GC1Y 1000 Critical Thinking: SciFi & Philosophy, Spring 2015

Section 26: MW 3:30-4:45PM, Arts & Sciences 366

Section 25: TR 5:00-6:15PM, Arts & Sciences 366

In Class Activities

1. Philosophical Questions and Passages

In order to get to know some of your peers and help everyone become accustomed to discussing philosophical issues, today we're going to

  1. divide into groups of 4-5,
  2. articulate or extrapolate the key philosophical question posed by the article,
  3. explain the article's main philosophical concept, and
  4. explicate two significant passages from the article.

Here are the article groups:

  1. John Pollock, "Brain in a Vat"
  2. Nick Bostrom, "Are You in a Computer Simulation?" (3:30 Matthew Kuhn, 5:00 Betsy Luttrell)
  3. Plato, excerpt from The Republic (3:30 Ian Moran)
  4. René Descartes, excerpt from The Meditations on First Philosophy
  5. David J. Chalmers, "The Matrix as Metaphysics"

2. Brainstorming the Philosophical Essay

Spend five minutes on your own brainstorming a possible topic for the upcoming philosophical paper by answering the following questions:

  1. What philosophical question(s) does the short story or film pose?
  2. What philosophical conflicts or debates does the short story or film illustrate?
  3. To what philosophical conclusions does the short story or film come?
  4. Which two philosophical essays include concepts that are aptly applied in the short story or film?

Next, find a partner and spend ten minutes sharing and evaluating each others' answers to the above questions.

3. Composing an Annotation for an Annotated Bibliography

After discussing Dark City as a class, let's break into groups of 3-4 in order to practice writing an annotation for the annotated bibliography coming up in the Book Summary and Group Project. Each 75-100 word annotation should summarize and evaluate Romney's scholarly journal article "Games Pixels Play" by

  1. identifying the question, issue, or topic that the source is investigating,
  2. defining the source's thesis or conclusion regarding Dark City, and
  3. explaining how the essay helps your literary and philosophical understanding of Dark City text.

4. Questioning Humanity

Today, let's divide into our project groups in order to spend five minutes finalizing and then submit our two potential topics to GeorgiaVIEW > Course Work > Dropbox > Group Project. Next, spend 15 minutes discussing the following questions about robots and humanity in your group's short story assigned from the three stories we read today. Students who responded to the stories on GeorgiaVIEW will report their responses and their group's discussions.


Here are the stories and respondents:

  1. Isaac Asimov, "The Bicentennial Man" (Nicholas Griffith, Olivia Granger)
  2. James Causey, "The Show Must Go On" (Caitlin McKeon)
  3. Brian W. Aldiss, "Who Can Replace a Man?" (Dani Tawil, Kyle Mitchell)

Here are the questions:

  1. How are robots characterized in the story, i.e., what is their core trait?
  2. How are humans characterized in the story, i.e., what is their core trait?
  3. What is the core conflict in the story and how is it resolved?
  4. What does the story say about humanity?

Two Discussion Board Responses

The scheduled discussion board responses serve three purposes:

  1. to practice responding to philosophical and literary ideas,
  2. to share initial understandings of texts to the discussion board the weekend before in-class discussion, and
  3. to practice informal presentation skills and direct class discussion.

Philosophy Response

Summarize and evaluate—appreciate and interrogate—one of the philosophical readings for the scheduled day. What is the main idea of the text and how does it function in human life? What questions do you have of the main idea and how do you assess the value and validity of the idea?

Fiction Response

While avoiding plot summary, analyze the characters and conflicts and posit what main thematic and philosophical ideas the story or film suggests. What are the core issues of the work, and with what philosophical concepts does the work tarry? How do you respond or answer back to the ideas posed by the story?

Informal Presentation

Without simply reading your written response, you will also be responsible for a brief, informal presentation, which should either introduce the philosophical essay by defining key points and terms and main ideas and broaching issues for class discussion or introduce the short story/film by explaining key characters and conflicts and themes and broaching questions for class discussion.


Sign Up

Sign up for two responses, one Philosophy (P) and one Fiction (F), at least two weeks apart.


The syllabus schedule provides complete author and title information regarding the texts below.


