Current Course Descriptions

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

Fall 2021 Course Descriptions

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

LEC 001 T 5 :00 – 7 :30 ; CRT 109

LEC 402 MW 11 :00 – 11 :50 ; CRT 175
LEC 403 MW 12 :30 – 1 :20 ; CRT 175
Instructor: Ágúst Magnússon,

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 402 MW 9:30 – 10:20; BOL 150
LEC 403 MW 12:30 – 1:20; LUB N140
Instructor: Matthew Knachel,

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 401 TR 11 :00 – 11 :50 ; BOL B56
Instructor: Ágúst Magnússon,

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

LEC 403 MW 9 :30 – 10 :20 ; CRT 175

LEC 404 MW 12 :30 – 1 :20 ; MIT 191
Instructor: Matthew Knachel,

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

LEC 001 TR 9:30 – 10:45; CRT 109
Instructor Elizabeth Silverstein,

Prereq: none.

This course is an introduction to epistemology, the branch of philosophy that concerns itself with knowledge. We will examine the relationship between certainty, belief, and doubt; look at the boundaries of human knowledge; and consider the importance of skepticism and critical reasoning in human affairs. Some of the question we will examine are: What is the nature of truth and how does truth differ from mere opinion? Can human beings ever achieve absolute certainty? How do different philosophical traditions and cultures throughout the world differ in their views on certainty and truth?

Philosophy 217, Introduction to Metaphysics

LEC 001 TR 2:00 – 3:15; CRT 309
Instructor: Joshua Spencer,

Prereq: none.

Metaphysics is the philosophical study of the fundamental nature of reality. In this introduction, we’ll focus on metaphysical questions related to the human nature and society: What is are we? Do we have free will? Do we have a soul or are we merely material beings? Is our identity preserved over time? What is race and what is gender? What would God be like, if there were a God? Is there a God? And, broadly, what kind of impact do various answers to these questions have on our lives and society?

By the end of the course, students will be acquainted with concepts and methods of philosophical ethics that apply to issues related to professional engineering. Students will learn to critically assess alternative approaches to, and defenses of, a code of responsible professional engineers (i.e., an “engineering ethic”), and gain a repertory of resources and skills with which to confront moral dilemmas presented in their professional careers.

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

LEC 001 TR 12 :30 – 1 :45 ; CRT 104
Instructor: Ágúst Magnússon,

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

Philosophy 243, Moral Problems (3 units total, 1 unit each; U; HU)


Animal Ethics

Drug Addiction

Instructor: Miren Bohem,

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


Is it morally right to abort a fetus? Does the answer to this question depend on whether or not the fetus is a person? What is a person anyway? Does a person have a right to life? And what rights does the mother have to determine her life? What does religion have to say about abortion? What does the law say? How is the question to be considered from a moral or ethical point of view? Does feminism have a particular point of view on the question of the morality of abortion? We will spend the next five weeks addressing these central questions.


Animal Ethics

We coexist on this planet with other animals, most of whom were here before we “arrived.” Homo Sapiens has developed a system of moral and legal rights that, at least in principle, protects members of its species from certain harms. We believe that each member of the Homo Sapiens species has the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. What about other animals? May we do with them as we please? As a matter of fact, we do. We eat them; we trapped them in farms; we separate parents from their offspring; we experiment on them; we kill them for our entrainment. Do we owe non-human animals’ moral consideration? Should they enjoy any legal protections? Non-human animals are not rational; they are not able to act on reasons. But most of us believe that they do possess the capacity to suffer, and indeed, that human action causes them a great deal of suffering. Is the capacity to suffer enough to include non-human animals in the circle of moral consideration?


Drug Addiction

This five-week course is concerned with moral and legal issues related to recreational drug/alcohol use. We discuss these questions:  Is it morally wrong to use drugs for fun?  Is it morally permissible to provide another person with drugs? Do individuals have the right to harm themselves? Should the state be able to determine what we do with our lives? Should drugs be legal?  If not, what is the justification for prohibiting drug use? Would it be better if drugs were legal? Is there such a thing as addiction?  What is our understanding of why people become “addicts”?  Are people under the influence responsible for their behavior?

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

LEC 001 R 5:00 – 7:30; BOL B84
Instructor: Kristen Tym,

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: Biomedical Ethics (3 units; U; HU)

LEC 202 Online
Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein,

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 250, God, Faith and Reason

LEC 001 MW 9:30 – 10:30; CRT 124

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 332, Philosophical Problems: Human Person

001 MW 9:30 – 10:45; CRT 104
Instructor: Peter Van Elswyk,

Not open for credit to students with credit in PHILOS 381 with similar subtitle. May be retaken with change in topic to 9 cr max. Prereq: junior standing and 3 cr PHILOS.

This class will explore various answers to the question, “what are we?” Answers considered include that we are souls, mere animals, first-person perspectives, and more.

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

LEC 001 TR 12:30 – 1:45, CRT 175
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 349 and 349G, Great Moral Philosophers

LEC 001 MW 3:30 – 4:45, CRT 175

Prereq: jr st & 3 cr in philos.

