Current and Upcoming Courses

Spring 2022 Courses

Jump to: Spring 2022 Graduate Courses

101-1   Introduction to Philosophy

1:00 – 2:15  TR
Alan Sidelle

Philosophy is both an area, with its own questions and history of discussion of these questions – What is knowledge? What goes into making an action right or wrong? What is it to live a happy (good/worthwhile) life?  What is it to act rationally?  Can we ever be responsible for our behavior?  What is it for a sign to have meaning?  Is having a mind the same thing as having a brain? – and a certain critical way of looking at things, approaching issues, clarifying concepts, and evaluating positions and arguments.  The methods philosophers use in generating and conducting investigation in their own particular subject matter, as well as many of the issues philosophers concern themselves with, can be relevant to all sorts of subject matters, which are not, of themselves, particularly philosophical.  Drawing distinctions, identifying underlying assumptions, generating puzzles, coming up with arguments and evaluating them, seeing what a disagreement is really about, distinguishing the letter from the spirit of positions, are among the many tools of philosophy, which can be used in other areas not only in critical evaluation, but in seeing possible issues and questions to raise.  In this course, we will look at some quite general and fundamental philosophical issues in some central areas of philosophy; it is important to realize that there are many other areas of philosophy, many other topics within theseareas, and that even of the more particular issues we look at, we will only be making a start.  We will be particularly concerned to bring out various sorts of philosophical tools and distinctions, relevant not only to philosophy, but to philosophical reflection or consideration about other areas, and also to see how philosophical assumptions or claims may be present even when one is not ‘doing philosophy’.  By the end of the course, the hope is that you will have both an interest in and ability to think interestingly, critically and productively about not only the issues we discuss, but most anything.

101-2   Introduction to Philosophy

2:30 – 3:45  TR
Lecturer

Prerequisites: Open to Freshmen Sophomores who have had no previous philosophy courses other than 210, 211, 253 or 254. Not open to juniors.

101-3   Introduction to Philosophy

11:00 – 11:50 MWF
Henry Southgate

This course is an introduction to philosophical thinking and the Western philosophical tradition from antiquity to modernity. Through reading classical and contemporary texts, we will be examining central topics in this tradition: proofs for the existence of God, the nature of morality, the meaning of life, and the nature of art and beauty. By exploring these topics and works, students will develop a conception of what philosophy is, become familiar with its history, and acquire the skills needed to identify, evaluate, and construct arguments. In so doing, they will be laying the foundations for a fruitful engagement with philosophy and for critical thinking generally.

101-4   Introduction to Philosophy

9:55 – 10:45  MWF
Lecturer

Prerequisites: Open to Freshmen and Sophomores who have had no previous philosophy courses other than 210, 211, 253 or 254. Not open to juniors.

101-5   Introduction to Philosophy

9:55 – 10:45 MWF
Steven Nadler

An introduction to some of the major problems and methods of philosophy. We will consider topics from ethics/moral philosophy, political philosophy, metaphysics, epistemology, and the philosophy of religion. Among the questions we will discuss are: What is good and bad? What makes an action right or wrong? What is happiness? Must you be a morally good person in order to be happy? Are we obliged to obey the state and its laws? What is the nature of reality—what kinds of things are really real? What is knowledge and how do we acquire it? Are human beings free? Is the belief in God a matter of knowledge or only a matter of faith? Would immortality be desirable? And, of course, the best question of all: What is the meaning of life? The readings include Plato, Aristotle, Epictetus, Epicurus, Descartes, John Stuart Mill, Immanuel Kant, Jean-Paul Sartre, and a number of contemporary philosophers.

101-6   Introduction to Philosophy

11:00 – 12:15 TR
Hayley Clatterbuck

Prerequisites: Open to Freshmen Sophomores who have had no previous philosophy courses other than 210, 211, 253 or 254. Not open to juniors.