GAV Due Date


Due Date

Text 3:30PM Student 5:00PM Student
S, 1-18

W, 1-21


Pollock, or Bostrom

P1 Matthew Kuhn Betsy Luttrell

Plato, Descartes, or Chalmers

P2 Ian Moran Raeshawn Williams


S, 1-25

M, 1-26


F1 Hayden Shields Franky Filto


F2 Will Borgognoni Janileyah Thompson

W, 1-28


F3 Luke Johnson Rachel Norris
F4 Perry Heilbron Paul Miles/Sean Montgomery
S, 2-1

M, 2-2

Dennett, Olson, or Parfit

P3 Parker Sutliff Lauren Kirby
P4 Graham Gordon Franky Filto

W, 2-4

Kurzweil, Huemer, or Goldman

P5 Rachael Jones Bryce Warren/Paul Miles
P6 Dani Tawil Jordan Randall
S, 2-8

M, 2-9


F5 Heather Hensley Lindsey James


F6 Kevin Tormeno Spencer Frost


Dark City

F7 Lynnie Sears Mickell Dennis
F8 Jonathan Kaplan Raeshawn Williams
S, 2-15

W, 2-18

Asimov, Clark, or Block

P7 Josh Havrilla Janileyah Thompson
P8 Perry Heilbron Olivia Granger
S, 2-22

M, 2-23

Clark, Dennett, or Kurzweil

P9 Erin Cross Rachel Norris
P10 Abbi Schelkopf Spencer McCollum

W, 2-25


F9 Nicholas Griffith Olivia Granger


F10 Caitlin McKeon


F11 Dani Tawil Kyle Mitchell
S, 3-1

M, 3-2

Blade Runner

F12 Ian Moran Betsy Luttrell
F13 Parker Sutliff/Ryan Starr Lauren Kirby

W, 3-4

Annas, Schneider, or Leslie

P11 Lynnie Searsha Mickell Dennis/Shelby Munyan
P12 Heather Hensley Brandon Wharton
S, 3-8
M, 3-9

Anderson or Bostrom

P13 Luke Johnson Troup Ackerman
P14 Nicholas Griffith/Parker Sutliff Sean Montgomery

W, 3-11


F14 Erin Cross
Nicholas Bourne


F15 Abbi Schelkopf Brandon Wharton


F16 Spencer McCollum
S, 3-22
W, 3-25

Cline (1-189)

F17 Alexis Yi Shelby Munyan
F18 Graham Gordon John Smith
S, 3-29

M, 3-30

Cline (190-372)

F19 Josh Havrilla Katie Flom
F20 William Makepeace Ryan Agnew

W, 4-1




P16 Kevin Tormeno John Smith
S, 4-5

M, 4-6


P17 Ryan Starr Ryan Agnew


P18 Will Borgognoni Kyle Mitchell
W, 4-8


P19 William Davis Spencer Frost


P20 Mitchell Johnson Nicholas Bourne
S, 4-12

M, 4-13


P21 William Makepeace Sarah Finch


P22 Alexis Yi Lindsey James
W, 4-15


F21 Mitchell Johnson Sarah Finch


P23 Jonathan Kaplan Caitlin McKeon
S, 4-19

W, 4-22

Lewis, Deutsch, or Henley

P24 Andrew Newmark Katie Flom
S, 4-26
M, 4-27


F22 William Davis Bryce Warren


F23 Andrew Newmark Jordan Randall
W, 4-29

Twelve Monkeys

F24 Matthew Kuhn Troup Ackerman

Philosophical Essay

We have discussed the nature of reality and the self with the help of philosophers such a Pollock, Bostrom, Plato, Descartes, Chalmers, Dennett, Olson, Parfit, Kurzweil, Huemer, and Goldman. As a class, we have applied their philosophical concepts to short stories by Heinlein, Borges, Leiber, and Dick as well as the films Inception and Dark City. Many of you have written philosophical or literary responses to these texts. For the first formal paper, you will interpret a short story or film through the lens of a philosophical concept in a 4-5 page essay. Choose a short story or film on the syllabus up to Wednesday, February 11 (besides the short stories and films mentioned above, you may write about the recommended short stories by Bradbury, Lem, and Dick as well as the recommended films Oblivion and The Thirteenth Floor). Write a well-focused, well-organized, thesis-driven essay, formatted in MLA style, that combines philosophical and literary analysis of the short story or film, making sure to incorporate pertinent ideas from at least two of the philosophical texts we have read so far. Beside quoting and analyzing significant passages from both philosophical and literary texts, your essay should answer the following questions: What philosophical question(s) does the text pose? What philosophical concept(s) does the text convey? What conflict(s) and theme(s) does the text suggest, and how do the conflict(s) and theme(s) apply the philosophical questions and ideas?


Book Summary

You will annotate the essays in an edited book collection from Wiley's The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series or Open Court Publishing Company's Popular Culture and Philosophy Series about a science fiction or fantasy novel, film, comic book, or video game. These books are called secondary sources that critically comment upon the primary text of the novel, film, etc.


After signing up below, request your book from interlibrary loan or purchase your book through an online bookstore like Amazon or direct from the publisher.


