GC1Y 1000 Critical Thinking: SciFi & Philosophy, Spring 2016

Section 18: MW 2:00-3:15PM, Arts & Sciences 366

Section 19: MW 3:30-4:45PM, Arts & Sciences 345

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. Plato, excerpt from The Republic
  4. René Descartes, excerpt from The Meditations on First Philosophy
  5. David J. Chalmers, "The Matrix as Metaphysics"

2. Literary Analysis

For the first two weeks of class, we have discussed philosophy, namely, the nature of reality inspired by the question what do we know and how do we know it. For the next two weeks, we are going to discuss how science fiction short stories and film engage the issue of reality. Refer to our handout on Literary Analysis for a more complete methodology on how to interpret fiction and film. Today, we'll begin our discussion of Heinlein and Borges stories by focusing on how setting, character, and conflict raise questions about reality. Break into six groups, respond to your group's assigned disccusion question, and then share your group's ideas with the class.

  1. Heinlein, "They," setting: Where and when does the story take place? How does the social environment affect the main character's pysche and structure her conflicts and the overall conflicts of the story? What philosophical idea or theme does the setting suggest about the nature of reality?
  2. Heinlein, "They," character: What do we learn about the main character from his inner thoughts, what she says, what she does, and what others say about him? What is his core conflict? What is the arc or throughline of his development through the story? Does she resolve or transcend the core conflict by the story's end? What philosophical idea or theme does the character suggest about the nature of reality?
  3. Heinlein, "They," conflict: What is the primary cause and motivation of the story? What tension must be traversed? How is the main character's inner conflict resolved, or not? How is the external plot conflict resolved, or not? What philosophical idea or theme does the story's core conflict suggest about the nature of reality?
  4. Borges, "The Library of Babel," setting: Where and when does the story take place? How does the library affect the people in general as well as the main character in particular? In other words, how do characters in the story respond to the library? What philosophical idea or theme does the setting suggest about the nature of reality?
  5. Borges, "The Library of Babel," character: Who is in the story, and what do we learn about them? What conflicts or issues do the characters have? Do the characters resolve or transcend the core conflict by the story's end? What philosophical idea or theme do the characters suggest about the nature of reality?
  6. Borges, "The Library of Babel," conflict: What is the primary cause and motivation of the story? What tension must be traversed? Is the main character's inner conflicts resolved, or not? Is the external plot conflict resolved, or not? What philosophical idea or theme does the story's core conflict suggest about the nature of reality?

3. 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. Select a short story or film from the syllabus up to February 17
    • Heinlein, "They"
    • Borges, "The Libary of Babel"
    • Bradbury, "The World the Children Made"
    • Lem, "Solaris"
    • Inception
    • Oblivion
    • Leiber, "Catch That Zeppelin!"
    • Dick, "Impostor"
    • Dick, "The Minority Report"
    • Dick, "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale"
    • Dark City
    • The Thirteenth Floor
  2. What philosophical question(s) does the short story or film pose?
  3. What philosophical conflicts or debates does the short story or film illustrate?
  4. To what philosophical conclusions does the short story or film come?
  5. Which two philosophical essays from the syllabus up to February 17 include concepts that are aptly applied in the short story or film?
    • Pollock, "Brain in a Vat"
    • Bostrom, "Are You in a Computer Simulation?"
    • Plato, excerpt from The Republic
    • Descartes, excerpt from The Meditations on First Philosophy
    • Chalmers, "The Matrix as Metaphysics"
    • Dennett, "Where Am I?"
    • Olson, "Personal Identity"
    • Parfit, "Divided Minds and the Nature of Persons"
    • Kurzweil, "Who Am I? What Am I?"
    • Huemer, "Free Will and Determinism in Minority Report"
    • Goldman, excerpt from "The Book of Life"

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

4. Developing a Thesis and Outline for the Philosophical Essay

Using your ideas from the In Class Activity: Brainstorming the Philosophical Essay (or determining the philosophical questions, conflicts, and conclusions from a different short story or film on the syllabus) and applying the Developing Your Thesis page, compose a potential thesis for your Philosophical Essay, one that makes a claim about the philosophical meaning of the literary work, defines the scope of your argument about the literary meaning and philosophical concepts, and shapes your argument. Then, develop an outline that breaks down and proves component claims of the thesis.