101-7   Introduction to Philosophy

1:00 – 2:15  TR
Larry Shapiro

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to philosophical questions and to the strategies that philosophers use to address these questions.  Philosophical questions are peculiar: unlike scientific questions, their solution typically does not depend on the collection of empirical data; unlike mathematical questions, there are no formulae that are guaranteed to produce a correct answer to them. An adequate answer to a philosophical question requires an argument, and so it is upon arguments that we will focus in this course. We will consider philosophical questions, such as “What, if anything, can we know about the world?,” “Do you have free will?,” “Are you the same person now as the person who was born eighteen years ago?,” “When are you morally responsible for your actions?,” “Is abortion morally permissible?”, “What would a just society look like?”.  We will then examine some classical answers to these questions and will evaluate them critically. Graded assignments include five short papers. Attendance and participation will also factor into your final grade.

210-1   Reason in Communication

9:55 – 10:45  MWF
Lecturer

Argument in familiar contexts; emphasis upon developing critical skills in comprehending, evaluating, and engaging in contemporary forms of reasoning, with special attention to the uses of argument in mass communication media.

211-1   Elementary Logic

9:30 – 10:45 TR
Michael Titelbaum

Suppose I say, “If no one moved the cheese since last night, it’s in the fridge. If I didn’t move the cheese, then no one did. I didn’t move the cheese. So it’s still in the fridge.” This argument concerning the whereabouts of the cheese contains some premises followed by a conclusion. The argument is structured so that if the premises are true, the conclusion must be true as well. In this course we will represent arguments in symbols to reveal their structure, then study argumentative structures that guarantee a true conclusion from true premises. We will also learn how to prove that an argument with a particular structure is valid. The techniques we will learn are necessary for every area of contemporary philosophy, and are relevant to areas of economics, mathematics, computer science, rhetoric, and the law.

211-2   Elementary Logic

11:00 – 11:50 MWF
John Mackay

The formal characteristics of logical truth and inference.

211-3   Elementary Logic

1:00 – 2:15 TR
Bruno Whittle

Logic is the study of arguments. An argument, in this sense, is a bit of reasoning that starts from certain assumptions, and extracts some piece of information from these. For example: Helen is a bear; all bears gamble; therefore, Helen gambles. There are two things that we can ask about an argument. (a) Are the starting points true? And (b) does the end point really follow from these? We will focus on (b). (Your other classes should all, in one way or another, help you with (a)). We will learn some general techniques for determining whether a claim follows from some others. These will allow us to evaluate arguments regardless of their subject matter—be it chemistry, politics, or where to go for dinner. We will use a precise artificial language that allows perspicuous representations of natural language arguments, and that also allows rigorous methods for determining what follows from what.

241-1   Introductory Ethics (fulfills Category B requirement for the major)

9:55 – 10:45  MWF
Paula Gottlieb

In everyday life, we make a variety of ethical judgments, for example, that it is kind to help others or that it is wrong to break promises.  What justifies us in making such judgments, can such judgments be objective, and why and how should we live up to them? To answer these questions, we shall examine various representative moral theories including Utilitarianism, Kantian Theory and Virtue Ethics, and we shall also consider the views of human nature that underlie them. The main readings for the course will be recognized classics from the history of ethics. However, we shall also be considering these in the light of contemporary philosophical developments and concerns, including those of African American philosophers and feminist thinkers.

241-2  Introductory Ethics

2:30 – 3:45  TR
Richard Dees

Nature of moral problems and of ethical theory, varieties of moral skepticism, practical ethics and the evaluation of social institutions.

241-3  Introductory Ethics

11:00 – 11:50  MWF
Lecturer

Nature of moral problems and of ethical theory, varieties of moral skepticism, practical ethics and the evaluation of social institutions.

243-1   Ethics in Business

8:50 – 9:40    MWF
Lecturer

Case studies of moral issues in business; types or reasons appealed to for settlement.

243-2   Ethics in Business

8:00 – 9:15    TR
Lecturer

Case studies of moral issues in business; types or reasons appealed to for settlement.