While a normal annotated bibliography requires you to summarize books, book chapters, and scholarly journal articles for a research paper, the bibliography you annotate in this class focuses solely on the chapters in your scholarly book on a science fiction or fantasy product. You should annotate at least 10 critical essays from the collection. Each 75-100 word annotation should summarize and evaluate a research source by

  1. identifying the philosophical issue or question that the essay is investigating,
  2. defining the secondary source's thesis or conclusion regarding the primary text's philosophical theme, and
  3. explaining how the essay helps your understanding of the primary text.

After you've written the annotations, write 2 pages summarizing the dominant philosophical trends and issues you see running through the entire book.


Sign Up

Book Publisher 3:30 Student 5:00 Student

The Matrix



Buffy the Vampire Slayer


1 Lynnie Sears  

The Lord of the Rings


2 Luke Johnson 1 Ryan Agnew

Harry Potter


  2 Rachel Norris

The Matrix (2: More)



Star Wars


3 Mitchell Johnson 3 Sarah Finch




The Chronicles of Narnia


4 Will Borgognoni 4 Spencer MeCollum

The Undead



Battlestar Galactica



Star Trek


  5 Lauren Kirby

The Legend of Zelda


5 Alexis Yi 6 Shelby Munyan

The Wizard of Oz


  7 Caitlin McKeon

The Transformers


6 William Makepeace 8 John Smith




The Golden Compass


  9 Spencer Frost

World of Warcraft



Zombies, Vampires



Doctor Who


  10 Janileyah Thompson






7 Matthew Kuhn  



8 Ryan Starr  

Philip K. Dick



Neil Gaiman



The Walking Dead


9 Heather Hensley 11 Franky Filto/12 Troup Ackerman

Dungeons and Dragons



Planet of the Apes


10 Graham Gordon  






11 William Davis  

Ender's Game


12 Jonathan Kaplan 13 Lindsey James

Jurassic Park


13 Abbi Schelkopf  




Dungeons and Dragons





  14 Jordan Randall

Ender's Game


14 Ian Moran  




The Hobbit


  15 Katie Flom



15 Parker Sutliff 16 Paul Miles

Game of Thrones


16 Nicholas Griffith 17 Nicholas Bourne

The Avengers


17 Josh Havrilla 18 Mickell Dennis

The Walking Dead


18 Dani Tawil 19 Kyle Mitchell

The Hunger Games


19 Erin Cross  



20 Kevin Tormeno  

Green Lantern



True Blood





21 Perry Heilbron  

Harry Potter


  20 Olivia Granger

Iron Man


22 Andrew Newmark 21 Bryce Warren

Alice in Wonderland


  22 Sean Montgomery

Final Fantasy

















  23 Brandon Wharton




Battlestar Galactica


  24 Betsy Luttrell

Lost (2: Ultimate)



Group Project

As a class we have discussed various philosophical issues in multiple short stories and film from mostly American authors. Individually, you have written about the philosophical concepts explored in a single literary or filmic text in the philosophical essay, and you have read and summarized a book in the Popular Culture and Philosophy series. Next, as a group, you will research and analyze either a prominent science fiction or fantasy author or a science fiction or fantasy genre (but not studied in the book summary assignment), by interpreting one of the author's or genre's significant texts, explaining the author's or genre's science fiction or fantasy context and tradition, and articulating the predominant philosophical questions of the author or genre while comparing and contrasting the philosophical concerns to a few in-class readings. Your group will compose an annotated bibliography that summarizes your 12-15 best research sources (12 for 4 member groups, 15 for 5 member groups) and give a presentation to the class that interprets the author or genre's representative text, explains the literary tradition from which the author or genre derives, and articulates the author's or genre's core philosophical issues. Each 75-100 word annotation should summarize and evaluate a research source by

  1. identifying the question, issue, or topic that the source is investigating,
  2. defining the source's thesis or conclusion regarding the author, genre, or text being researched, and
  3. explaining how the essay helps your literary and/or philosophical understanding of the author, genre, or text.


Possible authors include, but are not limited to:

  1. Douglas Adams, Great Britain
  2. Margaret Atwood, Canada
  3. Jorge Luis Borges, Argentina
  4. Stanislaw Lem, Russia

Possible genres include, but are not limited to:

1. mecha, Japan

2. biopunk, America

3. cyberpunk anime or manga, Japan

4. steampunk, Great Britain


Provide two possible, researchable topics for professor approval by Wednesday, February 25 in GeorgiaVIEW > Course Work > Dropbox > Group Project.

Preliminary Bibliography

Provide a tentative list of 5 scholarly journal articles and 5 books/book chapters at least two weeks before the presentation date in GeorgiaVIEW > Course Work > Dropbox > Group Project.


