Course Descriptions – Spring 2014

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

LEC 402, MW 10:00 – 10:50, MER 131
LEC 403, MW 12:00 – 12:50, MER 131
Instructor: Edward Hinchman, hinchman@uwm.edu
Enrollment in one of the large lectures (402/403) requires enrollment in a discussion section.

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

LEC 001, T 6:00 – 8:40, CRT 309
Instructor: Constance Sutter, csutter@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, CHM 197
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 9:00 – 9:50, BOL B56
Instructor: Michelle Mahlik, mmahlik@uwm.edu
Enrollment in the large lecture (LEC 401) also requires enrollment in a discussion section.

This course is an introduction to the philosophical traditions of major Asian religious traditions, including Hinduism in India, Taoism and Confucianism in China, and Buddhism as it has evolved in both India and China. Philosophical issues of metaphysics, causality, knowledge, and ethics are emphasized as well as the nature of "reality", the Divine, and the individual human being engaged in the process of self-realization and enlightenment.

Philosophy 211, Elementary Logic (HU, QLB)

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 001, T 6:00-8:40, CRT 124
Instructor: Alex Papulis, apapulis@uwm.edu

LEC 202, ONLINE
Instructor: Matthew Knachel, knachel@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 211 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 (HU)

LEC 001, TR 2:00 – 3:15, CRT 309
Instructor: Joshua Spencer, spence48@uwm.edu
Prereq: grade C or better in Philos 211 (P)
Taught with Philos 712-001.

In Elementary Logic (Philosophy 211), we learned how to symbolize English sentences and arguments in the formal 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 by, for example, determining whether every argument that has a proof in our formal systems is in fact valid (soundness) and whether every argument that is in fact valid has a proof (completeness).

Philosophy 217, Introduction to Metaphysics (HU)

LEC 001, MW 12:30 - 1:45, CRT 309
Instructor: Fabrizio Mondadori

The course deals with the nature of metaphysical thinking and the issues arising from such thinking. Representative philosophers from ancient, modern, and contemporary philosophy will be read and discussed: Plato (Parmenides); Aristotle on Plato’s Theory of Forms; Descartes (Meditations); Hume (Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding); Michael Dummett (on realism and anti-realism).

Philosophy 232, Topics in Philosophy: What is Happiness? (HU)

LEC 201, ONLINE
Instructor: Miren Boehm, boehmm@uwm.edu
Retakable w/chg in topic to 6 cr max.

We study this fascinating question from the point of view of western and eastern philosophy, psychology, literature, and film. What is happiness and why is it so difficult to attain? Is happiness just a feeling? Does meditation promote happiness? What, if anything, is the role of religion in achieving happiness? Is there an essential relation between happiness and morality? Can bad guys be happy? What is the relation between happiness and meaning? Can someone enjoy a meaningful life without begin happy? Is happiness the highest good?

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 242, Introduction to Social and Political Philosophy (HU)

LEC 001, MW 3:30 – 4:45, CRT 309
Instructor: Blain Neufeld, neufeld@uwm.edu

The focus of this course will be on rival conceptions of political freedom and social justice. We will consider how these ideas have been understood and defended within the main traditions of political philosophy that remain influential today, including utilitarianism, classical liberalism, high liberalism, and libertarianism. We also will look at some criticisms of those traditions from socialist and feminist perspectives. The role of property with respect to freedom and social justice also will be considered. Readings for the course will include a mix of historical and contemporary sources.

Philosophy 243, Moral Problems (HU)

LEC 001: Cloning and Genetic Enhancement, TR 3:30 - 4:45, CRT 309 (1/21-2/22)
LEC 002: Drugs and Addiction, TR 3:30 - 4:45, CRT 309 (2/24-4/05)
LEC 003: Punishment, TR 3:30 - 4:45, CRT 309 (4/07-5/08)
Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein, silvers2@uwm.edu
Retakable w/chg in topic to 6 cr max.

Note: LEC 001, 002, & 003 are worth one credit each. You do not have to enroll for all three sections.