341-1   Contemporary Moral Issues

11:00 – 12:15  TR
Harry Brighouse

The purpose of 341 is to acquaint students with rigorous forms of reasoning concerning live contemporary moral issues, and to help them develop the skills necessary to evaluate and intervene in public debates in a way that is intellectually honest and well-informed. This section of 341 focuses mainly on issues relating to childhood, family life, and education; among the issues we discuss are the morality of abortion; the permissible regulation of parenthood; cloning human beings for reproductive purposes; the morality of school choice; the morality of educational inequality. Attendance of discussion section is mandatory. Assessment of students’ work will be by papers and essay exams.

341-2   Contemporary Moral Issues      Honors Only

11:00 – 12:15 TR
Lecturer

A philosophical study of some of the major moral issue in contemporary society, such as those concerning abortion, euthanasia, punishment, property, politics, sex, nuclear disarmament, and world hunger.

341-3   Contemporary Moral Issues

9:55 – 10:45  MWF
Lecturer

A philosophical study of some of the major moral issue in contemporary society, such as those concerning abortion, euthanasia, punishment, property, politics, sex, nuclear disarmament, and world hunger.

341-4   Contemporary Moral Issues

9:30 – 10:45 TR
Lecturer

A philosophical study of some of the major moral issue in contemporary society, such as those concerning abortion, euthanasia, punishment, property, politics, sex, nuclear disarmament, and world hunger.

341-5   Contemporary Moral Issues

11:00 – 11:50  MWF
Lecturer

A philosophical study of some of the major moral issue in contemporary society, such as those concerning abortion, euthanasia, punishment, property, politics, sex, nuclear disarmament, and world hunger.

341      Contemporary Moral Issues  (Fulfills Comm B requirement)

A philosophical study of some of the major moral issue in contemporary society, such as those concerning abortion, euthanasia, punishment, property, politics, sex, nuclear disarmament, and world hunger.

Lec. 91            9:55am – 10:45am  MTWR Lecturer

Lec. 92            11:00am – 11:50am MTWR Lecturer

Lec. 93            12:05pm – 12:55pm MTWR Lecturer

Lec. 94            8:50am – 9:40am   MTWR Lecturer

Lec. 95            1:20pm – 2:10pm   MTWR Lecturer

432-1   History of Modern Philosophy

9:55 – 10:45  MWF
James Messina

We will be reading selections from the works of a number of 17th and 18th century philosophers: Rene Descartes, Princess Elisabeth, Nicolas Malebranche, Baruch Spinoza, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Lady Masham, Isaac Newton, John Locke, George Berkeley, Lady Mary Shepherd, Emilie du Châtelet, and David Hume. These thinkers explore, among other things, knowledge and its limits; matter, space, and time; the mind and its relationship to the body; causation; substance; free will and free action; the existence and nature of God; the perfection/imperfection of the world and humans; and the prospect of an afterlife.  They develop their views in dialogue with one another, and with an eye towards science (whose foundations and implications they probe) as well as religion. Though their philosophical views often diverge widely from one another and sometimes from common sense, they helped to shape philosophy as it is practiced today.

454-1   Classical Philosophers

2:25 – 3:15  MWF
Paula Gottlieb
Topic: Aristotle’s Ethics

Every human being wishes to lead a happy life, according to Aristotle, but what sort of life is a happy one? In this course we’ll consider Aristotle’s answers to the following questions (among others): What is happiness? Is happiness the same as pleasure? What qualities contribute to a happy life? Are courage, justice, generosity, truthfulness, friendliness, and wit all needed to lead a happy life? If so, how are these acquired? Do we need to develop our thinking and feelings in a special way? Are friends needed for happiness? If so, what makes a good friend? What kind of society is necessary for human beings to be happy?

The main texts for the course will be Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics(translated by T.H. Irwin, Hackett, 3rdedition, 2019) and Eudemian Ethics(translated by A Kenny, Oxford University Press, 2011), but we’ll also read other texts of Aristotle where these are pertinent.

