Course Descriptions – Summer 2012

Philosophy 101, Introduction to Philosophy: Reflections on the Human Condition (HU)

LEC 211, Online Web
Instructor: Edward Hinchman, hinchman@uwm.edu
6 Weeks – 5/29/12 – 7/7/12

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 111, Informal Logic: Critical Reasoning (HU)

LEC 251, Online Web
Instructor: Matthew Knachel, knachel@uwm.edu
6 Weeks – 6/25/12 – 8/4/12

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 and 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 211, Elementary Logic (HU)

LEC 311, MWR 10:00 – 12:21pm, CRT 309
Instructor: Matthew Knachel, knachel@uwm.edu
LEC 311 meets for 6 weeks – 5/29/12 – 7/7/12

LEC 372, TR 6:00 – 9:18pm CRT 309
Instructor: TBA
LEC 372 meets for 6 weeks – 7/9/12 – 8/18/12

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 and 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.

In this course, we introduce formal deductive logic. This is the branch of logical inquiry that develops sophisticated techniques for evaluating reasoning based on the idea that one can best isolate arguments’ logically important features by abstracting from the natural language in which they are originally presented, rendering them instead in a formal symbol-language more amenable to rigorous analysis. This move allows us to elaborate a variety of principles and tools whose usefulness extends beyond the logical task of evaluating arguments: they provide the medium for proofs of scientific and mathematical propositions; they allow for the identification and classification of central concepts in linguistics; they constitute the underlying structure of both computer hardware and software; and they can even help you solve those diabolical puzzles you find on standardized tests like the LSAT—you know, where they tell you, for example, that a grocer is arranging his produce section, but must do so according to certain restrictions: apples must be on one of the ends, bananas can’t be to the right of any citrus fruits, oranges must be between apricots and kiwis, and so on; then they ask you questions like “If the grocer puts the grapefruits to the left of the kumquats, where do the peaches go?” Studying logic makes those things a lot easier.

Philosophy 232, Topics in Philosophy: Existentialism (HU)

LEC 271, Online Web
Instructor: William Bristow, bristow@uwm.edu
6 Weeks – 7/9/12 – 8/18/12

The French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre argues that we human beings are “condemned to freedom”, by which he means that we cannot escape the responsibility of defining ourselves and our fundamental values through our choices, even though we are tempted to relieve ourselves of the burdens of this responsibility. Existentialist thinkers, writers, film-makers explore the human condition, as defined by this fundamental freedom and self-responsibility. All existentialist thinkers are struggling against a common set of threats that the modern western world makes pressing for human beings: the threats of meaninglessness, of despair, of nihilism, of pessimism, of the loss of self in “inauthenticity” or “conformity”. Existentialist thinkers interpret the human predicament and its solution in very different ways. (For example, some present religious faith as the answer, and others represent religious faith as the height of despair and self-loss.) This course is an introduction to the varieties of existentialist interpretation of the human condition through study of both philosophical and artistic works. We will read literary and philosophical works of some of the main twentieth century French existentialists, such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. We will also read texts by Friedrich Nietzsche and Søren Kierkegaard, who provide some of the philosophical foundations of existentialism. If it can be arranged logistically, we will also study some existentialist films, since film has been an especially rich medium for the investigation of existentialist themes.

Philos 243: Moral Problems, (HU)

Lec 251, 252, & 253 are worth one credit each. You do not have to enroll for all three sections.

Lec 251: Abortion, Online Web
Instructor: Miren Boehm, boehmm@uwm.edu
4 Weeks 6/25/12–7/21/12
243-251 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.
Lec 252: Same-Sex Marriage, Online Web
Instructor: Miren Boehm, boehmm@uwm.edu
4 Weeks 6/25/12–7/21/12
243-252 Same-Sex Marriage: In this five week course we explore the legal, emotional, moral and religious dimensions of one of the most heated social questions of our society. We shall read from the Goodridge legal case as well as George W. Bush’s call for a Constitutional Amendment Protecting Marriage. Then we look at real, first personal accounts of gays and lesbians in order to understand their perspective better. We then turn to some philosophical arguments concerning the concept of marriage and the morality of same-sex marriage. Finally we look at what religion has to say about the morality of same-sex marriage.
Lec 253: Global Poverty & Our Moral Responsibility, Online Web
Instructor: Miren Boehm, boehmm@uwm.edu
4 Weeks 6/25/12–7/21/12
243-253 Global Poverty & Our Moral Responsibility: 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 (HU)

LEC 231, Online Web
Instructor: Kris Tym, tymk@uwm.edu
6 Weeks – 6/11/12 – 7/21/12

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, allocation of scarce resources and research ethics.