GC1Y 1000 Critical Thinking: SciFi & Philosophy, Fall 2013

Section 20: MW 2:00-3:15PM, Arts & Sciences 353

Section 21: TR 3:30-4:45PM, Arts & Sciences 368



Dr. Alex E. Blazer


Office Hours: MTW 1:15-1:45PM Arts & Sciences 330, R 1:15-1:45PM Blackbird,

and by appointment


Course Description


This GC1Y section will interpret science fiction (and sometimes fantasy) literature, film, television, gaming culture (such as role playing, live-action role playing, and video games), and fan culture (such as fanzines, fan fiction, and cosplay) through the lens of philosophy. Students will not only analyze scifi and fantasy works from a literary perspective but also learn the philosophical concepts that these works explore, such as the nature of reality, the nature of knowledge, free will, ethics, and politics. The course's primary textbook is Susan Schneider's Science Fiction and Philosophy: From Time Travel to Superintelligence. Recommended textbooks include David Seed's Science Fiction: A Very Short Introduction, Edward Craig’s Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction, and Rowlands' Philosophy from Socrates to Schwarzenegger. Students will read short fiction by Asimov, Bradbury, Dick, Gibson, Heinlein, and Wells and view such films as Blade Runner, Dark City, Inception, La Jetée, and RoboCop. (Can I Stream It? provides links to films on streaming services like Amazon, iTunes, and Netflix.) Finally, students will read scholarly journal articles about fan fiction, live-action role-playing games, massively multiplayer online role-playing games, and cosplay. Students will provide a tentative reading of the philosophical issues of a text in a discussion board response. In the first formal paper, students will interpret an in-class text through the lens of a philosophical concept. For instance, a student could analyze the ethics of future crime and contemporary punishment in Dick's "The Minority Report." For the second formal paper, students will summarize and evaluate a book from Open Court Press's Popular Culture and Philosophy or Wiley's Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture series. For instance, a student could review the philosophical conversations regarding Star Wars collected in Star Wars and Philosophy: More Powerful Than You Can Possibly Imagine. For the learning beyond the classroom component of the course, students will participate in a science fiction and fantasy activity—such as a role playing board game like Magic: The Gathering, role playing video game like World of Warcraft, a Renaissance fair, or a convention like Dragon Con in Atlanta—and then write an essay meditating upon the experience. For instance, a student could attend Dragon Con and compose a reflective essay about how the experience affected her sense of self. Groups of three or four will research imaginative works and philosophies from around the globe. For instance, a group could investigate the scifi/fantasy and philosophical traditions of Latin America by looking at such figures as Luis Borges, who was influenced by the existential philosophy of Spinoza, and Gabriel García Márquez, whose magical realism not only expands the nature of reality but also engages the political philosophy that de-centers the Other. Finally, students will take a final essay exam that will test their understanding of the relationship between science fiction and philosophy.


Course Materials


required textbook (Amazon)

Schneider, Science Fiction and Philosophy

required films (

Blade Runner

Dark City


La Jetée

The Matrix (TR 2:00PM section only)


required articles and short stories (GeorgiaVIEW)

course packet

recommended textbooks (Amazon)

Adler, How to Read a Book

Craig, Science Fiction: A Very Short Introduction

Philips, Philosophy and Science Fiction

Rowlands, Philosophy from Socrates to Schwarzenegger

Seed, Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction

recommended websites

Philosophy Bites

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy


Assignments and Grade Distribution


2 discussion board responses, 5% each

You will sign up to summarize for the class both a philosophical reading and a short story or film in two separate 2-3 page responses.

philosophical essay, 20%

You will interpret a short story or film through the lens of a philosophical concept in a 4-5 page essay.

book summary, 15%

You will annotate the essays in an edited book collection about a science fiction or fantasy novel, film, comic book, or video game.

group project, 15%

In groups of 4-5, you will analyze, research, and present to the class the philosophical as well as science fiction traditions of a country or region.

reflective essay, 15%

You will participate in a science fiction and fantasy event or activity and reflect upon the experience.

exam, 25%

You will take a final essay exam that will test your understanding of the relationship between science fiction and philosophy.