5. Practicing MLA Style

According to the Online Writing Lab at Purdue, formal essays require a standard style in order to

Your reader cannot focus on your essay's ideas when she is distracted by unconventional or careless formatting. Morever, your essay will lose credibility because it does not indicate awareness or concern for standards. Unless or until you are comfortable writing in MLA format, I strongly recommend that you not only refer to an MLA style guide, such as this one, when composing format essays in this class but also perform this checklist before submitting a paper. Today, you're going to practice MLA style in advance of the first formal essay. Take out a sheet of paper (or use a word processing program on your device) to complete the following questions.

  1. Running Header: What does the running header consist of and where is it located?
  2. Font: What font and font size should the essay use, including in the running header and Works Cited page?
  3. Margins: What margins should the essay use?
  4. Heading: What four items make up the essay's heading?
  5. Title: Where is the essay title located? Should it be boldfaced, italicized, underlined, or put in quotes?
  6. Spacing: What is the line spacing of the entire essay, including between paragraphs and in block quotes?
  7. Titles of Works: Should the titles of books and films be put in italics or quotation marks? Should the title of essays and short stories be put in italics or quotation marks?
  8. Quotation, Part I—Introduction: Select and introduce a passage from Ray Kurzweil's "Who Am I? What Am?"
  9. Quotation, Part II—Style: Does the selected passage require in-text quotation format or block quotation format? Style the passage accordingly.
  10. Parenthetical Citation: Provide a parenthetical citation for the quoted passage.
  11. Quotation Explanation: Explain or interpret the passage.
  12. Works Cited: Compose a Works Cited entry for Ray Kurzweil's "Who Am I? What Am I?"

6. 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 Group Project. Each 75-100 word annotation should summarize and evaluate Jonathan 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.

7. Questioning Humanity

Today, let's divide 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 are scheduled to respond to the stories will report their response and their group's discussions.


Here are the stories and respondents:

  1. Isaac Asimov, "The Bicentennial Man"
  2. James Causey, "The Show Must Go On"
  3. Brian W. Aldiss, "Who Can Replace a Man?"

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?

8. Composing an Annotation, Redux

After discussing Blade Runner as a class, break into your Group Project teams in order to practice writing an annotation for the annotated bibliography coming up in the Group Project. Each 75-100 word annotation should summarize and evaluate Deborah Knight and George McKnight's scholarly journal article "What Is It to Be Human? Blade Runner and Dark City" by

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

Submit the collectively written annotation to GeorgiaVIEW > Course Work > Dropbox > Group Project.

9. Making a Plan of Action

A month-long group research project requires making a plan of action that answers the following questions:

Submit your group's plan of action to GeorgiaVIEW > Course Work > Dropbox > Group Project.


Written Response

The written response compels you to practice responding to philosophical or literary ideas


If you are scheduled to respond to a philosophical text, 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?


If you are scheduled to respond to a science fiction short story or film, analyze the characters and conflicts and posit what main thematic and philosophical ideas the story or film suggests. Avoid plot summary. 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

The informal presentation compels you to participate in and direct class discussion.


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

Refer to the syllabus course schedule for text information like title and location.


