Watch Sci-Phi: Science Fiction as Philosophy
- 1 Season
Sci-Phi: Science Fiction as Philosophy from The Great Courses Signature Collection brings together two intriguing topics â science fiction and philosophy â to explore the big ideas that drive both fields. Hosted by David Kyle Johnson, a philosopher and author of multiple books on the intersection of popular culture and philosophy, the course consists of 24 lectures that investigate the fundamental philosophical concepts that underpin science fiction stories.
The show aims to show how science fiction is an ideal platform to examine philosophical questions, such as the nature of reality, free will, and the ethics of artificial intelligence. Science fiction stories have always been known for their ability to speculate on our future, both as individuals and as a species. By investigating the philosophical themes that authors use in those stories, this course aims to help viewers better understand the philosophical ideas that accompany them.
Throughout the series, Johnson takes us on a tour of classic sci-fi stories from writers such as Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, and Frank Herbert. He breaks down the philosophical ideas presented in each story and gives viewers a deeper understanding of the complex questions that these works were trying to explore.
The course begins with a survey of some of the most famous sci-fi stories and movies, such as "Blade Runner," "The Matrix," and "Star Wars." Johnson uses each of these stories to introduce viewers to essential concepts in philosophy, such as the nature of reality, the problem of free will, and the nature of consciousness. He then delves more deeply into other stories and examines the essential philosophy that lies behind each of them.
For instance, in one lecture, Johnson examines the question of identity, looking at how scientists and writers have tried to define what it means to be human. Using examples from stories like "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" and "Bicentennial Man," he explores the question of whether human consciousness can exist in artificial beings.
Another lecture takes on the issue of time travel and explores the philosophical implications of traveling through time. Johnson uses Christopher Nolan's film "Interstellar" as a starting point and goes on to examine other time travel stories, such as H.G. Wells' "The Time Machine," to explore how philosophical ideas can be used to explain the possibilities (and limitations) of time travel.
Throughout the series, Johnson uses humor and pop culture references to make complex philosophical concepts more accessible and understandable. His style is both engaging and humorous, and he knows how to keep viewers invested in the ideas he is presenting. He is able to balance the weight of complex ideas with a lighthearted approach to storytelling, making the show both easy to watch and intellectually engaging.
One of the standout features of Sci-Phi: Science Fiction as Philosophy is its focus on analyzing the various philosophical viewpoints that the stories evoke. Johnson doesn't just present the ideas in the stories, he also offers different ways to interpret them. For example, in a lecture on "The Minority Report," he offers multiple interpretations of predestination and free will to reflect the complexity of the philosophical issues the story engenders.
In addition to examining individual sci-fi stories, the show also offers a broader look at how philosophy and pop culture intersect. Johnson offers an overview of how philosophers have historically used popular culture to illustrate their ideas, such as Socrates' use of Greek myths to discuss moral philosophy. He lays out the reasons why pop culture is such a useful tool for discussing philosophy and suggests that, perhaps, pop culture has even surpassed traditional academic philosophical texts in terms of cultural reach.
Overall, Sci-Phi: Science Fiction as Philosophy is a fascinating series for anyone interested in either philosophy or science fiction. Johnson's enthusiasm for both fields is contagious, and his ability to unpack complex philosophical ideas in a way that is accessible and relatable is impressive. By the end of the course, viewers will have a richer understanding of the philosophical themes that lurk beneath the surface of their favorite sci-fi stories, and perhaps, a newfound appreciation for how important the genre is in exploring the big ideas that drive our society.
Sci-Phi: Science Fiction as Philosophy is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (24 episodes). The series first aired on May 25, 2018.