There will be ample opportunity for discussion. There will also be three tutorials. Class participants will be asked to write a series of 1500-word essays. They will then come in pairs to see the professor for an hour or so, during which time they will read out and discuss their work. Grades will be awarded to the written work. The point of the tutorial is purely educational and fun.

454-2   Classical Philosophers

1:20 – 2:10  MWF
James Messina
Topic:  Schopenhauer and Nietzsche

We will be studying the work and thought of two very important 19th century philosophers, Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche. It is natural to study them together as Schopenhauer exercised a very strong influence on Nietzsche, though the exact details of that influence are hotly debated. We will consider and compare their views on metaphysics, epistemology, religion, ethics, and aesthetics.

454-3   Classical Philosophers    Honors Only

2:25 – 3:15  MWF
Paula Gottlieb
Topic: Aristotle’s Ethics
See the course description for 454-1 above

454-4   Classical Philosophers    Honors Only

1:20 – 2:10   MWF
James Messina
Topic:  Schopenhauer and Nietzsche
See the course description for 454-2 above

512      Methods of Logic

12:05 – 12:55  MWF
Peter Vranas

If mathematicians are necessarily rational but cyclists are not, is an individual who is both a mathematician and a cyclist necessarily rational or not? This is just one of the numerous puzzles associated with the notions of necessity and possibility, the notions that form the subject of modal logic. This course is a continuation of Philosophy 211 (Elementary Logic) and presupposes thorough familiarity with 211. The main object of the course is to enable students to (1) translate into logical notation English arguments involving the notions of necessity and possibility, and to (2) easily determine whether the translated arguments are valid or not. There is also a lot of philosophical discussion of issues related to modal logic.

515      Public Health Ethics          (Cross-listed with Medical History 515)

2:30 – 3:45  MW
Richard Dees

516-1   Language and Meaning           (Fulfills Category A requirement)

9:30 – 10:45  TR
John MacKay

The course will cover some of the main themes in the philosophy of language. The human ability to communicate information about the external world through language is remarkable and raises a number of philosophical questions. Topics to be considered include: what it is for a linguistic expression to be meaningful; how it could come about that a linguistic expression – which is at some level just an arbitrary group of sounds or symbols – could have a meaning; how both the mind and the external world interact with language to determine meaning; how speakers use and manipulate language in different settings to communicate different kinds of information; and the way in which the meaning of a term depends on context.

520-1   Philosophy of the Natural Sciences

1:00 – 2:15   TR
Hayley Clatterbuck

Nature and functions of science; the logic of scientific method: clarification of such concepts as cause, law, theory, probability, determinism, teleology.

520-2   Philosophy of the Natural Sciences       Honors Only

1:00 – 2:15  TR
Hayley Clatterbuck

Nature and functions of science; the logic of scientific method: clarification of such concepts as cause, law, theory, probability, determinism, teleology.

530-1   Freedom, Fate, and Choice

4:00 – 5:15  TR
Martha Gibson

This is a course on the freedom of the will. We will study the following: classic arguments from fatalism and determinism to the effect that human beings do not have free will; ‘compatibilist’ accounts of the freedom of the will which maintain that we can have free will even if past events and the laws of nature determine what we do; accounts of the freedom of the will which tie freedom to the agent’s ability to make rational decisions; whether is it possible to give an account of the freedom of the will that can account for all of the cases in which people intuitively do not do what they do of their own free will— e.g., cases in which the impediment seems internal and psychological, (addiction or phobia) and cases in which the impediment seems external (coercion). We will study some classical philosophers —Descartes, Locke, Moore— but most of the material will be from more contemporary sources—Peter Van Inwagen, David Lewis, P.F. Strawson, Rogers Albrittion, Gary Watson, Harry Frankfurt and others.

