Course Descriptions

Please refer to the UWM Schedule of Classes for each term before registering to confirm which classes are offered.

Spring 2017 Course Descriptions

Philosophy 101 – Introduction to Philosophy: Reflections on the Human Condition (HU)

LEC 402 MW 11:00 – 11:50 EMS E180
LEC 403 MW 1:00 – 1:50 CHM 180
Instructor: Nataliya Palatnik, palatnik@uwm.edu
Enrollment in one of the large lectures (402 or 403) requires enrollment in a discussion section

This course is an introduction to Western Philosophy. Students need not have any background in philosophy, or any plans for further study. The course has three broad aims:

  1. to introduce students to the tradition of philosophical argument in the West via primary texts,
  2. to teach students how in general to make and evaluate philosophical arguments,
  3. to demonstrate to any student who cares to participate actively how exciting and even fun philosophy can be.

Since philosophy is simply informed public reflection on what we’re up to as we try to do and believe what we ought to do and believe – as Socrates put it, “What we are talking about is how one should live” – I hope that by the end of the term the third aim of the course will have taken priority over the other two.

Philosophy 101 – Introduction to Philosophy: Selected Topics & Issues (HU)

LEC 001 T 6:00 — 8:40 EMS E206
Instructor: Sophie Cote, scote@uwm.edu

We will look at a representative selection of topics from the history of philosophy and current philosophical debates: ethics, social and political philosophy, the scope and nature of our knowledge of the world, the nature of the self and mind.

Philosophy 111 – Informal Logic – Critical Reasoning (HU)

LEC 001 MW 11:00 – 12:15 CRT 309
LEC 002 MW 3:30—4:45 KEN 1140
LEC 203 ONLINE WEB
Instructor: Matthew Knachel, knachel@uwm.edu

There’s an ancient view, still widely held, that what makes human beings special—what distinguishes us from the “beasts of the field”—is that we are rational. What does rationality consist in? That’s a vexed question, but one possible response goes roughly like this: we manifest our rationality by engaging in certain activities, chief among them the activity of making claims and backing them up with reasons—that is, constructing arguments.

This reasoning activity can be done well and it can be done badly—it can be done correctly or incorrectly. Logic is the discipline that aims to distinguish good reasoning from bad.

Since reasoning is central to all fields of study—indeed, since it’s arguably central to being human—the tools developed in logic are universally applicable. Anyone can benefit from studying logic by becoming a more self-aware, skillful reasoner.

It is possible to approach the study of logic more or less formally. A more formal approach abstracts from natural language and develops sophisticated artificial symbol-languages within which it’s possible precisely to identify the logically relevant features of arguments. This approach has many virtues, but it is only one among many, and it focuses on only one kind of argument (deductive). In this class, we explore a diverse collection of methods and principles for evaluating many different kinds of arguments. We take a very brief look at the formal techniques mentioned above, but spend most of our time studying arguments presented in natural language, as they occur in everyday reasoning.

Philosophy 204 – Introduction to Asian Religions (HU)

LEC 201 ONLINE WEB
Instructor: Ágúst Magnússon, magnusso@uwm.edu
Enrollment in the large lecture (401) also requires enrollment in a discussion section.

This course offers a philosophical exploration of the primary religious traditions of South Asia and China. We will examine teachings on the nature of reality, the nature of the divine, and the nature of the human self through the teachings of Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. Some of the primary questions we will explore in light of these traditions include: What is happiness and how do we achieve it? What is enlightenment? and What is the purpose of human existence? We will also look at the philosophical implications of specific spiritual practices such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi.

This is an introductory course and no previous experience in philosophy is required.

