Course Descriptions

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

Fall 2017 Course Descriptions

Philosophy 101 – Introduction to Philosophy: Reflections on the Human Condition (3 units; U; HU)

LEC 402 MW 10:00 – 10:50 LUB S151
LEC 403 MW 12:00 – 12:50 LUB N146
Instructor: Edward Hinchman,
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 (3 units; U; HU)

LEC 001 T 6:30 — 7:20 pm CRT 124
Instructor: TBA

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, Introduction to Logic – Critical Reasoning (3 units; U; HU)

LEC 001 MW 11:00 – 12:15 CRT 309
LEC 002 MW 2:00—3:15 CRT 309
Instructor: Matthew Knachel,

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.

This course provides a broad-based introduction to a variety of logical methods–the basic tools for analyzing, criticizing, and evaluating the myriad arguments one is exposed to every day.

Philosophy 192, First Year Seminar—Does Democracy Work (3 units; U; HU)

SEM 001 MW 11:00 – 12:15 CRT 203
Instructor: Stanislaus Husi,

Democracy always had its share of critics. Yet recently, the criticism has intensified. An increasing number of studies casts doubt on whether democracy works, resulting in titles such as “Democracy for Realists,” “The Myth of the Rational Voter,” even “Against Democracy.” The reasons for concern are many: a systematically ill-informed and biased electorate; the inherently groupish “us-versus-them” nature of the political mindset; the apparent impossibility to check special interest from dominating the political process. In the seminar, we will confront some of the most recent critics of democracy. How worried should we be? And how could we realistically hope to do better? What would be the alternatives? We will approach these questions with an open mind, respectful and willing to understand where people are coming from with whom we disagree. The format for the seminar is going to be conversational and discussion-based, designed to empower students to take an active role in class. Ideally, the seminar will comprise a plurality of viewpoints, allowing us to learn from each other.

Philosophy 192, First Year Seminar—Philosophy of Star Wars (3 units; U; HU)

SEM 001 MW 2:00 – 3:15 CRT B12
Instructor: Agust Magnusson,

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (Hollywood, California in 1977, to be exact) a young filmmaker named George Lucas created one of the most popular and culturally influential film series ever made. In this course, we will examine a variety of important philosophical questions and themes through the lens of Star Wars. The primary aim of the course is to introduce philosophy as both an academic field and as a way of life and to examine how films such as Star Wars can help us to ask important questions about ourselves and about the meaning of life. We will examine the philosophical notion of “The Force,” ask questions about the nature of good and evil, and try to answer the most pressing question of all: What is up with Jar Jar Binks?

Philosophy 204, Introduction to Asian Religions (3 units; U; HU)

LEC 401 MW 12:00 – 12:50 MIT 195
Instructor: Ágúst Magnússon,

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

LEC 001 T 6:30—9:30 LUB s233
Instructor: TBA

Instructor: Matthew Knachel,

LEC 403 MW 10:00 – 10:50 CRT 175
LEC 404 MW 12:00 – 12:50 CRT 175
Instructor: Michael Liston,

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 215, Belief, Knowledge, and Truth: An Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge (3 units; U; HU)

LEC 001 TR 9:30 – 10:45 LUB S233
Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein,

This course is an introduction to epistemology, the branch of philosophy that concerns itself with knowledge. The course will introduce students to discussions of fundamental questions about knowledge including the idea of a theory of knowledge, problems with the philosophical conception of knowledge, and the relation of knowledge to skepticism.

Philosophy 232, Happiness (3 units; U; HU)

Instructor: Miren Boehm,

We study this fascinating issue primarily from the point of view of western philosophy and psychology. But we will also explore the question from the perspective of eastern philosophy, literature, and film. What is happiness and why is it so difficult to attain? Is happiness just a feeling? Does meditation promote happiness? What, if anything, is the role of religion in achieving happiness? Is there an essential relation between happiness and morality? Can bad guys be happy? What is the relation between happiness and meaning? Can someone enjoy a meaningful life without begin happy? Is happiness the highest good?

Philosophy 241, Introductory Ethics (3 units; U; HU)

LEC 401 MW 1:00 – 1:50 LUB S241
Instructor: Nataliya Palatnik,

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 (1 units; U; HU)

LEC 001: Abortion MW 11:00 – 12:15 BOL 294 (09/05—10/17)
LEC 002: Drugs and Addiction MW 11:00 – 12:15 BOL 294 (10/09—11/11)
LEC 003: Global Poverty MW 11:00 – 12:15 BOL 294 (11/13—12/14)
Instructor: Miren Boehm,

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.

243-001 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.

243-002 Drugs and Addiction: What are the arguments in favor of consuming drugs? Some defend the use of drugs by appealing to the pleasure they produce. Some claim that drugs enhance creativity, others that it enables religious experiences. But do the alleged benefits outweigh the harms? What exactly is addiction? Is it morally wrong to take drugs? Is the commercial selling of drugs wrong? Do we have a moral obligation to prevent people from distributing or from taking drugs? Should drugs be illegal? How do we balance freedom and harm? In this class we will address all of these questions.

