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COURSE NAME: "Posthuman Studies: Philosophy, Technology and Media"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Spring 2019

INSTRUCTOR: Stefan Sorgner
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 4:30-5:45 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: Junior Standing; Corequisite: EN 110

This course introduces students to some of the most important ethical, philosophical, and artistic questions raised by the rapid technological, scientific, and cultural changes of our era. Students will tackle issues such as biological and genetic enhancement, artificial intelligence, the impacts of new media, and the future of employment in a technology-based society, exploring how these issues take us beyond the standard capacities and dualistic concepts of ‘human’ beings (as disembodied ‘minds’, for instance) into a ‘posthuman’ future. Students will examine the approaches that thinkers such as Katherine Hayles and Julian Savulescu have proposed for grappling with these issues. 

Learn more about Posthuman Studies

This course examines some of the most important contemporary issues related to emerging technologies to help you to develop a familiarity with the debates and your ability to discuss, reflect on and defend your own views.

Initially a basic outline of key terms of the debates and their relevance will be introduced. In the first part of the course, we will study and discuss fundamental issues related to posthuman studies, e.g. religious aspect; histories of the various approaches. Then, in the second part, we will explore the utopian facets of post- and transhumanism. In the third part of the course, we will examine central topics related to values and norms. In the fourth part, the focus will be on ontological and anthropological questions. In the fifth part, we analyse how emerging technologies are being dealt with in the arts. At the end of the course there will be a final exam.

More specifically, by the end of the course you will be able to:

• recognize and analyze posthuman studies issues;

• analyze relevant recent cases, along with specific positions and arguments regarding them;

• analyze and employ broader theoretical approaches, debates and concepts in posthuman studies;

• develop informed, reasoned positions regarding these issues, cases and broader theoretical aspects;

• explain and analyze course material orally and in written forms;

• make appropriate use of original and academic resources and undertake guided research work.
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Post- and TranshumanismRanisch, Robert / Sorgner, Stefan Lorenz (eds.)Peter Lang 2014978-1-4443-3714-3  

Class Participation 10
Midterm examThe mid-term written assignment will be a ‘take-home’ assignment of 1000-1500 words (incl. bibliography), written in response to one of a selection of questions which I will provide. I will distribute the questions during week 6 and the assignment should be submitted by Friday of week 7. An electronic version of the project must be sent to the instructor by email. (Title of Course/Term/Year) A printed version must be left in the instructor’s office.20
PresentationsIn-class Presentation: Students are required to give two short individual presentations (15-20 minutes). The presentation will be well-organized, concise, and include (when opportune) audiovisual and electronic materials. An electronic version of the presentations must be sent by email. (Title of Course/Term/Year) A printed version must be left in the instructor’s office. The deadline is the last class. No materials will be accepted past the deadline.20
Final examThe final exam will consist in an essay. All students will have to answer the same question.20
Final projectFinal Project: The final paper (3,000 words) will be on any topic of the student’s choice related to the class program. The topic should be precisely defined and worthy of investigation. An electronic version of the project must be sent to the instructor by email. (Title of Course/Term/Year) A printed version must be left in the instructor’s office. The deadline is the last class. No materials will be accepted past the deadline. 30

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the cours
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. The final exam period runs until ____________

A maximum of four absences are allowed throughout the semester.  Any additional absence will result in a penalization of one grade level (e.g.: from B+ to B for five absences, B+ to B- for six absences, B+ to C+ for seven absences, etc.).  Two latenesses count for one absence.  Attendance will be taken at the beginning of each class by calling students’ names.  Students not answering will be marked absent. Students arrived late will ask the instructor to be market late at the end of the class, after which attendance records will not be modified.
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Week 1:          Introduction to ‘posthuman’ concepts, issues, and metholodologies

Monday: chap. Introducing Post- and Transhumanism

Wednesday: chap. Introducing Post- and Transhumanism

Part I. Confessions

Week 2:                       Genealogies of ‘posthumanism’ and ‘transhumanism’

Monday: chap. Pedigrees

Wednesday: chap. Pedigrees

Week 3:           Posthumanism in and as religion

Monday: chap. Religion

Wednesday: chap. Prometheus

Week 4:           Nietzsche as post/transhumanist?

Monday: chap. Nietzsche

Wednesday: chap. Nietzsche

Week 5:           Social Implications and the “Gattaca”-Argument

Monday: chap. Movies

Wednesday: Focus: movie “Gattaca”

Part II. Lands of Cockayne    

Week 6:           Utopianism, life extension, and “Brave New World”  

Monday: chap. Utopia & chap. Brave New World

Wednesday: chap. Life Extension          

Part III. Neo-Socratic Reflections                                                     

Week 7:           Post/transhumanism vs. liberal democratic politics?

Monday: chap. Politics

Wednesday: chap. Politics          

Week 8:                       Ethics: Human dignity and human perfection  

Monday: chap. Morality

Wednesday: chap. Morality          

Part IV. Ontologies of Becoming                             

Week 9:                       Overcoming the mind-body distinction and the idea of “human nature”

Monday: chap. Morality

Wednesday: chap. Morality          

Monday: chap. Ontology

Wednesday: chap. Nature          

Week 10:         Evolution 

Monday: chap. Evolution

Wednesday: chap. The Body          

Part V. Paragone of the Arts                             

Week 11:         Bioart and new media art   

 Monday: chap. Bioart

Wednesday: chap. New Media Art          

Week 12:         Post/transhumanist literature and science fiction

Monday: chap. Literature

Wednesday: chap. Science Fiction Literature          

Week 13:         The posthuman in film and music

Monday: chap. Film

Wednesday: chap. Music          

Week 14:         Review for final examination