Course Policies


Class Preparation and Participation

We're going to be working with challenging texts; therefore, we'll all benefit from sharing our ideas and questions. I expect you to come to class having read, annotated, and reviewed the assigned reading. To make sure your reading is active, I suggest you also prepare a few comments and questions for each selection. If I feel that the class is not participating because it's not keeping up with the reading, I will give pop quizzes.

Office Hours and Email

I encourage you to visit my office hours to discuss any aspect of the course. I am happy to answer minor questions such as due dates over email, but I prefer face-to-face conversations for more substantive topics like papers and exams. Please use etiquette in both email and in person.


We will be using GeorgiaVIEW for assignment submission and electronic course reserves. Check your university email for course-related messages. Use an online backup or cloud storage service such as Dropbox to not only save but also archive versions of your work in case of personal computer calamities.


Because this liberal arts course values contemporaneous discussion over fixed lecture, regular attendance is required. Any student who misses seven or more classes for any reason (excused or unexcused) will automatically fail the course. There will be a one letter final grade deduction for every unexcused absence beyond three. I suggest you use your three days both cautiously and wisely; and make sure you sign the attendance sheets. Habitual tardies, consistently leaving class early, texting, and surfing the internet will be treated as absences. Unexcused absences include work, family obligations, and scheduled doctor's appointments. Excused absences include family emergency, medical emergency, religious observance, and participation in a college-sponsored activity. If you have a medical condition or an extracurricular activity that you anticipate will cause you to miss more than four days of class, I suggest you drop this section or risk failure. You can check your attendance online. A note about religious observances: Students are permitted to miss class in observance of religious holidays and other activities observed by a religious group of which the student is a member without academic penalty. Exercising of one's rights under this policy is subject to the GC Honor Code. Students who miss class in observance of a religious holiday or event are required to make up the coursework missed as a result from the absence. The nature of the make-up assignments and the deadline for completion of such assignments are at the sole discretion of the instructor. Failure to follow the prescribed procedures voids all student rights under this policy. The full religious observance policy can be found here. The university class attendance policy can be found here.

MLA Style and Length Requirements

Part of writing in a discipline is adhering to the field's style guide. While other disciplines use APA or Chicago style, literature and composition follows MLA style. In-class exams, discussion board responses, informal/journal writing, and peer review may be informally formatted; however, formal assignments and take-home exams must employ MLA style. One-third of a letter grade will be deducted from a formal paper or take-home exam for problems in each of the following three categories, for a possible one letter grade deduction total: 1) margins, header, and heading, 2) font, font size, and line-spacing, and 3) quotation and citation format. A formal paper or take-home exam will be penalized one-third of a letter grade if it does not end at least halfway down on the minimum page length (not including Works Cited page)while implementing 12 pt Times New Roman font, double-spacing, and 1" margins. Each additional page short of the minimum requirement will result in an a additional one-third letter grade penalty. It is your responsibility to learn how to control your word-processing program. Before you turn in a formal paper, make sure your work follows MLA style by referring to the FAQ handout and using the MLA style checklist. I encourage students to use my templates that are preformatted to MLA style.

Late Assignments

We're all busy with multiple classes and commitments, and adhering to deadlines is critical for the smooth running of the course. There will be a one letter assignment grade deduction per day (not class period) for any assignment that is turned in late. I give short extensions if you request one for a valid need at least one day before the assignment is due. I will inform you via email if I cannot open an electronically submitted assignment; however, your assignment will be considered late until you submit it in a file I can open. Because your completion of this course's major learning outcomes depends on the completion of pertinent assignments, failing to submit an assignment that is worth 15% or more of the course grade within a five days of its due date will result in automatic failure of the course. Failing to submit a final exam or final paper within two days of its due date will result in automatic failure of the course.

