Philosophy 12
Logic and Decision Making

Professor: William Bechtel Fall 2003
Office: HSS 8076 TuTh: 5:00-6:20pm
Telephone: 822-4461


Office Hours: Tuesday 2:30-4:30 Website:


Section TA Office email Office Hours
Wednesday, 2pm Anna Alexandrova HSS8029 Wednesday, 3:00-5:00
Wednesday, 3pm John Jacobson HSS8088 Thursday, 12:00-2:00
Friday, 9am Evan Moreno-Davis HSS8073

Tuesday 4:00-5:00
Thursday 1:00-2:00

1. Course Description

Here are some of the questions we will be addressing in this course: 

This course provides an introduction to logical reasoning and decision making by focusing on the sciences. We will emphasize active engagement in the kinds of reasoning and decision making which scientists us in testing hypotheses, especially through on-line exercises and demonstrations. The goals of the course are for students to understand the logical and statistical principles by which scientific claims are created and evaluated and to develop a critical appreciation for the methods by which knowledge is acquired in science. You should leave this course with a better ability to distinguish good from poor reasoning and decision making.

2. Course Materials

All course materials are on the course website at  The modules found there include text, animation, and interactive exercises.  There are also questions attached to various of the modules.  All activity on the site is recorded and logged, including answers to question sets attached to the modules. Completion of the on-line exercises is a requirement of the courses.

3. Course Requirements

Students are expected to complete all the assigned modules, including questions attached to various modules, before attending classes. Attendance in class and sections is required. Final grades will be based 30% on the mid-term, 35% on the final exam, 20% on two-short (1-2 pages) written assignments, 10% for participation and activities (including quizzes) in sections, and 5% for timely completion of the web-based exercises and questions.

4. Schedule of Classes and Web Assignments

Note: This schedule of reading assignments is tentative and subject to revision.  Items in column three are modules on the course website.  You should complete these, including any attached questions, before the assigned class (although subsequent review is certainly encouraged).

September 25

Introduction: An example of good reasoning

September 30

Statements, arguments, and justification

Introduction to Scientific Reasoning, Statements: the atoms of reasoning,
Justification and argument
October 2

Basic valid argument forms

Some basic valid argument forms
October 7 Confirmation, falsification, and fallibility Evidential relations
The fallible character of human knowledge
October 9

Observation, categories, and taxonomy

Observation and learning to see
and taxonomy
October 14 Observational research Observational research
October 16 Variables and measurement Variables and measurement
October 21 Midterm Exam  
October 23 Relationships between variables Predicting Relations between variables
October 28 Establishing correlations When variables are correlated
October 30 Establishing differences between means When variables are not correlated
When groups differ
November 4 Correlation and causation

Correlational studies as tests of causal claims
Correlational vs. experimental research

November 6

Causal explanation
First 1-2 page written assignment due

Causal explanation
November 13 Reasoning about and graphing causes Reasoning about causation and Causal reasoning with directed graphs
November 18 Testing causal claims experimentally Testing causal claims experimentally
November 20 Testing causal claims non-experimentally When randomized experiments are not possible
November 25 Mechanism and mechanistic explanation
Second 1-2 page written assignment due
Entities and activities organized to produce a phenomenon
December 2 Moving between levels of organization Levels of mechanisms
and portraying mechanisms
December 4 Discovering and modeling mechanisms Discovering and testing mechanisms
Denying phenomena when mechanisms cannot be conceived
Modeling strategies

Final Exam: Tuesday, December 9, 7-10 pm