this is phil 160...


  • Instructor: Max Weiss
  • Office hours: W 2-4, STH 504
  • Email:
  • Class meetings: Th 6-9pm, STH B20


Reasoning is a skill, and improving a skill takes practice. This course is a study of techniques of argument analysis and evaluation. These techniques include the detection of formal argument patterns, and the assessment of argument patterns for validity. But in the real world, arguments are designed for a variety of purposes: persuasion, seduction, obfuscation, deception, and only sometimes illumination. So we'll encounter questions of semantics, of rhetoric, maybe even of sociology and politics.


The course website is at

Course materials, including homework assignments and solutions, will be posted here. To access these you'll need to sign up at the site. While signing up, you'll be prompted to enter an affiliation code. The code you should enter is [[redacted for public circulation]].


The following required text will be available at the campus bookstore: Textbook:

  • Alec Fisher, /The Logic of Real Arguments/. 2nd Edition. Cambridge University Press, 2004


For the purpose of evaluation, coursework will be weighted as follows:

  • Attendance and participation: 1 unit
  • Homework: 2 units
  • In-class quizzes: 2 units
  • Final exam: 2 units

Your final grade will be determined by the average of the top six of your marks on these seven units.

Quizzes and final exam

Instead of midterms, there will be an in-class quiz about every other week; these will be fairly routine and should take about twenty minutes to write.

The final exam will be given at

  • 17 December, at 6pm

in the same place as the ordinary class meetings.

To ensure that students have an equal chance to prepare, the instructor will answer questions of the form "what will be on the quiz/exam" only in class.

Attendance and participation

If you miss at most one class, your mark on this component is guaranteed to be at least a B.


These will be due in class about every other week. No late submissions will be accepted, and all must be either typed or very neatly handwritten. Ordinarily, homework will be graded and returned the following week.

Academic conduct

Students must observe the BU's Code of Academic Conduct, posted at All suspected violations of the code will be referred to the Dean's Office, and a failing grade will be assigned to any work deemed plagiarized by the Dean. Students are encouraged to discuss course material with each other, but students must submit only what is theirs as theirs.