Academic Honesty

The integrity of students and their written and oral work is a critical component of the academic process. The Honor Code defines plagiarism as "presenting as one's own work the words or ideas of an author or fellow student. Students should document quotes through quotation marks and footnotes or other accepted citation methods. Ignorance of these rules concerning plagiarism is not an excuse. When in doubt, students should seek clarification from the professor who made the assignment." The submission of another's work as one's own is plagiarism and will be dealt with using the procedures outlined in the Undergraduate Catalog. Allowing another student to copy one’s own work is considered cheating; and submitting the same paper in two classes (recycling or double-dipping) is dishonest. As plagiarism is not tolerated at GCSU, any student found guilty of substantial, willful plagiarism or dishonesty will fail the assignment and the course. Here is how I have dealt with plagiarists in the past. This course uses plagiarism prevention technology from TurnItIn. The papers may be retained by the service for the sole purpose of checking for plagiarized content in future student submissions.

Passing or Failing of the Course

There are three ways to fail the course: 1) failing to regularly attend class, 2) plagiarizing, 3) failing an assignment that is worth 15% or more of the course grade, be it from poor quality, lateness of submission, or a combination of poor quality and lateness. By contrast, students who regularly attend class, complete their work with academic integrity, and submit assignments on time will pass the course.

Assistance for Student Needs Related to Disability

If you have a disability as described by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504, you may be eligible to receive accommodations to assist in programmatic and physical accessibility.  Disability Services, a unit of the GCSU Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, can assist you in formulating a reasonable accommodation plan and in providing support in developing appropriate accommodations to ensure equal access to all GCSU programs and facilities. Course requirements will not be waived, but accommodations may assist you in meeting the requirements.  For documentation requirements and for additional information, we recommend that you contact Disability Services located in Lanier Hall at 478-445-5931 or 478-445-4233.

The Writing Center

The Writing Center is a free service available to all members of the university community. Consultants assist writers in the writing process, from conception and organization of compositions to revision to documentation of research. Located in Library 228, the Center is open Monday through Friday. Call 445-3370 or email for more information.

Fire Drills

Fire drills will be conducted annually. In the event of a fire alarm, students will exit the building in a quick and orderly manner through the nearest hallway exit. Learn the floor plan and exits of the building. Do not use elevators. If you encounter heavy smoke, crawl on the floor so as to gain fresh air. Assist disabled persons and others if possible without endangering your own life. Assemble for a head count on the front lawn of main campus or other designated assembly area. For more information on other emergencies, click here.

Student Opinion Surveys

Given the technological sophistication of Georgia College students, the student opinion survey is being delivered through an online process. Your constructive feedback plays an indispensable role in shaping quality education at Georgia College. All responses are completely confidential and your name is not stored with your responses in any way. In addition, instructors will not see any results of the opinion survey until after final grades are submitted to the University. An invitation to complete the online opinion survey is distributed to students near the end of the semester. Your participation in this very important process is greatly appreciated.


Course Schedule

Week 1

M, 8-19

T, 8-20


W, 8-21

R, 8-22

Schneider, Introduction (Schneider 1-14)

Craig, "How Do We Know?" and "What Am I?" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Week 2

M, 8-26

T, 8-27


Schneider, "Part I: Could I be in a 'Matrix' or Computer Simulation?" [1 Pollock, 2 Bostrom, 3 Plato, 4 Descartes, 5 Chalmers] (15-52)

In Class Activity: Philosophical Questions and Passages

W, 8-28

R, 8-29


Bradbury, "The World the Children Made" (GAV)

Heinlein, "They" (GAV)

Literary Analysis: Fiction

Week 3
M, 9-2

No Class: Labor Day Holiday

T, 9-3


The Matrix

W, 9-4

R, 9-5



Literary Analysis: Film

Week 4

M, 9-9

T, 9-10


Schneider, "Part II: What Am I? Free Will and the Nature of Persons" [6 Dennett, 7 Olson, 8 Parfit] (53-98)

W, 9-11

R, 9-12


Schneider, "Part II: What Am I?" continued [9 Kurzweil, 10 Huemer, 11 Goldman] (99-114)

