Current Course Descriptions

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

Spring 2022 Course Descriptions

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

Instructor: Aaron Kruk

  • LEC 201 TR 9:30 AM – 10:45 AM

Instructor: Ágúst Magnússon, magnusso@uwm.edu

  • LEC 401 MW 11:00 AM – 11:50 AM
  • LEC 402 MW 12:30 PM – 1:20 PM

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

May not be taken for add’l cr; may be repeated for higher grade. Prereq: none.

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 various diverse philosophical traditions and discuss numerous philosophical topics, including the nature of good and evil, the immorality of the soul, and how to achieve happiness.


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

Instructor: Matthew Knachel, knachel@uwm.edu

  • LEC 401 MW 9:30 AM – 10:20 AM
  • LEC 402 MW 12:30 PM – 1:20 PM
  • LEC 201 ONLINE

Jointly offered with and counts as a repeat of MATH 111

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)

Instructor: Ágúst Magnússon, magnusso@uwm.edu

  • LEC 201 ONLINE

Prereq: none

This is an introductory course, no previous experience in philosophy is required. Enrollment in large lecture also 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. We will examine various kinds of meditation techniques and contemplative practices, examine key spiritual texts such as the Bhagavad Gita and Buddhist sutras, and discover how these beautiful wisdom traditions can help us to understand ourselves and the world around us in a deeper, more thoughtful manner.


Philosophy 207  Religion and Science (3 credits; HU)

Instructor: Ágúst Magnússon, magnusso@uwm.edu

  • LEC 001 TR 12:30 PM – 1:45 PM

Prereq: none.

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)

Instructor: Matthew Knachel, knachel@uwm.edu

  • LEC 201 ONLINE

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

Instructor: William Penn, pennw@uwm.edu

  • LEC 401 MW 11:00 AM – 11:50 AM

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

Prereq: satisfaction of QL-A.

Logic is fundamentally the tool by which we judge whether one statement follows from another.  We use it all the time to explain and deduce statements about the world that guide our actions and inform our decisions.  In this course, we will study how logic enables these deductive inferences, and we will study how we can formalize these inferences to determine their validity in the system of symbolic logic that has been developed over the last 2500 years.

In this course, you will learn how to translate arguments and inferences into symbolic logic and determine if they are valid.  You will do so by learning a set of precise formal concepts and methods, and learning how to apply them.  This will enable you to identify, analyze, and criticize arguments and inferences, and to construct your own on firm, rigorous logical foundations.  Thus, you will gain:

  • A theoretical understanding of good and bad logical arguments and inferences.
  • The practical skill of assessing arguments and inferences.
  • The practical skill of constructing and reconstructing good arguments and inferences.

Philosophy 212  Modern Deductive Logic (3 credits; HU)

Instructor: William Penn, pennw@uwm.edu

  • LEC 001 MW 9:30 AM – 10:45 AM

Prereq: grade C or better in Philos 211(P).

In Elementary Logic (Philosophy 211), we learned how to symbolize English sentences and arguments in the form of languages of propositional logic and first-order predicate logic. We also learned formal procedures for determining validity and other logical properties of the sentences and arguments we symbolized. In this class, we will be building on our previous work by extending our formal languages to include identity, and modal operators. We will develop, among other things, procedures for determining validity and other logical properties of sentences and arguments involving identity, modality and temporality. Additionally, we investigate the adequacy of our formal systems is in fact valid (soundness) and whether every argument that is in fact valid has a proof (completeness).


Philosophy 235  Philosophical Aspects of Feminism (3 credits; HU)

Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein, silvers2@uwm.edu

  • LEC 001 TR 11:00 AM – 12:15 PM

Prereq: none.

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.


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

Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein, silvers2@uwm.edu

  • LEC 001 TR 11:00am-12:15pm

Prereq: none

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 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 issues related to information technology, the environment, and human health including the potential impact of genetic enhancement and cloning. Current events will be discussed often including: how video conferencing has allowed us to stay connected while social distancing, the role of Social Media platforms in challenging our political discourse and democracy during the recent election, and the amazing scientific work being done to create Covid19 vaccines and treatments in record time.


Philosophy 241  Introductory Ethics (3 credits; HU)

Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein, silvers2@uwm.edu

  • LEC 201 ONLINE

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 (1 credit each; HU)

Instructor: Miren Boehm, boehmm@uwm.edu

  • LEC 201 ONLINE WEB:  Abortion
  • LEC 202 ONLINE WEB:  Euthanasia
  • LEC 203 ONLINE WEB:  Capital Punishment

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

ABORTION

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.

