210.631 (17W) "Worlds of mind": Philosophy in/through Science Fiction

Wintersemester 2017/18

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Erster Termin der LV
02.10.2017 12:00 - 14:00 , N.0.07
... keine weiteren Termine bekannt

Überblick

Lehrende/r
LV-Titel englisch
"Worlds of mind": Philosophy in/through Science Fiction
LV-Art
Proseminar (prüfungsimmanente LV )
Semesterstunde/n
2.0
ECTS-Anrechungspunkte
4.0
Anmeldungen
14 (25 max.)
Organisationseinheit
Unterrichtssprache
Englisch
LV-Beginn
09.10.2017
eLearning
zum Moodle-Kurs
Anmerkungen

!!! INTRODUCTORY MEETING on October 9 !!! 
(content: discussion of pragmatics, first [and, cognitively estranging] contact with science fiction and philosophy)

!!! DROP DATE October 30 !!!

You do NOT have to have any pre-existing knowledge about science fiction (or, philosophy for that matter) in order to sign up and successfully participate in this course.

If enrollment numbers exceed the class limit, there will be a pre-selection process.

This course will also be a pre-conference satellite forum of the Worlding SF Conference which will be organized and hosted by the Department of American Studies at Karl-Franzens-Universität in 2018. The conference will be open to AAU staff and students through the Entwicklungsverbund Süd-Ost.

LV-Beschreibung

Intendierte Lernergebnisse

We clearly have a lot to think [and talk] about, shall serve as our course motto. This course builds on the intellectually stimulating and empowering intersection of cultural history, popular culture, and (popular) philosophy. It will take the form of a semester-long how-to/hands-on manual for how to make science fiction (sf) stories a meaningful and interdisciplinary tool to introduce and explicate both basic and more advanced philosophical questions/theses/problems/concepts. 

As a group, we will apply the maxims of critical thinking by probing the seemingly infinite vastness of the human imagination and the human condition. We will do so by explicating and contextualizing philosophical ideas/conundrums/quandaries that inform popular science fiction texts across media (literature, film/TV, and video games). Ultimately, this class will present itself as an imaginarium of critical thinking offering intellectual and interdisciplinary exchange to entry level as well as advanced philosophy students, culture studies/English language majors, international students, and sf aficionados alike. As Mark Rowlands has emphatically proclaimed, "[p]hilosophy is not about knowing, it’s about doing" (2005: xi).

Lehrmethodik

Pro-seminar mode: mini-lecture input, self-directed library research, group discussions, interpretative activities, peer-led/hosted/organized talks, close readings and critical contextualization of sf texts, work on Moodle, etc.

Be prepared to critically formulate, present & discuss your own (!) thoughts on the topics/texts covered in class since a large part of this class will depend on your concerted input. This class is an interactive and peer-created course and thus students will be expected to engage in self-directed research and to take responsibility for guiding and interacting with their peers. All of the material you will need to get you started will be provided in digital form and/or are in stock and available at the university library.

Inhalt/e

Philosophy and that which we now call science fiction (sf) have been close and comfortable neighbors since long before there was even a term for the genre. Since the onset of (post)modernity, sf has arguably become one of the most popular modes disseminating philosophical ideas/concepts to a much broader public than is possible through any academic publication/treatise. 

What can sf do for you, and what can you do with sf? 

In other words:

  • What does Frankenstein have to do with the meaning of life?
  • How come that Plato’s allegory of the cave and The Matrix films spring from the same well of intellectual inquiry?
  • How can Roy Batty’s ‘tears in rain’ soliloquy in Blade Runner lead us to a deeper appreciation of existentialism?
  • Is Mr. Spock’s logic, which he apparently borrowed from no other than Sherlock Holmes, philosophically sound?
  • Is the “cosmic imperative” (as articulated by the Prothean Javik) in the Mass Effect universe not just another articulation of Darwinist determinism?