Philosophy 207 – Religion and Science (HU)

LEC 001 MW 12:30 – 1:45 BOL B64
Instructor: Ágúst Magnússon, magnusso@uwm.edu

Is it “Science AND Religion” or “Science OR Religion?” In this course we will examine the often contentious relationship between scientific and religious inquiries into the nature of reality. Some of the primary questions we will examine are: What is the relationship between faith and reason? How are we influenced by the practices, institutions, and establishments of science and religion? Is it possible to adhere to a religious worldview yet still take seriously the claims and findings of modern science? What do the terms “science” and “religion” describe, anyway? We will philosophically examine the development of the modern scientific method and critically examine some notorious episodes in the history of science and religion, such as the trial of Galileo and the appearance of Darwin’s Origin of the Species. We will also examine the relationship between faith and reason through literature and film.

Philosophy 211 – Elementary Logic (HU, QLB, L&S Formal Reasoning Requirement)

LEC 001 T 6:00—8:40 EMS E212
Instructor: Josh Waugh, jwaugh@uwm.edu
LEC 202 ONLINE WEB
Instructor: Matthew Knachel, knachel@uwm.edu

LEC 403 MW 10:00 – 10:50 CRT 175
LEC 404 MW 12:00 – 12:50 CRT 175
Instructor: Richard Tierney, rtierney@uwm.edu
Enrollment in one of the large lectures (403 or 404) requires enrollment in a discussion section.

Humans are reasoning animals, and logic is the study of the rules and principles of correct reasoning, the science of what follows from what. Logic know-how is a skill, one of the most important skills you will ever develop, both for your college and later career and for your everyday life. It teaches you how to analyze concepts, ideas, arguments, and break them down into their simplest components. You are then in a position to recognize the relationships between those components, to see how they are connected together (or not), and thereby to understand how and why one thing follows from another. At the same time, it teaches you how to construct ‘paths of reasoning’, how to get from one idea to another, how, for example, to determine what is the best course of action in a particular situation.

Apart from its application in virtually every field of study, the study of logic will help you develop your analytical and quantitative skills, your writing skills, your communication skills, and your day to day reasoning. You’ll become a better thinker and a better reasoner. You may not be aware that you are doing so, but you’re using logic now, and you’ll use it every day, for the rest of your life.

This is an introductory course in formal (symbolic) logic intended for students who have had no previous work in logic. There will be 3 exams and weekly homework assignments. The course satisfies General Education Humanities and QLB requirements. The course also satisfies the L&S Formal Reasoning Requirement for the B.A. degree.

Philosophy 212 – Modern Deductive Logic (HU)

LEC 001 TR 2:00 – 3:15 KEN 1140
Instructor: Matthew Knachel, knachel@uwm.edu
Prereq: gr C or better in Philos 211.

This course is the sequel to Philosophy 211. We will continue the investigations begun in that course, expanding our inquiry in a number of different directions. First, we will extend the formal language of predicate logic, adding elements to expand its expressive capacity. This will allow us to capture the structure of a much larger portion of English (and the language of mathematics). We will also learn how to construct derivations in the expanded symbolic notation. Second, we will look at selected results in what logicians call “metatheory.” These are theorems about the logical formalism itself—theorems about its adequacy for certain tasks (providing a proof for every valid argument, for example) and its limitations (providing a general method for deciding whether or not a given argument is valid, for example). Finally, we will look at various extensions to and alternatives to the basic framework of predicate logic, focusing especially on modal logic. The goal here is to gain a familiarity with enough of the more recent developments in logic to be able to follow—and participate in—philosophical discussions that take such familiarity for granted.

Philosophy 217 – Introduction to Metaphysics (HU)

LEC 001 MW 11:00 – 12:15 LUB S233
Instructor: Joshua Spencer, spence48@uwm.edu

Metaphysics is the study of the fundamental nature of reality (or something like that). In this class, I propose that we learn what metaphysics is by doing some metaphysics. Specifically, we’ll do the metaphysics of human persons. We’ll seek answers to some of the following question: Do we exist? What kind of thing are we? Do we persist through time? How, exactly, do we fit into the world? Are we just another body governed by the laws of nature and if so do we ever act freely? By investigating these questions, we’ll be able to touch on a wide range of metaphysical issues that go beyond the metaphysics of human persons. We’ll explore answers to these questions by reading and discussing recent work in metaphysics.

