PHIL 181 - Philosophical Issues: An Introduction
Spring 2017, Section 101
Instruction Mode: Section 101 is (see other Sections below)
Subject: Philosophy (PHIL)
Department: LSA Philosophy
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Requirements & Distribution:
Credit Exclusions:
No credit granted to those who have completed or are enrolled in PHIL 182, 202, 231, 232, 234, or 297.
Waitlist Capacity:
Other Course Info:
F, W, Sp, Su.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:


Reason better when deciding what to believe, and when deciding what to do. This course provides the tools you need, drawing from several areas: cognitive psychology, behavioral economics, logic, probability, and decision theory. We will consider empirical evidence about 'heuristics and biases’—spontaneous judgments that can be predictably irrational. And we will study what good deductive, causal, and probabilistic reasoning looks like. But the goal is entirely practical: to develop effective reasoning skills with clear applications in your personal and professional lives. Here are some questions we will examine:

  • What kinds of mental processes are involved in reasoning?
  • What’s the difference between intelligence and rationality?
  • How do people tend to go wrong when they reason about probabilities?
  • What makes a line of reasoning valid or strong?
  • When can we infer causation from correlation?
  • Why do people tend to become more certain of the views they started with?
  • Are there strategies we can use to avoid common errors in reasoning?
  • What is evidence, and how does it interact with our background knowledge?
  • Why is there no simple recipe for the scientific method?
  • How does our initial reaction to potential risk tend to be irrational?

Course Requirements:

Assignments will include problem sets and standardized exams.

Intended Audience:

The course is open to students from all areas of the University interested in improving their reasoning ability and their ability to construct and recognize compelling arguments. These skills may be helpful in a wide variety of university subjects and extra-academic pursuits.


PHIL 181 - Philosophical Issues: An Introduction
Schedule Listing
101 (LEC)
 In Person
TuTh 4:00PM - 6:00PM

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