Course Descriptions

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

Spring 2019 Course Descriptions

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

LEC 001 T 6:00pm – 8:40 pm
Instructor: Jordan Martin,

LEC 402 MW 10:00am – 10:50am
LEC 403 MW 12:00pm – 12:50pm
Instructor: Ágúst Magnússon,

Enrollment in one of the large lectures (402 or 403) requires enrollment in a discussion section.

This course will serve as an introduction to philosophy, both as an academic discipline and as a way of life. No background in philosophy is required to take the course. We will examine key texts from the history of Western philosophy, examine modern philosophical developments in feminism and philosophy of race, and examine non-Western philosophical traditions such as Buddhism. We will discuss numerous philosophical topics, including the nature of good and evil, the immortality of the soul, and how to achieve happiness.

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

LEC 001 MW 11:00am – 12:15pm
LEC 002 MW 2:00pm—3:15pm
Instructor: Matthew Knachel,
Jointly offered with and counts as repeat of Math 111.

There’s an ancient view, still widely held, that what makes human beings special—what distinguishes us from the “beasts of the field”—is that we are rational. What does rationality consist in? That is a vexed question, but one possible response goes roughly like this: we manifest our rationality by engaging in certain activities, chief among them the activity of making claims and backing them up with reasons—that is, constructing arguments. This reasoning activity can be done well and it can be done badly—it can be done correctly or incorrectly. Logic is the discipline that aims to distinguish good reasoning from bad.

Since reasoning is central to all fields of study—indeed, since it’s arguably central to being human—the tools developed in logic are universally applicable. Anyone can benefit from studying logic by becoming a more self-aware, skillful reasoner.
It is possible to approach the study of logic more or less formally. A more formal approach abstracts from natural language and develops sophisticated artificial symbol-languages within which it’s possible precisely to identify the logically relevant features of arguments. This approach has many virtues, but it is only one among many, and it focuses on only one kind of argument (deductive). In this class, we explore a diverse collection of methods and principles for evaluating many different kinds of arguments. We take a very brief look at the formal techniques mentioned above, but spend most of our time studying arguments presented in natural language, as they occur in everyday reasoning.

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

LEC 401 MW 9:00am – 9:50am
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 207 – Religion and Science (3 units; U; HU)

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

In this course we study the relation of science and religion to each other. Are the teachings of natural science and the beliefs of religion necessarily in conflict with one another? If so, what exactly is the nature of the conflict, and why is it inevitable? Which has more authority? Or can we understand acceptance of the authority of natural science as compatible with religious belief? These questions imply other questions: what defines natural science, exactly, and what defines religion? — Our approach will attend both to the history of the relation in the modern period (– we will look at the salient cases of Galileo’s heliocentric conception of the cosmos and Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection) and to the contemporary debate.

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

LEC 001 T 5:00pm—7:40pm
Instructor: Steven Canet,

Instructor: Matthew Knachel,

LEC 403 MW 11:00am – 11:50am
LEC 404 MW 1:00pm – 1:50pm
Instructor: Richard Tierney,

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 212 – Modern Deductive Logic (3 units; U; HU)

LEC 001 MW 2:00pm—3:15pm
Instructor: Michael Liston,
Prereq: grade C or better in Philos 211 (P).

The task of the first logic course – Philosophy 211 – was to develop a means for evaluating deductive arguments. This task involved the use of a formal language to express the logical structure of English sentences and the use of various formal techniques (truth tables, deductions, etc.) to evaluate arguments. Once an English argument was translated into the formal language, formal techniques were used to solve an apparently informal problem, i.e., the problem of finding out whether it is possible for the conclusion of an argument to be false while all its premises are true. In Philosophy 212 we will continue this inquiry into the evaluation of deductive arguments. We will concentrate on two central areas. First, we will deal with English statements and arguments that require a more expressively powerful formal language than that studied in most of Philosophy 211. Second, we will address the issue of the adequacy of some formal systems developed for that language. We will develop explicit definitions of validity and proof and use them to investigate, via informal reasoning, what can be achieved by a deductive system – i.e., the scope and limits of deductive logic. Philosophy 211 with a grade of ‘C’ or better is a prerequisite for this class.

