Course Descriptions – Spring 2013

Philosophy 101, Introduction to Philosophy: God, Knowledge, Mind, and Mortality (HU)

LEC 402, MW 12:00 – 12:50, MER 131
LEC 403, MW 2:00 – 2:50, MER 131
Instructor: Luca Ferrero, ferrero@uwm.edu
Enrollment in one of the large lectures (402/403) requires enrollment in a discussion section.

A distinctive feature of human existence is our capacity to raise basic questions about the nature and meaning of our lives and our place in the universe. In this course we will examine several such questions: Is there any basis for belief in God? If God is good, why is there so much evil in the world? Can we have genuine knowledge of the reality we live in or could our experiences be like a dream with no external world around it? What is it to have a mind? How is the mind related to the body? Might computers really think? Do we have free will? Can we make sense of survival after death? Should we fear death?

Philosophy 101, Introduction to Philosophy: Selected Topics & Issues (HU)

LEC 001, T 6:00 – 8:40, CRT 309
Instructor: Jack Samuel, jhsamuel@uwm.edu

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

Philosophy 111, Informal Logic: Critical Reasoning (HU)

LEC 001, MW 11:00 – 12:15, ENG B38
LEC 002, MW 2:00 – 3:15, LUB S233
LEC 203, Online Web
Instructor: Matthew Knachel, knachel@uwm.edu

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

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

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

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 (HU)

LEC 401, MW 12:00 – 12:50, EMS E180
Instructor: Michelle Mahlik, mmahlik@uwm.edu
Enrollment in the large lecture (LEC 401) Philosophy 204 also requires enrollment in a discussion section.

This course will examine the central themes of the philosophical thought of the Asian religious traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism and Jainism. We will explore the logical, ethical, and metaphysical dimensions of these traditions as well as the history of their development. Recurring themes will be the nature of Ultimate Reality, the difference between appearance and reality, the nature of the human self, the morally “good" life, and the role of reason in human religious life. The intent of this course is to acquaint the student with these topics as well as to assist the student in formulating independent opinions and beliefs about these issues. No philosophical background is necessary.

Philosophy 211, Elementary Logic (HU)

LEC 402, MW 10:00 – 10:50, CRT 175
LEC 403, MW 12:00 – 12:50, CRT 175
Instructor: Richard Tierney, rtierney@uwm.edu

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

LEC 201, ONLINE
Instructor: Matthew Knachel, knachel@uwm.edu

LEC 004, T 6:00-8:40, CRT 109
Instructor: Mark Puestohl, puestoh2@uwm.edu

Humans are reasoning animals, and logic is the study of the rules and principles of correct reasoning. It’s a skill. It is probably the most important skill you will ever develop, both for your college 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 skills, your writing skills, your communication skills, and your day to day reasoning. You’ll become a better thinker, and a better reasoner (a better human?). You may not be aware that you are doing so, but you’ll use it every day, for the rest of your life. You’re using it now.

Philosophy 212, Modern Deductive Logic (HU)

LEC 001, TR 2:00 – 3:15, CRT 309
Instructor: Stephen Leeds, sleeds@uwm.edu
Prereq: grade C or better in Philos 211 (P)
Taught with Philos 712-001.

Formal logic, at the level taught in this class, is a central tool in present day philosophy. This is in part because writing out arguments in symbolic logic notation helps to make them clearer; even more, however, it is because the language of symbolic logic is both simple enough that we understand how it works, and complex enough to shed light on the symbolic systems that really interest us – particularly, English, and the language of mathematics. The goal of the class is to bring you up to the point where, given a valid argument (one where the conclusion follows from the premisses), you will be able to translate the argument into logic, and show that it is valid. You will also be learning a few deep theorems about logic, first proved about 80 years ago: that if an argument is valid, we can use logic to show it is, and that there is no general method by which we can pick out the valid from the invalid arguments. (You will also be learning why, despite first appearances, these two theorems don't contradict one another).

Philosophy 232, Topics in Philosophy: Existentialism (HU)

LEC 201, ONLINE
Instructor: William Bristow, bristow@uwm.edu
Retakable w/chg in topic to 6 cr max.

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. We will also study two existentialist films (by Jean-Luc Godard and Ingmar Bergman), since film has been an especially rich medium for the investigation of existentialist themes.

Philosophy 232, Topics in Philosophy: TBA (HU)

LEC 002, TR 11:00 - 12:45, PHY 144
Instructor: TBA
Retakable w/chg in topic to 6 cr max.

A course for beginning students dealing with such philosophical problems as freedom of will, skepticism, or a historical figure or movement.

Philosophy 235, Philosophical Aspects of Feminism (HU)

LEC 001, TR 12:30 - 1:45 LUB N110
Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein, silvers2@uwm.edu

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. 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, including rape, pornography, abortion, and body image.

