Course Descriptions

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

Fall 2018 Course Descriptions

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

LEC 402 MW 10:00 – 10:50 CUN 151
LEC 403 MW 12:00 – 12:50 CUN 151
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 101 – Introduction to Philosophy: Selected Topics & Issues (3 units; U; HU)

LEC 001 W 5:00 — 7:40 pm CRT 309
Instructor: TBA

We will look at a representative selection of topics from the history of philosophy and current philosophical debates: ethics, social and political philosophy, the scope and nature of our knowledge of the world, the nature of the self and mind.

Philosophy 111, Introduction to Logic – Critical Reasoning (3 units; U; HU)

LEC 001 MW 11:00 – 12:15 CRT 209
LEC 002 MW 2:00—3:15 BOL B68
Instructor: Matthew Knachel,

There’s an ancient view, still widely held, that what makes human beings special—what distinguishes us from the “beasts of the field”—is that we are rational. What does rationality consist in? That’s a vexed question, but one possible response goes roughly like this: we manifest our rationality by engaging in certain activities, chief among them the activity of making claims and backing them up with reasons—that is, constructing arguments.

This reasoning activity can be done well and it can be done badly—it can be done correctly or incorrectly. Logic is the discipline that aims to distinguish good reasoning from bad.

Since reasoning is central to all fields of study—indeed, since it’s arguably central to being human—the tools developed in logic are universally applicable. Anyone can benefit from studying logic by becoming a more self-aware, skillful reasoner.

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

Philosophy 192, First Year Seminar – Philosophy of Zombies: Thinking deeply about the Walking Dead (3 units; U; HU)

SEM 002 TR 9:30 – 10:45 CRT 203
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 the recent comic book and TV series The Walking Dead.

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

SEM 003 TR 2:00 – 3:15 CRT 303
Instructor: Agust Magnusson,

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

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

LEC 401 MW 10:00-10:50 MIT 191
Instructor: Ágúst Magnússon,

Enrollment in the large lectures (401) requires enrollment in a discussion section.

This course offers a philosophical exploration of the primary religious traditions of South Asia and China. We will examine teachings on the nature of reality, the nature of the divine, and the nature of the human self through the teachings of Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. Some of the primary questions we will explore in light of these traditions include: What is happiness and how do we achieve it? What is enlightenment? and What is the purpose of human existence? We will also look at the philosophical implications of specific spiritual practices such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi.

This is an introductory course and no previous experience in philosophy is required.

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

LEC 001 W 5:00—7:40 CRT 109
Instructor: TBA

Instructor: Matthew Knachel,

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

Enrollment in one of the large lectures (403 or 404) requires enrollment in a discussion section.

Humans are reasoning animals, and logic is the study of the rules and principles of correct reasoning, the science of what follows from what. Logic know-how is a skill, one of the most important skills you will ever develop, both for your college and later career and for your everyday life. It teaches you how to analyze concepts, ideas, arguments, and break them down into their simplest components. You are then in a position to recognize the relationships between those components, to see how they are connected together (or not), and thereby to understand how and why one thing follows from another. At the same time, it teaches you how to construct ‘paths of reasoning’, how to get from one idea to another, how, for example, to determine what is the best course of action in a particular situation.

Apart from its application in virtually every field of study, the study of logic will help you develop your analytical and quantitative skills, your writing skills, your communication skills, and your day to day reasoning. You’ll become a better thinker and a better reasoner. You may not be aware that you are doing so, but you’re using logic now, and you’ll use it every day, for the rest of your life.

This is an introductory course in formal (symbolic) logic intended for students who have had no previous work in logic. There will be 3 exams and weekly homework assignments. The course satisfies General Education Humanities and QLB requirements. The course also satisfies the L&S Formal Reasoning Requirement for the B.A. degree.