These are just a few of the questions that we might encounter on our journey into the world(s) of mind. Both philosophy and science fiction are dependent on our laboratories of the mind to initiate and maintain imaginative as well as imaginary worlds within which thought experiments are conducted. Our minds have three essential philosophical dimensions: 1) the epistemic (i.e. what they know), 2) the metaphysical (i.e. what they are), 3) the ethical (whether their actions are right or wrong).

As we will see, SF stories are not mere escapist fantasies. They are infused with the moral imperative to critically question and re-question the very world, both natural and cultural, that we live in. Andy Sawyer puts forth that the "speculative nature" of SF "invites a speculative response; it requires engagement with thought-experiments that confront and often overturn passive acceptance of contemporary conditions" (2011: 1). As such, sf has the capacity to provide us with educative spaces for reflecting on a broad range of philosophical  issues (free will, the nature of reality and/or time, ethics, human hubris, historiography, etc.) in different popular media formats. As a group, we will find and harness the democratizing spirit that lies at the heart of SF's wide range of allegorical intentions. A diverse range of SF texts across media, covering a number of thought-provoking topics, will form the main textual corpus for this class.

So, get ready to fire up your laboratories of the mind!

Topics areas include but are not limited to:

  • How does SF work? (cognitive estrangement, extrapolation, neologisms, literalization of metaphor, allegory, etc.)
  • Critical thinking, or The Dragon in My Garage (C. Sagan)
  • External world skepticism, "brain in a vat" scenarios
  • Information patternism, computational theory of mind (CTM)
  • Philosophy of mind, epistemology/-ies, metaphysics, neuroethics
  • Techno-progressivism, transhumanism
  • The nature of time (grandfather paradox)

Literatur

Primary

Eberl, Jason. and Decker, K. eds. 2008. Star Trek and Philosophy: The Wrath of Kant. Open Court.
Evans, Arthur B. et al. eds. 2010. The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction. Wesleyan Univ. Press.
Schneider, Susan. 2009. Science Fiction and Philosophy: From Time Travel to Superintelligence. Wiley-Blackwell.
Rowlands, Mark. 2005. The Philosopher at the End of the Universe. Random House.
Vint, Sherryl. 2014. Science Fiction: A Guide for the Perplexed. Bloomsbury.

Secondary

Bould, Mark. et al. eds. 2009. The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction. Routledge.
James, Edward and Farah Mendlesohn. eds. 2003. The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction. CUP.
Sanders, Steven. ed. 2010. The Philosophy of Science Fiction Film. Univ. Press of Kentucky.
Seed, David. ed. 2005. A Companion to Science Fiction. Blackwell Publishing.

A comprehensive transmedial bibliography, which includes titles that are all available either in our library, via the class lecturer or on the internet, will be provided on Moodle. Making use of these resources will be part of the graded performance.

EVERY student is directed & required to obtain and use texts (primary & secondary) which are tied to individual assignments in order to successfully participate in the class. All texts that are tied to graded assignments will be provided in digital form. Other course material (slideshows, reading assignments, films/TV shows, other relevant material etc.) will also be made available in digital form on Moodle.

Intendierte Lernergebnisse

We clearly have a lot to think [and talk] about, shall serve as our course motto. This course builds on the intellectually stimulating and empowering intersection of cultural history, popular culture, and (popular) philosophy. It will take the form of a semester-long how-to/hands-on manual for how to make science fiction (sf) stories a meaningful and interdisciplinary tool to introduce and explicate both basic and more advanced philosophical questions/theses/problems/concepts. 

As a group, we will apply the maxims of critical thinking by probing the seemingly infinite vastness of the human imagination and the human condition. We will do so by explicating and contextualizing philosophical ideas/conundrums/quandaries that inform popular science fiction texts across media (literature, film/TV, and video games). Ultimately, this class will present itself as an imaginarium of critical thinking offering intellectual and interdisciplinary exchange to entry level as well as advanced philosophy students, culture studies/English language majors, international students, and sf aficionados alike. As Mark Rowlands has emphatically proclaimed, "[p]hilosophy is not about knowing, it’s about doing" (2005: xi).