EUTHANASIA

The goal of this course is to inquire into the different moral questions that arise out of the medical practice of euthanasia. Are we ever justified in helping someone die? Does extreme pain and/or lack of hope for a dignified life justify “mercy killing”? Is being alive, regardless of the quality of that life, valuable? What is the relevant moral concept “life” or “meaningful life”? How can we best understand the relation between the obligation to help those in need and the right to autonomy? We believe that people have a right to live as they want; do they also have a right to end their lives when they wish and as they wish? When are we justified, if ever, in making this most personal decision for others, such as children? We will spend five weeks addressing these central questions.

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

Most of us consider human life to be valuable. The question then arises, are we ever justified in depriving someone of their life? Some believe that when a person ends the life of another, then the state is justified in ending the life of the perpetrator. But some question whether it is ever morally acceptable for the state to execute people. Some question whether death as a punishment is morally justified. There is also the moral question of whether we can ever ask a public servant to end the life of a person. The most common and convincing argument against capital punishment is that it ends up killing innocent people. Sometimes, innocent people are killed because of innocent mistakes in agents in the system, such as witnesses, prosecutors, and judges. But most worrisome of all is that fact that the justice system of suffers from inherent racism, sexism, and classism. And the question is whether we are justified is allowing such flawed system to administer the ultimate punishment of death. In this class, we will consider these important arguments.


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

Instructor: Kristen Tym, tymk@uwm.edu

  • LEC 001 R 5:00pm-7:40pm

sdf

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 credits; HU)

Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein, silvers2@uwm.edu

  • LEC 202 ONLINE

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 317 & 317G Metaphysics (3 credits; HU)

Instructor: William Penn, pennw@uwm.edu

  • LEC 001 MW 12:30 PM – 1:45 PM

Prereq: jr st; and 3 cr in philos.

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?  What are the causal patterns in the world?  What are the global structures of the world?  In this course, we will investigate some of the answers to these questions that have been given throughout world history in the development of both science and philosophy.

Some of the topics covered in this course:

  • Ancient Cosmology in East and West
  • Time, Eternity, and Motion in Western Canon
  • Space, Place, and Flow in Eastern Philosophy
  • 19th Century Matter Theory and Cosmology
  • The Philosophical Import of Relativity and Quantum Theory
  • The Philosophy of Quantum Field Theory
  • Expanding Universe Cosmology
  • Unification Projects:  Loop Quantum, String Theory, and Beyond

Philosophy 355 & 355G Political Philosophy (3 credits)

Instructor: William Bristow, bristow@uwm.edu

  • LEC 201 ONLINE

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

What is the proper organization of the political state?  What are the basic kinds of political organization, and which are best, and why? Presumably, the political state that is well-ordered is just.  But what is political justice?  What is the fair or just distribution of the benefits or goods of political society among society’s members, and how is the just distribution determined?  What (if anything) can justify the employment of force by a state against its citizens?   What rights and privileges do individuals retain in relation to their government, and which can (or ought to) be ceded to the government?  Do people always retain the right to revolt against the political order and, if so, under what circumstances may they legitimately do so?  How is the political society related to other social organizations, in particular, civil society and the family? What is the proper method for answering these questions?  — In this course we examine these and related questions by reading classic texts in the history of political philosophy (eg., texts by Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Madison, Marx) as well as influential contemporary political theorists (eg., John Rawls, Robert Nozick, Susan Moller Okin, Charles Mills).


Philosophy 384 and 384G The Philosophy of Law (3 credits)

Instructor: Nataliya Palatnik, palatnik@uwm.edu

  • LEC 001 MW 11:00 AM – 12:15 PM

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 recom.

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 credits)

Instructor: William Bristow, bristow@uwm.edu

  • LEC 001 TR 2:00 PM – 3:15 PM

Prereq: jr st & 3 cr in philos.

In this course, we study great thinkers of the early modern period in Western philosophy who played a fundamental role in shaping modern philosophy. We begin with the 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 in the 18th century. Locke’s empiricist conception of human knowledge clashes fundamentally with that of Descartes’, and so 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 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 the nature in such a sway as to lead to epochal political and social transformations. The overarching question we study in this course is: what are we human beings, most fundamentally, and what is our proper place in our world, conceived both as a natural world and as a social-political world.


Philosophy 519 & 519G Special Problems in Metaphysics and Epistemology: Free Will Within Limits (3 credits)

Instructor: Joshua Spencer, spence48@uwm.edu

  • LEC 001 M 3:30 PM – 6:10 PM

May be retaken with change in topic to 9 cr max. Prereq: junior standing and 3 cr philos.

The traditional problem of free will and determinism arises from the idea that the complete state of the world at any time in the past in conjunction with the laws of nature determines a unique future. If we don’t have any control over how the world was billions of years before we were born and we don’t have any control over the laws of nature, then it seems to follow that we don’t have any control over anything we do now. In this course, we will explore different responses to this traditional problem of free will and determinism. But we will go further. If full determinism is a threat to our freedom, then it seems like little bits of indeterminism here and there won’t help out much. Moreover, factors within our own lifetimes might threaten our freedom as well. If, to some extent, we don’t have control over our social circumstances or our psychological development or even our biological drives, then it seems that to that extent we are not free. In this course we will explore the traditional threats to our freedom and beyond. And we will have a special focus on the reasons response view of free will and moral responsibility.