Written Date

Present Date


2:00PM Student

3:30PM Student

T, 1-19

W, 1-20

Pollock, Bostrom, Plato, Descartes, or Chalmers

1 Stephen Kyle Castleberry

S, 1-24

M, 1-25

Heinlein or Borges

2 Margaret Rapkin Matt McCorkle

T, 1-26

W, 1-27


3 Brad Benton Isabel Godfrey


4 Angelina Reynolds Rachael Alesia

S, 1-31

M, 2-1


5 Janelle Swaby Lillith Brisbon

T, 2-2

W, 2-3

Dennett, Olson, or Parfit

6 Wellsley Kesel Katey Rae

S, 2-7

M, 2-8

Kurzweil or Huemer

7 Madeline Houston Terez Chapman

T, 2-9

W, 2-10

Leiber or Dick, "Impostor"

8 Mallory Finley Joey Thornton

S, 2-14

M, 2-15

Dick, "We/Wholesale"

9 Cameron Yeo Khadeem Coumarbatch

T, 2-16

W, 2-17

Dark City

10 Chris Peterson Patrick Triana

T, 2-23

W, 2-24

Asimov, Clark, or Block

11 Haley Garrett Nick Hess

S, 2-28

M, 2-29

Clark, Dennett, or Kurzweil

12 Summer Center Luke Smith

T, 3-1

W, 3-2


13 John Weinmann Ben Stokes

Causey or Aldiss

14 Matthew Makurat Sami Montigny
S, 3-6
M, 3-7

Blade Runner

15 Will Harper Meghan Hilton

T, 3-8

W, 3-9

Annas or Schneider

16 Chyles Dean Xavier Schroeder
S, 3-13
M, 3-14

Anderson or Bostrom

17 Jane Martin Lauren Bernard

T, 3-15

W, 3-16


18 Duncan Williams Zaria Gholston


19 Amy Stinnett John Mitchell


20 Charles Lee Mariah Wall

S, 3-27

M, 3-28

Belk or Roesler

21 Julie Wiman Taylor Depol

T, 3-29

W, 3-30

Golumbia, Golub, or Derecho

22 Emma Smith Haley Willis
S, 4-3
M, 4-4

Duchesne, Pierson-Smith, or Lamerichs

23 Carmen Joiner Ashlyn Nesbitt
T, 4-12
W, 4-13

Sider, Lewis, Deutsch, or Henley

24 Holly Rohan
S, 4-17
M, 4-18

Heinlein or Spinrad

25 Adam Guzman Courtney Banks
T, 4-19
W, 4-20

Twelve Monkeys

26 Jonathan Novajosky Caelan Tackitt

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, Bradbury, Lem, 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 17 (besides the short stories and films mentioned above, you may also write about 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?


Reflective Essay

At this point in the course, you have responded to a philosophical or literary reading and written a full-length essay proving how a short story or film applies philosophical concepts. 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, a convention like Dragon Con in Atlanta, a cosplay event, or fan fiction community—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 topic must be approved one month before the essay is due; therefore, submit three possible science fiction and fantasy participatory experiences on Monday, March 7. 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.


Group Project

As a class we have discussed various philosophical issues in multiple short stories and film. Individually, you have written about the philosophical concepts explored in a single literary or filmic text in the philosophical essay, and you have reflected upon your participation in a science fiction activity. Next, in groups, you will 1) research and analyze a prominent science fiction text, starting with a book in the Popular Culture and Philosophy series as your first source, 2) explain the science fiction subgenre's or related genre's context and tradition, and 3) articulate the predominant philosophical questions of the text and genre while comparing and contrasting the philosophical concerns to a few in-class readings.


Your group will 1) compose an annotated bibliography that summarizes 20 high quality research sources (5 sources per group members, 4 members per group; 10 sources may be from the Blackwell or Open Court collection while the rest should be a range of journal articles and books), and 2) deliver a presentation to the class that interprets the text, explains the literary tradition from which the genre derives, and articulates the text and 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.