Philosophy 232 – Existentialism (HU)

LEC 001 TR 9:30 – 10:45 CRT 209
Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein, silvers2@uwm.edu

The French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre argues that we human beings are “condemned to freedom”, by which he means that human beings cannot escape the responsibility of defining themselves and their fundamental values, even though we often try to cast our responsibility for self-definition onto external authorities, such as God or the state. Existentialist thinkers and writers explore the human condition, as defined by this fundamental freedom and self-responsibility. All existentialist thinkers are struggling against a common set of threats that the modern western world makes pressing for human beings: the threats of meaninglessness, of despair, of nihilism, of pessimism, of the loss of self in “inauthenticity” or “conformity”. This course is an introduction to the varieties of existentialist interpretation of the human condition through study of both philosophical and literary works. We will read literary and philosophical works of some of the main twentieth century French existentialists, such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Simon de Beauvoir, and Albert Camus, as well as works by the nineteenth century precursors, such as Friedrich Nietzsche and Søren Kierkegaard, and the 20th century German philosopher Martin Heidegger. We will also study literary works by Franz Kafka and Ralph Waldo Ellison.

Philosophy 237 – Technology, Values, and Society (HU)

LEC 001 TR 11:00 – 12:15 CRT 209
Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein, silvers2@uwm.edu

Technology has an impact on nearly every aspect of our lives. We live with laptops, cell phones, and tablets that connect us instantly and constantly to people all around the world and to masses of information. At the same time this unprecedented access to people and information can alienate us from our immediate surroundings as we walk through the world with our eyes and fingers glued to our favorite devices. In this course we will start by thinking about how technology changes the way we experience our world. We will focus on the ways technology enhances the human experience, in what ways it alienates us from ourselves and our environment, and how it is changing what it means to be a person. The ethical implications of our evolving dependence on technology will be debated and discussed. We will then look at specific moral problems related to technology and its impact on our lives including its effects on privacy and human freedom, the environment, and human health including the potential impact of genetic enhancement and cloning.

Philosophy 241 – Introductory Ethics (HU)

LEC 401 MW 9:00 – 9:50 CRT 175
Instructor: Nataliya Palatnik, palatnik@uwm.edu
Enrollment in the large lecture (401) also requires enrollment in a discussion section.

Most people agree that morality involves standards that should be taken seriously in guiding conduct and assessing our claims against others. Yet various moral philosophers have offered very different accounts of what morality is and why we should care about it. We will study four basic philosophical approaches to morality and consider how they have shaped the history of ethical thought as well as their influence on moral philosophy today. We will first consider ethical rationalism, which takes moral principles to describe an independent order of values fixed in the nature of things, and the ideal-spectator approach, which takes morally wrong actions to be those an impartial sympathetic observer would disapprove of. We will then turn to Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy, which grounds morality in rational principles which all reasonable agents possess in common in virtue of their status as rational beings, and contractualism, according to which the correct moral principles are those which would be agreed to by all reasonable beings as a basis for their community. We shall see how these basic approaches get reflected in theories of social and economic justice.

Philosophy 243 – Moral Problems (HU)

LEC 201: Abortion ONLINE (09/06—10/08/16)
LEC 202: Euthanasia ONLINE (10/10—11/12/16)
LEC 203: Global Poverty ONLINE (11/14—12/14/16)
Instructor: Miren Boehm, boehmm@uwm.edu
Note: LEC 201, 202, & 203 are worth one credit each. You do not have to enroll for all three sections.
Retakable w/chg in topic to 6 cr max.

243-201 Abortion: What would it mean for abortion to be morally wrong? What is the moral status of the fetus? Does it have a right to life? What is the concept of a person? What does it mean to have a right to one’s body? What does feminist theory say about abortion? What does religion have to say about the ethics of abortion? In this course we will address these and other difficult philosophical questions.

