EGMT 1540: Sci-Fi Ethics

How can entering the divergent worlds of science fiction help us better understand what it means to do the right thing or live a good life? Sci-Fi is a genre of literature that develops important ethical questions, imagines different possibilities for society, and challenges the boundaries of what is human. Doing so, science fiction can help us question what we have taken for granted in our own life and society: What values do we use to navigate moral dilemmas? What stories have shaped our own idea of a good life? How do we encounter others that are not like us? The course is divided into three units with distinct (though overlapping) themes. In the first unit, we consider works of science fiction that pose interesting moral dilemmas. These stories will raise issues of free will and determinism, power differentials and equality, and the ethical value of language. In the second unit, we see how science fiction often tells familiar stories in unfamiliar contexts. Seeing these common narratives (and resistance to them) can help us become responsible for the assumed narratives of our own lives (and perhaps imagine other possibilities). In the third unit we look at works that blur the line between human and non-human—stories of aliens, androids, biotech, and zombies. Here we ask questions about what it means to be human and how we should encounter those who are different.