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




Dr. Alex E. Blazer


Office Hours: MT 5:00-5:30PM and WR 1:00-1:50PM Arts & Sciences 330


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; we will read science fiction from Michael Phillips' Philosophy and Science Fiction; and we will 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 informally respond to an in-class 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 learning beyond the classroom component of the course, students will participate in a science fiction activity—such as a role playing video game like World of Warcraft—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 (Amazon or GCSU Bookstore)

Phillips, Philosophy and Science Fiction

Schneider, Science Fiction and Philosophy

required articles (GeorgiaVIEW)

course packet

required films (

12 Monkeys

Blade Runner

Dark City


recommended textbooks (Amazon)

Craig, Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction

Rowlands, Philosophy from Socrates to Schwarzenegger

Seed, Science Fiction: A Very Short Introduction

recommended films (

Ex Machina



The Thirteenth Floor

recommended websites

Philosophy Bites

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy


Assignments and Grade Distribution


response, 5%

You will sign up to summarize a work of science fiction or philosophy in an informal 2-3 page response.

philosophical essay, 25%

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

reflective essay, 25%

You will participate in a science fiction and fantasy event or activity and reflect upon the experience in a 5-6 page essay.

group project, 15%

In groups of 3-4, you will analyze, research, and present to the class the literary and philosophical meaning of a science fiction film, television series, novel, comic, or video game.

exam, 30%

You will take an essay exam that tests 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 failure of the course. Failing to submit a final exam or final paper within two days of its due date will result in 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 Undergraduate Catalog defines academic dishonesty as "Plagiarizing, including the submission of others’ ideas or papers (whether purchased, borrowed, or otherwise obtained) as one’s own When direct quotations are used in themes, essays, term papers, tests, book reviews, and other similar work, they must be indicated; and when the ideas of another are incorporated in any paper, they must be acknowledged, according to a style of documentation appropriate to the discipline" and "Submitting, if contrary to the rules of a course, work previously presented in another course," among other false representations. "As plagiarism is not tolerated at GCSU, "since the primary goal of education is to increase one's own knowledge," 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, 1-11


W, 1-13

Schneider, Introduction (Schneider 1-14)

Philips, Introduction (Philips 1-5)

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

Week 2

M, 1-18

No Class: Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday

W, 1-20


Schneider, "Part I: Could I be in a 'Matrix' or Computer Simulation?" (Schneider 15-52)

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"

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

In Class Activity: Philosophical Questions and Passages

Week 3
M, 1-25


Heinlein, "They" (Philips 88-101)

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

Literary Analysis: Fiction

In Class Activity: Literary Analysis

W, 1-27


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

Lem, "Solaris" (Philips 17-87)

Week 4

M, 2-1



Literary Analysis: Film

Recommended: Oblivion

W, 2-3


Schneider, "Part II: What Am I? Free Will and the Nature of Persons" (Schneider 53-98)

Dennett, "Where Am I?"

Olson, "Personal Identity"

Parfit, "Divided Minds and the Nature of Persons"

Week 5

M, 2-8


Schneider, "Part II: What Am I? Free Will and the Nature of Persons" (Schneider 99-114)

Kurzweil, "Who Am I? What Am I?"

Huemer, "Free Will and Determinism in Minority Report"

Goldman, excerpt from "The Book of Life"

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

W, 2-10


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

Dick, "Impostor" (Philips 160-74)

In Class Activity: Brainstorming the Philosophical Essay

Week 6

M, 2-15


Dick, "The Minority Report" (GeorgiaVIEW)

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

Developing Your Thesis

In Class Activity: Developing a Thesis and Outline for the Philosophical Essay

W, 2-17


Dark City

MLA Style

In Class Activity: Practicing MLA Style

Recommended: The Thirteenth Floor

Week 7

M, 2-22

Writing Day: Bring Your Laptops

Philosophical Essay Due

W, 2-24


Schneider, "Part III: Mind: Natural, Artificial, Hybrid, and 'Super'" (Schneider 115-69)

Asimov, "Robot Dreams"

Clark, "A Brain Speaks"

Block, "The Mind as the Software of the Brain"

Romney, "Games Pixels Play" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Group Project Sign Up

In Class Activity: Composing an Annotation

Week 8

M, 2-29


Schneider, "Part III: Mind: Natural, Artificial, Hybrid, and 'Super'" (Schneider 170-82)

Clark, "Cyborgs Unplugged"

Dennett, "Consciousness in Human and Robot Minds"

Kurzweil, "Superintelligence and Singularity"

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

Research Methods

W, 3-2


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 9
M, 3-7


Blade Runner

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

Recommended: Ex Machina

In Class Activity: Composing an Annotation, Redux

Reflective Essay Topics Due

W, 3-9


Schneider, "Part IV: Ethical and Political Issues" (Schneider 225-58)

Annas, "The Man on the Moon"

Schneider, "Mindscan: Transcending/the Human Brain"

Leslie, "The Doomsday Argument"

Group Project Preliminary Bibliographies Due

Week 10
M, 3-14


Schneider, "Part IV: Ethical and Political Issues" (Schneider 259-84)

Anderson, "Asimov's 'Three Laws of Robotics'/Metaethics"

Bostrom, "Ethical Issues in Advanced Artificial Intelligence"

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

W, 3-16


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

Boucher, "Balaam" (Philips 260-72)

Sheckley, "Seventh Victim" (278-94)

In Class Activity: Making a Plan of Action

Group Project Plan of Action Due

Week 11
M, 3-21

No Class: Spring Break

W, 3-23

No Class: Spring Break

Week 12

M, 3-28


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

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

W, 3-30


Golumbia, "Games without Play" (GeorgiaVIEW)

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

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

Week 13
M, 4-4


Duchesne, "Stardom/Fandom" (GeorgiaVIEW)

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

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

Group Project Working Bibliography Due

W, 4-6

Roundtable Discussion of Experiences

Reflective Essay Due

Week 14
M, 4-11

No Class: Campus Closed Due to Water Main Break

W, 4-13


Schneider, "Part V: Space and Time" (Schneider 285-342)

Bradbury, "A Sound of Thunder"

Sider, "Time"

Lewis, "The Paradoxes of Time Travel"

Deutsch and Lockwood, "The Quantum Physics of Time Travel"

Hanley, "Miracles and Wonders: Science Fiction as Epistemology"

Week 15
M, 4-18


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


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

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

W, 4-20


Twelve Monkeys

Recommended: Primer

Exam Topics

Week 16

M, 4-25

Group Presentations 1 and 2

W, 4-27

Group Presentations 3 and 4

M, 5-2

Group Presentations 5 and 6

T, 5-3

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

W, 5-4

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