243-202 Euthanasia: Why would there by anything morally wrong with assisting someone in ending her life when she is suffering and wants to end her life? What is death? What is a person? What is personal dignity? What is ordinary as opposed to extraordinary medical treatment? What is the moral difference between killing and letting die? In this course we will address these and other difficult philosophical problems.

243-203 Global Poverty: This course raises some fundamental questions regarding the nature of our relation to the less fortunate and to the victims of discrimination. It raises questions about our individual obligations to others and our collective obligations to others. We shall examine and question our conceptual, moral schemas, starting with our distinction between obligation and charity. We discuss the topics of the distribution of responsibilities in a world swamped in suffering, the population problem, the problem of gender inequalities across the world, and the rights of individuals in the global community.

Philosophy 244 – Ethical Issues in Health Care: Contemporary Problems (HU)

LEC 001 R 6:00-8:40 HLT 180
Instructor: Kristen Tym, tymk@uwm.edu
Retakable w/chg in topic to 6 cr max.

In this course, students will explore the critical ethical issues facing health care professionals, policy makers, advocates and patients as part of their encounters with the health care delivery system in the U.S. Students will engage in large and small group discussion and learning activities in order to understand the philosophical foundation of ethics and moral decision making and then apply ethical theory and principles to some of the most controversial and important issues in health care today. Issues students will consider include informed consent and confidentiality in health care; treatment decision making and futility; euthanasia and assisted suicide; assisted reproduction and stem cell research; genetic testing and screening; and, allocation of scarce health care resources. After completing this course, students will be well-equipped to look critically at a controversy in health care, analyze the complex ethical issues involved and identify practical solutions.

Philosophy 244 – Ethical Issues in Health Care: Bioethics (HU)

LEC 202 ONLINE
Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein, silvers2@uwm.edu
Retakable w/chg in topic to 6 cr max.

This course will provide a general overview of many of the challenging ethical issues faced in health care delivery today. We will begin the course with an introduction of ethical theories and other approaches to moral decision-making. These theories and approaches will then be applied to ethical problems currently confronting health care providers, patients and their families, and society at large. Issues we will consider include informed consent and confidentiality, futility and withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, euthanasia and assisted suicide, assisted reproduction, genetics, and allocation of scarce resources.

Philosophy 303 – Mind and Knowledge (HU)

LEC 001 MW 12:30-1:45 BOL 281
Instructor: Edward Hinchman, hinchman@uwm.edu
Prereq: jr st. & Philos 101 or 201 or 215

This course will focus on belief, judgment, and truth, as well as knowledge. It will address issues that fall into three groups: (a) What are the natures of believing and judging as psychological acts or states? (b) What norms govern believing and judging, and how do they work? Can you, or a ‘part’ of you, believe merely at will? If not, why not? If so, how does motivated believing work? (c) What, more generally, are the natures of these norms? How do epistemic norms differ from practical norms? Do believing and judging aim at knowledge or at truth? How is that like and unlike aiming at autonomy or the good? What, anyway, are knowledge and truth?

Philosophy 332 – Ethics and Public Policy

LEC 001 TR 3:30—4:45 LUB S233
Instructor: Andrea Westlund, westlund@uwm.edu
Prereq: jr st. & 3cr in philos.

The project of shaping a good society is at once philosophical and practical. Philosophical argumentation can help us to think more clearly and critically about the values and ideals we want to see embodied in our institutions and practices. But many policy dilemmas are the subject of sharp moral and political disagreement, and it is not always clear how to bring philosophical arguments to bear on practical problems that require resolution in the here and now. This course will focus on the challenges and rewards of bringing philosophy and public policy together. What can policy makers learn from philosophical ethics, and what can philosophers learn from the messy, real-world processes of policy-making? The course will be organized topically around problems such as the ethical treatment of animals, drug policy, crime and punishment, disability, gender equality, environmental ethics, and the scope and limits of the market. Throughout the course, however, we will keep an eye on the broader, methodological and ethical questions that emerge from the case studies.

