thinking skills that work for any
discipline, that can help you achieve any goal. Logic is the most
general and powerful method of reasoning we have. The more logic you
know, the more powerful your thinking abilities will be.
Logic will also help you avoid deception. Speaking in Canandaigua,
New York, on August 3, 1857, the escaped slave and abolitionist leader
Frederick Douglas observed that:
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never
will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you
have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be
imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with
either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are
prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.
We can add to Frederick Douglas's words that: find out just how much a
person can be deceived, and that is just how far she will be deceived.
What logic teaches you is how to demand and recognize good reasoning,
and so how to avoid deceit. You are only as free as your powers of
reasoning enable. This is the dream of the Enlightenment: to empower
each person to think for herself.
Your commitment: What you must do to achieve these goals
Logic is a discipline that requires practice, which is why we want to
have frequent opportunities to practice. To succeed, you will read
the textbook, test your understanding through answering questions, but
then-- most importantly--you will practice logic by doing all of the
We'll be using the following text, which will be available for free as
an electronic text:
A Concise Introduction to Logic, Craig DeLancey
We will also be using clickers. These are available in the bookstore.
They cost less than a logic textbook would have; I recommend that you
keep them, since you may find you can use them in future classes.
Quizzes help us discern what has, and has not, been learned well. For
this reason, we will have four quizzes. Also, oddly, research shows
that the more tests or quizes you take, the better you learn. Odd but
true. Each quiz is done half by yourself, and half in groups.
For the practices, you can work together, but you must write up
your practices by yourself.
There will also be short assignments asking questions about the
readings. These will help you discern whether you understood what you
read. Complete these on Blackboard.
Don't worry about grades, except to use them as an indicator of what
you need to keep working on. But, to generate a final grade, the work
will be weighed in the following way:
Practice assignments: 30%
If you have a disabling condition which may interfere with your
ability to successfully complete this course, please contact the
Disability Services Office.
Reading questions (on Angel): 10-20%
In class questions (clickers): 0-10%
Quizes: 32% (8% each)
SUNY mandates attendance for your classes. However, I do not grade
you for attendance. There could be, indirectly, some grading for
attendance in the sense that I might give points for answering some of
the iClicker questions; but my motive there is only to recognize that
the questions are important and to grade them so that you have some
feedback on those questions. But this part of your grade will be small
Please note the following very important fact: I respect you and
believe you should be allowed to manage your own time. But because I
treat you with respect I demand that you act like you deserve that
respect. That is: do not come to class to talk to the person next to
you, to text message your friends back in the dorm, to surf Youtube,
to read the newspaper. I consider this profoundly disrespectful, it
distracts me a great deal, and it distracts the people around you.
You can do these things somewhere else and I won't penalize you for
doing so; so just stay in your dorm room, or go to the cafeteria, or
anywhere else, if you want to do these things. Class time is for
Of course, I understand that people like to talk to each other during
class about class, asking their neighbor "what did DeLancey just say?"
and so on. That's good -- in the best of all worlds we would all be
doing that often during class. But manners require some taste and I'm
sure you can show good taste in not overdoing that kind of talk to the
point where I can't tell whether you're discussing logic or discussing
Similarly, don't come to class simply to leave after you hand in your
homework, or come twenty minutes late, and so on. That's very
distracting also. You can hand your work in at the Philosophy Department
Office, if you only want to do that.
If you miss an exam and have an excused absence for the day you miss
the exam, you may make it up, by special appointment with me, when you
are able to come back to class. It is your responsibility to arrange
any make-up exams as soon as you know you are going to miss the
exam. Otherwise you may lose the opportunity to take the test, since I
cannot give make-up exams after the class has gone over the
Here is how you secure an excused absence: Only prior notification
with credibly documented or easily verifiable reasons (e.g., medical
visits to Mary Walker, documented participation in official sporting
events, etc.) will result in excused absences. You must notify in
writing, call, or email me prior to your absence from class. You must
notify the Philosophy Dept. secretary, Lori Reitmeier, before you are
going to be absent, via email at email@example.com, or by phone at
x2249. However, you must make sure she knows your name, the number of
the course, the date, and your easily verifiable reason, along with a
request to forward the information to me. It is better to give your
information to me, except when you are unable to communicate with my
phone or email for some reason.
College Policy on Intellectual Integrity
Intellectual integrity on the part of all students is basic to
individual growth and development through college course work. When
academic dishonesty occurs, the teaching/learning climate is seriously
undermined and student growth and development are impeded. For these
reasons, any form of intellectual dishonesty is a serious concern and
is therefore prohibited.
The full intellectual integrity policy can be found at
I will frequently update an online schedule of readings and
yassignments. It is your responsibility to check the www pages for
the class at least every other day!
Please leave your phones and pads somewhere packed away. They are
just a distraction to you and the people around you. I would ask you
not bring a computer either (you can't really take notes on it,
because we use strange symbols) but some people claim to need them.
Since I don't grade for attendance, this is not a tough policy: stay
in your dorm room if you want to text message or check Facebook.
In addition to the listed office hours, I encourage you to make
appointments. I am available quite a bit. Please try to come to
office hours with specific questions in mind. You can of course come
with a general request for help, but it is always helpful if you spend
a little time thinking about how I can best help you out.
In this class, it is your responsibility to learn,
and to be able to describe, explain, and apply:
- Some of the conventions and methods of philosophy (that is, how
philosophers use logic as their primary method);
- what a valid and sound argument are;
- all the elements of our language (terms, connectives,
predicates, quantifiers, and maybe functions), their syntax
(how they combine with other elements to make well formed
formulas), and their semantics (in the case of connectives,
this means their truth tables);
- the inference rules we create to draw inferences from
- how to translate simple English arguments into FOL;
- the four proof methods and how to use them;
- how to complete some original and novel formal proofs;
- how to create your own valid arguments in English for
- Some examples of applications of logic to philosophical problems.