Course Descriptions

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

Spring 2023 Course Descriptions
UWM Philosophy Department

Philosophy 101 -  Introduction to Philosophy: Reflections on the Human Condition (3 credits; HU)

  • LEC 001 T 5:30 PM – 8:10 PM, CRT 109
    Instructor: Clyde Lemoine, ulimoine@uwm.edu
  • LEC 401 MW 9:30 AM – 10:20 AM, CRT 175
  • LEC 402 MW 10:30 PM – 11:20 PM, CRT 175
    Instructor: William Penn,  pennw@uwm.edu

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

Introduction to the philosophical thinking through examination of such topics as Plato’s and Aristotle’s contribution to Western civilization; free will and moral responsibility; God, morality, and knowledge.


Philosophy 111 - Introduction to Logic- Critical Reasoning (3 credits; HU; QLA and L&S Math Requirement)

  • LEC 201 ONLINE
  • LEC 401 MW 12:30 PM – 1:20 AM, BOL B46
  • LEC 402 MW 3:30 PM – 4:20 PM, BOL B46
    Instructor: Matthew Knachel, knachel@uwm.edu

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

Prereq Enforcement: Level 10 on Math Placement Test; or a grade of C or better in MATH 90, MATH 95, or MATH 102; or a grade of  D in MATH 94; or a ACT math score of 18 or higher.

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 credits; HU)

Enrollment in this course requires enrollment in a discussion section.

The 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 the 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 207 - Religion and Science (3 credits; U; HU)

  • LEC 001 TR 11:30 AM – 12:45 PM, LUB S231
    Instructor: Ágúst Magnússon, magnusso@uwm.edu

Is it “Science AND Religion” or “Science OR Religion”? In this course we will examine the often contentious relationship between scientific and religious inquiries into the nature of reality. Some of the primary questions we will examine are: What is the relationship between faith and reason? How are we influenced by the practices, institutions, and establishments of science and religion? Is it possible to adhere to a religious worldview yet still take seriously the claims and findings of modern science? What do the terms “science” and “religion” describe, anyway? We will philosophically examine the development of the modern scientific method and critically examine some notorious episodes in the history of science and religion, such as the trial of Galileo and the appearance of Darwin’s Origin of the Species. We will also examine the relationship between faith and reason through literature and film.


Philosophy 211 - Elementary Logic (3 credits; HU; QLB; L&S Formal Reasoning Requirement)

  • LEC 202 ONLINE
  • LEC 401 MW 1:30 PM – 2:20 PM, BOL B46
    Instructor: Matthew Knachel, knachel@uwm.edu

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

Prereq: satisfaction of QL-A.

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 212 - Modern Deductive Logic (3 credits; U; HU)

  • LEC 001 MW 10:00 AM – 11:15 AM, MER 344
    Instructor: Matthew Knachel, knachel@uwm.edu

This course picks up where Philosophy 211, Elementary Logic, leaves off, further exploring relational predicate logic with identity—both proofs and translations from English.

At this stage, we will have in hand a relatively comprehensive version of first-order “classical” logic. From there, it is customary to subject this system to theoretical scrutiny, to engage in “meta-theory”. We will consider the relationship between our logic’s proof system and its semantic properties—truth, validity, and so on. In particular, we aim to prove that our system is both sound and complete—that every proof corresponds to a valid argument (soundness), and that every valid argument has a proof (completeness). To prove these things rigorously, we will first have to develop a more sophisticated “model-theoretic” semantics for our logical language, expressed in set-theoretic terms. So, along the way to our meta-theorical goals, we’ll learn a bit of set theory, some new proof techniques (esp. mathematical induction),
alternative deductive systems (sequents, axiom systems, etc.), additional meta-theoretical results (the deduction theorem, compactness, etc.), and other miscellaneous facts of philosophical interest.

One could spend a whole semester exploring meta-theory, but we will not. Rather, the aim is to gain exposure to a variety of topics in formal logic that one may encounter in the course of one’s philosophical studies. We will cover at least one
“extension” of classical logic—a system that merely adds to the existing logical system—namely, modal logic. We will also look at some “deviant” logics—those that alter various aspects of the classical version—including at least some basic three-valued logics and “paraconsistent” logics. There are many extensions and deviations to explore. Our choices will be guided by philosophical interest, including especially the particular interests of students in the class.


Philosophy 237 - Technology, Values, and Society (3 credits; U; HU)


Philosophy 241 - Introductory Ethics (3 credits; U; HU)

This course provides an introduction to contemporary normative ethics. Normative ethics is concerned with the question: “what makes an action right or wrong?” We will explore four theories: consequentialism, Kantian ethics, contractualism, and contractarianism. Consequentialism takes the establishment of certain outcomes – the production or maximization of “good” (e.g., “welfare” or “happiness”), and the prevention or minimization of “bad” (e.g., “pain”) – to determine whether actions, rules, or policies are morally right or wrong. Kantian ethics understands morality to consist in those rules that autonomous agents could rationally “will” for all. Contractualism holds that morality consists in principles that mediate relations of mutual respect between free and equal persons. Contractarianism is the view that morality should be understood as a set of social practices or rules adopted by “enlightened” self-interested rational actors. Our discussion of all four moral views will involve readings from both historical sources and contemporary authors.


