Current Course Descriptions

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

Spring 2021 Course Descriptions

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

LEC 001 T ONLINE

Instructor:  Kevin Korczyk, kkorczyk@uwm.edu

LEC 202 ONLINE
LEC 203 ONLINE

Instructor: Ágúst Magnússon, magnusso@uwm.edu

May not be retaken for add’l cr; may be repeated for higher grade. Prereq: none.

Enrollment in one of the large lectures (202 or 203) requires enrollment in a discussion section.

If you’ve ever asked yourself questions such as: “What is the meaning of life?,” “What is happiness?,” or “How can I become a good person?,” then this course is for you. We will be examining philosophy as both an academic discipline and as a way of life by analyzing some of the greatest philosophical texts ever written. We will examine a variety of different kinds of philosophical issues, such as AI (artificial intelligence) and consciousness, feminism, existentialism, Native American philosophy, and the nature of good and evil. No background in philosophy is required.


Philosophy 111 – Introduction to Logic – Critical Reasoning (HU; QLA and L&S Math Requirement)

LEC 201 ONLINE

LEC 202 ONLINE
LEC 203 ONLINE
Instructor: Matthew Knachel, knachel@uwm.edu

Jointly offered with and counts as repeat of Math 111.

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 is 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 (3 units; U; HU)

LEC 201 ONLINE

Instructor: Ágúst Magnússon, magnusso@uwm.edu

Prereq: none.

Enrollment in large lecture 201 also requires enrollment in a discussion section. Prereq: none.

The course will offer a philosophical examination of the primary religious traditions of Asia, with emphasis on Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. We will examine various kinds of meditation techniques and contemplative practices, examine key spiritual texts such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Buddhist sutras, and discover how these beautiful wisdom traditions can help us to understand ourselves and the world around us in a deeper, more thoughtful manner.


Philosophy 207, Religion and Science (3 units; U; HU)

LEC 201 ONLINE

Instructor: Ágúst Magnússon, magnusso@uwm.edu

Prereq: none.

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 (3 units; HU; QLB, L&S Formal Reasoning Requirement)

LEC 201 ONLINE WEB
Instructor: Matthew Knachel, knachel@uwm.edu

LEC 203 M 11:30 am – 12:20 pm

ONLINE

LEC 204 W 1:15 pm – 2:05 pm

ONLINE
Instructor: Richard Tierney, rtierney@uwm.edu

Prereq: satisfaction of QL-A

Enrollment in one of the large lectures (203 or 204) 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, covering sentence and predicate logic.  It does not presuppose previous work in formal logic.  There will be 3 exams and weekly homework assignments. The course satisfies General Education Humanities and QLB requirements as well as Letters and Science Formal Reasoning requirements for the B.S. degree.


Philosophy 212, Modern Deductive Logic (3 units; HU)

LEC 201 R 11:30 am – 2:00 pm

ONLINE

Instructor Joshua Spencer, spence48@uwm.edu

Prereq: grade C

In Elementary Logic (Philosophy 211), we learned how to symbolize English sentences and arguments in the formal languages of propositional logic and first-order predicate logic. We also learned formal procedures for determining validity and other logical properties of the sentences and arguments we symbolized. In this class, we will be building on our previous work by extending our formal languages to include identity, and modal operators. We will develop, among other things, procedures for determining validity and other logical properties of sentences and arguments involving identity, modality and temporality. Additionally, we investigate the adequacy of our formal systems by, for example, determining whether every argument that has a proof in our formal systems is in fact valid (soundness) and whether every argument that is in fact valid has a proof (completeness).


Philosophy 232, Topics in Philosophy: Existentialism (3 units; U; HU)

LEC 201 ONLINE

Instructor: Michael Thousand, thousan2@uwm.edu

May be retaken w/chg in topic to 6 cr max. Prereq: none.

This course will provide an introduction to the modern philosophical tradition known as existentialism and the core themes that make it up. We will examine the work of philosophers such as Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Sartre, Camus, and de Beauvoir as we investigate the nature of existence, subjectivity, freedom, death, and authenticity as well as discuss whether our lives can have any meaning or purpose to them. Our focus will be on studying the very nature of the human condition and what it means to exist in a potentially godless universe.


Philosophy 237, Technology, Values and Society (3 units; HU)

LEC 201 ONLINE

Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein, silvers2@uwm.edu

Prereq: none.