Philosophy 532 & 532G Philosophical Problems: Stories in Ethics, Politics, History (3 credits)

Instructor: Stanislaus Husi, husi@uwm.edu

  • LEC 001 T 2:00 PM – 4:40 PM

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

Our sense of who we are, what are are striving for, where we are coming from and where we are going, is driven by stories. In this course, we will discuss authors who would regard “driven by” as far too weak of a term, holding terms such as “constituted by” or simple “are” as more apt. Narratives have been a big deal in philosophy for a while, and some even believe that’s what we are essentially arguing about in society at large. We will be reading proponents and opponents of the narrative approach in philosophy and beyond.


Philosophy 681 & 681G Seminar in Advanced Topics: Moral and Aesthetic Sense and Projection (3 credits)

Instructor: Miren Boehm, boehmm@uwm.edu

  • SEM 001 MW 2:00 PM – 3:15 PM

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.

You see a teenager putting out cigarettes on a puppy and you immediately feel the wrongness of it. You perceive the act as wrong. You also perceive works of art as beautiful. What is the nature of these experiences? When we perceive wrongness, do we simply detect wrongness in the world, like we detect the roundness of moon? Some philosophers have defended such view. The idea is that we have a special sense, a moral or aesthetic sense that allows us to detect these features. One alternative account is projectivism, which traces back to David Hume’s cryptic claim that the mind has a tendency to “spread itself on external objects.” On this view, we don’t simply detect moral and aesthetic features that are ‘out there’ in the world, but rather, the mind contributes to the perception by “spreading itself on the world.” In this class, we will study both sense theories and projectivists theories, both historical and contemporary, that attempt to explain the phenomena of moral and aesthetic perception.


Philosophy 712  Fundamentals of Formal Logic (3 credits)

Instructor: William Penn, pennw@uwm.edu

  • LEC 001 MW 9:30 AM – 10:45 AM

Prereq: grad st.

In Elementary Logic (Philosophy 211), we learned how to symbolize English sentences and arguments in the form of languages of propositional logic and first-order predicate logic. We also learned formal procedures for determining validity and other logical properties of the sentences and arguments we symbolized. In this class, we will be building on our previous work by extending our formal languages to include identity, and modal operators. We will develop, among other things, procedures for determining validity and other logical properties of sentences and arguments involving identity, modality and temporality. Additionally, we investigate the adequacy of our formal systems is in fact valid (soundness) and whether every argument that is in fact valid has a proof (completeness).


Philosophy 790  Advanced Topics in Philosophy: Conversational Scoreboard (3 credits)

Instructor: Peter Van Elswyk, vanelswy@uwm.edu

  • LEC 001 T 11:00 AM – 1:30 PM

Retakable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max. Specific topics may be jointly-offered w/CompSci. Prereq: grad st; add’l prereqs depending on topic.

Communication is always taking place in a context. But what’s a context? One influential tradition regards contexts as data structures that evolve as communication happens. We can think of this data structure as being like a scoreboard. Just as a scoreboard in basketball keeps track of components of play like points scored and fouls, the conversational scoreboard keeps track of what information is mutually accepted, what questions are under discussion, and so forth. But maybe—just maybe—this influential tradition is mistaken. This course will consider whether it is. Special attention will be given to the foundational issues raised by regarding context as a data structure as opposed to just the explanatory usefulness of assuming such a view. The reading list will draw on cognitive science, philosophy of language, linguistics, and philosophy of mind to answer the course’s guiding question.


Philosophy 941  Seminar in Ethics and Social and Political Philosophy: Aristotle’s and Aristotelian Practical Thought (3 credits)

Instructor: Nataliya Palatnik, palatnik@uwm.edu

  • SEM 001 W 3:30 PM – 6:10 PM

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

This course will be a study of Aristotle’s and Aristotelian practical thought. Most of the course will be devoted to careful reading of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, supplemented as needed by selections from Aristotle’s Eudemian Ethics, On the Soul, Metaphysics, and other works. We will explore some central themes in Aristotle’s ethics: the nature of the good, particularly what constitutes a good human life, his theory of agency and views on moral psychology, motivation, deliberation, akrasia and responsibility, practical wisdom, the relationship between moral and intellectual virtues, friendship and self-love, and related topics. We will then consider some important contemporary work in Aristotelian and Aristotle-inspired ethical theory and theory of action, including papers and book chapters by John McDowell, Philippa Foot, and Michael Thompson.