Philosophy 213 – Introduction to Philosophy of Science (3 units; U; HU)

LEC 001 MW 11:00am-12:15pm
Instructor: Peter vanElswyk,

“Because science,” is an explanation we often hear. But why should we trust science? What does it take for a hypothesis to be scientific? What is an explanation anyway? Scientists often take these questions for granted. In this course, we won’t. We will investigate these and related questions to explore what science is, and what role science should have in shaping our beliefs about the world.

Philosophy 232 – Topics in Philosophy: Mind and Meaning (3 units; U; HU)

LEC 002 TR 12:30pm-1:45pm
Instructor: Rachel Goodman,
May be retaken w/chg in topic to 6 cr max. Prereq: none.

Human beings are thinking, language-speaking creatures. But what is the relationship between our ability to think about the world around us, and our ability to communicate using a language? Does one ability explain the other? Are the two interdependent? Does the language we speak constrain the thoughts we can think? In what way do the minds of non-linguistic creatures (like animals) differ from our own? How is language used, in politics, propaganda and advertising to influence our beliefs and our way of thinking about the world? These are all questions we will ask in this class.

Philosophy 237 – Technology, Values, and Society (3 units; U; HU)

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

Technology has an impact on nearly every aspect of our lives. We live with laptops, cell phones, and tablets that connect us instantly and constantly to people all around the world and to masses of information. At the same time this unprecedented access to people and information can alienate us from our immediate surroundings as we walk through the world with our eyes and fingers glued to our favorite devices. In this course we will start by thinking about how technology changes the way we experience our world. We will focus on the ways technology enhances the human experience, in what ways it alienates us from ourselves and our environment, and how it is changing what it means to be a person. The ethical implications of our evolving dependence on technology will be debated and discussed. We will then look at specific moral problems related to technology and its impact on our lives including its effects on privacy and human freedom, the environment, and human health including the potential impact of genetic enhancement and cloning.

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

LEC 401 MW 3:00-3:50
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 303 – Mind and Knowledge (3 units; U/G HU)

LEC 001, TR 11:00am – 12:15pm
Instructor: Peter van Elswyk,
Prereq: jr st; Philos 101 (P) or 215 (P).

Everybody has opinions. They’re easy to have but are often false. However, not everybody has knowledge. It is harder to have because it guarantees truth. This course explores how to understand knowledge by investigating three topics: (a) the nature of knowledge (what distinguishes knowledge from mere opinion?), (b) the value of knowledge (why is it better to have knowledge as opposed to mere opinion?), and (c) the reliable ways of acquiring knowledge (how do we gain knowledge instead of mere opinion?).

Philosophy 317 – Metaphysics (3 units; U/G HU)

LEC 001, MW 12:30pm – 1:45pm
Instructor: Joshua Spencer,
Prereq: jr st; & 3 cr in philos

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 will seek answers to some of the following questions: 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 will explore answers to these questions by reading and discussing recent work in metaphysics.

Philosophy 341 – Modern Ethical Theories (3 units; U; OWCB)

LEC 001 MW 2:00pm—3:15pm
Instructor: Stan Husi,
Prereq: jr st., 3 cr in philos; satisfaction of OWC-A

In this survey course of contemporary ethical theory, we are going to investigate the nature of ethics, what exactly it demands and values and why, what objective status it enjoys (or does not enjoy), whether and how we could come to acquire ethical knowledge, whether and why we should care about being ethical, what relation ethics bears to religion, and its connection to moral responsibility. We are discussing the major ethical traditions such as consequentialism, the view that the one and only criterion for the moral assessment of actions is the quality of their consequences; deontology, the view that some actions, such as the keeping or breaking of promises, may be right or wrong irrespective of their consequences; contractarianism, the view that moral rules are based on actual or hypothetical agreements regulating basic social arrangements; and virtue ethics, the view that character is key for understanding ethics. In the second half of the course, we are going to look at some especially nasty characters, such as cheaters, persons lacking empathy (psychopaths), persons with an entrenched sense of entitlement (Aaron James recent Theory of “Assholes”), and unrepentant war criminals (reading Hannah Arendt’s ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’). The guiding methodology is to gain insight into morality by coming to terms with its most persistent offenders. We are going to read Russ Shafer-Landau’s wonderfully clear introduction “The Fundamentals of Ethics” together with a sample from the recent literature in ethical theory.