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 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 our selves 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 issues related to information technology, the environment, and human health including the potential impact of genetic enhancement and cloning. Current events will be discussed often including: how video conferencing has allowed us to stay connected while social distancing, the role of Social Media platforms in challenging our political discourse and democracy during the recent election, and the amazing scientific work being done to create Covid19 vaccines and treatments in record time.


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

LEC 201 ONLINE

Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein, silvers2@uwm.edu

Prereq: none.

This course is an introduction to moral philosophy and is intended for the student who has had little or no prior exposure to philosophy. It will provide a broad but reasonably detailed examination of the central issues of moral philosophy and will also consider how these can be applied to several contemporary moral problems.


Philosophy 242, Introduction to Social and Political Philosophy (3 units; U; HU)

LEC 201 ONLINE

Instructor: Michael Thousand, thousan2@uwm.edu

Prereq: none.

What is the relationship between individuals and the state? Are there limits to the state’s power over their citizens? What is the nature of concepts such as justice, rights, liberty, and equality? Is democracy a good thing? What do we owe to the poor? In this course, we will examine these questions through the eyes of thinkers like Aristotle, Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, John Rawls, and Robert Nozick. In doing so, we will address virtually all contentious political issues that are still debated in society today.


Philosophy 244, Ethical Issues in Health Care (3 units; U; HU)

LEC 201 ONLINE

Instructor: Kristen Tym, tymk@uwm.edu

May be retaken w/chg in topic up to 6 cr max. Prereq: none.

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 (3 units; U; HU)

LEC 202 ONLINE

Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein, silvers2@uwm.edu

May be retaken w/chg in topic to 6 cr max. Prereq: none.

In this course we will begin by overviewing the ethical theories that shape our answers to serious ethical dilemmas. In this part of the course we will first introduce philosophical moral theories, and look more closely at theories that apply particularly in biomedical ethics, and finally introduce and develop an understanding of the concept of autonomy and how it relates to issues in biomedical ethics, paying particularly close attention to how different social and cultural factors effect health care interactions. In particular, we will pay close attention to the role systemic racism in medical research, diagnosis, and treatment. The course will be framed around issues of autonomy and especially on the autonomy of traditionally vulnerable populations. For the second half of the course we will apply these theories to particular moral dilemmas currently confronting health care providers, patients and their families, and society at large. These topics will include issues related to death and dying, pregnancy and birth, genetic testing and therapies, health care allocation, and research ethics. We will be particularly solicitous of issues that pertain to the health care issues of diverse populations and those that have been historically socially disadvantaged. Given the current pandemic, we will allow current events to frame our discussion and examples whenever possible.


Philosophy 303, Mind and Knowledge (3 units; U/G; HU)

LEC 201 MW 1:15 pm – 2:30 pm

ONLINE
Instructor: Peter Van Elswyk, vanelswy@uwm.edu

Prereq: jr st; Philos 101(P) or 215(P).

This course is about knowledge: what it is, why it is valuable, and how to acquire it. Much of our information is testimonial—it is mediated through others. We rely on experts, the internet, and others we trust to learn what we cannot see for ourselves. This course will therefore give special attention to understanding how we gain knowledge through testimony.


Philosophy 341, Modern Ethical Theories (3 units; U; HU)

LEC 201 ONLINE

Instructor: Michael Thousand, thousan2@uwm.edu

Prereq: jr st; 3 cr in philos; satisfaction of OWC-A

This course will serve to bridge the gap between historical ethical theories and their contemporary counterparts. We will examine modern consequentialism (including movements like motive and preference utilitarianism), deontology (such as Ross’s pluralism), and virtue ethics (focusing on both contemporary Aristotelian and Platonist accounts). In addition, we will ask questions about how much morality can demand of us and whether there is any reason to be ethical at all.


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

LEC 201 MW 11:30 am – 12:45pm

ONLINE

Instructor: Nataliya Palatnik, palatnik@uwm.edu

Philos 384 & Pol Sci 384 are jointly offered; they count as repeats of one another. Prereq: jr st; 3 cr philos or previous course in political theory or 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 432, Great Thinkers of the Modern Period (3 units; U/G; HU)

LEC 201 ONLINE
Instructor: Miren Boehm, boehmm@uwm.edu

Prereq: jr st & cr in philos.