Lehrmethodik

Pro-seminar mode: mini-lecture input, self-directed library research, group discussions, interpretative activities, peer-led/hosted/organized talks, close readings and critical contextualization of sf texts, work on Moodle, etc.

Be prepared to critically formulate, present & discuss your own (!) thoughts on the topics/texts covered in class since a large part of this class will depend on your concerted input. This class is an interactive and peer-created course and thus students will be expected to engage in self-directed research and to take responsibility for guiding and interacting with their peers. All of the material you will need to get you started will be provided in digital form and/or are in stock and available at the university library.

Inhalt/e

Philosophy and that which we now call science fiction (sf) have been close and comfortable neighbors since long before there was even a term for the genre. Since the onset of (post)modernity, sf has arguably become one of the most popular modes disseminating philosophical ideas/concepts to a much broader public than is possible through any academic publication/treatise. 

What can sf do for you, and what can you do with sf? 

In other words:

  • What does Frankenstein have to do with the meaning of life?
  • How come that Plato’s allegory of the cave and The Matrix films spring from the same well of intellectual inquiry?
  • How can Roy Batty’s ‘tears in rain’ soliloquy in Blade Runner lead us to a deeper appreciation of existentialism?
  • Is Mr. Spock’s logic, which he apparently borrowed from no other than Sherlock Holmes, philosophically sound?
  • Is the “cosmic imperative” (as articulated by the Prothean Javik) in the Mass Effect universe not just another articulation of Darwinist determinism?

These are just a few of the questions that we might encounter on our journey into the world(s) of mind. Both philosophy and science fiction are dependent on our laboratories of the mind to initiate and maintain imaginative as well as imaginary worlds within which thought experiments are conducted. Our minds have three essential philosophical dimensions: 1) the epistemic (i.e. what they know), 2) the metaphysical (i.e. what they are), 3) the ethical (whether their actions are right or wrong).

As we will see, SF stories are not mere escapist fantasies. They are infused with the moral imperative to critically question and re-question the very world, both natural and cultural, that we live in. Andy Sawyer puts forth that the "speculative nature" of SF "invites a speculative response; it requires engagement with thought-experiments that confront and often overturn passive acceptance of contemporary conditions" (2011: 1). As such, sf has the capacity to provide us with educative spaces for reflecting on a broad range of philosophical  issues (free will, the nature of reality and/or time, ethics, human hubris, historiography, etc.) in different popular media formats. As a group, we will find and harness the democratizing spirit that lies at the heart of SF's wide range of allegorical intentions. A diverse range of SF texts across media, covering a number of thought-provoking topics, will form the main textual corpus for this class.

So, get ready to fire up your laboratories of the mind!

Topics areas include but are not limited to:

  • How does SF work? (cognitive estrangement, extrapolation, neologisms, literalization of metaphor, allegory, etc.)
  • Critical thinking, or The Dragon in My Garage (C. Sagan)
  • External world skepticism, "brain in a vat" scenarios
  • Information patternism, computational theory of mind (CTM)
  • Philosophy of mind, epistemology/-ies, metaphysics, neuroethics
  • Techno-progressivism, transhumanism
  • The nature of time (grandfather paradox)

Literatur

Primary

Eberl, Jason. and Decker, K. eds. 2008. Star Trek and Philosophy: The Wrath of Kant. Open Court.
Evans, Arthur B. et al. eds. 2010. The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction. Wesleyan Univ. Press.
Schneider, Susan. 2009. Science Fiction and Philosophy: From Time Travel to Superintelligence. Wiley-Blackwell.
Rowlands, Mark. 2005. The Philosopher at the End of the Universe. Random House.
Vint, Sherryl. 2014. Science Fiction: A Guide for the Perplexed. Bloomsbury.