Philosophy 341 – Modern Ethical Theories

LEC 001 MW 2:00—3:15 LUB S2333
Instructor: Stanislaus Husi, husi@uwm.edu
Prereq: jr st. & 3cr in philos.

In this survey course of contemporary ethical theory, we are going to investigate the nature of ethics, what exactly it demands and values and why, what objective status it enjoys (or does not enjoy), whether and how we could come to acquire ethical knowledge, whether and why we should care about being ethical, what relation ethics bears to religion, and its connection to moral responsibility. We are discussing the major ethical traditions such as consequentialism, the view that the one and only criterion for the moral assessment of actions is the quality of their consequences; deontology, the view that some actions, such as the keeping or breaking of promises, may be right or wrong irrespective of their consequences; contractarianism, the view that moral rules are based on actual or hypothetical agreements regulating basic social arrangements; and virtue ethics, the view that character is key for understanding ethics. We are going to read Russ Shafer-Landau’s wonderfully clear introduction The Fundamentals of Ethics together with a sample from the recent literature in ethical theory. In the second half of the course, we are going to focus on some recent literature from moral psychology, focusing on the role of the emotions for morality, as well as its application to Virtue ethics.

Philosophy 432 – History of Modern Philosophy

LEC 001 TR 12:30 – 1:45 LUB N120
Instructor: Margaret Atherton, atherton@uwm.edu
Prereq: jr st & 3cr in philos

The philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries in Western Europe put a highly characteristic stamp on philosophical thought, one that is still influential today. The period is characterized as “Modern” because it ushered in a new approach to knowledge, particularly knowledge of the natural world, but also a knowledge of human nature. Philosophers of this period, starting with Descartes, struggled to find an understanding of the makeup of the natural world and of the way in which we can know this natural world while simultaneously struggling to find the place of religion within these new developments. The period is also called the Age of Enlightenment, reflecting widespread confidence in human ability to understand the natural order and human nature within that order. We will follow the leading philosophers of this period as they develop various and unique accounts of what there is, how we know it, and what we are like as knowers, tracing the implications of their respect for science, their increasing curiosity about the nature of the human mind and their struggles to understand the relationship between science and religion. We will hope to understand the work of these philosophers both as foundational to the development of the sciences of their time and as providing the framework within which we continue to address their issues. We will be reading selections from leading philosophers of this time, including Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley and Hume, but because this was also a period in which philosophy was carried out by many people in many different venues, we will also be reading brief excepts from some of the little known women philosophers of the period.

Philosophy 511 – Symbolic Logic

LEC 001 TR 2:00 – 3:15 CRT 607
Instructor: Stephen Leeds, sleeds@uwm.edu
Jointly offered with CompSci/Math 511. Prereq: jr st; either philos 212 or 6cr math at 300 level or above.

The main goal of this course is to prove the famous theorem, discovered by Kurt Gödel in the 1930’s, that any consistent set of axioms for mathematics will be unable to prove or disprove certain mathematical claims, among these the statement that the set of axioms is consistent. On the way to deriving this, we will review some elementary logic and learn something about computability and about the branch of logic known as model theory. Afterwards, we will branch off into related subjects, including as much set theory as we have time for.

Philosophy 532 – The Normativity of Meaning

LEC 001 M 3:30 – 6:10 CRT 607
Instructor: Edward Hinchman, hinchman@uwm.edu
Retakable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max. Prereq: jr st; 3cr in philos.

