Friday, January 25, 2008

How's This for a New Course?

Now that I've got all three of my spring courses set to go , I've begun to think about the new philosophy course that I may be teaching this summer. The description of the course material will be something like this:

What makes us human? Is it our minds, our emotions, our genetic makeup, or something else? Are humans different in any way from animals and androids (like Commander Data in Star Trek Next Generation)? What are human rights and who should be protected by them? How is our individual human identity embodied in virtual worlds and online games? What impact will genetic technology, with the possibilities of human enhancement and cloning technology, have on human identity and embodiment? This course will use movies, online communities (like Second Life), reading (both popular and scholarly), and discussions to explore these and other issues raised by recent and developing technologies.

The course will probably be divided into four areas of material:
1. What makes us human--looking at standard western and eastern philosophical views, as well as issues of personal identity;
2. Humans, animals, and androids-- focusing on human rights and who should have them
3. Humans in virtual worlds-- looking at issues of disembodiment, "trying on", avatars as human reflection, and human rights in virtual communities of various kinds
4. Humans and biotechnology- Will genetic technology change the definition of human and, if so, how?

Since I haven't taught any of this material before, it'll be a huge amount of work and I haven't yet come up with decent possibilities of textbooks, but the description at least seems a start.

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