Course Descriptions

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

Fall 2019 Course Descriptions

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

LEC 001 M 5:00pm – 7:40 pm
Instructor: Erich Jones

LEC 402 MW 11:00am – 11:50am
LEC 403 MW 1:00pm – 1:50pm
Instructor: Nataliya Palatnik,

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

LEC 402 MW 10:00am – 10:50am
LEC 403 MW 12:00pm—12:50pm
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 192, First Year Seminar: Zombies and Philosophy (3 units; U; HU)

SEM 001 MW 1:00pm –2:15pm
Instructor: Ágúst Magnússon,

Open only to freshmen students. Audit not allowed.

Why do zombies like brains so much? What can the living dead teach us about the relationship between the soul and the body? What can the zombie apocalypse teach us about ethics? These and other questions will be explored in this philosophical exploration of all things zombie. We will examine the various different kinds of zombies in film and literature, including the original Voodoo zombies, the living dead in the films of George A. Romero, and the recent comic book and TV series The Walking Dead. 

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

SEM 002 TR 11:00pm – 12:15pm
Instructor: Ágúst Magnússon,

Open only to freshmen students. Audit not allowed.

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 11:00am – 11:50am
Enrollment in large lecture 401 also requires enrollment in a discussion section

Instructor: Ágúst Magnússon,

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  R  5:00pm—7:40pm
Instructor: Josiah Lopez-Wild

Instructor: Matthew Knachel,

LEC 403 MW 10:00am – 10:50am

LEC 404 MW 12:00pm – 12:50pm
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, 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 Formal Reasoning requirements for the B.S. degree.

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

LEC 001 TR 12:30pm—1:45pm
Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein.

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 (3 units; U; HU)

LEC 001 MW 10:00am-11:15am
Instructor: Joshua Spencer,

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?

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

LEC 401 MW 3:00pm –  3:50pm
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 201 ONLINE WEB: Abortion
LEC 202 ONLINE WEB: Drugs and Addiction
LEC 203 ONLINE WEB: Global Poverty
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.

243-201 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.

243-002 Drugs and Addiction: This five-week course will be concerned with moral issues related to drug use and drug and alcohol addiction. We will address questions such as: What is the moral justification for prohibiting the use of certain drugs? Under what circumstances is it wrong to use drugs? When would it be wrong to supply someone with drugs? Should we hold addicts responsible for their behaviors? How does the use of drugs and alcohol affect one’s moral responsibility for things one does while under the influence? Under what circumstances is it appropriate to interfere with another person’s drug or alcohol use? If such interference is appropriate, how should it be done?

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 (3 units; U; HU)

LEC 001 R 6:00-8:40
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: Biomedical Ethics (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 moral dilemmas 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, God, Faith, Reason (3 units; U; HU)

LEC 001 TR 9:30am – 10:45am
Instructor: William Bristow,

In this course we bring philosophical reasoning to bear on central questions concerning religious doctrine and faith. Some major questions we will address in this course are: What do (or should) we mean by “God”? Can the proposition that God exists be proved on the basis of unaided reason? Or does reason in fact support atheism? What is religious faith? Must one have religious faith in order to be moral? Or, alternatively, is there an irresolvable tension between the demands of morality and the demands of religious faith? Is the existence of evil compatible with the existence of an all-powerful, benevolent creator God? Is the hypothesis of an after-life reasonable or intelligible? — We engage these and related questions by studying and discussing texts from major philosophers and religious thinkers in various tradition

Philosophy 332, Philosophical Problems: Philosophy of Psychology (3 units; U/G HU)

LEC 001, MW 12:00pm – 12:50pm
Instructor: Ágúst Magnússon,

Course taught partially online.  Internet acces req’d. Regular UWM tuition assessed.

Prereq: jr st; 3cr in philosophy

This course will offer a philosophical examination of some of the most important and influential theories and thinkers from the history of psychology. We will examine major theories and ideas about mind and behavior, conscious and unconscious phenomena, free will and authenticity, as well as personhood and personality. We will look at major historical developments in the works of Freud, Lacan, Jung, and Skinner and analyze some of the most important schools of thought in psychology from a philosophical perspective. We will also examine how ancient and modern philosophers prefigured and influenced the methods and concerns of modern psychoanalytic theory.

Philosophy 332, Philosophical Problems: Personal Identity (3 units; U/G HU)

LEC 002, TR 2:00pm – 3:15pm
Instructor: Peter van Elswyk,

Prereq: jr st; 3cr in philosophy

What are we? No, really: what are we? This is the question of personal identity. This course will investigate various answers. Examples of answers we will consider include:

  1. PURE DUALISM. We are wholly immaterial souls.
  2. ANIMALISM. We are animals.
  3. CONSTITUTIONLISM. We are constituted by but distinct from animals.
  4. BRAINISM. We are brains that are proper parts of animals.
  5. NIHILISM. We do not exist.