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

LEC 001 TR 12:30 – 1:45 LUB S185
Instructor: Beth 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 232 – Food Ethics (3 units; U; HU)

LEC 001 TR 11:00 – 12:15 CRT 309
Instructor: Agust Magnsusson,

We have all heard the phrase “you are what you eat.” Food is one of the central activities of the human person and it reveals complex layers of our identity and personhood. This course provides a philosophical dialogue centered on the consumption and production of food. The course will be divided into three main areas of inquiry: 1) The social and cultural dimensions of food, including how food relates to our identity; 2) the ethics and politics of food, including activism, economic considerations of food consumption and production, and issues related to vegetarianism and veganism; and 3) the spiritual dimension of food, including a discussion of how specific religious traditions view food in relation to the spiritual life.

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

LEC 401 MW 2:00-2:50 BOL B95
Instructor: Nataliya Palatnik,

Enrollment in the large lecture (401) also requires enrollment in a discussion section.

Most people agree that morality involves standards that should be taken seriously in guiding conduct and assessing our claims against others. Yet various moral philosophers have offered very different accounts of what morality is and why we should care about it. We will study four basic philosophical approaches to morality and consider how they have shaped the history of ethical thought as well as their influence on moral philosophy today. We will first consider ethical rationalism, which takes moral principles to describe an independent order of values fixed in the nature of things, and the ideal-spectator approach, which takes morally wrong actions to be those an impartial sympathetic observer would disapprove of. We will then turn to Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy, which grounds morality in rational principles which all reasonable agents possess in common in virtue of their status as rational beings, and contractualism, according to which the correct moral principles are those which would be agreed to by all reasonable beings as a basis for their community. We shall see how these basic approaches get reflected in theories of social and economic justice.

Philosophy 243, Moral Problems (1 units; U; HU)

LEC 001: Immigration and Citizenship, MW 12:30-1:45 CRT 309 (09/04—10/06/18)
LEC 002: Drugs and Addiction, MW 12:30-1:45 CRT 309 (10/08—11/10/18)
LEC 003: Social Media and “Fake News”, MW 12:30-1:45 CRT 309 (11/12—12/13/18)
Instructor: Ágúst Magnússon,

Note: LEC 001, 002, & 003 are worth one credit each. You do not have to enroll for all three sections.
Retakable w/chg in topic to 6 cr max. Prereq: none.

243-001 Drugs and Addiction: What are the arguments in favor of consuming drugs? Some defend the use of drugs by appealing to the pleasure they produce. Some claim that drugs enhance creativity, others that it enables religious experiences. But do the alleged benefits outweigh the harms? We will examine arguments for and against the legalization of drugs, examine the ongoing effects of the “war on drugs” in the United States and throughout the world, and discuss the possible harms and benefits of drugs in relation to different cultural practices and norms. We will also discuss the nature of addiction and the effects of the ongoing opioid epidemic in the United States.

243-002 Immigration: We will critically examine arguments related to the concept of immigration, both in the United States and throughout the world. We will read about the immigrant experience from a variety of viewpoints and examine the relationship between immigration, politics, racism, and economics. Our examination of immigration will be centered on a philosophical discussion of identity, personhood, and the quest for dignity and flourishing throughout the world.

243-003 Social Media and “Fake News”: In the past decade and a half we have experienced a paradigm shift in the way in which we communicate, consume media, and seek information. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have become (for better or for worse) important components in our lives. We will critically discuss the nature of social media and the rapid changes in our media landscapes. We will consider the challenges facing consumers, voters, and citizens in relation to the social media landscape, consider the changing nature of relationships, and analyze the implications of the fact that the average American spends between nine and ten hours a day looking at a screen.

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

LEC 001 R 6:00-8:40 LAP 250
Instructor: Kristen Tym,
Retakable w/chg in topic 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: Bioethics (3 units; U; HU)

Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein,
Enrollment in LEC 202 requires enrollment in a discussion section (701-708). Retaken w/chg in topic to 6 cr max.