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

  • LEC 001 M 5:30 PM – 8:10 PM, BOL B64
    Instructor: Kristen Tym, tymk@uwm.edu

May be retaken 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: Biomedical Ethics (3 units; U; HU)

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. Examples will be taken from the recent Covid-19 pandemic.


Philosophy 271, Philosophical Traditions (3 credits; U; HU)

  • LEC 001 MW 11:30 AM – 12:45 PM, CRT B63
    Instructor: Margaret Noodin, noodin@uwm.edu

Philosophy 304 – Buddhist Philosophy (3 credits; U/G; HU)

  • LEC 001 TR 1:00 PM – 2:15 PM, LUB S231
    Instructor: Ágúst Magnússon, magnusso@uwm.edu

The 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 324 & 324G – Philosophy of Science (3 units; U/G)

  • LEC 001 TR 10:00 AM – 11:15 AM; CRT 209
    Instructor: William Penn, pennw@uwm.edu

Philosophy of science aims at understanding our best methods of knowing and understanding the world around us to date through a philosophical lens. In particular, we are interested in answering questions such as: Is science a series of claims
or a set of practices? What sort of world is being described by science? What sorts of things in scientific theories and models can we infer exist in the world? How are theories confirmed? How are theories and models built? What is the nature of data and evidence? How do theories relate to data and evidence? What are the social contexts and prerequisites for successful scientific endeavors? What sorts of ethical responsibilities do scientists and those who understand science have to the world at large? What lessons can we draw from the history of science for the future of both science and human endeavor at large?

This course will lay the foundation for answering these and more questions about science. It is suitable for those familiar with science and those who have little to no background in science.


Philosophy 355 & 355G – Political Philosophy (3 units; U/G HU)

This course will look at the great Enlightenment social contract theories that helped to shape the rise of liberal democratic ideals and institutions in the West during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: those of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Immanuel Kant. Some of the most significant criticisms of those theories from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries also will be read, e.g., those advanced by David Hume and Karl Marx. We also will consider the main alternative approach to liberal political thinking in the West during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, utilitarianism, and in particular the views of J. S. Mill. The rise of feminism and feminist criticisms of political institutions and practices also will be considered, including writings by Harriet Taylor, J. S. Mill, and Susan M. Okin. The course will conclude by considering the recent revival of the social contract approach in political philosophy over the past few decades in the work of John Rawls.


Philosophy 384 & 384G – The Philosophy of Law (3 units; U/G)

  • LEC 001 M-W 11:30 AM – 12:45 PM, BOL B52
    Instructor: Nataliya Palatnik, palatnik@uwm.edu

Philos 384 & Pol Sci 384 are jointly offered; they count as repeats of one another. Prereq: jr st; 3 cr philos or previous course in political theory or law studies recommended.

In this course we will examine fundamental issues in the philosophy of law, including, among other things, the nature and content of law, the relationship between law and morality, the obligation to obey the law, and the justification of
punishment. Readings will be drawn from both historical and contemporary sources.


Philosophy 432 & 432G – Great Thinkers of the Modern Period (3 units; U/G)

  • LEC 001 TR 11:30 AM – 12:45 PM; CRT 124
    Instructor: William Bristow, bristow@uwm.edu

In this course, we study great thinkers of the early modern period in Western philosophy who played a fundamental role in shaping the debates in modern philosophy, science and culture. We begin with Meditations on First Philosophy (1641) by René Descartes, called ‘the father of modern philosophy’ because of his role in setting the agenda for the development of modern philosophy. We then turn to John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689), a work which is massively influential in the development of philosophy in Europe and America in the modern period. Locke’s empiricist conception of human knowledge and of science clashes fundamentally with that of Descartes; the contest between the philosophies of these two foundational thinkers provides a framework for much of modern philosophy. We supplement the study of Locke’s empiricism with the study of George Berkeley’s Three Dialogues (1713). In the last several weeks of the course, we study two works by the influential Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (“Discourse on the Origin of Inequality” (1754), and Emile (1761)). At the end we study Mary Wollstonecraft’s classic Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792). The study of these latter works will show how early modern philosophy played a role in transforming our understanding of ourselves and of nature in such a way as to lead to epochal political and social transformations. The overarching questions we study in this course are: what are we human beings, most fundamentally, and what is our proper place in our world, conceived both as realm of nature and as a human social-political world?