W, 2-24

Sign Up

W, 3-2


W, 3-9

Preliminary Bibliographies

W, 3-16

Plan of Action

M, 4-4

Working Bibliography and Research Statement

W, 4-20

Group Presentations 1 and 2

M, 4-25

Group Presentations 3 and 4

W, 4-27

Group Presentations 5 and 6

Sign Up


2:00 Topics/Students

3:30 Topics/Students


date: Monday, 4-25

text: Frankenstein

genre: gothic novel, horror

date: Monday, 4-25

text: Doctor Who

genre: time travel

1 Chyles Dean

Lillith Brisbon

2 Will Harper

Isabel Godfrey

3 Jonathan Novajosky

Joey Thornton

4 Duncan Williams

Patrick Triana


date: Monday, 4-25

text: The Hunger Games

genre: dystopian

date: Monday, 4-25

text: The Walking Dead

genre: zombie, horror, post-apocalypse

5 Summer Center

Terez Chapman

6 Madeline Houston

Khadeem Coumarbatch

7 Carmen Joiner

Zaria Gholston

8 Margaret Rapkin

Holly Rohan / Xavier Schroeder


date: Wednesday, 4-27

text: The Hobbit

genre: fantasy

date: Wednesday, 4-27

text: Harry Potter

subgenre: fantasy


Rachael Alesia

10 Haley Garrett

Ashlyn Nesbitt

11 Angelina Reynolds

Luke Smith


Mariah Wall


date: Wednesday, 4-27
text: Star Wars

genre: space opera

date: Wednesday, 4-27
text: The Chronicles of Narnia

genre: high fantasy

13 Adam Guzman

Courtney Banks

14 Wellsley Kesel

Lauren Barnard

15 Chris Peterson

Meghan Hilton

16 Julie Wiman

Sami Montigny


date: Monday, 5-2
text: The Avengers

genre: superhero/comic book

date: Monday, 5-2

text: Alice in Wonderland

genre: fantasy

17 Brad Benton

Taylor Depol

18 Matt Makurat

Ben Stokes

19 Emma Smith

Caelan Tackitt

20 John Weinmann and Cameron Yeo

Haley Willis


date: Monday, 5-2

text: Twilight

genre: romance fantasy/supernatural

date: Monday, 5-2

text: X-Men

genre: superhero

21 Mallory Finley

Stephen Kyle Castleberry

22 Charles Lee

Nick Hess

23 Janie Martin

Matt McCorkle

24 Amy Stinnett

John Mitchell


Pick three possible science fiction topics for professor approval, based on the list of books below by Wednesday, March 2 in GeorgiaVIEW > Course Work > Dropbox > Group Project. Receive feedback on your topics in GeorgiaVIEW > Course Work > Dropbox > Group Project by Friday, March 4.



Subgenre or Related Genre


Alice in Wonderland



Avatar and Philosophy: Learning to See

climate fiction


The Avengers and Philosophy: Earth's Mightiest Thinkers



Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul



Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy: Knowledge Here Begins Out There


Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy: Mission Accomplished or Mission Frakked Up?

military science fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, space opera




BioShock and Philosophy: Irrational Game, Rational Book

biopunk, first-person shooter video game


Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale

supernatural, fantasy, horror


The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy: The Lion, the Witch, and the Worldview

high fantasy


Divergent and Philosophy



Doctor Who and Philosophy: Bigger on the Inside


More Doctor Who and Philosophy

time travel


Dune and Philosophy

soft science fiction


Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy: Read and Gain Advantage on All Wisdom Checks


Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy

fantasy, tabletop role-playing game




Ender's Game and Philosophy: The Logic Gate Is Down


Ender's Game and Philosophy

military science fiction




Final Fantasy and Philosophy: The Ultimate Walkthrough

fantasy, role-playing video game


Frankenstein and Philosophy

gothic novel, horror


Futurama and Philosophy

science fiction sitcom


Neil Gaiman and Philosophy

fantasy, horror, science fiction, dark fantasy


Game of Thrones and Philosophy: Logic Cuts Deeper Than Swords

fantasy, high fantasy


The Golden Compass and Philosophy: God Bits the Dust

fantasy, steampunk


Green Lantern and Philosophy: No Evil Shall Escape This Book



Halo and Philosophy

military science fiction, first-person shooter video game


The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy: Hogwarts for Muggles


Harry Potter and Philosophy: If Aristotle Ran Hogwarts





Heroes and Philosophy: Buy the Book, Save the World



The Hobbit and Philosophy: For When You've Lost Your Dwarves, Your Wizard, and Your Way

