Philosophy 375: Philosophy of Technology
- Spring Semester, 2005
- Dr. Scott Kimbrough
- Office Hours: M/W 10:00-12:00, or by appointment
- Office: Council 127
- Phone: 256-7118
- Direct questions and comments to my
Last updated 4/18/05
Resources and Announcements
As technology transforms society, our understanding of ourselves and our relations to others inevitably evolves as
well. This course will examine two areas of technology that challenge our understanding of what it is to be human:
biotechnology and artificial intelligence. As biotechnology increasingly confers the power to manipulate our biological
make-up, it pointedly raises the question of who we are or aspire to be, and of what methods are acceptable to reach those
aspirations. Artificial intelligence also forces us to confront what it is to be a person, human or otherwise. Can persons
be made? Can we reconcile humanistic traditions with an emerging technological worldview that increasingly treats life itself
as a technological product? To give context to these questions, the course will begin by investigating the nature of
technology, including whether there is such a thing as a specifically technological worldview, what values technology
implicitly promotes, and what effect it has on the concept of individuality
- Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, Vintage Books (Random House), 1992.
- Albert Borgmann, Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life, University of Chicago Press, 1984.
- Francis Fukuyama, Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution, Picador, 2002.
- Franchi and Gzeldere (editors), Mechanical Bodies, Computional Minds: Artificial Intelligence from Automata to
Cyborgs, MIT Press: A Bradford Book, 2005.
- Additional readings for the course will be handed out or accessible from the course web page.
- Technoculture briefs (10%): Each student will write and present to the class two one to two page commentaries
about a course-related internet site, academic or commercial research project, news story, advertising campaign, etc.
- Argumentative Essays (15% each): Three 3-4 page argumentative essays.
- Research Argumentative Essay (25%): Write an 8-10 page research paper pursuing one of the topics touched on by Fukayama in his book. Research sources
should include objective descriptions of the technology you discuss, position papers by interest groups, and philosophical
discussions by ethicists and/or scientists.
- Final Exam (20%): Essay format.
There is no worse academic sin than plagiarism. Plagiarism consists in copying the work of another, in whole
or in part, without citing the source. Plagiarized work will receive a zero.
Schedule of Readings
- 1/11 The extremes
- Positive views
- Excerpts from The Unabomber Manifesto:
- paragraphs 1-4 from the Introduction
- paragraphs 33-76, beginning with The Power Process
- paragraphs 87-98, beginning with The Motives of Scientists
- 1/13 More on the unabomber
- paragraphs 99-160, beginning with Some Principles of History
- paragraphs 180-212, beginning with Strategy
- 1/18 Postman chapters 1-2
- 1/20 Postman chapters 3-4
- 1/25 Postman chapters 5, 7
- 1/27 Postman chapters 8-9
- 2/1 Postman chapters 10-11
- 2/3 Borgmann pp.1-34
- 2/8 Borgmann chapters 8-10
- 2/10 Borgmann chapters 12 & 15
- 2/15 Borgmann chapters 18-19 (excluding pp.131-140)
- 2/17 Borgmann chapters 21-22
- 2/22 Borgmann chapters 23-24 & 26
- 2/24 Fukuyama pp.1-32
- 3/1 Fukuyama pp.32-56
- 3/3 Fukuyama chapters 4-5
- 3/8 Fukuyama chapter 6
- 3/10 Fukuyama chapter 7
- 3/15 Fukuyama chapter 8
- 3/17 Fukuyama chapter 9
- 3/29 Fukuyama chapter 10
- 3/31 Fukuyama chapters 11-12
- General technology
- Computers and Artificial Intelligence
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