Sign Up

Group 3:30 Topic/Students 5:00 Topics/Student


date: Monday, 3-30
genre: space opera
text: Star Wars
date: Monday, 3-30
genre: cyberpunk
text: The Terminator
1 Erin Cross  
2 Will Davis Lauren Kirby
3 Josh Havrilla Shelby Munyan
4 William Makepeace Janileyah Thompson


date: Wednesday, 4-1
author: Stephen King
text: Under the Dome
Wednesday, 4-1
genre: post-apocalyptic scifi
text: The Planet of the Apes
5 Heather Hensley Mickell Dennis
6 Spencer Frost
7 Abbi Schelkopf John Smith
8 Dani Tawil Brandon Wharton


date: Monday, 4-6
genre: dystopian scifi
text: Lowry, The Giver
date: Monday, 4-6
genre: science fantasy
text: Alice in Wonderland
9 Ian Moran Sarah Finch
10 Ryan Starr Katie Flom
11 Caitlin McKeon
12 Kevin Tormeno Rachel Norris


date: Wednesday, 4-8
author: Ray Bradbury
text: "The World the Children Made"
date: Wednesday, 4-8
genre: military scifi
text: Card, Ender's Game
13 Graham Gordon Ryan Agnew
14 Luke Johnson Olivia Granger
15 Jonathan Kaplan Betsy Luttrell
16 Matt Kuhn Spencer McCollum


date: Monday, 4-13
genre: military scifi
text: Niven, Ringworld
date: Monday, 4-13
genre: time travel
text: Back to the Future
17 Will Borgognoni Troup Ackerman
18 Perry Heilbron Nicholas Bourne
19 Mitch Johnson Franky Filto
20 Andrew Newmark Lindsey James / Sean Montgomery


date: Wednesday, 4-15
author: Joss Whedon
text: Dollhouse
date: Wednesday, 4-15
genre: space opera
text: Star Wars
21 Nicholas Griffith Paul Miles
22 Katie Lynn Sears Kyle Mitchell
23 Alexis Yi Jordan Randall
24 Bryce Warren

Reflective Essay

At this point in the course, you have 1) written short responses to short stories, films, and philosophical essays, 2) written a full-length essay proving how a short story or film applies philosophical concepts, 3) summarized a book illustrating how philosophy applies to a science fiction or fantasy work, and 4) worked in groups to analyze, research, and teach to the class the philosophical conflicts and themes of a science fiction work. For the learning beyond the classroom component of the course, you will participate in a science fiction and fantasy social activity—such as a role playing board game like Dungeons & Dragons, massively multi-player online role playing game (MMORPG) like World of Warcraft, a Renaissance fair, or a convention like Dragon Con in Atlanta—and then write an essay critically analyzing the experience. For instance, you could attend Dragon Con and compose a reflective essay thinking about how the experience affected your sense of self and/or reality, in the philosophical ways we've been discussing, like Pierson-Smith's and Lamerichs', to support your ideas. Your essay has three goals: first, describe and analyze the social experience you attended and/or participated in; second, reflect upon the experience by making a claim about the key philosophical ideas that are in play, and, third, incorporate ideas from two applicable philosophical essays from our course.



You have responded both informally and formally to both literature and philosophy, you have researched the philosophy informing science fiction, and you have reflected upon a participatory science fiction or fantasy experience. For the final assignment, you will be examined on the literature and philosophy we have collectively studied on the syllabus after the formal philosophical essay (Wednesday, February 18 through Wednesday, April 29; the exam does not include book summaries, group projects, and reflective experiences).




In class on Monday, April 27, we will generate topics from which the questions will be generated. The topics will be posted here on Wednesday, April 29.


3:30 Section Topics

  1. created realities
  2. constructed identities
  3. ethics and morality
  4. the limits of the human mind
  5. scifi socialization and performance
  6. theories and stories of time travel

5:00 Section Topics

  1. created realities
  2. the enhanced self
  3. ethics and morality
  4. consciousness and technology
  5. scifi socialization and performance
  6. ethics and paradoxes of time travel

In order to prepare for the in class, closed book essay exam, I strongly recommend that you create a study guide based upon your annotations of the reading, the discussion board responses, and your class notes. For each short story or film, note the key characters and their traits, core conflicts, philosophical themes, and pertinent quotations. For each philosophical essay, note the key questions and issues, philosophical concepts and conclusions, and pertinent quotations. This guide will look very similar to an annotated bibliography. After creating the study guide, I suggest applying various readings into the comparative topics, noting that not every reading will be appropriate for every topic, and constructing potential comparative thesis statements. Although you will not know the exact questions, you can practice putting different readings into comparison and contrast, and this will help you prepare for the actual essay exam.


In the 135 minutes of exam time, you will write three thesis-driven essays, from a choice of five or six questions, spending about 45 minutes writing each essay, and comparing and contrasting philosophical concepts and literary work. Bring your own blue book or notebook paper.