243-003 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 (3 units; U; HU)

LEC 001 R 6:00-8:40 CRT 209
Instructor: Kristen Tym,
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 (3 units; U; HU)

Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein,
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 250, Philosophy of Religion (3 units; U; HU)

LEC 001 MW 9:30-10:45 LUB S165
Instructor: Agust Magnusson,
Prereq: none

Is there a God? Is there life after death? What is the meaning of human existence? These are just some of the many questions we will tackle in our philosophical examination of some of the most pressing issues and concerns related to religion. We will examine various arguments for the existence of God, analyze questions related to morality and the existence of evil and suffering, and examine to what extent religious belief can be harmonized with human rationality. Course texts will include both classical and modern philosophical treatises as well as selections from literature and film.

Philosophy 317, Metaphysics (3 units; U/G)

LEC 001 MW 11:00—12:15 BOL 281
Instructor: Joshua Spencer,
Prereq: jr st. & 3cr in philos.

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 metaphysics. We’ll seek answers to some of the following question: What is it for something to exist? What is space? What is time? What is possibility? And what are they all like? What is causation and what are the laws of nature? 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? We’ll explore answers to these questions by reading and discussing recent work in metaphysics.

Philosophy 337, Environmental Ethics (3 units; U/G)

LEC 001 TR 11:00—12:15 PHY 230
Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein,
Prereq: jr st.

Have you ever asked yourself any of the following questions: Why should I care about the environment? What is my relationship to the natural world? What is my responsibility to the environment?

The course will cover major theories of environmental ethics and their practical applications. We will cover various theoretical approaches to environmental ethics including: Animal rights, the Land Ethic; deep ecology; social ecology; ecofeminism; and rethinking the good life. This will include discussions about the moral value of non-human life and nature; human responsibility to the environment; and various contemporary moral issues related to the environment including: wildlife conservation; poverty as an environmental problem; the ecology of property rights; cost-benefit analysis and environmental policy; and environmental activism. By the end of this course you will be acquainted with concepts and methods of philosophical ethics that apply to issues regarding humankind’s dealings with the natural world; be able to critically assess alternative approaches to, and defenses of, a code of responsibility to nature; have a repertory of resources and skills with which to formulate your own environmental ethic; and be able to articulate and defend your own ideas with clarity, consistency and coherence.

Philosophy 384, Philosophy of Law (3 units; U/G)

LEC 001 TR 12:30—1:45 BOL 281
Instructor: Andrea Westlund,
Prereq: jr st; 3 cr philos or previous course in political theory of law studies recommended

In this course we will examine fundamental issues in the philosophy of law, including, among other things, the nature and content of law, the relationship between law and morality, the obligation to obey the law, and the justification of punishment. Readings will be drawn from both historical and contemporary sources.

Philosophy 430, Great Thinkers of the Ancient Period (3 units; U/G)

LEC 001 MW 2:00 – 3:15 LUB s171
Instructor: Richard Tierney,
Prereq: jr st & 3cr in philos

The history of philosophy is sometimes said to have begun in 585 B.C.E., when the Greek philosopher, Thales, is said to have predicted an eclipse of the sun. This, of course, is a somewhat arbitrary convenience, and there is nothing particularly philosophical about predicting an eclipse of the sun (what Thales is known for ‘philosophically’ is his conjecture that everything, at bottom, is made of water!). But Thales’s prediction is taken to be representative of a more general tendency away from understanding the natural world through a ‘mythological’ perspective, and towards an understanding of it through a more ‘rationalistic’, ‘scientific’ perspective. It is this general tendency that perhaps better characterizes the beginnings of philosophy. In this course we will consider how this tendency plays out in the thought of some of the central figures in early Greek philosophy – the Presocratics, Plato, and Aristotle – in order to understand how their ideas and theories about the natural world and human nature resulted in the development of natural science, ethics, and metaphysics.

Philosophy 532, Mental Representation (3 units; U/G)

LEC 001 TR 5:00 – 6:15 CRT 607
Instructor: Robert Schwartz,
Retakable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max. Prereq: jr st; 3cr in philos.

Human thought and action are dependent on and mediated by the knowledge and mental skills we possess. Perhaps the core topic in the study of cognition is to explain how this knowledge and skill base is stored or represented by our mind/brain. This course will explore conceptual and theoretical problems that lie at the heart of current debates in philosophy, psychology, linguistics, and computer science over the nature of mentality and mental representations. We will consider such questions as: cognitive vs behaviorist analyses, folk psychology vs. scientific psychology, realist vs. anti-realist analyses, is there a language of thought, rule following, is language competence innate? Issues concerning animal and machine intelligence will be examined in these contexts.

