PHIL-SHU 130-001 (19857)


Time and Place
Room 823D, Thursdays 6:15pm–9:15pm

  • Attendance and participation (15%)
    • Participation includes both class and blog participation
  • Blog contributions (15%)
    • At least 3 contributions over the course of the semester
    • Due dates: 30 September, 31 October, 30 November
    • Each must be at least 500 words
    • Each must discuss both one of our readings and another source (might be a news article, scholarly article, press release, or online film)
  • Mid-term exam: 13 October (20%)
  • 8–10 page research paper (50%)
    • 5 minute research proposal presentation: 18 and 22 September 
    • Every student must meet at least once with Professor Greenspan and at least once with Professor Weslake
    • Annotated bibliography: 20 November
    • Paper: 12 December

It is a condition of passing this course that students read and adhere to the NYU Shanghai policy on academic integrity as described in the current NYU Shanghai Academic Bulletin.


Week 1: The Natural & the Artificial (Thursday 1 September)

  • René DescartesPrinciples of Philosophy, 1644, selections; and Description of the Human Body, 1664, selections. Translations from John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff and Dugald Murdoch (Eds), The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1985, pp. 223–247; and pp. 314–324. [PDF] [PDF]
  • [Recommended] Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, A New System of the Nature and Communication of Substances, and of the Union of the Soul and Body, 1695. Translation from Roger Ariew and Daniel Garber (Eds), G. W. Leibniz: Philosophical Essays, Hackett, Indianapolis, 1989, pp. 138–145. [PDF]

Week 2: Artificial Life (Thursday 8 September)

  • Jessica Riskin, “Eighteenth-Century Wetware” in Representations, No. 83, Summer 2003, pp. 97–125. [PDF]
  • Norbert WienerGod and Golem, Inc.: A Comment on Certain Points where Cybernetics Impinges on Religion, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 1964. [PDF]
  • [Recommended] Mary Wollstonecraft ShelleyFrankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, London, 1818. [PDF]

Week 3: Artificial Intelligence I: Historical Context (Sunday 18 September)

Student Research Presentations I

  • Alan Turing, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence”, in Mind, Vol. 59, No. 236, October 1950, pp. 433-460. [PDF]
  • Ned Block, “Psychologism and Behaviorism”, in The Philosophical Review, Vol. 90, No. 1, April 1981, pp. 257–274. [PDF]

Week 4: Artificial Intelligence II: Philosophical Issues (Thursday 22 September)

Student Research Presentations II

  • John Searle, “Minds, Brains, and Programs”, in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Vol. 3, No. 3, September 1980, pp. 417–457. [PDF]
  • [Recommended] Eric Schwitzgebel and Mara Garza, “A Defense of the Rights of Artificial Intelligences,” Midwest Studies In Philosophy, Vol. 39, No. 1, September 2015, 98–119. [PDF]

Week 5:Artificial Intelligence III: Scientific Issues (Thursday 29 September)

Visiting professor: Jeffrey C. Erlich.

  • Anders Sandberg, “Feasibility of Whole Brain Emulation”, in Vincent C. Müller (Ed), Philosophy and Theory of Artificial Intelligence, Springer, Heidelberg, 2013, pp. 251–264. [PDF]
  • Eric Jonas and Konrad Kording, “Could a Neuroscientist Understand A Microprocessor?”, bioRxiv, May 2016. [PDF]

Week 6: Midterm (Thursday 13 October)

Week 7: Simulation (Thursday 20 October)

Virtual visiting professor:David Chalmers.

  • Nick Bostrom, “Are You Living In a Computer Simulation?”, in Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 53, No. 211, April 2003, pp. 243–255. [PDF]
  • David Chalmers, “The Matrix as Metaphysics”, in Christopher Grau (Ed), Philosophers Explore the Matrix, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2005, pp. 132–176. [PDF]

Week 8: Superintelligence and The Singularity (Thursday 27 October)

Visiting professor: Nick Land.

  • David Chalmers, “The Singularity: A Philosophical Analysis”, in Journal of Consciousness Studies, Vol. 17, No. 9–10, 2010, pp. 7–65. [PDF]
  • David Chalmers, “The Singularity: A Reply to Commentators”, in Journal of Consciousness Studies, Vol. 19, No. 7–8, 2012, pp. 141–167. [PDF]
  • Vernor Vinge, “The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era”, in Vision-21: Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering in the Era of Cyberspace, Nasa Conference Publication 10129, 1993, pp. 11–22. [PDF]

Week 9: Robots & Cyborgs (Thursday 3 November)

Screening: Transcendent Man: The Life and Ideas of Ray Kurzweil (2011).

  • Rodney Brooks and Anita Flynn, “Fast Cheap and Out of Control: A Robot Invasion of the Solar System,” in Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, Vol. 42, No. 10, 1989, pp. 478–485. [PDF]
  • Andy Clark, Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2003, Introduction and Chapter 1. [PDF]
  • Samuel Butler, “The Book of Machines”, in Erewhon: or, Over the Range, Trübner & Co, London, 1872, pp. 190–223. [PDF]

Week 10: Existential Risk (Thursday 10 November)

Virtual visiting professor: Huw Price.

  • Nick Bostrom, “Existential Risk Reduction as Global Priority,” in Global Policy, Vol. 4, No. 1, 2013, pp. 15–31. [PDF]
  • Huw Price and Jaan Tallinn, “Artificial Intelligence—Can We Keep it in the Box?”, in The Conversation, 6 August 2012. [HTML]

Week 11:Ethics & Enhancement (Thursday 17 November)

Visiting professor: S. Matthew Liao.

  • S. Matthew Liao, “Selecting Children: The Ethics of Reproductive Genetic Engineering”, in Philosophy Compass, Vol. 3, No. 5, September 2008, pp. 1–19. [PDF]

Week 12: Cyberfeminism (Thursday 1 December)

Visiting professor: Allison de Fren.

  • Allison de Fren, “Technofetishism and the Uncanny Desires of A.S.F.R. (”, in Science Fiction Studies Vol. 36, No. 3, November 2009, pp. 404–440. [PDF]

Week 13: Cyberfeminism (continued) (Thursday 8 December)

  • Sadie Plant, “On the Matrix: Cyberfeminist Simulations”, in David Bell and Barbara M. Kennedy (Eds), The Cybercultures Reader, Routledge, London, 2000, pp. 325–336. [PDF]
  • N. Katherine Hayles, “Unfinished Work: From Cyborg to Cognisphere”, in Theory, Culture & Society, Vol. 23, No. 7–8, December 2006, pp. 159–166. [PDF]
  • N. Katherine HaylesHow We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1999, selections. [PDF]

Week 14: Recap (Monday 12 December)

Screening: Lo And Behold: Reveries Of The Connected World (2016).