MLA Style

In Class Activity: Brainstorming the Philosophical Essay

Week 5

M, 9-16

T, 9-17


Dick, "The Minority Report" (GAV)

Dick, "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" (GAV)

W, 9-18

R, 9-19

Writing Day: Bring Your Laptops

Philosophical Essay Due

Week 6

M, 9-23

T, 9-24


Dark City

Knight and McKnight, "What Is It to Be Human?: Blade Runner and Dark City" (GAV)

In Class Activity: Composing an Annotation

Group Project Sign Up

W, 9-25

R, 9-26


Schneider, "Part III: Mind: Natural, Artificial, Hybrid, and 'Super'" [12 Asimov, 13 Clark, 14 Block] (115-69)

Week 7

M, 9-30

T, 10-1


Schneider, "Part III: Mind" continued [15 Clark, 16 Dennett, 17 Kurzweil] (170-224)

Research Methods

W, 10-2

R, 10-3


Asimov, "The Bicentennial Man" (GAV)

Gibson, "Johnny Mnemonic" (GAV)

Group Project Topics Due

Week 8

M, 10-7

T, 10-8


Blade Runner

W, 10-9

R, 10-10


Schneider, "Part IV: Ethical and Political Issues" [18 Annas, 19 Schneider, 20 Leslie] (225-58)

Week 9
M, 10-14
T, 10-15

No Class: Fall Break

W, 10-16
R, 10-17


Schneider, "Part IV: Ethical" continued [21 Anderson, 22 Bostrom] (259-84)

Week 10
M, 10-21
T, 10-22


Wells, A Story of the Days to Come (This novella is on Project Gutenberg rather than in the GeorgiaVIEW course packet.)

W, 10-23
R, 10-24

Writing Day: Bring Your Laptops

Book Summary Due

Week 11
M, 10-28
T, 10-29

Roundtable Discussion of Books

W, 10-30
R, 10-31



In Class Activity: Robocop

Week 12

M, 11-4

T, 11-5


Belk, "Extended Self in a Digital World" (GAV)

Roesler, "The Self in Cyberspace: Identity Formation in Postmodern Societies and Jung's Self as an Objective Psyche" (GAV)

Group Project Presentation 1

W, 11-6


Golumbia, "Games without Play" (GAV)

Golub, "Being in the World (of Warcraft): Raiding, Realism, and Knowledge Production in a Massively Multiplayer Online Game" (GAV)

Group Project Presentation 2

R, 11-7

No Class: Professor at Conference

TR 3:30 Section: Golumbia, Golub, and Group Project Presentation 2 are due T, 11-12; further information

Week 13
M, 11-11
T, 11-12


Duchesne, "Stardom/Fandom" (GAV)

Derecho, "Archontic Literature: A Definition, a History, and Several Theories of Fan Fiction" (GAV)

Group Project Presentation 3

W, 11-13
R, 11-14


Pierson-Smith, "Fashioning the Fantastical Self: An Examination of the Cosplay Dress-up Phenomenon in Southeast Asia" (GAV)

Lamerichs, "Stranger Than Fiction: Fan Identity in Cosplay" (GAV)

Group Project Presentation 4

Week 14
M, 11-18
T, 11-19


Schneider, "Part V: Space and Time" [23 Bradbury, 24 Sider] (285-309)

Group Project Presentation 5

W, 11-20
R, 11-21


Schneider, "Part V: Space" continued [25 Lewis, 26 Deutsch, 27 Hanley] (310-42)

Group Project Presentation 6

Week 15
M, 11-25
T, 11-26

Roundtable Discussion of Experiences

Reflective Essay Due

W, 11-27
R, 11-28

No Class: Thanksgiving Holidays

Week 16

M, 12-2

T, 12-3


Heinlein, "All You Zombies—" (GAV)

Spinrad, "The Weed of Time" (GAV)

Exam Topics

W, 12-4

R, 12-5


La Jetée

T, 12-10

Final Exam 3:30-5:45PM (MW 2:00 Section)

R, 12-12

Final Exam 1:00-3:15PM (TR 3:30 Section)