Fall 2017 - FASS 101 D002

STT - FASSFirst Special Topics Seminar (3)

Science Fiction and Philosophy

Class Number: 8076

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 9:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    AQ 5009, Burnaby

  • Instructor:

    Holly Andersen
    1 778 782-4851
    Office: WMC 5611



Students choose one of 10 FASSFirst Special Topics seminars open only to first-year FASS students by invitation from the Dean’s Office. Top ranked professors from across the Faculty work with students to discover the surprising, profound and interdisciplinary reach of the arts and social sciences. Students will learn to draw connections between values, ideas and evidence while developing core academic skills, from reading to research, writing and dialogue.


SciFi and Philosophy: Philosophy has longed relied on 'thought experiments' to illustrate subtle points. These thoughts experiments can reveal a great deal about how our assumptions can be pushed till they break down. The scenarios themselves are often gripping, unexpected, and unsettling; they challenge fundamental views about what the world is like and who we really are. This course will consider some classic philosophical questions about the nature of reality, knowledge, and self-identity that have been explored in a variety of science fiction narratives. Science fiction works will be paired with philosophical readings to serve as the primary texts for the course.  

There are no prerequisites for this course. This course counts as a prerequisite for Phil 201 and 203.


This will be an intensive, discussion-driven, seminar-style course. Learning how to participate in and contribute to an ongoing discussion in a fruitful way is a skill that requires practice and reflection. There will be short, focused, writing assignments each week that help students engage with the readings for the week and come to class ready to use the discussion as way of understanding the relevant issues better.  

In addition to participation in discussion and weekly writing practice, there will be a final project in which students develop their own philosophical thought experiment in the context of a science fiction setting. This may involve different media (short stories, the first several chapters of a novel, a screen play, the details for a game or app, etc.).  There will also be a collaborative project for small groups of students.


  • Weekly in-class writing and participation assignments. 24%
  • Final project [involves several stages, each of which will contribute to the grade]. 50%
  • Group project. 20%
  • Feedback to other students. 6%


Grading will be on a letter scale, not a %.

Will you be using Turnitin? No.

Additional readings will be made available to students via the course webpage, in accordance with fair use copyright regulations.



Students will need access to various movies and TV episodes. They may choose their own service, but all assigned materials will also be available through Canadian Netflix.


Ted Chiang, Stories of Your Life and Others
ISBN: 10:1101972122

Neal Stephenson, Anathem
ISBN: 0-06-147410-X

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html