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Publisher's Summary

The science fiction genre has become increasingly influential in mainstream popular culture, evolving into one of the most engaging storytelling tools we use to think about technology and consider the shape of the future. Along the way, it has also become one of the major lenses we use to explore important philosophical questions.

The origins of science fiction are most often thought to trace to Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, a story born from a night of spooky tale-telling by the fireside that explores scientific, moral, and ethical questions that were of great concern in the 19th century - and that continue to resonate today. And, although novels and short stories built the foundations of science fiction, film and television have emerged as equally powerful, experimental, and enjoyable ways to experience the genre. Even as far back as the silent era, films like Fritz Lang's Metropolis have used science fiction to tell stories that explore many facets of human experience.

In Sci-Phi: Science Fiction as Philosophy, Professor of Philosophy David Kyle Johnson, of King's College, takes you on a 24-lecture exploration of the final frontiers of philosophy across several decades of science fiction in film and television. From big-budget blockbusters to television series featuring aliens in rubber masks, Professor Johnson finds food for philosophical thought in a wide range of stories. By looking at serious questions through astonishing tales and astounding technologies, you will see how science fiction allows us to consider immense, vital - and sometimes controversial - ideas with a rare combination of engagement and critical distance. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.  

©2018 The Great Courses (P)2018 The Teaching Company, LLC

What listeners say about Sci-Phi: Science Fiction as Philosophy

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Loved this Course!

I have been on audible for a couple years now and have listened to close to 50 audiobooks (most of them very good) but this is the first time that I have felt compelled to leave a review. This course was incredibly fascinating and I loved all the references to favorite shows and episodes. I recommend it highly, though I admit that I do so for completely selfish reasons. If it becomes popular enough maybe Great Courses will decide to do a sequel!

2 people found this helpful

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A great course

Thank you Professor Johnson. You have definitely blown my mind with the topics covered in your course. I need to go back and take my time to listen to this course again. There is so much information to process and to be honest I found the course to be so stimulating at times that I wanted to quit my job and devote my life to the pursuit of truth. I look forward to listening to your audiobook again and again and hope that the Great Courses will have you back. I promise that I won't be hasty and quit my job, but, I think I've found a new side hustle. Thank you very much for your efforts. Cheers!

2 people found this helpful

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To Be and Beyond, what is Science

I loved this. I loved this so so much. I love using science fiction stories to explain historical philosophical theories. I feel like they can explain them better than what options were historically used at contemporary times because what we know is not always the same that they expected. It was awesome, I want a lot more of these.

#Audible1

5 people found this helpful

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Excellent Sci Fi Nerd Course loved it!

This philosophy course was very good and each lecture was tied to the philosophy of a film or two. Helps when you have seen almost sll yhe movies in 38 lectures haha? he mentions a 1979 russian film at the end called Stalker gotta order that maybe!

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Fantastic

This is a great lecture series that truly delves into the philosophical meaning and interpretation of various works. If you are a Sci-Fi nerd or even someone just interested in philosophy I highly recommend.

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very contemporary!

liked this, talks about scifi cartoons as contempory classics. prof is funny and relatable.

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love it!

Interesting point of view; worth listening! Just try to be fair; Big Bang theory is more associated with Christianity via Georges Lemaître (a Jesuit-educated Belgian Catholic priest, mathematician, astronomer, and professor of physics at the Catholic University of Louvain), than, as Professor David K. Johnson states, Stephen Hawking. Continuing his subtle leftist propaganda, the author thinks that America First is fascistic! As opposed to what: the Marxist "International with be the new world?" Lived that philosophy that turned my beautiful country into, to quate someone, a sh%&hole country!

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Best mashup ever! This course is a gem.

Whether you're a sci-fi nerd, armchair philosopher, (or like me, both!), this course is gold. Not only Prof Johnson engaging, knowledgeable and funny, but the accompanying PDF guidebook gives a well-laid-out summary of each module.

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David K Johnson is my favourite GC presenter

I really enjoy Johnson’s geeky humour and presentation style. He never really raises or drops his voice — i.e. his delivery is usually very equal and thus requires no fiddling with volume — and while that may seem to be a minor issue I find it very refreshing.
He’s quite erudite and obviously well versed in more than just academic subjects.
This lecture does replicate some information in his other two courses but he’s so entertaining that it still seems fresh.
Please, Great Courses, encourage this man to make more offerings! I will buy them ALL!

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Why? Why not?

Philosophy is more interesting than one may consider. Throw in scifi as examples any it is amazing.

Using scifi as a back drop to try to answer some of life's great questions it brilliant. Oh course I suppose one must be a scifi fan to truly see the point of the comparison.

I don't thing you have to be a scifi fan to truly appreciate these lectures however.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Marcos Trujillo Cue
  • 2018-06-14

It only scratches the surface

It only scratches the surface of what the topic could yield, but the professor's time is clearly restrained as he mentions at the end of the course. If you're new to the concept of philosophy and are a science fiction buff the course is definitely worth it.

24 people found this helpful

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  • criticaltom
  • 2018-08-06

Two Great Tastes that Taste Great Together ...

