PHIL 7N: Philosophy and Science Fiction
What if things had been otherwise? What if things are someday, somewhere, very different than they are here and now? Science fiction and other genre fiction gives us the opportunity to explore worlds that stretch our conceptions of reality, of what it is to have a mind, to be human, and to communicate with one another. This course examines central questions in philosophy through the lens of speculative fiction. Can there be freedom in a deterministic world? How could language and communication evolve? What is a mind, and what is the nature of experience? How can we know what the world is like? We'll read classical and contemporary papers in philosophy alongside short stories, novels, and movies that play the role of thought experiments in illuminating philosophical issues.
Meet the Instructor
"I studied physics in college because I wanted to know how the world worked, and physics has a romance to it, where you think you're going to discover the secrets of the universe and figure out how to go to space and travel the stars. I've always loved science fiction, and in my junior year of college I enrolled in a Philosophy of Mind and Science Fiction class for fun. It turned out to be my favorite class (and favorite professor) in college and convinced me that I should switch to neuroscience because…how can we know how the world works without first knowing how we work? I ended up getting a Ph.D. in neuroscience before getting pulled back into philosophical issues about the mind, and now I'm working on exactly the questions that we'll be discussing in this class, and I still find them fascinating. I'm excited to be carrying on the tradition of teaching this class—with some of my favorite stories."