Course Descriptions

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

Fall 2023 Course Descriptions
UWM Philosophy Department

Philosophy 101 - Introduction to Philosophy: Basic Problems in Philosophy

Prereq: none

  • LEC 001 TR 8:30 AM – 9:45 AM, CRT 104
    Instructor: TBA
  • LEC 401 MW 9:30 AM – 10:20 AM, BOL B46
  • LEC 402 MW 11:30 AM – 12:20 PM, BOL B46
    Instructor: William Penn,

Enrollment in one of the large lectures (401 and 402) requires enrollment in a discussion section.

In this course, we will walk through the basic subfields of philosophy with an emphasis on historically important contributors and contemporary implications. In particular, we will consider the areas of metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics in three successive units. We will focus on providing a broad, multicultural perspective on the history of these subfields, with the aim of demonstrating that philosophy is a practice found throughout the world and throughout the history of every culture. Topics to appear in each of these areas include: What are space and time? What is matter? What are the causes of events? How do we know through experience? How do we know through reason? What can we know? What is moral responsibility? How do ideas of divinity play a role in our understanding? And more.

This course has no prerequisites. All are welcome.

Philosophy 111 - Introduction to Logic- Critical Reasoning

PHILOS 111 and MATH 111 are jointly offered; they count as repeats of one another. Prereq: a grade of C or better in MATH 90(P) or MATH 102(P); or grade of D in MATH 94(P); or Math Placement Level 10.

  • LEC 201 ONLINE
  • LEC 401 MW 9:30 AM – 10:20 AM, CRT 175
  • LEC 402 MW 12:30 PM – 1:20 PM, CRT 175
    Instructor: Matthew Knachel,

Enrollment in one of the large lectures (401 and 402) requires enrollment in a discussion section.

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

Open only to freshmen. Students may earn cr in just one L&S First-Year Sem (course numbers 192, 193, 194). Prereq: none.

  • SEM 001 MW 1:00 PM – 2:15 PM, MER 311
    Instructor: Agust Magnusson,

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 recent films such as Train to Busan.

Philosophy 204 - Introduction to Asian Religions

Prereq: none.

  • LEC 401 MW 10:30 AM – 11:20 AM, MIT 195
    Instructor: Agust Magnusson,

Enrollment in this course requires enrollment in a discussion section.

This course will offer a philosophical examination of the primary religious traditions of Asia, with emphasis on Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. The primary purpose of the course is to familiarize the student with the significant philosophical concepts of each religion and to engage with these traditions in a philosophical dialogue that enables us to understand their contributions to our
understanding of the nature of the human self, the nature of reality, and the nature of divine. Although we will examine differences between views and critique philosophical argumentation, there is no intention to disparage or endorse any particular belief system.

Philosophy 211 - Elementary Logic

Prereq: Satisfacation of QL-A

  • LEC 202 ONLINE
  • LEC 401 MW 2:30 PM – 3:20 PM, CRT 175
    Instructor: Matthew Knachel,

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 235 - Philosophical Aspects of Feminism

Prereq: none.

  • LEC 001 TR 1:00 PM – 2:15 PM, LUB N130
    Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein ,

In this course we will explore a variety of topics concerning feminism, the oppression of women, and the politics of gender in contemporary society. We will approach these topics from a philosophical perspective and will pay close attention to both conceptual and normative issues. The course will begin with a survey of important traditional philosophical works advocating for feminist positions. We will read about and discuss issues such as the social construction of gender and of the self; the nature of autonomy; feminist epistemology; and the impact of race, class, and sexual orientation on women’s lives. We will also explore philosophical questions that arise in contemporary debates around specific feminist issues. Students will have opportunities to apply the philosophical skills acquired in class into the real world through a community-based interview project and service learning with local organizations.

Philosophy 241 - Introductory Ethics

Prereq: none.

This course is an introduction to moral philosophy and is intended for the student who has 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 243 - Moral Problems

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

  • LEC 201 ONLINE, September 5 – October 7
  • LEC 202 ONLINE, October 9 – November 11
  • LEC 203 ONLINE, November 13 – December 14
    Instructor: TBD


Abortion is one of the most divisive moral questions in our society. At the center of this important debate we find the following concepts: “person”, “right to life”, and “right to self-determination.” Some people think if the embryo/fetus is a person and therefore has the right to life, it follows that abortion is morally wrong. But, first, while it is obvious that the fetus is alive and a human being, it is not obvious that the fetus is a person. This is because “person” is a moral concept, not a biological one. Second, however, it is also not obvious that if the fetus is a person, then abortion is morally wrong. This is because, while the fetus has a right to life (if it is a person), the pregnant woman has a right to self-determination; she has a right to determine what to do with her body. In this class, we will investigate these arguments, but also consider the subject of abortion from the standpoint of the law, religion, and feminism.