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

LEC 001 MW 11:00—12:15
Instructor: Stan Husi,
Prereq: jr st; 3 cr in philos or previous course in political theory of law studies recommended.
Philos 384 and Pol Sci 384 are jointly offered; they count as repeats of one another.

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

LEC 001 TR 12:30pm – 1:45pm
Instructor: William Bristow,
Prereq: jr st & 3 cr in philos

In this course, we study great thinkers of the early modern period (17th and 18th centuries) in Western Philosophy. We will study classic works from Rene Descartes, Anne Conway, John Locke, David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Mary Wollstonecraft. Issues we will discuss are: What is ultimately real? Is reality one or many? Is there a God? What is the nature of the ‘I’ or of the thinking thing? Are there both immaterial and material substances, or are all substances ultimately one or the other? What is the nature and destination of humanity? Are humans free in their actions or not? What is the relation of the sexes to each other? How can we (or can we) know the answer to these and other philosophical questions?

Philosophy 511 – Symbolic Logic (3 units; U/G)

LEC 001 TR 2:00pm—3:15pm
Instructor: Stephen Leeds,
Jointly offered w/& counts as repeat of CompSci/Math 511.
Prereq: jr st, either Philos 212(P) or 6 cr math at the 300-level or above; or grad st.

The main goal of this course is to prove the famous theorem, discovered by Kurt Gödel in the 1930’s, that any consistent set of axioms for mathematics will be unable to prove or disprove certain mathematical claims, among these the statement that the set of axioms is consistent. On the way to deriving this, we will review some elementary logic and learn something about computability and about the branch of logic known as model theory. Afterwards, we will branch off into related subjects, including as much set theory as we have time for.

Philosophy 522 – Special Topics in the Philosophy of Science: Scientific Realism (3 units; G)

LEC 001 T 11:00am—1:40pm
Instructor: Michael Liston,

Several disputes in contemporary philosophy of science are described as disputes about scientific realism – disputes concerning the extent to which we are entitled to hope, believe, or accept that science will tell us what the world is like. Realists tend to be optimistic; antirealists do not; some think the disputes depend on problematic presuppositions about truth, inference, and the proper subject matter of science. These disputes raise important metaphysical and epistemological questions about the nature of science, scientific explanation, and scientific inference, and about what science can or cannot tell us about the world. In the seminar we will follow the twists and turns the debates took since the late 1880-s to the present. We will begin with objections to the reality of atoms and forces made by some philosopher-physicists (Duhem, Hertz, Poincaré) of the late 19th century and look at logical positivism/empiricism (primarily Carnap) as a comprehensive development of those objections. We will then move on to reactions to logical positivism, both realist-inspired (Putnam and Boyd) and historicist-inspired (Kuhn). The second half of the course will be devoted to some of various interpretations of science and the realism question that have been proposed since the 1980-s by philosophers like Cartwright, Fine, Kitcher, Ladyman, Laudan, Stanford, Van Fraassen, and Worrall.

Philosophy 532 – Philosophical Problems: A Century of Possibilities (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.

The world is full of possibilities. A hundred years ago, philosophers thought they understood those possibilities. Philosophers thought possibilities were a sort of social construction built on the conventions of language; we could, in some sense, make our own possibilities just by unfettering the constraints of language and changing our conventions. It seemed like anything was possible, or, at least, could be possible. But philosophers began to realize that some constraints are not merely conventional. Some constraints are real. But if possibilities aren’t merely social constructions built on the conventions of language, then what are they? If some things just couldn’t be possible, then what things are possible? In this class, we will learn about the rise and fall of the conventional view of possibility; we will learn about the consequences of its demise; we will look at the revival of traditional metaphysical views of possibility as essentially constrained, genuine features of the world. Then, we will investigate the recent revival of conventionalism and the possibilities that might be open to us under that revival.