What is the point of the concept of meaning? On a bit of reflection, this looks like a bad question, since there appear to be at least three separate concepts of meaning: meaning in a language, speaker’s meaning, and meaning in a life. In this course we’ll look for ways to unify the concepts around a central point that would explain why we use a single term for all three. How might the concept of meaning in a life have a communicative point? How might the communicative point of living intelligibly in this dimension extend to the more fine-grained forms of intelligibility realized by a speaker in a context of linguistic exchange? Does that concept of speaker’s meaning rest on a more fundamental concept of meaning in a language, or does meaning in a language somehow codify a dimension of speaker’s meaning? How might our ability to interpret the speech of those who share our language manifest mutual interests or concerns or other forms of attention that in turn articulate a shared understanding of how it makes sense to move forward in living our lives? And how exactly is any of this normative, expressing not merely how we do move on but how we ought to?

We’ll read work by Anita Avramides, Paul Boghossian, Stanley Cavell, Donald Davidson, Allan Gibbard, Paul Grice, Anandi Hattiangadi, Jennifer Hornsby, Saul Kripke, John McDowell, Ludwig Witgenstein, Deirdre Wilson and Dan Sperber, and Susan Wolf.

Philosophy 532 – Metametaphysics

LEC 002 W 3:30 – 6:10 CRT 607
Instructor: Joshua Spencer, spence48@uwm.edu
Retakable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max. Prereq: jr st; 3 cr in philos

Metaphysics is the philosophical study of the nature and structure of reality (or something like that). Metametaphysics is the study of the study of the nature and structure of reality; we ask metaphysical, semantic, epistemological, and normative questions about metaphysics itself. For example, in metametaphysics we ask questions like the following: What is a metaphysical dispute? Are metaphysical disputes genuine disputes or are they fundamentally flawed in some way? If they are flawed, then what exactly is the flaw? What distinguishes them from disputes that we do tend to think of as genuine? If the metaphysical disputes are genuine disputes, then how are we to supposed to come to know or reasonably believe metaphysical theses? What is our evidence base in metaphysics? How do we decide between competing theories and why is that decision process a good one? In this class, we will be exploring a variety of issues like the ones indicated by the questions above.

Philosophy 562 – Theories of Public Reason

LEC 001 R 5:00—7:40 CRT 607
Instructor: Blain Neufeld, neufeld@uwm.edu
Retakable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max. Prereq: jr st; 3 cr in philos

Citizens in contemporary liberal democratic societies endorse a plurality of religious, moral, and philosophical doctrines. This pluralism cannot be eliminated without the exercise of politically oppressive power – something that liberalism’s principle of toleration rules out. Yet accommodating this pluralism seems to threaten the ideal of consensual democratic decision-making. This is because decisions regarding deeply contested political issues – for instance, what the laws should be concerning abortion, education, physician-assisted suicide, same-sex marriage, and so forth – seem to involve citizens imposing political positions drawn from their respective religious, moral, and philosophical doctrines upon one another. In recent decades, however, theories of ‘public reason’ have been developed to explain how citizens within pluralist societies can make mutually acceptable political decisions. The idea of public reason thus purports to harmonize the principle of liberal toleration with the ideal of democratic self-government.

This course will explore the two most influential contemporary accounts of public reason. The first is the ‘consensus’ account of John Rawls, according to which public reasons are reasons that reasonable citizens agree should apply to their common political and economic institutions. The second is the ‘convergence’ account of Gerald Gaus, according to which the reasons that citizens should use to decide political questions need not be shared so long as those reasons converge in support of common political decisions. The main criticisms of both accounts of public reason also will be discussed.

Philosophy 685 – Senior Capstone Research Seminar: The Subjective-Objective Distinction

SEM 001 MW 11:00 – 12:15 CRT 607
Instructor: Miren Boehm, boehmm@uwm.edu
Satisfies L&S research req. Retakable w/ chg in topic to 6 cr max. Prere: sr st; declared Philos major, or cons instr

In this class we will explore the nature of objectivity, and by contrast, discuss the nature of the subjective. We will focus heavily on perception. We will study historical figures like Locke and Hume, the distinction between primary and secondary qualities, the mechanism by which we project properties onto the world that go beyond what is registered in perception. The bulk of the course will involve contemporary discussions about perception, about “the given”, and about the nature of color.

