As I have mentioned, I told Eric Schwitzgebel that I would give him a list of ten philosophically interesting items of speculative fiction. This will be one of the lists he will post to his blog, The Splintered Mind
. Each item is supposed to be accompanied by a philosophical teaser that might motivate someone interested in philosophy to read, listen to, watch, or play the item. The context for all this is Anglophone academic philosophy. Approximately thirty people will be contributing lists. All of them either hold positions in departments of philosophy or hold post-graduate degrees in philosophy. An edited combined list will be submitted for inclusion in the second edition, now in preparation, of Susan Schneider's anthology Science Fiction and Philosophy
Because my circle and network on Dreamwidth are among the most informed people concerning speculative fiction with whom I have any communication, I would like to discuss this list, including its teasers, with you. I've told Eric that my final list will be informed by this discussion. I've already sent him my list as it stands prior to writing this post. At this point, I don't envision giving public credit to any of you who help me with this, because most of you insulate your Dreamwidth life from your life outside Dreamwidth to a greater or lesser degree. If you help me with this and wish me to include an acknowledgment to you in my future communications with Eric and the rest of the list makers, please let me know.
I post this with some trepidation. This is absolutely not meant to be a “ten best” list, nor even a list of my ten favorites, or ten most interesting philosophically. It's more like the first ten I thought of! Nevertheless, making such a list public, and even more than the simple list of items, making the teasers public, will inevitably reveal my blind spots, my biases, and even my stupidities. Furthermore, some of the items on this list are items I have not read or watched in a very long time. If you are generous enough to comment, please don't pull any punches. This isn't squee—not even anywhere in that emotional-critical neighborhood. It's an attempt to bring philosophy faculty and philosophy students who may have had little or no exposure to fantasy, science fiction, speculative fiction, etc. into serious philosophical engagement with writing and other media that will challenge their biases, blind spots, and stupidities. The better I can make this list, with its philosophical teasers, the better it will serve that purpose.
~ Takes a deep breath. ~
- Edwin Abbott Abbott (writing pseudonymously as “A Square”). 1884. Flatland. Novella. Conceptualization and visualization; imaginability, conceivability, and possibility; social class structure.
- Peter S. Beagle. 1990. “Sarek”. Screenplay. (Star Trek: The Next Generation. s03e23, May 14, 1990). Dementia, social role, telepathy, telempathy, Stoicism, pietas, duty, honor.
- Peter S. Beagle. 1993. The Innkeeper’s Song. Gender, gender swap, revenants, romantic love, nature of true love, laws of magic and costs of performing magic; do things and people have essential natures? Loyalty and power.
- Stanisław Lem. 1961. Solaris. Novel (Polish). Communication with aliens. What, if anything, is real? Politics of science and exploration. (Andrei Tarkovsky. 1972. film.)
- Ursula K. LeGuin. 1974. The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia. Novel. Anarcho-syndicalism vs capitalism; scarcity and abundance; co-operation and competition; sclerosis of a revolution.
- Doris Lessing. 1980. The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five. Novel. Gender: are gender characteristics inherent?; gender essentialism; communication among genders. (Philip Glass. 1997. Opera.)
- China Miéville. 2011. Embassytown. Novel. Philosophy of language! semiotics! impossibility of falsehood! simile vs metaphor!
- Cordwainer Smith. 1962. “The Ballad of Lost C’Mel”. Novella. Galaxy Magazine (October 1962). Sex work, multiple grades of citizenship, civil rights, animal-human spectrum.
- Charles Stross. 2005. Accelerando. Novel. Uploaded minds; post-humanism; the singularity. What is a person, anyway?
- A.E. van Vogt. 1940. Slan. Novel. Astounding Science Fiction (September–December 1940). Transhumanity/superhumanity, telepathy, genocide. Meta: fandom: “Fans are slans.” The other. Mutual contempt and fear. (Hardcover 1946.)