Philosophy 681 – Seminar in Advanced Topics: Desire, Practical Reason, and the Good (3 units; U/G)

LEC 001 MW 12:30pm—1:45pm
Instructor: Nataliya Palatnik,
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.

Questions about the relation between desire and the good, and their respective roles in practical reason, motivation, and intentional action are central in ethics and philosophy of action. In this course, we will explore various ways of understanding this relation. We will study some important work on the nature of the good, the relation between something’s being good and something’s being good for someone, ways in which the exercise of rational agency might depend on judgments and representation of the good, and the relation between being morally good and having a good life. We will also consider in some detail the ongoing debate about the “Guise of the Good Thesis” – the claim that desire and intentional action always aim at the good. The readings will include works by G.E. Moore, Philippa Foot, David Velleman, Richard Kraut, Derek Parfit, Christine Korsgaard, Kieran Setiya, and others.

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

LEC 001 MW 2:00pm—3:15pm
Instructor: Michael Liston,
Prereq: grad st.

We will work through standard soundness, completeness, and other metatheoretic results for first order logic in tandem with the Philosophy 212 class. (See Philosophy 212 course description.) We will also look at some extensions of, and/or alternatives to, the basic framework of predicate logic, e.g., modal logic. The goal here is to gain a familiarity with enough logic to be able to follow, and participate in, philosophical discussions that take such familiarity for granted.

Philosophy 941 – Seminar in Ethics and Social and Political Philosophy: Justice as Fairness: liberalism, socialism, or capitalism? (3 units; U/G)

SEM 001 TR 3:30pm—4:45pm
Instructor: Blain Neufeld,
May be taken w/chg in topic to 9 cr max. Prereq: jr st & 3 cr in philos.

After almost fifty years, the premier philosophical conception of liberal egalitarian justice remains John Rawls’s ‘justice as fairness.’ We will read Rawls’s final formulation of this conception in his 2001 book, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement. According to justice as fairness, roughly, a just society is one in which (1) certain ‘basic liberties’ (such as freedom of association, liberty of conscience, and the political liberties) are secured equally for all citizens, and (2) economic inequality is minimized to the greatest feasible extent compatible with respecting the basic liberties of all citizens. Principle (1) is the conception’s ‘liberal’ principle (as it protects individual liberty), whereas principle (2) is its ‘egalitarian’ principle (as it promotes equality of opportunity and resources). We will consider Rawls’s arguments and some of the main criticisms of those arguments.

In the second part of the course we will look at Rawls’s idea of ‘public reason.’ By drawing on shared public reasons, Rawls proposes that fundamental political decisions can be justified to reasonable citizens who endorse different (incompatible) religious and philosophical views. In addition to Rawls’s arguments in support of his account of public reason, some of the main criticisms of that account—as well as the alternative ‘convergence’ account of public justification advanced in recent years by Gerald Gaus—will be considered.

In the third part of the course we will examine the reasons why Rawls thinks that only the political-economic systems of ‘property-owning democracy’ and ‘liberal (democratic) socialism’ can realize his principles of justice. Some contemporary authors who endorse Rawls’s conception of justice hold that it in fact supports liberal democratic socialism over property-owning democracy. We will consider the arguments advanced by these ‘socialist’ Rawlsians, as well as the views of theorists who contend that Rawls’s principles require (some form of) property-owning democracy, welfare state capitalism, or even laissez-faire (‘free market’) capitalism.

Philosophy 960 – Seminar in Metaphysics: Varieties of Representation (3 units; G)

LEC 001 R 5:00pm—7:40pm
Instructor: Rachel Goodman,

This seminar will focus on the question of whether different kinds of representations represent in different ways. Questions we will ask: How do pictures, maps and sentences represent? What are the differences between linguistic, pictorial and map-like representation? Are these differences of format? What implications do differences of format have for the content of representations? (Do pictures have the same kind of content as sentences but represent this content in different ways, or do they have a distinctive kind of content?) A guiding interest will be the question of the extent to which mental representation is diverse in its format and content?