243-001: Cloning and Genetic Enhancement

This five-week course will examine moral problems related to cloning. We will address issues related to both therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning with the focus primarily on the latter. We will address the following questions: Do we have a reproductive right to have genetically related children? Does cloning violate the dignity of the individual cloned and/or of the clone? What are the potential abuses of cloning? Does the risk of such abuse make cloning impermissible? Do the potential benefits of human cloning outweigh the risks required to make it possible? If not, is it impermissible to take such risks?

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?

243-003: Punishment

Punishment by definition involves the deliberate infliction of suffering or deprivation on someone, usually, as the result of wrongdoing. In this five-week class we will address questions that arise about the morality of punishment. For example, on what basis do we justify inflicting suffering on another person? When is punishment justified? What sorts of punishments are permissible for what crimes? Is capital punishment morally justified? If so, when?

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, TR 1:00 – 1:50, BOL B46
Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein, silvers2@uwm.edu
Enrollment in the LEC 401 also requires enrollment in a discussion section.

The vast majority of people when questioned will say they believe in God. In this course we will examine this common belief in depth. Topics covered will include: arguments for God's existence, the rationality of belief in God, the problem of evil, the compatibility of human free will with the existence of an all powerful God, and the rationality of religious faith.

Philosophy 324, Philosophy of Science

LEC 001, TR 11:00 - 12:15 CRT 309
Instructor: Stephen Leeds, sleeds@uwm.edu
Prereq: jr st. & 3 cr in philos.

Philosophy of Science has two sides. One is what is sometimes called ‘General’ Philosophy of Science – i.e. issues that apply to every science, or most of them. The other side is the philosophy of the particular sciences – that is, epistemological questions or metaphysical ones that arise in say physics or biology (with physics getting the lion’s share of the metaphysical questions). In this course we will do a little of each. On the more general side, we will discuss such questions as: What is a law of nature? How are scientific theories confirmed (or disconfirmed)? Should we take scientific theories as literally true? What happens during scientific revolutions? On the other side, the last month or so of the course will be on philosophy of physics: the aim here is to cover what every philosopher ought to know about quantum mechanics and relativity. The instructor’s particular interest being in philosophy of physics, the bulk of the examples throughout the course – with the exception of a week or so on Evolution vs. Intelligent Design - will come from physics; no background in physics is required, though some competence in, or at least tolerance for, mathematical reasoning would be helpful.

Philosophy 332, Philosophical Problems: Moral Dilemmas

LEC 201, ONLINE
Instructor: Luca Ferrero, ferrero@uwm.edu
Prereq: jr st; & 3 cr in philos.

Moral dilemmas are cases where the agents are bound by conflicting moral obligations and cannot resolve the conflict by further deliberation. No matter what they do, they will do something wrong and feel guilty. This seems to be the case with tragic characters such as Agamemnon, who is led to sacrifice his daughter to please the gods, and then left with "the painful memory of pain, dripping before the heart". Ancient philosophers took moral dilemmas very seriously, as signs of human vulnerability to luck, which undermines happiness and shows the fragility of goodness. But moral dilemmas seem to be far more pervasive and ubiquitous than the focus on tragic choices suggests. Some contemporary philosophers argue that dilemmas show that moral values are plural and that moral life is richer than we might have initially thought. Others argue that moral dilemmas threaten the agent's autonomy and are a sort of contradiction. This course investigates the nature and the philosophical implications of moral dilemmas, with special attention to the issues of the role of coherence and emotions in ethics. Readings include Aristotle, Kant, Williams, Hare, and Nussbaum.

Philosophy 341, Modern Ethical Theories

LEC 001 MW 11:00 – 12:15 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 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 will 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. We are going to end by looking 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"). 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

LEC 001 TR 2:00 – 3:15 MER 314
Instructor: Andrea Westlund, westlund@uwm.edu
Prereq: jr st; 3 cr philos or previous course in political theory or law studies recom.

Philos 384 & 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, History of Modern Philosophy

LEC 001, TR 12:30 – 1:45, CRT 175
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 519, Special Problems in Metaphysics and Epistemology: Ancient Scepticism

LEC 001, M 3:30 – 6:10, CRT 607
Instructor: Fabrizio Mondadori
Prereq: jr st & 3cr in philos. Retakable w/chg in topic to 9 cr max.