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?


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?

Philosophy 244 – Ethical Issues in Health Care: Biomedical

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. 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 historically socially disadvantaged.

Philosophy 244 – Ethical Issues in Health Care: Contemporary Problems

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

  • LEC 001 W 5:30 PM – 8:10 PM, CRT 109
    Instructor: Kristen Tym,

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 250 – God, Faith, and Reason

Prereq: none.

  • LEC 001 TR 11:30 AM – 12:45 PM, LUB N110
    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 traditions.

Philosophy 304 – Buddhist Philosophy

Prereq: sophomore standing or above and 3 credits in philosophy; or special student (incl University or School/College Specials; 2nd degree, post-baccalaureate, certificate).

  • LEC 001 TR 11:30 AM – 12:45 PM, LUB S241
    Instructor: Ágúst Magnússon,

This course will offer an overview of the main philosophical teachings of Buddhism. We will examine key teachings in the Buddhist sutras and critically examine key doctrines in Buddhist metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics, including issues related to the nature of suffering, the nature of the self, and what is meant by enlightenment. We will explore a variety of Buddhist traditions and schools of thought, including Theravada, Mahayana, and Chan/Zen. We will also examine how Buddhist thought relates to contemporary issues, such as environmentalism and feminism.

Philosophy 317 / 317G – Metaphysics

Prereq: jr st & 3 cr in philos.

  • LEC 001 MW 10:00 AM – 11:15 AM, LUB S195
    Instructor: Joshua Spencer,

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. And we will explore both western and eastern approaches to these topics.

Philosophy 341 – Modern Ethical Theories: The Ethics of AI

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

  • LEC 001 MW 1:00 PM – 2:15 PM, LUB S195
    Instructor: Stan Husi,

ChatCTP is a shock to many. Questions about AI loom ever larger. Are we etching closer to the singularity? Is our world about to change forever? Many AI researchers issue dire warnings. How will AI change life, work, society, politics, culture? And how shall we respond and prepare? How shall we deal with the vast societal ramifications? Ethical issues pop up everywhere. In the class, we will attempt some philosophical reckoning: on the interconnection between AI and human agency. The technological transformation of choice and responsibility; the workplace and the economy; political discourse; control of information; creativity, art and culture at large. What are ethically better and worse ways for society to adjust? For each and every one of us to adjust? Moral philosophers must step up to keep up. Let’s do our best in this class.

Philosophy 430 / 430G – Great Thinkers of the Ancient Period

Prereq: jr st & 3 cr in philos.

  • LEC 001 MW 1:00 PM – 2:15 PM, LUB S231
    Instructor: Nataliya Palatnik,

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 554 / 554G – Special Topics in the History of Modern Philosophy: Kant’s Theoretical Philosophy

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

  • LEC 001 TR 1:00 PM – 2:15 PM, CRT 607
    Instructor: William Bristow,

The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant is one of the most important works in the area of epistemology and metaphysics in the history of Western Philosophy. In this course we study the work carefully. Some of the main questions that are addressed in the work are: How is rational (or a priori) knowledge possible? How is empirical knowledge possible? What is the nature of space and of time? How do we know (if we do) that the natural world is causally ordered? If events in nature are governed by mechanistic causal laws, how is human freedom possible? — For aid in understanding Kant’s positions and arguments in the Critique, we will read selections from secondary works as well.

Philosophy 562 / 562G – Special Topics in Ethics and Social and Political Philosophy

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

  • LEC 001 W 4:00 PM – 6:40 PM, CRT 607
    Instructor: Blain Neufeld,

This course introduces the debate on freedom as it features in recent and contemporary political philosophy. Freedom is a central value in contemporary political thought, but freedom is also a complex idea, both conceptually and normatively, and political philosophers continue to debate its main properties. The course first discusses some core conceptual issues, including the positive/ negative freedom distinction, and the difference between freedom and autonomy. We then will explore how freedom features in three important accounts of political justice: (a) the high liberalism of John Rawls; (b) the classical liberalism of F. A. Hayek; and (c) the civic (or ‘neo-Roman’) republicanism of Philip Pettit. We also will consider criticisms of each of these views. The course will conclude by considering the role of freedom in Elizabeth Anderson’s Private Government.