Human beings have thought about the natural world around us and our relation/the mind’s relation to the external world for thousands of years.  But our approach to these issues, the particular questions that frame and guide our inquires, have changed and evolved through time.  Our (western) way of thinking about these fundamental issues in the year 2021 has a beginning and many ancestors. Our ways of understanding these fundamental issues trace back to a particular revolution in philosophical and scientific ways of thinking that started around the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe.  We are still part of this revolution and like many before us, we find impossible to imagine what the next revolution in philosophical thinking will look like.  We begin with Meditations on First Philosophy (1641) by René Descartes, the father of modern philosophy.  We then turn to John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689) and his revolutionary empirical study of the mind and of knowledge. We then turn to David Hume, whom we can call the father of naturalistic philosophy. We will focus on what he is most famous for, his treatment of causation (1739). We finally turn to (a female philosopher! Yay) Lady Mary Shepherd’s powerful criticism of Hume’s views on causation (1824). Philosophers are just now coming to terms with her philosophical views.  I shall offer my own interpretation of her criticism of Hume’s treatment of the Causal Maxim, or the thesis that all that begins to exist must have a cause.


Philosophy 519, Special Problems in Metaphysics and Epistemology: How to Persist Thru Change without Losing Your Identity (3 units; U/G; HU)

LEC 201 M 3:00 pm – 5:40 pm
ONLINE

Instructor: Joshua Spencer, spence48@uwm.edu

Prereq: jr or above; or graduate standing; or special student (incl university or school/college specials; 2nd degree, post-baccalaureate, certificate).

Each of us has survived for some number of years. We have persisted through time. Moreover, even though we have changed in various ways, it seems that the individual we are now is the same as the individual we once were. But how can that be? It seems like there are characteristics that are central to our identity. There are characteristics that make up how we view ourselves and who we are. If those characteristics change, then how can we really be the same individual that we once were? In this class, we will be discussing three crucially interrelated questions. The question of personal identity: what properties or characteristics make up who we are? The question of Identity over time: What does it take for an individual to be one and the same person that they once were? And the question of persistence: under what conditions will a person at one time persist into the future? We will also discuss related questions about the nature of time, possibility, and constitution.

Philosophy 554, Special Topics in the History of Modern Philosophy: Idealizations & Standards in Hume’s Philosophy (3 units; U/G; HU)

LEC 201 MW 11:30 am – 12:45 pm

ONLINE
Instructor: Miren Boehm, boehmm@uwm.edu

May be retaken w/chg in topic to 9 cr max. Prereq: jr st; 3 cr philos; Philos 432(R), or cons instr.

Hume writes that “the imagination, when set into any train of thinking, is apt to continue, even when its object fails it, and like a galley put in motion by the oars, carries on its course without any new impulse.”  Referring to the perfect standard of equality, he continues, “This I have assign’d for the reason, why, after considering several loose standards of equality, and correcting them by each other, we proceed to imagine so correct and exact a standard of that relation, as is not liable to the least error or variation.” And Hume attributes ‘the opinion’ that there are objects in the world that continue to exist unperceived to the same imaginative tendency. In fact, this “imaginative inertia” that Hume here speaks of has a role in wide range of subjects in Hume’s philosophy: from causation to morality to aesthetics.  Against this imaginative inertia of the mind, Hume endorses several standards pertaining to those subjects. The main questions of this class are these: what exactly is wrong with imaginative inertia and what is the foundation of the standards that in many cases replace the idealizations generated by the galleys of the imagination?


Philosophy 681, Seminar in Advanced Topics: Political Egalitarianism (3 units; U/G; HU)

LEC 201 TR 4:45 pm – 6:00 pm

ONLINE
Instructor: Blain Neufeld, neufeld@uwm.edu

May be retaken w/chg in topic to 9 cr max. Prereq: sr st & 12 cr in philos at 300-level or above; or grad st.

Conceptions of justice that are “liberal” in nature are committed to securing for all citizens a set of individual basic liberties (freedom of association, liberty of conscience, the right to vote, and so forth) within society’s constitutional structure. Conceptions of liberal justice that are “egalitarian” in nature also are committed to securing for all citizens adequate resources (education, wealth, etc.) for them to exercise their basic liberties over the course of their lives. Hence “liberal egalitarian” conceptions of justice aim to realize the ideals of liberty and equality for all citizens.

