Summer 2020 Courses


June 15 – August 9
Farid Masrour

Interested in improving your skills in recognizing, evaluating, and engaging in reasoning with the added bonus of satisfying a QR-A requirement? If so, this course is for you. Throughout the course you will learn to recognize and analyze reasoning as it occurs in everyday discourse, to recognize and analyze the effect of rhetorical devices, and to follow basic logical principles and avoid common logical fallacies. We will pay special attention to reasoning in mass communication media. The course is entirely online. So, you can take it in an environment of your choice and with a timetable that fits your schedule.


July 13 – August 9
MTWR 8:55 – 11:35
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 economics, mathematics, computer science, rhetoric, and the law.

This course satisfies the Quantitative Reasoning (QR) B requirement.  Pre-requisites may we waived with permission of instructor.

This course will be taught entirely online, with a combination of pre-recorded videos to be viewed and live videoconferencing.  Students should be sure they will be available for live, interactive instruction from 8:55–11:35am Monday through Thursday from July 13 through August 9.


June 15 – July 12
MWR  1:10 – 3:10
Jesse Steinberg

In deciding how to act, we frequently guide ourselves by principles, which forbid or require various kinds of action. Moral philosophy is the attempt to systematically explore a number of questions which arise in connection with such principles. We may ask, for example: What is it for a principle to be a moral principle? Is morality a matter of personal or cultural preference? Is God the source of morality? Why should I be moral? Is there any way for us to know what one ought to do in a given circumstance? We also ask questions related to how we ought to conduct ourselves, like whether it’s morally permissible to eat meat, whether we ought to prohibit homosexuals from marrying, or whether torture is ever justified. This course will examine several of these questions and the answers suggested by various moral philosophers.


June 15 – August
TR  1:10 – 3:50
Aaron Yarmel

This is a special Covid-19 edition of PHILOS 243: Ethics in Business. Throughout this online, discussion-based course, you will study a series of ethical problems in business that are especially pressing during a global pandemic. You will also study the foundations for decisions involving ethical issues. Topics include the following: foundational theories in moral philosophy, corporate social responsibility, sweatshops and other labor practices, sexual harassment, affirmative action, deception, insider trading, environmental justice, intellectual property, and corporate culture.


Philosophy of Art for Troubled Times
June 15 – July 12
MTWR  8:55 – 11:35
Henry Southgate

What are artists for in troubled times? This course examines art—visual, literary, and musical—not as a mere object of pleasure, but as an existential response to some of the most pressing issues confronting modernity: alienation, nihilism, social fragmentation, moral corrosion, mass deception, racial oppression, and heteropatriarchy. Surveying art theorists and theoretical artists from Romanticism to the present day, we will study how art is uniquely positioned to save us: how it gives life meaning, heals social wounds, provides moral guidance, enables self-recognition and self-affirmation, and, ultimately, even saves us from despair.

The course is presented at an introductory level and does not presuppose any familiarity with philosophy or art.

While the course will be conducted entirely online, students may also participate in voluntary field-trips to cultural offerings in the Madison area.


Philosophy in American Politics
June 15 – August 9
MTWR  1:10 – 3:50
Megan Fritts

Amid new technology, new platform issues, and new methods of campaigning, American politics seems to get more extreme each election cycle. In this class, we will be exploring the philosophical issues that arise in the realm of contemporary American politics. Questions we will be exploring include, but are not limited to, the following: Does political discourse aim at truth, or only at persuasion? What is fake news, and how can we prevent ourselves from falling prey to it? How can we know which media outlet is telling the truth? How has social media changed how campaigns are run? What are human rights, and what do we have rights to? Will automation really leave many of us unemployed, and if so, what will our lives be like?


May 18 – June 14
Peter Vranas

Under what circumstances, if any, is abortion morally permissible? Should the death penalty be abolished? What causes terrorism, and is it ever morally permissible to torture terrorists? This course teaches students how to think systematically about these fascinating questions. The emphasis is not on defending particular answers, but is instead on providing students with the tools they need to reach their own answers.