Section 17 Course Description

Course Name: The Posthuman: from Simian to Cyborg
Section 17
Instructor: Jack Furlong

Currently, an enormous amount of interest among students of human/animal connections, biologists, philosophers, novelists and artists has come to focus on what is called "the posthuman." The term does not refer to what comes after the destruction of humanity, but rather to a way of understanding humans that completely subverts the common view that we are the center of the planet. Some thinkers have struggled with new ways to understand humans in relation to other animal lives, and others have speculated about an enhanced humanity with bodies genetically or technologically altered.  In both cases, centuries-old ways of appreciating what it means to be human are challenged.
In this course, we will explore this dual perspective, reflecting first on the relation of humans to other animals. We will get beyond the stale animal rights vs. human exceptionalism debates. Stimulated by reading popular books like Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat, and Frankenstein’s Cat,  along with viewing contemporary documentaries like Blackfish and My Bionic Pet, we will critique these sources with the aid of fresh insights by contemporary continental philosophers.  In the second phase of the course, we will examine the ethical aspects of human enhancements from performance enhancing drugs to exoskeletons to the erasure of traumatic memories and beyond. With continental perspectives in the background, we stage a debate between philosophers Michael Sandel (The Case  Against Perfection) and Allen Buchanan (Better Than Human) and apply these analyses to contemporary television series like Extant, Almost Human, and Orphan Black.