From Orson Scott Card I learned to call science fiction and fantasy "speculative literature." Thus it is probably from my life long love of science fiction that I also developed a keen interest in philosophy. Both stimulate the mind and push us into the realm of "what if?"; not always for the sake of escapism, but often for the sake of speculating about many issues that face humanity now and always. You can imagine, then, what a boon it was for me to find this new series of lectures by David Kyle Johnson of King's College (PA). Dr. Johnson delivers 24 thought-provoking lectures on important issues current in society that have been speculated on in science fiction movies, television, etc. The difficult issues and arguments--all handled thoroughly and in a balanced manner--are nicely illustrated by the references to science fiction. And as a bonus, I was more than once glad to receive a very convincing and clarifying interpretation of several of my favorites, including Inception and Metropolis. Any such lecture series is usually stronger or weaker by individual lectures, but these are pretty consistent throughout. Whether I agree totally or in part with Dr. Johnson's views, I have certainly enjoyed this stimulating course.

21 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-01-02

such a geeky arm chair philosopher's jam. loved it

This is such a geeky arm chair philosopher's jam. I loved it, it informs on multiple levels and is interesting.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Daniel L. Scott Jr.
  • 2020-07-09

Philosophy and Science Fiction

This course is a must for lovers of science fiction. It deepens one’s understanding about the appeal of the genre and broadens her insight into the books and film she encounters in it.

My only complaint? The course was about film and didn’t really include sci-fi novels, in my opinion the best examples of the
science fiction corpus,

9 people found this helpful

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  • wbiro
  • 2018-09-10

Too Flawed

There were a few gems, and the Science Fiction presented was interesting, but there was little philosophy, and none of substance, meaning what was presented was very weak (reflecting the current state of human philosophy). The author was historically illiterate (Hiroshima was a terrorist act, the Kim's in Noth Korea was the US's fault, misdefining Colonialism). He used 'sentient' wrong (applying it to intelligence rather than to the senses), and he was politically naive, still pushing Marxist concepts (when free societies have rendered it obsolete).

18 people found this helpful

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  • KENDRA GOODMAN
  • 2018-11-22

Weak philosophy loaded with misapplied facts and personal bias

1) The lectures do very little actual philosophy and spends far more time fetishizing the stories of science fiction and confusing them with reality.

2) An obvious personal bias toward religion and consistent condescending remarks toward religious people, especially Christianity. The lecturer is consistently more generous toward his own interests (ie. the scientific possibility of time travel vs. the scientific possibility of theism) and paints a broad, negative caricature of religion (ie. the Christian punk band he heard as a teen and then applied to religious as a whole). This seems to come from some personal negative experience he had and alludes to — a personal agenda not philosophy or sci-fi ... especially in the Handmaidens Tale lecture.

3) Makes poor, unsubstantiated generalizations such as “most philosophers agree”, “some scientists think” which can bolster any weak argument without the heavy lifting of actual research

4) Cherry picks perspectives to present that support his view without considering opposing views (ie. just about everything he says about quantum mechanics).

5) A non-physicist who paints a poor picture of quantum mechanics with several factual errors (ie. spin properties of entangled particles, particle and wave properties, etc). The worst offense is his lack of connection from the particle world to the aggregated (real) world and any functioning philosophy of why that might be important.

5) Weird attempts at humor detract from the course and further erodes the lecturer’s credibility. That said, the reviews of sci-fi films and shows is pretty entertaining apart from the bizarre personality.

All in all, this course is bad work from what appears to be a relatively untalented philosopher. Best to avoid.

15 people found this helpful

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  • Brad
  • 2018-07-07

Nerd, Defined.

Our professor professes to be a Science Fiction nerd; and he is. What you must know before you purchase: What is a Science Fiction Nerd? Science Fiction Nerds don't read any Science Fiction. I did not know this. In Nerd World, SF exists only on film ( this includes TV, obviously ). Nerd SF does not include any science fiction novels, short stories, novellas, etc, UNLESS the book has been adapted for film - and then, only the film adaptation is considered. Yes. The SF nerd is a very limited creature. They wanna watch. This will include zero SF novels. But boy oh boy, if your SF is "Star Wars" (meh), "Star Trek" (goofy), "Star Trek; Next Gen" (YAWN - they carpeted the Enterprise for this spin-off, perfect for lulling you to sleep). "Dr. Who" ( Not even shot with 35mm film. They used video tape. That's why "Dr. Who" looks just like General Hospital.

14 people found this helpful

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  • Mark
  • 2018-06-11

Very good, extensive survey, well told

I really enjoyed this well-told survey of common themes in science fiction. The author/professor does a great job of presenting both or multiple sides of philosophical arguments fully, except for one key area. It's almost forgivable considering the work he does in all the other areas. The course comes with lengthy notes in a nicely published and organized PDF.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Kayleigh Thesenvitz
  • 2018-06-09

A lot to think about

There was so much good content I listened almost non-stop. Please bring this professor back and do more.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Nathaniel P Wilson
  • 2021-04-12

This was exactly what I wanted.

I thought the title sounded too good to be true, but this was perfect. I only wish there was more. Honestly, I need Professor David K. Johnson PhD to do an entire series just like this. I've also listened to his Metaphysics course (which I recommend), and now I'm looking for anything else he's done.

This overlap between Philosophy and Sci Fi is exactly where my favorite stuff is. He doesn't just cover a few mainstream movies, either. Chances are your favorite cult classic, psi fi, psychological thriller is in here somewhere.

More please. Just like tbis.