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Science Fiction and Philosophy: From Time Travel to Superintelligence [Hardcover]

Susan Schneider

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Book Description

May 26 2009 140514906X 978-1405149068
A timely volume that uses science fiction as a springboard to meaningful philosophical discussions, especially at points of contact between science fiction and new scientific developments.
  • Raises questions and examines timely themes concerning the nature of the mind, time travel, artificial intelligence, neural enhancement, free will, the nature of persons, transhumanism, virtual reality, and neuroethics
  • Draws on a broad range of books, films and television series, including The Matrix, Star Trek, Blade Runner, Frankenstein, Brave New World, The Time Machine, and Back to the Future
  • Considers the classic philosophical puzzles that appeal to the general reader, while also exploring new topics of interest to the more seasoned academic

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Review

“Despite its rather uneven balance between philosophy and literary criticism, the volume is a valuable pedagogical resource which will benefit tutors and students who are seeking to engage proactively with modern technology and its fictional representation.”  (Forum for Modern Language Studies, 3 June 2012)

"If science fiction and philosophy give you pleasure, you may enjoy reading this book immensely. " (Minds & Machines, 2010)

"Science Fiction and Philosophy brings two areas together and into a dialogue: philosophy holds the fantasmatic enjoyment of science fiction to account for its illusions and awesome possibilities while science fiction reminds philosophy that all reason and no play makes thought a very dull thing indeed. Hopefully, this volume will find its way into the hands of those who wish to discover something about the highly technological world-view and horizon of meaning of our current epoch." (Discover Magazine, November 2010)"Science Fiction and Philosophy: From Time Travel to Superintelligence (Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, 2009), Schneider mines time travel, artificial intelligence, robot rights, teleportation, and genetic modification to discuss the nature of space and time, free will, transhumanism, the self, neuroethics, and reality." (Discover, December 2010)

“Looking over the pages one can see Schneider's attention to detail … .Schneider has obviously made her choices for their accessibility and we should applaud her for this … .The collection stands as an important and provocative dialogue between two very rich areas of contemporary cultures and societies. Science Fiction and Philosophy gives us a chance to redeem science fiction … and take the questions it poses seriously and with a critical gaze. This volume will be of interest to audiences read in science fiction, philosophy of science, philosophy of time, philosophy of mind, consciousness studies, epistemology, robot ethics and bio-ethics and biotechnology and general audiences alike.” (Metapsychology)

“I highly recommend Schneider's collection, whether for use as a reader in a course on philosophy and science fiction, or simply for those interested in engaging the issues raised in much science fiction at a higher degree of abstraction, in conversation not only with the works of fiction themselves but also the philosophers and physicists who tackle many of the same questions from other angles.” (Exploring Our Matrix, June 2009)

Review

"I've always said that science fiction is a lousy name for this field; it's really philosophical fiction: phi-fi not sci-fi! This book proves that with its penetrating analysis of the genre's treatment of deep questions of reality, personhood, and ethics."
-- Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning author of Hominids

"Easily the best and most up-to-date book of its kind."
--Barry Dainton, University of Liverpool