Philosophy 535, Women in the History of Philosophy (3 units; U/G)

LEC 001 T 11:00 – 1:40 CRT 607
Instructor: Margaret Atherton,
Retakable w/chg in topic to 6 cr max. Prereq: jr st; a course in philos or women’s stds

Not too many years ago, no one knew that there had ever been any women writing and publishing philosophical treatises and books at all. Now, after a lot of work uncovering and rediscovering women philosophers of the early modern period of the 17th and 18th centuries, the existence of these women is now well understood and studying their work in now well underway. This course will fall into two parts. In the first, or longer part, we will take advantage of the new scholarship to study in depth a sample of the women philosophers of the early modern period, including Margaret Cavendish, Anne Conway, Mary Astell and Catherine Trotter Cockburn. In the second part, we will take up the further question, yes, but were there more women doing philosophy in other periods, by looking at a sample of the work of women who got PhDs in philosophy, jobs teaching philosophy and who published in leading philosophy journals at the beginning of the 20th century.

Philosophy 554, Kant: Self and World (3 units; U/G)

LEC 001 MW 3:30 – 4:45 CRT 607
Instructor: Nataliya Palatnik,
Retakable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max. Prereq: jr st; 3 cr in philos; Philos 432(R); or cons instr.

This course will be a detailed study of selected portions of Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, a work that is rightly considered to be one of the most important products of Western Philosophy. We will focus on Kant’s theory of the nature of human cognition. Of particular interest to us will be Kant’s conception of self-consciousness, its significance for rationality and experience, and its interdependence with knowledge of the external world and of the self. We will undertake a close reading of the Critique itself, supplemented, as needed, by some of Kant’s other writings and the most important secondary literature.

Philosophy 685, Senior Capstone Research Seminar: Nietzsche’s Thought (3 units; U)

SEM 001 TR 3:30 – 4:45 CRT 607
Instructor: William Bristow,
Satisfies L&S research req. Retakable w/ chg in topic to 6 cr max. Prere: sr st; declared Philos major, or cons instr

Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous statement that “God is dead” encapsulates his fundamental, systematic, influential critique of modern Western culture (– his critique of our fundamental doctrines or beliefs, as well as, and especially, our fundamental moral values). Nietzsche finds nihilism to be at the root of Western culture, and points the way, in opposition, to the possibility of a truly life-affirming mode of human existence. In this seminar, we examine both Nietzsche’s critique of modern culture as well as his attempts at the “revaluation of all values”, as his project develops from his first book, The Birth of Tragedy (1872), through his last writings before he suffered his incapacitating breakdown in 1889. As appropriate for this “capstone” seminar, we pay particular attention to Nietzsche’s critiques and assessments of the Western philosophical tradition, and his attempt to found what he calls “a philosophy of the future.” We read secondary works as well as Nietzsche’s texts.

Philosophy 790, Advanced Topic in Philosophy: Graduate Student Writing Workshop (3 units; G)

SEM 001 W 5:00 – 7:40 CRT 607
Instructor: Nataliya Palatnik,
Retakable w/ chg in topic to 9 cr max. Prereq: grad st; add’l prereqs depending on topic

In this workshop, graduate students will present their work in progress and receive peer comments on their work and writing. Students will have the opportunity to hone their presentation skills, sharpen their writing, and develop their philosophical ideas.

Philosophy 941, Socially Constructed Morality (2-3 units; G)

SEM 001 MW 2:00-3:15 CRT 607
Instructor: Stanislaus Husi,
Retakable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max. Prereq: grad st & cons instr.

The last couple years have witnessed a resurgence of ethical, and especially metaethical constructivism. Constructivism aspires to provide an account of normative truth without presupposing a realm of robustly stance-independent normative facts. In this regard, constructivism presents itself as a major rival to robust metaethical realism. According to constructivism, normative truths emerge from some practical procedure or evaluative perspective. They are thoroughly stance-dependent. Constructivism also promises to solve a host of traditional metaethical problems, epistemological, practical, semantic, and ontological in nature. After an overview, we are going to concentrate in this course on the social dimensions of constructivism, aiming at a systematic understanding of social norms and practices in particular. The methodological assumption of the course is that a proper reckoning of morality demands a thoroughgoing social account, raising the question of how exactly to make it work. The reading list includes titles such as ‘Explaining Norms’ and ‘The Grammar of Society: The Nature and Dynamics of Social Norms,’ as well as interdisciplinary work from the sociology of morality

Philosophy 960, Material Simplicity and Composition (2-3 units; G)

SEM 001 M 5:00-7:40 CRT 607
Instructor: Joshua Spencer,
Retakable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max. Prereq: grad st & cons instr.

Material simples, if they exist, are material objects that have no proper parts. They are the philosophical atoms of ancient philosophy. Strong Atomism, then, is the view that every material object is ultimately composed of and depends on material simples. In this course, we will be exploring Strong Atomism by first asking questions like the following: what would it take for an object to be a material simple? What would it take for some objects to compose a further object? And what does it mean to say that one object depends on another? After answering these questions, we will explore the strengths and weaknesses of philosophical atomism.