541-1   Modern Ethical Theories    (fulfills category B requirement for the major)

11:00 – 12:15  TR
Jesse Steinberg

Ethical theories and problems as discussed in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

541-2   Modern Ethical Theories    Honors Only (fulfills category B requirement for the major)

11:00 – 12:15  TR
Jesse Steinberg

Ethical theories and problems as discussed in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

545-1   Philosophical Conceptions of Teaching and Learning (Cross listed with Ed Pol 454)

4:30 – 7:30   M
Simone Schweber

Examination and analysis of conceptions of teaching and learning in classical philosophical works and in contemporary literature in the philosophy of education.

551-1   Philosophy of Mind

2:30 – 3:45  TR
Larry Shapiro

This course is a survey of classical and contemporary issues in philosophy of mind. Among these issues are: physicalism (Is the mind composed of physical stuff? If not, what is it?); mental causation (can minds cause things?); conscious experience (Why is an analysis of consciousness so hard?); computationalism, (Is the brain a computer and the mind its software?); artificial intelligence (Will computers ever be capable of thought?); representationalism (What is it for a belief to be about something, and how does it come to be about something?). Assignments will include four papers (roughly 3-4pp. in length). Classroom attendance and participation is mandatory.

558      Ethical Issues in Health Care      (Cross-listed with Medical History 558)

11:00am – 12:15pm  T
Robert Streiffer

Study of ethical issues arising from medical procedures and aspects of health care such as abortion, genetic screening, paternalism, informed consent, prenatal diagnosis, prolongation of life, treatment of severe birth defects, and human subjects research. (This course does meet the UW School of Medicine and Public Health’s requirement for a writing-intensive course as described at https://www.med.wisc.edu/education/md-program/admissions/premedical-requirements/.)

560-1   Metaphysics         (Fulfills Category A requirement)

2:30 – 3:45   MW
Alan Sidelle

This class is an advanced introduction to various topics in metaphysics.  We will look at classic readings on topics including the nature of physical objects, possible worlds, time, causation, free will and personal identity.  Among the questions we will consider are:
When does some matter constitute a material object?  How does material objects persist through time?  Can more than one material object occupy a given place at the same time? Is there something special about the present?  Or is time best objectively viewed from an ‘eternal’ position, standing outside of time? What is it for one event to cause another?  Can two possible worlds be exactly alike in their pattern of events, but differ in what causes what? Can free will co-exist with deterministic laws of nature?  With any laws of nature at all? Under what conditions will we still be alive tomorrow? That is, what needs to be the case for one of the people living in the world tomorrow to be me? If I am a dualist, does it have to reside in sameness of the soul? If I am a materialist, does it have to reside in sameness of body, or brain? There will be regular reading responses, 2 papers, and a final exam.

560-2   Metaphysics    Honors Only (Fulfills Category A requirement)

2:30 – 3:45  MW
Alan Sidelle

This class is an advanced introduction to various topics in metaphysics.  We will look at classic readings on topics including the nature of physical objects, possible worlds, time, causation, free will and personal identity.  Among the questions we will consider are:
When does some matter constitute a material object?  How does material objects persist through time?  Can more than one material object occupy a given place at the same time? Is there something special about the present?  Or is time best objectively viewed from an ‘eternal’ position, standing outside of time? What is it for one event to cause another?  Can two possible worlds be exactly alike in their pattern of events, but differ in what causes what? Can free will co-exist with deterministic laws of nature?  With any laws of nature at all? Under what conditions will we still be alive tomorrow? That is, what needs to be the case for one of the people living in the world tomorrow to be me? If I am a dualist, does it have to reside in sameness of the soul? If I am a materialist, does it have to reside in sameness of body, or brain?
There will be regular reading responses, 2 papers, and a final exam.

701      Reading Seminars (combined with Graduate Seminars)

Instructor Consent

701-001 Reading Seminars

Topic: Plato on Moral Corruption
4:00 – 7:00  R
Emily Fletcher

701-001 meets with 835. Please see the description of 835 below.

701-002 Reading Seminars

Topic:Imperative Logic
1:15pm – 3:15pm      F
Peter Vranas

701-002 meets with 911. Please see the description of 911 below.

701-003 Reading Seminars

Topic: Consciousness and Intentionality
1:15pm – 3:15pm      W
Farid Masrour

701-003 meets with 951. Please see the description of 951 below.