Philosophy 519 & 519G – Philosophical Problems: (3 units; U/G)

  • LEC 001 M 2:30 PM – 5:10 PM, CRT 607
    Instructor: Stanislaus Husi, husi@uwm.edu

Philosophy 562 & 562G – Special Topics in Ethics and Social and Political Philosophy: Contemporary Kantian Practical Thought (3 units; U/G)

  • LEC 001 W 2:30 PM – 5:10 PM, CRT 607
    Instructor: Nataliya Palatnik, palatnik@uwm.edu

In this course we will study some important recent works in Kantian practical philosophy, including papers and book chapters by Christine Korsgaard, Barbara Herman, David Velleman, Tamar Shapiro, Kyla Ebels-Duggan, Lucy Allais, and others.


Philosophy 681 – Seminar in Advanced Topics: Space, Time, and Matter (3 units; U/G)

  • LEC 001 TR 2:30 PM – 5:10 PM, CRT 607
    Instructor: William Penn

Are the fundamental constituents of the world static or dynamic? Is the universe infinite or finite? Does time have a beginning or not? Is matter a distributed field or localized into particles? Do things exist independently or only when they are observed? Is change fundamental to the world or is stability an underlier to change? In this course, we will investigate some of the answers to these questions that have been given throughout world history. In particular, we will approach these questions from two fundamentally opposed perspectives: “staticist” and “processist.” The former emphasizes the localizable, stable, and finite character of spatiotemporal events and objects. The latter emphasizes their nonlocal, dynamic, and infinite character instead. In understanding the opposition between these perspectives, we will gain an understanding of how and why the questions above have occurred and recurred throughout history.

This course will analyze these and more questions with the aim of (a) developing a firm understanding of the history of both philosophical and scientific approaches to these questions, and (b) approaching these questions from the perspective of contemporary physics in particular. This course is suitable for advanced undergraduates and graduate students.


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

  • LEC 001 MW 10:00 AM – 11:15 AM, MER 344
    Instructor: Matthew Knachel, knachel@uwm.edu

This course picks up where Philosophy 211, Elementary Logic, leaves off, further exploring relational predicate logic with identity—both proofs and translations from English.

At this stage, we will have in hand a relatively comprehensive version of first-order “classical” logic. From there, it is customary to subject this system to theoretical scrutiny, to engage in “meta-theory”. We will consider the relationship between our logic’s proof system and its semantic properties—truth, validity, and so on. In particular, we aim to prove that our system is both sound and complete—that every proof corresponds to a valid argument (soundness), and that every valid argument has a proof (completeness). To prove these things rigorously, we will first have to develop a more sophisticated “model-theoretic” semantics for our logical language, expressed in set-theoretic terms. So, along the way to our meta-theorical goals, we’ll learn a bit of set theory, some new proof techniques (esp. mathematical induction),
alternative deductive systems (sequents, axiom systems, etc.), additional meta-theoretical results (the deduction theorem, compactness, etc.), and other miscellaneous facts of philosophical interest.

One could spend a whole semester exploring meta-theory, but we will not. Rather, the aim is to gain exposure to a variety of topics in formal logic that one may encounter in the course of one’s philosophical studies. We will cover at least one
“extension” of classical logic—a system that merely adds to the existing logical system—namely, modal logic. We will also look at some “deviant” logics—those that alter various aspects of the classical version—including at least some basic three-valued logics and “paraconsistent” logics. There are many extensions and deviations to explore. Our choices will be guided by philosophical interest, including especially the particular interests of students in the class.


Philosophy 758 – Seminar in Major Philosophers: Hegel’s Moral and Political Thought (3 units: G)

  • LEC 001 TR 4:00 PM – 5:15 PM, CRT 607
    Instructor: William Bristow

In this course, we study Hegel’s social and political philosophy. We concentrate mostly on Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (1821), but for context, we may also read from Kant’s Doctrine of Right, Fichte’s Foundations of Natural Right and Marx’s critique of Hegel’s political and social philosophy. Students will also be asked to read prominent secondary literature on Hegel’s social and political philosophy.


Philosophy 960 – Seminar in Ethics and Social and Political Philosophy: Being (3 units; G)

  • LEC 001 M 11:30 AM – 2:10 PM, CRT 607
    Instructor: Joshua Spencer

Ontological Pluralism is the view that there are different ways of being or existing. The view is intuitively plausible. Sure, there are numbers. But there aren’t numbers in the same sense in which there are chairs or atoms or stars. Numbers have a different way of being. Sure, there are fictional characters. But Sherlock Holmes is not a being in anything like the way that you and I are. Ontological Pluralism was perhaps the dominant view in western philosophy until the mid-20th century.
It was arguably held by Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, Brentano, Meinong, Moore, Russell, Husserl, Heidegger, and Ryle (among many others). But then the view fell out of favor, mostly due to Quine’s seminal “On What There Is”. Quine argued that there is only one way of being and that that way of being is captured by the quantifier of first-order logic. Quine’s view quickly became the dominant view, wielded to great effect by prominent defenders and adherents like Lewis and van Inwagen. But Ontological Pluralism didn’t die and in recent years it has seen quite a resurgence. In this class, we will explore the recent revival of Ontological Pluralism in metaphysics.