This course will provide a general overview of many of the challenging ethical issues faced in health care delivery today. We will begin the course with an introduction of ethical theories and other approaches to moral decision-making. These theories and approaches will then be applied to ethical problems currently confronting health care providers, patients and their families, and society at large. Issues we will consider include informed consent and confidentiality, futility and withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, euthanasia and assisted suicide, assisted reproduction, genetics, and allocation of scarce resources.

Philosophy 250, Philosophy of Religion (HU)

LEC 001, TR 9:30 – 10:45, LUB S233
Instructor: William Bristow,
Prereq: none

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? Is faith essentially blind, or can it be based on evidence? What is the relation between the practical demands of religious faith and ethical or moral demands? 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 other related questions by studying and discussing texts from major philosophers and religious thinkers in various traditions.

Philosophy 332 – Philosophical Problems: Temporal Passage and Time Travel (3 units; U)

LEC 001 MW 12:30-1:45 BOL 281
Instructor: Joshua Spencer,
Prereq: jr st; 3 cr in philos.

Not open for cr to students w/cr in Philos 381 w/similar subtitle. May be retaken w/chg in topic to 9 cr max.

What is the nature of time? Does it pass or flow? Can we hold it back or reverse it? Is it merely an unchanging substance through which we grow and change? Or is it an illusion of our own perception? If time is passing or is merely an illusion, then can we travel to the future of the past? Can we change the past or interrupt our own existence? Can we cause our own existence? In this class we will be exploring the passage of time and the possibility of time travel. By confronting the paradoxes of passage and the paradoxes of time travel, we will develop plausible theories about the nature of time itself.

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

LEC 001 TR 11:00-12:15 LUB S185
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 351, Philosophy of Mind (3 units, U/G)

LEC 001 TR 12:30 – 1:45 LAP 160
Instructor: Rachel Goodman
Prereq: jr st & 3 cr in philos.

Critical study of the nature of mind and its relation to body and matter, with emphasis on recent advances in philosophy and psychology.

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

LEC 001 MW 2:00 – 3:15 BOL B87
Instructor: Richard Tierney,
Prereq: jr st & 3cr in philos

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

Philosophy 516 – Language and Meaning (3 units; U/G)

LEC 001 T 5:00 – 7:40 CRT 607
Instructor: Peter Van Elswyk,
Prereq: jr st & Philos 101(P) or 432 (P).

Philosophical issues of the semantics, syntax and pragmatics of language; relations between philosophy of language and metaphysics, epistemology and philosophy of science.

Philosophy 519 – A World of Vagueness (3 units; U/G)

LEC 001 M 5:00 – 7:40 CRT 607
Instructor: Joshua Spencer,
May be taken w/chg in topic to 9 cr max. Prereq: jr st & 3cr in philos

How big is the Midwest? It’s vague! And what does that mean? Most philosophers think it means our language is unsettled; we don’t use the word ‘Midwest’ precisely enough to pick out one geographic region over another. A few philosophers think it means we are ignorant of some settled fact; ‘Midwest’ picks out a geographic region with precise boundaries, we just don’t know which one it picks out. And a very small number of philosophers think it means that the world itself is vague; ‘Midwest’ picks out a geographic region that is, in itself, indeterminate in size! In this class, we will explore this radical view, known as metaphysical vagueness. We will explore motivations for believing in metaphysical vagueness, we will try to make sense of the view itself, and we will compare the view to its primary rivals.

Philosophy 532 – The Trial of Reason in Hume’s Enquiry (3 units; U/G)

LEC 001 MW 2:00 – 3:15 CRT 607
Instructor: Miren Boehm,
May be taken w/chg in topic to 9 cr max. Prereq: jr st & 3 cr in philosophy

David Hume is one of the most important philosophers of all time. His views on empiricism, science, skepticism, naturalism, free will, morality and religion are foundational, and have radically changed the course of western philosophy. In this class, we will read carefully one of his most influential works, his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. In this work, Hume aims to establish the foundations of science and philosophy by a thorough examination into the nature of reasoning. The result of this penetrating inquiry is a domestication of reason, and a delineation of the bounds of reason that enables us to separate good, scientific reasoning from excessively skeptical, and superstitious reasoning.