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars worthy attempt, could have been done better May 14 2011
By Massimo Pigliucci - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I am going to use this book for an undergraduate class on scifi and philosophy, so obviously I think well enough of it. The idea is certainly a good one, as science fiction - at its best - is all about broadly construed thought experiments, one of the primary tools of philosophers. The range of philosophical topics one can introduce via scifi is huge, and many of them are touched upon in this collection: virtual worlds and radical skepticism, free will and the nature of personhood, natural vs artificial minds, ethical and political philosophy, as well as the philosophy of time. There are two issues I wish the editor (Susan Schneider) would have paid more attention to (perhaps she will in future editions): first, and most obviously, there should be a tighter connection between the essays and the scifi movies that allegedly provide the impetus for the philosophical discussions. Instead, the movies are simply listed without comment at the beginning of each section, and pretty much never mentioned within the essays. This is, I think, because the essays themselves were not commissioned for this purpose (unlike several other "philosophy and pop culture" books out there). Still, the editor could have provided a better integration herself. My second issue is that some authors / points of view are overrepresented. In particular, Ray Kurzweil - the brilliant nut job who writes about the forthcoming singularity-based end of the world and co-authors books on how to stay young forever with a homeopath - gets two essays without even being a professional philosopher (and it shows). Still, all around a fascinating amount of food for thought, definitely recommended to anyone with an interest in scifi as a serious genre and who wishes to cogitate about philosophy in a lighthearted manner.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Science-Fiction and Philosophy. Oct. 20 2009
By New Age of Barbarism - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
_Science Fiction and Philosophy: From Time Travel to Superintelligence_ (2009) is a fascinating collection of philosophical essays dealing with issues that have been perennial themes in science-fiction edited by Susan Schneider. These essays show what was previously regarded solely as science-fiction or idle speculation has increasingly become the reality of science fact. The editor maintains that science-fiction serves as a useful source for thought experiments and philosophical puzzles. However, the issues presented by science-fiction are not solely mere puzzles. In fact, to further our understanding of science it is increasingly necessary to understand such conundrums and paradoxes so that we may come to understand the perennial issues that have haunted humanity since the dawn of our existence. Issues such as whether or not we live in the "Matrix" and computer simulation, free will and the nature of persons, the role of mind and our understanding of what an artificial intelligence might be, ethical questions raised by new technologies, artificial intelligence, bio-science, and the various political issues that accompany such questions, and finally the nature of space and time and whether time travel is possible (outside of the trivial case). The book provides a fascinating source for our understanding of the perspectives various modern philosophers and theorists have taken on such issues. In particular, with the enormous advance in technology, the development of modern science in terms of cognition, bio-science (genetic engineering, etc.), computers, and issues from theoretical physics, such timeless philosophical issues have again re-appeared in our age. This book offers a look at the fore-front of philosophical thinking concerning such issues. Highly recommended.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Course Worthy April 16 2011
By Craig Condella - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
As I largely concur with the previous views, I just wanted to add my own two cents. First, I used this book for a Philosophy & Science Fiction class and it worked wonderfully. Using films, short stories, and novels as the "raw materials," this collection alone was able to carry the philosophical weight of the course. My main advice to those interested in designing such a course would be to look in advance at the particular films and stories that play a central role in some of the key essays/articles (The Matrix, Minority Report, Mindscan, and Terminator come to mind).

Just a few criticisms that could (perhaps) be addressed in a new edition:

1.) there were some editing issues (typos and such) that detract from what is otherwise a well put-together volume.

2.) my students really struggled with the Ned Block piece, which was unfortunate since it was the only serious treatment of the Turing Test. A more approachable piece on Turing would be welcome.

3.) the one glaring omission was alien encounters. As such a central theme in science fiction, I feel that there should be at least one piece -- though perhaps a whole section -- devoted to encountering alien intelligences. This is a rich area philosophically as it offers us a chance to consider human "otherness" by way of alien "otherness." Again, such a piece would be a welcome addition.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Have! Oct. 2 2009
By Sam Wolk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a fantastic book that is both fun to read and thought provoking. If you have ever thought about any question like What am I? What makes me...me? Could I be in a "Matrix?"?, ever had any love for science fiction, or have ever had any sort of interest in philosophy, this book is great. It is easy to read even if you do not have any sort of experience with philosophy, and even if you do it still can easily get your mind going. There aren't a lot of books that can go from Plato to the Matrix to Neuroethics, but this sure can. It is one of my favorite books, and I highly recommend it.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must have for any hard sci-fi fan Aug. 11 2010
By SocraticMethod - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is not to be confused with the series "Pop Culture and Philosophy" which uses different franchises such as The Matrix or Star Wars combined with philosophy. While I love that series (especially the ones aforementioned), this book beats them all. It offers articles and short stories that from renowned philosophers and writers on serious philosophical problems that occur in science fiction such as time travel, free will, artificial intelligence and metaphysics, skepticism, ethics, etc. Each chapter reflects a specific issue and gives examples in sci-fi such as Minority Report on the issue of free will, The Matrix on the issue of skepticism, etc. What makes this book better than the series I mentioned earlier is that these are famous and important articles or stories. It also begins the chapter usually with a short story that is very entertaining and elicits the philosophical problem the chapter is going to discuss. In the pop culture series many articles are written quite poorly and only use the subject or franchise as a backdrop for the philosophy. This book is much more intriguing, entertaining, and offers much more philosophy than the others. It's seriously good enough that it can be used as a textbook in a lower division philosophy class (I'd love to take a class like that).
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