Philosophy 237, Technology, Values, and Society (HU)

LEC 001, TR 3:30 - 4:45 NWQ G570
Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein, silvers2@uwm.edu

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 our selves 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 (HU)

LEC 401, MW 11:00 – 11:50, END 107
Instructor: Julius Sensat, sensat@uwm.edu
Enrollment in LEC 401 also requires enrollment in a discussion section.

We’ll study three basic approaches in moral philosophy: ethical rationalism, which takes moral principles to describe an independent order of values fixed in the nature of things, the ideal-spectator approach, which takes morally wrong actions to be those an impartial sympathetic observer would disapprove of, 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’ll see how the second approach leads naturally to utilitarianism, while contractualism has important sources in Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy. We’ll see how the three basic approaches get reflected in theories of social and economic justice.

Philosophy 243, Moral Problems (HU)

LEC 201: Abortion, ONLINE (1/22-2/23)
LEC 202: Euthanasia, ONLINE (2/25-4/6)
LEC 203: Same-Sex Marriage, ONLINE (4/8-5/9)
Instructor: Miren Boehm, boehmm@uwm.edu
Retakable w/chg in topic to 6 cr max.

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.

243-202: Euthanasia

Why would there be anything morally wrong with assisting someone in ending her life when she is suffering and wants to end her life? What is death? What is a person? What is personal dignity? What is ordinary as opposed to extraordinary medical treatment? What is the moral difference between killing and letting die? In this course we will address these and other difficult philosophical questions.

243-203: Same-Sex Marraige

In this 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. We look at real, first personal accounts of gays and lesbians in order to understand their perspective better. We discuss 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.

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

LEC 201, Online Web
Instructor: Kristin Tym, tymk@uwm.edu
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 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.

Philosophy 250, Philosophy of Religion (HU)

LEC 401, MW 2:00 – 2:50, LUB N120
Instructor: Fabrizio Mondadori
Enrollment in the LEC 401 also requires enrollment in a discussion section.

We shall analyze and discuss (a) some of the traditional arguments for the existence of God (especially St. Thomas' Five Ways and the ontological argument), (b) the so-called problem of Evil (we shall read texts by Leibniz and Hume), (c) the question whether or not God's omniscience and human freedom are mutually consistent, and (d) the problem of miracles.

Philosophy 303, Theory of Knowledge

LEC 001, MW 12:30 - 1:45 CRT 309
Instructor: Edward Hinchman, hinchman@uwm.edu
Prereq: jr st; Philos 101(P), 201(P), or 215(P).

This course covers some of the background to contemporary epistemology. We'll read some of the works, all written in the past 50 years and most written in the past 20, that set the framework for current work in the field. At the end of the term, you should be able to pick up the latest philosophy journals and read many of the articles in epistemology with understanding. Topics covered include skepticism, truth, testimony, self-deception, and the natures of judgment, belief and knowledge.

Philosophy 317, Metaphysics

LEC 001, MW 11:00 – 12:15, CRT 309
Instructor: Joshua Spencer, spence48@uwm.edu
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’ll seek answers to some of the following question: 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’ll explore answers to these questions by reading and discussing recent work in metaphysics.

Philosophy 341, Modern Ethical Theories

LEC 001 MW 3:30 – 4:45 CRT 309
Instructor: Stan Husi, husi@uwm.edu
Prereq: jr st, 3 cr philos.

In this survey course of contemporary ethical theory, we are going to systematically 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 shall be 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. The readings will be drawn from more recent literature.

Philosophy 355, Political Philosophy

LEC 001 TR 3:30 – 4:45 CRT 309
Instructor: Blain Neufeld, neufeld@uwm.edu
Prereq: jr st; Philos 242(P) or a course in ethics.

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 (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant), and some of the most significant criticisms of those theories from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Hume, Marx). We will also consider the main alternative approach to liberal political thinking in the West during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, namely, utilitarianism, and in particular the views of J.S. Mill. 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, as well as some important criticisms of Rawls’s views.

Philosophy 432, History of Modern Philosophy

LEC 001, TR 11:00 – 12:15, MIT 361
Instructor: Margaret Atherton, atherton@uwm.edu
Prereq: jr st & 3cr in philos.

The philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries in Western Europe put a highly characteristic stamp on philosophical thought, one that is still influential today. The period is characterized as “Modern” because it ushered in a new approach to knowledge, particularly knowledge of the natural world, but also a knowledge of human nature. Philosophers of this period, starting with Descartes, struggled to find an understanding of the makeup of the natural world and of the way in which we can know this natural world while simultaneously struggling to find the place of religion within these new developments. The period is also called the Age of Enlightenment, reflecting widespread confidence in human ability to understand the natural order and human nature within that order. We will follow the leading philosophers of this period as they develop various and unique accounts of what there is, how we know it, and what we are like as knowers, tracing the implications of their respect for science, their increasing curiosity about the nature of the human mind and their struggles to understand the relationship between science and religion. We will hope to understand the work of these philosophers both as foundational to the development of the sciences of their time and as providing the framework within which we continue to address their issues. We will be reading selections from leading philosophers of this time, including Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley and Hume, but because this was also a period in which philosophy was carried out by many people in many different venues, we will also be reading brief excepts from some of the little known women philosophers of the period.

Philosophy 532, Philosophical Problems: Nietzsche

LEC 001, TR 3:30 – 4:45, CRT 607
Instructor: William Bristow, bristow@uwm.edu
Prereq: jr st & 3cr in philos. Retakable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max.

Friedrich Nietzsche is one of the most provocative and controversial of modern philosophers. In this seminar, we study the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche through a close reading of a few of his most important works, starting with his first book, The Birth of Tragedy (1872), and ending with On the Genealogy of Morals, published in 1887, not long before he suffered his incapacitating breakdown in 1889. We will also read portions of Thus Spake Zarathustra, Beyond Good and Evil, and a couple of his essays. We will discuss Nietzsche’s critique of modern (Christian) morality and, more generally, of the larger culture in which this moral system is embedded. We will discuss whether Nietzsche’s critique of modern European values itself presupposes a set of values, and, if so, the content of those values, as well as whether they have (or need) philosophical grounding. Also, we will discuss whether Nietzsche’s critique of values is founded upon any metaphysical conception, and, if so, how that might be grounded or justified. We will also read important secondary literature on Nietzsche’s writings, by such authors as Maudemarie Clark, James Conant, Alexander Nehamas, and others.

Philosophy 532, Philosophical Problems: Beyond Possibility

LEC 002, MW 3:30 – 4:45, CRT 607
Instructor: Joshua Spencer, spence48@uwm.edu
Prereq: jr st & 3cr in philos. Retakable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max.

Philosophers sometimes seek a special sort of explanation; we want to know what it is in virtue of which various facts obtain. Each of the following questions would be appropriately answered with an explanation of that special sort:

What is it in virtue of which an act is morally wrong?
What is it in virtue of which some particular person conscious?
What is it in virtue of which someone has knowledge?

But, what sort of explanation is it that we are seeking? What is that in virtue of relation? On one view, developed over the last century, the explanation we are seeking is an explanation that involves possibility: What it is in virtue of which some arbitrary fact obtains is whatever it is that’s true in every possibility at which that fact obtains. However, this view has recently been subject to strong criticisms which suggest that the explanations we seek are explanations that are in some sense beyond possibility. In this class, we consider alternative views on which philosophical explanations go beyond possibility.

Philosophy 562, Special Topics in Ethics and Social and Political Philosophy: Recent Trends in Ethical Constructivism

LEC 001, T 5:00 – 7:40, CRT 607
Instructor: Stan Husi, husi@uwm.edu
Prereq: jr st, 3 cr in philos. Retakable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max.

The last couple years have witnessed a resurgence of ethical, and especially metaethical constructivism. Constructivism aspires to provide an account of normative truth without presupposing a realm of robustly stance-independent normative facts. In this regard, constructivism presents itself as a major rival to robust metaethical realism. According to constructivism, normative truths emerge from some practical procedure or evaluative perspective. They are thoroughly stance-dependent. Constructivism also promises to solve a host of traditional metaethical problems, epistemological, practical, semantic, and ontological in nature. In this course we are going to discuss the most recent literature on the topic, critical as well as sympathetic, including a collection of original essays just released by Oxford University Press. We are going to examine constructivism in its Kantian as well as Humean forms, in its relation to subjectivism and relativism, and in its accommodating as well as revisionist aspirations.

Philosophy 681, Seminar in Advanced Topics: Modality and Quantification

SEM 001, M 5:00—7:40, CRT 607
Instructor: Fabrizio Mondadori
Prereq: sr st & 12 cr in philos at 300-level or above; or grad st. Retakable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max. Consent required to audit.

The following topics will be discussed: proper names and rigidity; quantification into modal and belief contexts; essentialism; inter-world identity; counterpart theory. Readings will include papers by Russell, Quine, Kaplan, David Lewis, and Kripke.

Philosophy 685, Senior Capstone Research Seminar: Types of Knowing

SEM 001, TR 2:00—3:15, CRT 607
Instructor: Robert Schwartz, schwartz@uwm.edu
Prereq: sr st; declared Philos major; or cons instr. Retakable w/chg in topic to 6 cr max. Consent required to audit. Satisfies L&S research requirement.