Philosophy 685 – Senior Capstone Research Seminar: Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (3 units; U/G)

SEM 001 TR 2:00 – 3:15 CRT 607
Instructor: Stan Husi,
May be retaken w/chg in topic to 6 cr max. Prereq: sr st; declared Philos major; or cons instr.

The interdisciplinary field of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics enjoys growing popularity, institutionally recognized as an official discipline at an increasing number of universities, starting with Oxford University about a century ago. PPE, as it is called for short, aspires to integrate research from a number of distinct fields (including but not limited to the three enumerated in its name) with the purpose of addressing many pertinent moral and political issues facing our times. In this seminar, we will first introduce ourselves to the general approach PPE adopts to such issues, focusing on the development of nations and the evolution of economic inequality. In the second half, we will focus on the issue of social trust that is now widely considered to be a major factor explaining development. Social trust is distinct from the personal trust we have in close family and friends, pertaining to the general confidence we have that most people around us and in our society, including the social and political elites, “are doing the right thing,” by and large. Societies high on social trust tend to outperform those low in numerous important dimensions, yet the evolution of social trust turns out to be a highly complex and not always well understood phenomenon. The readings will be interdisciplinary, fun and relevant, and the course is designed to enable students to produce in multiple stages a substantial paper on matters of ethics, public policy, and/or politics.

Philosophy 758 – Hegel’s Logic and Metaphysics (3 units; G)

SEM 001 TR 3:30 – 4:45 CRT 607
Instructor: William Bristow,
Retakable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max. Prereq: grad st; consent of instructor

This course consists of a close study of Hegel’s Science of Logic, which is one of Hegel’s most important philosophical works. In his Logic, Hegel presents the fundamental doctrines and arguments of his influential metaphysical system. We will discuss such questions as: In what respects is Hegel’s position idealist? In what respects monist?

What are the roles of holism and organicism in his account? What is the place of human freedom within his account? We will attend to the place of Hegel’s system within the broader historical context. We will supplement the Science of Logic with other related texts by Hegel and by relevant secondary literature.

Philosophy 790 – Graduate Student Writing Workshop (3 units; G)

LEC 001 MW 3:30 – 4:45 CRT 607
Instructor: Blain Neufeld,
Retakable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max. Prereq: grad st; consent of 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 941 – Pragmatist Ethics (2-3 units; G)

SEM 001 T 11:00 – 1:40 CRT 607
Instructor: Stan Husi,
Retakable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max. Prereq: grad st; & consent of instr.

Moral and political philosophers of a broadly pragmatist bent tend to occupy an ambivalent position regarding many controversies in ethics and metaethics. While contributing in lasting and innovative ways, pragmatists simultaneously reject many presuppositions they consider flawed while also constituting the framework of many ethical controversies. What has especially exercised pragmatists critically are the various dualisms such as between fact and value, action and thought, or society and the individual. In this seminar, we will read and discuss contributions of a wide range of pragmatists of otherwise very diverse persuasions, especially on political matters, from Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Dewey, F. A. Hayek, Richard Rorty, Hilary Putnam, to Richard Posner, Philip Kitcher and Elizabeth Anderson. In the second half of the course we will concentrate on the matter of moral progress that has exercised pragmatist moral philosophers throughout, but especially and most recently in the contributions by Kitcher and Anderson. And we will discuss the phenomenon of progress not in the abstract, as would be alien to the pragmatist perspective, but in relation to concrete history, in particular the abolition of Atlantic slavery, for the closer study of which we will turn to some of its most eminent historiographers.