Major themes of moral philosophy from Plato and Aristotle to Bentham and Mill, with critical study of the outstanding works.

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

LEC 201 MW 12:30 am – 1:45pm, LUB N120
Instructor: Stanislaus Husi,

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 430 and 430G, Great Thinkers of the Ancient Period

LEC 001 MW 2:00 – 3:15, CRT 175
Instructor: Nataliya Palatnik,

Prereq: jr st & cr 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 519 519G, Special Problems in Metaphysics and Epistemology: Trends in Contemporary Epistemology (3 units; U/G; HU)

001 T 11:00 – 1:30, LUB S171
Instructor: Peter Van Elswyk,

May be retaken with change in topic to 9 cr max. Prereq: junior standing and 3 cr philos.

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

This seminar will explore a number of recent trends in contemporary epistemology. Potential examples include the nature of inquiry, epistemic injustice, the weakness of belief, and analyses of knowledge or justification defined in terms of normality.

Philosophy 532 and 532G, Philosophical Problems: Hume on Religion

LEC 001 MW 3:30 – 4:45, CRT B19
Instructor: Miren Boehm,

May be retaken w/chg in topic to 9 cr max. Prereq: jr st & 3 cr in philos.

Hume’s views on religion are well known to philosophers who work neither on Hume nor religion. His Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, in particular, are much widely known to academics outside philosophy and even folks outside the academia. This is not just due to its monumental and foundational nature, but also to the fact that Hume’s playful and accessible style make reading the Dialogues fun. In this class, we start with Hume’s lesser-known, but important work The Natural History of Religion. In this work, Hume offers a history and a Nietzsche-style genealogy of religion, which tracks the beginnings of the religious impetus in human nature, continuing with the birth of polytheism, and the transition to monotheism. The Dialogues present us with rationalist and empiricist philosophical arguments for God’s existence. Hume’s assessment and criticism of these arguments are brilliant, and we will consider them in detail with the aid of important interpretations in the secondary literature.

Philosophy 681 and 681G, Seminar in Advanced Topics: Friedrich Nietzche (3 units; U/G; HU)

LEC 001 TR 2:00 – 3:15, CRT 607
Instructor: William Bristow,

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.

Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous statement that “God is dead” encapsulates his fundamental, systematic, influential critique of modern Western culture (– his critique of fundamental metaphysical and epistemological doctrines as well as his critique of fundamental moral values).  Nietzsche finds nihilism to be at the root of Western culture, as it stands, and points the way to the possibility of a truly life-affirming mode of human existence, in opposition to the past.  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.  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.”  There will be some exposure to writing on Nietzsche, but mostly our focus will be on direct engagement with Nietzsche’s texts.

Philosophy 758, Seminar in Major Philosophers: The Dark Moralists (3 units; G; HU)

LEC 001 MW 2:00 – 3:15, CRT 607
Instructor: Stanislaus Husi,

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

We will be reading philosophers critical of the very idea of morality, not only of this or that particular moral system, but of what Bernard Williams called The morality system as such. Many of those philosophers can be read, and often have been read, as predecessors of what in contemporary metaethics is called “Error Theory,” the view that morality is a myth. To capture error theory in a nutshell, consider a typical moral argument: Capital punishment is wrong; no it is not wrong. Now consider, as an analogy, a religious argument: The Eucharist literally instantiates Christ’s body, no it only symbolizes Christ’s body. The error theorist relates to the moral argument as the atheist relates to the religious argument, both charging their respective arguments to lack a subject matter. There may be a dispute, but no fact of the matter to answer the dispute. The aim of the seminar is to extract and evaluate the fundamental critique of the morality system expressed by these dark moralists. The philosophers we will be reading are: Plato, Marx, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Hume, Nietzsche, MacIntryre, Rorty, Gauthier, Mackie, Joyce, and, of course, Bernard Williams, along with various commentators.

Philosophy 790, Advanced Topics in Philosophy: Graduate Student Writing Workshop

LEC 001 R 4:30 – 7:00
Instructor: William Bristow,

Retakeable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max. Specific topics may be jointly-offered w/CompSci. Prereq: grad st; add’l prereqs depending to topic.

This is a seminar for second-year students in the MA program, in which students intensively workshop a philosophy paper, taking it through multiple drafts.  Students learn to write better philosophy in all respects, both by revising their own writing in response to peer criticism, but also by subjecting their peers’ writing to constructive criticism.  Students learn to be better, more constructive, critics of others’ written work, as well as to produce better written work themselves.

Philosophy 960, Seminar in Metaphysics: Simples and Composites

LEC 001 M 5:00 – 7:30, CRT 607
Instructor: Joshua Spencer,

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

A simple is something that has no parts. A composite is something that does have parts. In this course, we will ask what simple and composite objects would have to be like if they were to exist. Would simple objects have to be unextended or could they be extended? Would composite objects have to be organized or could they be unorganized? We will also look at a few philosophical problems about simples and composites and discuss, in detail, solutions to those problems.