Two families of liberal egalitarian conceptions of justice have emerged over the past few decades: “luck egalitarianism” and “relational egalitarianism.” Both families share a common ancestor: the account of justice presented in John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice (1971). Luck egalitarians have understood their project, at least in part, as developing the implications of Rawls’s comments on the “moral arbitrariness” of the distribution of unchosen social and natural advantages into a distinct approach to theorizing about justice, one that is egalitarian in nature but also sensitive to individual responsibility. According to luck egalitarians, roughly, the aim of justice is to neutralize any disadvantages that people are born into or acquire as the result of brute luck, disadvantages for which they are not responsible and consequently do not deserve (e.g., being struck by lightning or being born into poverty). In a fully just luck egalitarian society, people would fare well or poorly solely in conformity to those decisions and actions for which they are responsible.

Despite helping to inspire luck egalitarianism, though, Rawls’s conception of “justice as fairness” is a relational egalitarian conception. Relational egalitarians generally follow Rawls’s “constructivist” or “contractualist” approach to thinking about justice. According to this approach, principles of political justice should be understood as rationally constructed in order to satisfy the requirements of reciprocity among free and equal citizens under conditions of relative scarcity. A fully just relational egalitarian society is not one that “neutralizes luck,” but rather one in which citizens relate to each other as social equals on the basis of mutual respect, and freely govern their lives on conditions fair to all.

In this seminar we will read the account of luck egalitarianism advanced by G.A. Cohen. We also will look at the relation between luck egalitarianism and the form of democratic socialism that Cohen defends in Why Not Socialism? (2008). We then will consider the criticisms of luck egalitarianism advanced by Elizabeth Anderson and others, along with some replies from luck egalitarians. Rawls’s relational egalitarian conception of justice also will be explored. We will read his Justice as Fairness: A Restatement (2001). The institutional implications of justice as fairness then will be considered: does justice require a form of “liberal socialism,” “property-owning democracy,” or “welfare-state capitalism”?


Philosophy 712, Fundamentals of Formal Logic (3 units; G; HU)

LEC 201 R 11:30 am – 2:00 pm

ONLINE

Instructor: Joshua Spencer, spence48@uwm.edu

Prereq: grad st.

In Elementary Logic (Philosophy 211), we learned how to symbolize English sentences and arguments in the formal languages of propositional logic and first-order predicate logic. We also learned formal procedures for determining validity and other logical properties of the sentences and arguments we symbolized. In this class, we will be building on our previous work by extending our formal languages to include identity, and modal operators. We will develop, among other things, procedures for determining validity and other logical properties of sentences and arguments involving identity, modality and temporality. Additionally, we investigate the adequacy of our formal systems by, for example, determining whether every argument that has a proof in our formal systems is in fact valid (soundness) and whether every argument that is in fact valid has a proof (completeness).


Philosophy 758, Seminar in Major Philosophers: Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason: Self and World (3 units; G; HU)

 LEC 201 W 3:00 pm – 5:40 pm

ONLINE

Instructor: Nataliya Palatnik, palatnik@uwm.edu

Retakeable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max. Prereq: grad st; 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. Of particular interest to us will be Kant’s conception of self-consciousness, its significance for rationality, experience, and for our 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. We will spend most of the term studying the “positive” part of the book: Kant’s account of the nature of human cognition in the Transcendental Aesthetic and Transcendental Analytic. At the end of the course, we will turn to Kant’s criticism of dogmatic metaphysics, particularly “the rational doctrine of the soul”, in the Transcendental Dialectic.


Philosophy 903, Seminar in Epistemology: The Semantics & Pragmatics of Epistemic Vocabulary (3 units; G; HU)

LEC 201 T 11 :30 am – 2:00 pm

ONLINE

Instructor: Peter van Elswyk, vanelswy@uwm.edu

Retakeable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max. Prereq: grad st; & cons instr.

Some words are epistemic—they indicate the evidence and doxastic attitudes of agents. Examples include epistemic modals like “might,” “must,” and “probably” and attitude verbs like “believe, “know,” and “guess.” This seminar is about the meaning of such words, and what actions we perform in using sentences containing them. Special attention will be given to understanding whether sentences containing epistemic words are somehow weaker than sentences without them (i.e. is “It must be raining” weaker than “It is raining”?), and, if so, what explains this weakness.