Along the way, we will consider related metaphysical issues (e.g. persistence, the nature of explanation, free will), and how answers to the question of personal identity matter to ethics.

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

LEC 001, TR 11:00am – 12:15pm
Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein,

Prereq: junior student.

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 355, Political Philosophy (3 units; U/G)

LEC 001 TR 3:30pm—4:45pm
Instructor: Stan Husi,

Prereq: jr st., Philos 242(P) or a course in ethics

Why do people organize themselves into political units (states)? What are the various ways in which states can be organized? Which are best and why? On what is grounded the difference between legitimate and illegitimate uses of political power? What rights and privileges do individuals retain in relation to their government, and which are or can be ceded to the government? Do people always retain the right to revolt against the political order when there are abuses of power? How are such questions to be decided? How is the political unit related to other social organization, such as the civil society and the family?

In this course we examine these and other related questions by reading classic texts in the history of political philosophy as well as contemporary political theorists. We will apply the theories we study to contemporary questions of justice.

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

LEC 001 MW 2:00pm – 3:15pm
Instructor: Richard Tierney,

Prereq: jr st & 3 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 532, Philosophical Problems: The Passage of Time (3 units; U/G)

LEC 001 M  5:00pm—7:40pm
Instructor: Joshua Spencer,

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

Time passes or flows. But is the passage of time real or merely an aspect of our perception of time? If passage is real, then what is it? In this class, we will think about whether or not temporal passage is real and about what temporal passage amounts to. Along the way, we will think about whether the past and future are as real as the present; whether there is a fundamental difference between the past and future; whether the future is open and what makes it open; and we will think about our position in time and how our position affects our perception and knowledge of time.

Philosophy 554, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche (3 units; U; HU)

LEC 001 TR 3:30pm – 4:45pm
Instructor: William Bristow,

In this course we study the pessimism, irrationalism, and immoralism that arises in nineteenth century European thought, so contrary to the optimism and rationalism that characterized European thought of the eighteenth century. We study this through the writings of two thinkers in particular: Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche. We study Schopenhauer’s World as Will and Representation, and Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy, The Gay Science, and On the Genealogy of Morals.

Philosophy 681, Seminar in Advanced Topics: Freedom Left and Right (3 units; U/G)

SEM 001 TR 2:00pm—3:15pm
Instructor: Stan Husi,

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.

Orlando Patterson opens his monumental “Freedom in the Making of Western Culture” with the pronouncement that “no one would deny that today freedom stands unchallenged as the supreme value of the Western world.” Perhaps some would deny there is such a supreme value; but if there is, freedoms’ claim to it surly is hard to contest. What is contested, however, is what freedom, or more specifically political freedom, amounts to, its nature and its implications for our most fundamental political and moral disputes. Liberals, progressives, conservatives, libertarians, classical republicans all define their position mainly in relation to political freedom. In this course, we will study and discuss the chief competing conceptions of political freedom that in large measure shape our contemporary politics, reading authors ranging from Karl Marx to Murray Rothbard.

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

LEC 001, R 5:00pm – 7:40pm
Instructor: Blain Neufeld,

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

Students will work on a single paper, which by the end of the term should be a work of high quality philosophy. Each week two (or, rarely, three) students will submit drafts of their papers for our weekly workshops. Other students will be expected to submit comments on each paper. During the workshop, we will discuss both the draft papers and the comments. Our goal is to provide constructive feedback to the authors so that they may improve their papers.

Philosophy 903, Seminar in Epistemology: Epistemology of Inquiry (3 units; G)

SEM 001, T 5:00pm – 7:40pm
Instructor: Peter van Elswyk,

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

Most inquiry is social. One person does the asking, another person does the answering. This course is about social inquiry and its epistemic significance. We will investigate what inquiry is, how testimony-based beliefs are justified, when testimony terminates or resolves inquiry, what we epistemically owe to each other in joint inquiry, and other related questions. Readings will mostly be in social epistemology, but a few excursions into philosophy of science, philosophy of language, and feminist philosophy will be made.

Philosophy 920, Seminar in Philosophy of Science:  Primary and Secondary Qualities (3 units; G)

SEM 001 M 2:00pm—4:40pm
Instructor: Miren Boehm,

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

The course is divided into two parts. The first is historical: We study the history of this important distinction. Although the primary-secondary quality distinction is articulated as such in the Early Modern period, with the advance of modern science, its roots go all the way back to the beginning of philosophy and the appearance-reality distinction. We read central texts: Boyle, Locke, Hume, and others. In the second half of the semester, we focus on color, and we study recent debates in philosophy concerning its metaphysical status. Here we read influential work by Byrne and Hilbert, Hardin, Jackson, Boghossian & Velleman, and others. The course sheds light on the general question of the nature of mind-independent reality and the place of mind in the natural world.