Philosophy 681 / 681G – Seminar in Advanced Topics: Disagreement in Metaethics

May be retaken with change in topic to 9 cr max. Prereq: senior standing and 12 cr in PHILOS at the 300-level or above; or graduate standing.

  • SEM 001 MW 2:30 PM – 3:45 PM, CRT 607
    Instructor: Stanislaus Husi,

In my courses, we have the tradition of carrying the conversation from the seminar room to Milwaukee’s fine dining scene. Where shall we go? Schnitzel? No, says Henry, eating meat is wrong, yes, Dane counters, eating meat is ok, let’s go! And we have on our hands an ethical disagreement. What is the nature of that disagreement? Radically different answers have been developed by competing metaethical theories: About moral reality, says the realist. About practical plans and commitments, says the expressivist. About the refined code of social ethics says the constructivist. About the prevailing set of social norms in our society says the relativist. About nothing says the nihilist. About the useful fiction of morality says the fictionalist. We will discuss prominent samples of these positions. The highlight of the course is a field trip to the world’s preeminent Metaethics conference in Madison, Wisconsin, in September, watching metaethical disagreement at its finest.

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

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

  • LEC 001 M 4:00 PM – 6:40 PM, CRT 607
    Instructor: Nataliya Palatnik,

In this seminar students will work on a single paper, which by the end of the term should be a piece of high-quality philosophy. Each week two students will submit drafts of their papers for our workshop. Other students will be expected to submit comments/questions on the papers. Our goal is to provide constructive feedback to the authors so that they may improve their papers. Students also will discuss drafts of their application statements.

Philosophy 790 – Advanced Topics in Philosophy: Science and Metaphysics (3 units: G)

  • LEC 002 T 4:00 PM – 6:40 PM, CRT 607
    Instructor: William Penn,

At face value, science seems to offer us explanations, representations, and (in general) knowledge about the world. However, throughout history, philosophers and scientists alike have wondered to what extent we can infer from the epistemic values of scientific models, theories, and practices to metaphysical truths about things like causation, natural laws, fundamental being (substantial or processual), parthood, and our ability to accurately represent each of these. To this day, it remains a fecund and interesting question whether science should be understood as providing a legitimate avenue for metaphysical insight, or whether we should simply trust it as an epistemic practice alone.

In this course, we will consider the facets of this question. In particular, we will consider topics like: scientific realism, metaphysical methods, scientific method qua representation and explanation, historical successes and failures of realism, the metaphilosphy of philosophy of science (I.e., what the philosopher of science should hope to contribute to both philosophy and to science), and some of the more interesting cases of realist posits and beliefs throughout the history of science and the philosophy of it.

This course is designed for those with and without background in specific sciences.

Philosophy 941 – Seminar in Ethics and Social and Political Philosophy

Retakable with change in topic to 9 cr max. Prereq: graduate standing and consent of instructor.

  • SEM 001 R 2:30 PM – 5:10 PM, CRT 607
    Instructor: Blain Neufeld,

Toleration has been the defining feature of liberal political philosophy since its emergence in the seventeenth century. Yet theorists of multiculturalism have argued in recent decades that mere toleration falls short of treating members of minority groups as equals. What is required, beyond toleration, is recognition and positive accommodation of minority group practices through what the leading theorist of multiculturalism Will Kymlicka has called “group-differentiated rights.” In this course we will look at the political conception of justice advanced by John Rawls – “justice as fairness” – which attempts to accommodate contemporary religious and cultural pluralism more extensively than previous liberal theories. We then will look at multicultural theorists’ defences of group-differentiated rights. The main concerns of contemporary multiculturalism are immigrants who are ethnic and religious minorities (e.g., Muslims in North America and Western Europe), minority nations (e.g., the Basque, Catalans, Québécois, Puerto Ricans), and indigenous peoples (e.g., Native peoples and indigenous groups in Canada, the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand). Work by defenders of multiculturalism such as Will Kymlicka and Alan Patten will be read. Criticisms of multiculturalism also will be considered, including those advanced by feminist critics like Susan M. Okin.