Philosophy 712 – Fundamentals of Formal Logic

LEC 001 TR 2:00 – 3:15 KEN 1140
Instructor: Matthew Knachel, knachel@uwm.edu
Prereq: grad st

This course is the sequel to Philosophy 211. We will continue the investigations begun in that course, expanding our inquiry in a number of different directions. First, we will extend the formal language of predicate logic, adding elements to expand its expressive capacity. This will allow us to capture the structure of a much larger portion of English (and the language of mathematics). We will also learn how to construct derivations in the expanded symbolic notation. Second, we will look at selected results in what logicians call “metatheory.” These are theorems about the logical formalism itself—theorems about its adequacy for certain tasks (providing a proof for every valid argument, for example) and its limitations (providing a general method for deciding whether or not a given argument is valid, for example). Finally, we will look at various extensions to and alternatives to the basic framework of predicate logic, focusing especially on modal logic. The goal here is to gain a familiarity with enough of the more recent developments in logic to be able to follow—and participate in—philosophical discussions that take such familiarity for granted.

Philosophy 756 – Kantian Perfectionism

SEM 001 TR 3:30-4:45 CRT 607
Instructor: Bill Bristow, bristow@uwm.edu
Prereq: grad st & cons instr. Retakable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max.

In this seminar we study the core doctrines of Kant’s moral theory, through reading and discussing the central texts in which Kant presents those doctrines. We interrogate Kant’s theory in relation to moral perfectionism. Kant explicitly rejects moral perfectionism, as he knows it in previous rationalism (eg., Leibniz and others). At the beginning of the seminar, we study Leibnizean perfectionism to the extent necessary to understand how Kant’s theory takes shape in opposition to it. Kant rejects rationalist perfectionism in good part because he takes it to be incompatible with human autonomy, since the perfectionist teaches that our moral duties follow from our ultimate end, determined independently of our will. We will question how to understand human autonomy, and how great of a departure from rationalist perfectionism is implied by the embrace of it. (The current controversy between (moral) realist and constructivist readings of Kant turns on these issues (in part, at least), and will be studied in the seminar.) If all goes according to plan, toward the end of the seminar, we will compare Kant’s moral theory to the writing of another, very different, exemplar of moral perfectionism (at least on some interpretations), namely Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche’s call in “Schopenhauer as Educator” to his audience to perfect themselves as individuals, like Kant, departs from rationalist perfectionism through denying the existence of an end or good or value determined independently of the human will (and through emphasizing human autonomy), but because Nietzsche’s perfectionism is opposed to universalistic moral law or laws of practical reason, it provides a nice counterpoint by which to test Kant’s account. I hope to convince some members of the seminar that Kant is more of a perfectionist than he is usually taken to be, though whether Kant’s perfectionism is more Leibnizean or more Nietzschean is a question I hope to answer through our study.

Philosophy 941 – Agency and Responsibility

SEM 001 T 11:00-1:40 CRT 607
Instructor: Andrea Westlund, westlund@uwm.edu
Prereq: grad st & cons instr. Retakable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max.

What is it to be morally responsible for an action? When is one appropriately subject to praise or blame for what one has done? Though there is a long history of philosophical reflection on these questions, we will focus on major developments in the field since P. F. Strawson’s landmark paper “Freedom and Resentment”. We will pay special attention to the role of reactive attitudes, such as anger, resentment and forgiveness, in our practices of holding responsible. We will also ask whether we are right to treat moral responsibility as a unitary concept, or if we ought instead to distinguish between two or more related concepts, such as attributability, answerability, and accountability. Readings will include selections from Victoria McGeer, Michael McKenna, T. M. Scanlon, David Shoemaker, Angela Smith, P. F. Strawson, R. Jay Wallace, Gary Watson, and others.