In this course, we shall study the brand of ancient skepticism known as Pyrrhonian (as contrasted with Acadenic) scepticism. It is expounded and carefully argued for by Sextus Empiricus in Outlines of Pyrrhonism. Pyrrhonian scepticism shares with modern scepticism just the name: apart from the name, the two have virtually nothing in common. In point of doctrine and of views put forth, they are wholly different. Thus, a modern sceptic is – to put it very generally – someone who doubts, and (more importantly) denies the possibility of knowledge. Not so the Pyrrhonian sceptic: the notions of doubt and knowledge play no role – not explicitly, at any rate – in his arguments. They are replaced by the notion of belief; that of suspension of judgment; and that of appearance. The goal of the Pyrrhonian sceptic is ataraxia (peace of mind, tranquility). It can only be reached according to him by suspending judgment, i.e., more specifically by neither believing that p – for any proposition p which the non-sceptic takes to be true – nor disbelieving that p. As Sextus points out, “We take ‘I suspend judgment’ in the sense of ‘I cannot say which of the offered views I should believe or disbelieve’, thus showing that the matters seem equal to us with respect to warranty and lack of warranty”.

Now, if we manage to reach a state in which we do not believe anything at all, we should thereby have reached a state of ataraxia: thus characterized, Pyrrhonian scepticism is not just a philosophy – it is a way of life. In the absence of belief, appearances are our guide in life: the way things appear to be to each of us. A view of this sort raises, among others, the following questions. First: are life and action possible without belief? Second: can the Pyrrhonian sceptic coherently put forth his views without making truth-claims (or without claims that involve belief)? We shall see. (As concerns the second question, in Against the Logicians Sextus suggests that “…just as it is not impossible for the person who has claimed a high place by a ladder to knock over the ladder with his foot after his climb, so it is not unlikely that the sceptic too, having got to the accomplishment of task by a sort of step-ladder - the argument showing that this is not demonstration - should do away with his argument”. A similar view can be found in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus.)

We shall subject to a detailed analysis Sextus’ Outlines of Pyrrhonism. If time permits, we shall also read a bit of St. Augustine; a bit of Descartes; a bit of Duns Scotus; a bit of Hume; and a wee bit of Heidegger (on Kant on the “scandal of philosophy”).

Philosophy 554, Special Topics in the History of Modern Philosophy: Empiricism

LEC 002, TR 3:30 – 4:45, CRT 607
Instructor: Miren Boehm, boehmm@uwm.edu
Prereq: jr st; 3cr in philos; Philos 432(R); or cons instr.

Do we have innate knowledge of the world? Or is knowledge of the world to be gathered exclusively from experience? But what is experience anyway? Is experience an “openness to the world”? How could an emphasis on experience as the source of knowledge end up producing the philosophical view of idealism, the view that all that exists or all that we know are the objects of our mind? In this class we shall address these and other fascinating questions, which come to life most dramatically in the history of philosophy in philosophies of Locke, Berkeley and Hume. The course will involve a close reading of central texts in an effort to understand the developments of empiricism and a number of fundamental arguments and controversies. We will focus on the theory of ideas, external objects or bodies, idealism, skepticism, causation, causal reasoning and personal identity, among other topics.

Philosophy 562, Special Topics in Ethics and Social and Political Philosophy: The Political Philosophy of John Rawls

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

Rawls is widely regarded as the most important political philosopher of the 20th century. His two main contributions are his theory of justice as fairness and his conception of political liberalism. The seminar will critically examine these two doctrines. Our main textual focus will be two of his last published works: Justice as Fairness: A Restatement, and The Law of Peoples, though we shall refer to his other writings as needed. We shall also examine some of the secondary literature.

Philosophy 681, Seminar in Advanced Topics: Agency and Normativity

SEM 001, W 3:30—6:10, CRT 607
Instructor: Luca Ferrero, ferrero@uwm.edu
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.

In this seminar we explore two questions:

1. What is distinctive of our agency? What makes our full-fledged intentional and rational agency different from the simpler forms of agency characteristic of animals, children, and wantons?

We will consider four major proposals: Frankfurt's hierarchical account of the will, Bratman's theory in terms of future-directed planning capacities, Velleman's theory centered on the distinctive role of our self-knowledge and self-understanding, and Korsgaard's account in terms of rational self-constitution.

