GC1Y 1000 Critical Thinking: SciFi & Philosophy, Spring 2015

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

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



Dr. Alex E. Blazer


Office Hours: MW 2:00-3:15PM Arts & Sciences 330 and by appointment


Course Description


The course catalog states, "This introductory level course focuses on the development of critical thinking skills within various disciplinary, multidisciplinary, or interdisciplinary contexts. Course materials will emphasis (sic) multiple intellectual approaches to issues, topics, and/or themes; the evaluation of evidence to form appropriate conclusions; the development of effective oral and/or written communication skills. The course will provide appropriate opportunities to engage in learning beyond the classroom." 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. We will read philosophy from Susan Schneider's Science Fiction and Philosophy: From Time Travel to Superintelligence; in addition to Ernst Cline's Ready Player One, we will read science fiction from Michael Phillips' Philosophy and Science Fiction and view science fiction films. 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 subject of free will in Dark City. 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 Doctor Who collected in Doctor Who and Philosophy: Bigger on the Inside. 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 video game like World of Warcraft or a cosplay event—and then write an essay meditating upon the experience. For instance, a student could participate in a cosplay event and compose a reflective essay about how the experience affected her sense of self. Groups of three or four will research philosophical science fiction works outside of the course. For instance, a group could research the philosophy of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Finally, students will take a final essay exam that will test their understanding of the relationship between science fiction and philosophy.


Course Materials


required textbooks (GCSU Bookstore or Amazon)

Cline, Ready Player One

Phillips, Philosophy and Science Fiction

Schneider, Science Fiction and Philosophy

required articles (GeorgiaVIEW)

course packet

required films (

Blade Runner

Dark City


Twelve Monkeys

recommended textbooks (Amazon)

Craig, Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction

Rowlands, Philosophy from Socrates to Schwarzenegger

Seed, Science Fiction: A Very Short Introduction

recommended films (


The Thirteenth Floor

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



We will use the course site for the syllabus schedule and assignment prompts; supporting documents include an attendance record, a course grade calculation spreadsheet, FAQ, a GeorgiaVIEW walkthrough, a guide to literary analysis, a research methods guide, and paper templates. We will use 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 or Spideroak 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 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. The university class attendance policy can be found here. You can check your attendance 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. Feel free to use these 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: failing to regularly attend class, plagiarizing, 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.

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.

Additional Policies

Additional statements regarding the Religious Observance Policy, Assistance for Student Needs Related to Disability, Student Rating of Instruction Survey, Academic Honesty, and Fire Drills can be found here.


Course Schedule

Week 1

M, 1-12


W, 1-14

Schneider, Introduction (Schneider 1-14)

Philips, Introduction (Philips 1-5)

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

Week 2

M, 1-19

No Class: Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday

W, 1-21


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

Philips, "Part 1: Knowledge and the Meaning of Life" (Philips 7-15)

In Class Activity: Philosophical Questions and Passages

Week 3
M, 1-26


Heinlein, "They" (Philips 88-101)

Borges, "The Library of Babel" (Philips 102-10)

Literary Analysis: Fiction

Recommended: Bradbury, "The World the Children Made"

Recommended: Lem, "Solaris" (Philips 17-87)

W, 1-28



Literary Analysis: Film

Recommended: Oblivion

Week 4

M, 2-2


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

W, 2-4


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

Philips, "Part 3: The Elusive Self" (Philips 137-42)

MLA Style: Formatting and Quoting

Week 5

M, 2-9


Leiber, "Catch That Zeppelin!" (Philips 143-59)

Dick, "Impostor" (Philips 160-74)

Recommended: Dick, "The Minority Report"

Recommended: Dick, "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale"

In Class Activity: Brainstorming the Philosophical Essay

Group Project Sign Up

W, 2-11


Dark City

Recommended: The Thirteenth Floor

Week 6

M, 2-16

Writing Day: Bring Your Laptops

Philosophical Essay Due

W, 2-18


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

Romney, "Games Pixels Play"

In Class Activity: Composing an Annotation

Week 7

M, 2-23


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

Philips, "Part 4: Persons, Minds, and the Essentially Human" (Philips 175-82)

Research Methods

W, 2-25


Asimov, "The Bicentennial Man" (Philips 183-216)

Causey, "The Show Must Go On" (Philips 217-24)

Aldiss, "Who Can Replace a Man?" (Philips 225-36)

In Class Activity: Questioning Humanity

Group Project Topics Due

Week 8

M, 3-2


Blade Runner

W, 3-4


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

Week 9
M, 3-9


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

Philips, "Part 5: Moral Dilemmas" (Philips 237-46)

MLA Style: Citing

W, 3-11


Sutton, "Soul Mate" (Philips 247-59)

Boucher, "Balaam" (Philips 273-7)

Sheckley, "Seventh Victim" (278-94)

Week 10
M, 3-16

No Class: Spring Break

W, 3-18

No Class: Spring Break

Week 11
M, 3-23

Writing Day: Bring Your Laptops

W, 3-25


Cline, Ready Player One (Cline 1-189)

Roundtable Discussion of Books

Book Summary Due

Week 12

M, 3-30

Cline, Ready Player One (Cline 190-372)

Group Project Presentation 1

W, 4-1


Belk, "Extended Self in a Digital World"

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

Group Project Presentation 2

Week 13
M, 4-6


Golumbia, "Games without Play"

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

Group Project Presentation 3

W, 4-8


Duchesne, "Stardom/Fandom"

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

Group Project Presentation 4

Week 14
M, 4-13


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

Lamerichs, "Stranger Than Fiction: Fan Identity in Cosplay"

Group Project Presentation 5

W, 4-15


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

Group Project Presentation 6

Week 15
M, 4-20

Roundtable Discussion of Experiences

Reflective Essay Due

W, 4-22


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

Philips, "Part 2: Trips through Time and Logical Space" (Philips 111-7)

Week 16

M, 4-27


Heinlein, "All You Zombies—" (Philips 111-27)

Spinrad, "The Weed of Time" (Philips 128-37)

Exam Topics

W, 4-29


Twelve Monkeys

M, 5-4

Exam Review

T, 5-5

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

F, 5-8

Final Exam 6:00-8:15PM (5:00 Section)