high fantasy


The Hunger Games and Philosophy: A Critique of Pure Treason



Iron Man and Philosophy: Facing the Stark Reality



Jurassic Park and Philosophy: The Truth Is Terrifying

action and thriller


The Legend of Zelda: I Link Therefore I Am

high fantasy, action video game


The Lord of the Rings: One Book to Rule Them All

high fantasy


Ultimate Lost and Philosophy: Think Together, Die Alone

time travel, supernatural


The Matrix and Philosophy: Welcome to the Desert of the Real


More Matrix and Philosophy



Planet of the Apes and Philosophy

post-apocalyptic science fiction


Spider-Man and Philosophy: The Web of Inquiry



Star Trek and Philosophy: The Wrath of Kant

science fiction, space western


The Ultimate Star Wars and Philosophy: You Must Unlearn What You Have Learned


Star Wars and Philosophy: More Powerful Than You Can Possibly Imagine

space opera




Superman and Philosophy: What Would the Man of Steel Do?

Supernatural and Philosophy: Metaphysics and Monsters....for Idjits



Terminator and Philosophy: I'll Be Back, Therefore I Am

time travel


The Transformers and Philosophy: More Than Meets the Mind

science fiction action


True Blood and Philosophy: We Wanna Think Bad Things with You

horror, dark fantasy, supernatural


Twilight and Philosophy: Vampires, Vegetarians, and the Pursuit of Immortality

romance fantasy


The Walking Dead and Philosophy: Shotgun. Machete. Reason.


The Walking Dead and Philosophy


The Ultimate Walking Dead and Philosophy





Watchmen and Philosophy: A Rorschach Test

alternate history, social science fiction


The Wizard of Oz and Philosophy: Wicked Wisdom of the West



World of Warcraft and Philosophy: Wrath of the Philosopher King

fantasy, massively multiplayer online role-playing game


X-Men and Philosophy: Astonishing Insight and Uncanny Argument in the Mutant X-Verse




While the following books cannot be used for topics, they may serve as additional resources for some group projects:

Preliminary Bibliographies

After receiving feedback on your three topics by Friday, March 4, use the Research Methods webpage to compile three tentative bibliographies, one for each of your three possible science fiction text and subgenre or related genre topic combinations. Each tentative bibliography should include 5 scholarly journal articles and 5 books/book chapters and have secondary sources that interpret the science fiction text and categorize the science fiction subgenre or related genre. The three bibliographies, styled in MLA format, are due in GeorgiaVIEW > Course Work > Dropbox > Group Project on Wednesday, March 9. Your group's final topic will be approved on the basis of researchability by Friday, March 11. Once your final topic is approved, your group should immediately gather the research materials by checking books out of the library or ordering them through interlibrary loan, as well as making copies of articles or ordering them through interlibrary.


Plan of Action

On Wednesday, March 16, submit a plan of action to GeorgiaVIEW > Course Work > Group Project that details answers to the following questions:

Working Bibliography and Research Statement

On Monday, April 4, submit a working bibliography and research statement in one document to GeorgiaVIEW > Course Work > Group Project.


The working bibliography should be a 20 source MLA formatted and alphabetized list (no annotations, simply a list) comprised of

The research statement details your group's research process by listing the library and web sources used in conducting your research.


You have responded both informally and formally to literature and philosophy, you have researched the philosophy informing science fiction and related genres, 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 24 through Monday, April; the exam does not include group projects and reflective experiences).




In class on Monday, April 25, we will generate topics from which the questions will be generated. The topics will be posted here on Wednesday, April 27.


2:00 Topics

3:30 Topics

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.