2. In the latter third of the course, we consider the purported normative implications of these views. Can substantive norms of rationality and/or morality be derived from the nature of our agency? Does the distinctive nature of our agency provide a ground for the special authority of these norms?

Philosophy 685, Senior Capstone Research Seminar: International Justice

SEM 001, MW 12:30—1:45, CRT 607
Instructor: Blain Neufeld, neufeld@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

Liberal political philosophy traditionally has applied its principles of equal treatment of persons (protection of individual liberties, provision of opportunities and resources, etc.) only within the borders of the nation-state. In recent years, however, liberal thinkers have begun to ask how these principles might be understood in the global domain. This course is a critical introduction to recent attempts to develop a theoretical approach to international justice. One topic that we will explore is the nature and extent of liberal tolerance vis-à-vis non-liberal and non-democratic societies. What norms of tolerance, if any, should apply here? A closely related topic concerns the nature of human rights. What human rights should be understood as universal in nature – all of the rights of democratic citizenship or a more restricted set? What political policies are appropriate with respect to states that violate human rights? Another topic that we will examine is the legitimacy (or illegitimacy) of the nation-state. Should nation-states or ‘peoples’ be regarded as moral agents? We also will explore a topic closely related to the moral status of nation-states, namely, the scope of duties of distributive justice. Are (some or all) principles of distributive justice limited in their scope of application to nation-states? How can we understand the wrongness of global poverty? Should we care about global economic inequality, and if so, why? Finally, we will address the challenge posed by climate change for theories of international justice. (Readings will be from a variety of contemporary sources, but we will be using John Rawls's The Law of Peoples as a springboard for exploring most of these topics.)

Philosophy 712, Fundamentals of Formal Logic

LEC 001, TR 2:00 – 3:15, CRT 309
Instructor: Joshua Spencer, spence48@uwm.edu
Prereq: grad st.
Taught with Philos 212-001.

In Elementary Logic (Philosophy 211), we learned how to symbolize English sentences and arguments in the formal 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 by, for example, determining whether every argument that has a proof in our formal systems is in fact valid (soundness) and whether every argument that is in fact valid has a proof (completeness).

Philosophy 941, Seminar in Ethics and Social and Political Philosophy: Expressivism

LEC 001, T 11:00 – 1:40, CRT 607
Instructor: Stan Husi, husi@uwm.edu
Prereq: grad st; cons instr.

Expressivism has come a long way since its inception as the “Boo and Hooray” theory of ethical language. Early in the century, Ayer had contended that ethical assertions, such as “stealing is wrong,” are not in the business of describing facts, such as the instantiation of WRONGNESS by stealing, but rather of evincing moral disapproval, remarking on a particular act of stealing, say, “in a peculiar tone of horror.” The central attraction of expressivism has always been the promise of a vindicatory account of morals at negligible ontological costs, consistent with a natural worldview, while also emphasizing the practicality of moral talk, its motivational oomph and commitment towards guiding action. In response to a range of objections, such as the famous Frege-Geach problem, or the suspicion that expressivism cannot preserve the possibility of ethical disagreement and objectivity, the theory has become increasingly sophisticated and innovative. In the seminar, we are going to discuss expressivism in its most recent installment, primarily in the writings of Allan Gibbard, Simon Blackburn, and Mark Schroeder. We are going to start with the latter’s wonderfully clear introduction “Noncognitivism in Ethics,” and end with the just released book by Gibbard “Meaning and Normativity.”

Philosophy 960, Seminar in Metaphysics: Existence and Non-Existence

SEM 001, R 5:00 – 7:40, CRT 607
Instructor: Joshua Spencer, spence48@uwm.edu
Prereq: grad st & cons instr.

What is existence? What is non-existence? Does it even make sense to say, for example, that unicorns don’t exist or that Sherlock Holmes doesn’t exist? In this class, we will be exploring the metaphysical and semantic issues surrounding existence and non-existence. We’ll begin by looking at some of the 20th and 21st century conceptions of existence. In particular, we’ll look at the 20th century rejection of ontological pluralism and its 21st century revival. We’ll look at the corresponding notions of ontological commitment. And, in light of that recent revival, we’ll explore the puzzle of non-existence in the modal, temporal and fictional domains.