Undergraduates Only

This seminar will examine classical writings of the 20th Century that have continued to shape the problems and projects of 21st Century philosophy. We will consider some of the following questions: What is the nature of ontological commitment and what does it tell us about the nature of existence? Is there a distinction between knowing how and knowing that? Is it possible to have a priori knowledge? Is there an analytic/synthetic distinction, and if so, what is it? Is it possible to justify inductive claims and if so how?

This seminar serves as the capstone course for philosophy majors. As such you will be required to write a 7 – 10 page research paper and present the main ideas of your paper in class for discussion. There will also be additional writing assignments.

Philosophy 712, Fundamentals of Formal Logic

LEC 001, TR 2:00 – 3:15, CRT 309
Instructor: Stephen Leeds, sleeds@uwm.edu
Prereq: grad st.
Taught with Philos 212-001.

Formal logic, at the level taught in this class, is a central tool in present day philosophy. This is in part because writing out arguments in symbolic logic notation helps to make them clearer; even more, however, it is because the language of symbolic logic is both simple enough that we understand how it works, and complex enough to shed light on the symbolic systems that really interest us – particularly, English, and the language of mathematics. The goal of the class is to bring you up to the point where, given a valid argument (one where the conclusion follows from the premisses), you will be able to translate the argument into logic, and show that it is valid. You will also be learning a few deep theorems about logic, first proved about 80 years ago: that if an argument is valid, we can use logic to show it is, and that there is no general method by which we can pick out the valid from the invalid arguments. (You will also be learning why, despite first appearances, these two theorems don't contradict one another).

Philosophy 758, Seminar in Major Philosophers: Hegel's Moral and Political Thought

LEC 001, MW 2:00 – 3:15, CRT 607
Instructor: Julius Sensat, sensat@uwm.edu
Prereq: grad st; cons instr. Retakable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max.

Hegel is perhaps the preeminent philosopher of the nineteenth century, and one for whom philosophy has an important public presence in the modern world. On his view, modern philosophy does not merely articulate the rational elements of the social and political realization of human freedom. As the rational self-consciousness of a free social world, it plays an essential role in that very realization. We’ll try to gain an understanding of this extraordinary idea through an examination of his social and political philosophy. Our main text will be his Philosophy of Right, but we will draw on some of his earlier writings—for example, his Phenomenology of Spirit—as needed. We will try to understand his critique of Kant’s moral philosophy as well as the way he anticipates some of the ideas of John Rawls, the preeminent political philosopher of the twentieth century.

Philosophy 903, Seminar in Epistemology: Self-Trust and Higher-Order Evidence

SEM 001, W 5:00 – 7:40, CRT 607
Instructor: Edward Hinchman, hinchman@uwm.edu
Prereq: grad st & cons instr. Retakable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max.

This seminar will pursue a puzzle about higher-order evidence and consider how the puzzle might generate a broader puzzle about evidence as such. The narrower puzzle starts here: you cannot form a belief on the basis of evidence without manifesting appropriate responsiveness to higher-order evidence – specifically to evidence grounded in your own reliability in forming a belief on the basis of your evidence. Let’s take for granted that we can at once both exercise a capacity and manifest appropriate responsiveness to evidence about the reliability of that capacity. (One might wonder how that is possible.) Our puzzle targets a different aspect of the self-critical state of mind, asking not how you can get the higher-order evidence but how you can reason from it.

In order to reason from evidence grounded in your reliability in believing that p on the basis of evidence E you have to form and retain the belief that p on the basis of E, since if you cease to believe that p on E you thereby lose the evidence grounded in your reliability in believing that p on E. But reasoning from evidence grounded in your reliability in believing that p seems to presuppose that you have reopened the doxastic-deliberative question whether p, no longer believing that p but instead inquiring whether p – that is, whether your evidence E actually suffices for you to conclude that p. But if you no longer believe that p on E, then you no longer have evidence grounded in your reliability in believing that p on E. So what exactly are you reasoning from? As soon as you begin to reason from such higher-order evidence you come to lack that evidence. What evidence, exactly, are you reasoning from?

I’ll propose that understanding how you can reason from higher-order evidence requires viewing such evidence as grounded in a species of reliability that we cannot easily understand within standard accounts of evidence, evidentialism, and the epistemology of disagreement. The puzzle suggests that we need to rethink our approach to these core issues in epistemology. I’ll propose that the problems also extend to standard accounts of belief, assertion, and the nature of testimony, wherein evidentialist norms do constitutive work.

Among the authors we’ll read are David Christensen, Richard Foley, Tamar Gendler, Sanford Goldberg, Thomas Kelly, Jennifer Lackey, Sherrilyn Roush, and Timothy Williamson.