701-004 Reading Seminars

Topic: Distributive justice
4:00pm– 6:30pm      M
Harry Brighouse

701-004 meets with 955. Please see the description of 955 below.

701-005 Reading Seminars

Topic: Grounding
4:00pm – 6:00pm      T
Bruno Whittle

701-005 meets with 960. Please see the description of 960 below.

835      Advanced History-Philosophy

Topic: Plato on Moral Corruption
4:00pm – 7:00pm      R
Emily Fletcher

In this seminar, we will investigate the causes and processes of moral corruption in Plato’s dialogues. Scholars often form a picture of Plato’s ethics and moral psychology primarily through examining his conception of virtue and moral education. We will take a different approach, using vice and moral corruption as starting points for understanding these important areas of Platonic thought. We will read selections from several of Plato’s longest and most philosophically rich dialogues, including the Gorgias, Protagoras, Republic, Timaeus, and Laws.These dialogues offer a wide variety of views about the causes of moral corruption, ranging from a bad upbringing or the influence of Sophists (a mysterious and fascinating group of intellectuals represented by Gorgias and Protagoras), to bodily causes, including everything from a poor diet and exercise regime to physical illness. We will supplement our reading of Plato’s works with fragmentary writings from some of the very sophists that appear in his dialogues.

The requirements for the seminar will include participating in discussions, both in person and on Canvas, writing a seminar paper of 10-15 pages, for which there will be a required draft, and writing a blind referee report on another student’s paper. The seminar will have an atypical schedule, which will be frontloaded towards the beginning of the semester. Instead of having 14 weekly meetings of 2 hours each, we will meet for 3 hours a week for the first 8 weeks of the semester. After this, we will have a break and meet again for a final seminar meeting at the end of the semester, in addition to individual paper meetings.

911    Seminar – Logic

Topic: Imperative Logic
1:15pm – 3:15pm      F
Peter Vranas

This is a seminar primarily in philosophical (not in symbolic) logic, and it should be accessible even to those who have never taken an advanced course in formal logic. The seminar deals with imperatives, like “open the window”, and starts with the following puzzle. On the one hand, it seems that imperatives (in contrast to declaratives like “the window is open”) cannot be true or false, so there cannot be a logic of imperatives. On the other hand, it seems that imperatives can enter into logical relations: “open the window and close the door” seems to logically entail “open the window”. The seminar examines various attempts to solve this puzzle.

951   Seminar – Philosophy of Mind

Topic: Consciousness and Intentionality
1:15pm – 3:15pm      W
Farid Masrour

955   Seminar – Social and Political Philosophy

Topic: Distributive justice
4:00pm – 6:30pm      M
Harry Brighouse

This course will examine the question: how should we think about the principles of distributive justice in ideal theory, and what might that tell us about how to think about distributive justice in our, actual, non-ideal world. We’ll acquaint ourselves with some of the literature surrounding and reacting to Rawls’s theory of justice. Some substantial part of the semester will be spent looking at the normative foundations of distributive principles: should they be grounded in claims about how we should relate to one another, or some other way? And we’ll spend some time looking specifically at some questions concerning the purposes and funding of education (and especially higher education) in an unjustly unequal society. Authors we’ll read include John Rawls, Elizabeth Anderson, Gina Schouten, Sally Haslanger, Sandy Baum and Michael McPherson.

960   Seminar – Metaphysics

Topic: Grounding
4:00pm – 6:00pm      T
Bruno Whittle

Grounding has become the dominant philosophical tool for getting at the structure of the world. It provides a sense in which some facts are fundamental, and captures a manner in which other facts are supported by this foundation. In this seminar we will look at a variety of philosophical questions related to this notion. Possible topics include: puzzles and paradoxes that the notion gives rise to (and, of course, efforts at solving these!); attempts to use grounding to understand traditional metaphysical preoccupations, such as ontological commitment or real definition; and heretical arguments to the effect that grounding isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.