Secondary

Bould, Mark. et al. eds. 2009. The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction. Routledge.
James, Edward and Farah Mendlesohn. eds. 2003. The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction. CUP.
Sanders, Steven. ed. 2010. The Philosophy of Science Fiction Film. Univ. Press of Kentucky.
Seed, David. ed. 2005. A Companion to Science Fiction. Blackwell Publishing.

A comprehensive transmedial bibliography, which includes titles that are all available either in our library, via the class lecturer or on the internet, will be provided on Moodle. Making use of these resources will be part of the graded performance.

EVERY student is directed & required to obtain and use texts (primary & secondary) which are tied to individual assignments in order to successfully participate in the class. All texts that are tied to graded assignments will be provided in digital form. Other course material (slideshows, reading assignments, films/TV shows, other relevant material etc.) will also be made available in digital form on Moodle.

Prüfungsinformationen

Prüfungsmethode/n

IN-CLASS:
1) Attendance/participation/reading assignments/work on Moodle,
2) "SciPhi instances" – search & showcase
3) "Textual laboratory" – read & discuss
4) "In a Mirror, Darkly" – screen & debate

WRITTEN:
5) A final essay (contextualization/explication/analysis of one philosophical idea/scenario through one or more sf texts of your choice)

Prüfungsinhalt/e

You will need to achieve a positive grade in ALL pillars of assessment (parts 1-5) in order to receive a passing grade for the class ("sudden death-rule").

Sign up for assignments will be conducted via Moodle (first-come, first-served).

Beurteilungskriterien/-maßstäbe

All written assignments MUST be submitted via Moodle before the given deadlines.

Late submissions of ANY assignments that have a deadline attached to them will generally NOT be accepted once the deadline has passed.

Any case of plagiarism will inevitably lead to immediate expulsion from the class.

Prüfungsmethode/n

IN-CLASS:
1) Attendance/participation/reading assignments/work on Moodle,
2) "SciPhi instances" – search & showcase
3) "Textual laboratory" – read & discuss
4) "In a Mirror, Darkly" – screen & debate

WRITTEN:
5) A final essay (contextualization/explication/analysis of one philosophical idea/scenario through one or more sf texts of your choice)

Prüfungsinhalt/e

You will need to achieve a positive grade in ALL pillars of assessment (parts 1-5) in order to receive a passing grade for the class ("sudden death-rule").

Sign up for assignments will be conducted via Moodle (first-come, first-served).

Beurteilungskriterien/-maßstäbe

All written assignments MUST be submitted via Moodle before the given deadlines.

Late submissions of ANY assignments that have a deadline attached to them will generally NOT be accepted once the deadline has passed.

Any case of plagiarism will inevitably lead to immediate expulsion from the class.

Beurteilungsschema

Note/Grade Benotungsschema

Position im Curriculum

  • Bachelorstudium Philosophie (SKZ: 541, Version: 16W.1)
    • Fach: Theoretische Philosophie (Wahlfach)
      • Theoretische Philosophie ( 0.0h VO, PS, SE / 36.0 ECTS)
        • 210.631 "Worlds of mind": Philosophy in/through Science Fiction (2.0h PS / 4.0 ECTS)
          Absolvierung im 1., 2., 3., 4., 5., 6. Semester empfohlen
  • Bachelorstudium Philosophie (SKZ: 541, Version: 10W.2)
    • Fach: Theoretische Philosophie (Wahlfach)
      • Theoretische Philosophie ( 0.0h XX / 36.0 ECTS)
        • 210.631 "Worlds of mind": Philosophy in/through Science Fiction (2.0h PS / 4.0 ECTS)
  • Masterstudium Philosophie (SKZ: 941, Version: 10W.1)
    • Fach: Theoretische Philosophie und ihre Geschichte (Wahlfach)
      • Theoretische Philosophie und ihre Geschichte ( 0.0h XX / 24.0 ECTS)
        • 210.631 "Worlds of mind": Philosophy in/through Science Fiction (2.0h PS / 4.0 ECTS)

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