PHIL 196 - First Year Seminar
Winter 2017, Section 002 - Future Humanity
Instruction Mode: Section 002 is (see other Sections below)
Subject: Philosophy (PHIL)
Department: LSA Philosophy
See additional student enrollment and course instructor information to guide you in your decision making.


Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
Advisory Prerequisites:
Enrollment restricted to first-year students, including those with sophomore standing.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:


Today we humans are not only shaping the world around us, but we are at the cusp of being able to shape our own nature. Current technology already allows for bionic body parts, performance enhancing drugs, and genetically engineered humans. In this course we will set aside our current technological barriers and try to peer into humanity’s future, asking about ethical, metaphysical, and social implications of the changes we might undergo as individuals and as one species among others on our planet.

  • Will human beings survive into the distant future? And if so, in what form?
  • What are the ethical implications of slowing or ending the process of aging? Would indefinitely extended life even be desirable?
  • What about radical enhancements to bodily function or cognition?
  • What does it take to be the same person if one undergoes significant changes— for example, due to biological enhancements or extremely prolonged life?
  • What does it take to be the same species if humanity changes itself over time? Do we care?
  • What are the ethical implications of radical change to our environment— for example eliminating a species of mosquito that carries malaria, or engineering animals to control population?
  • How much effort should we put into avoiding existential risk — that is, danger of the sort that would extinguish the species entirely?

Aside from the opportunity to think hard about these issues, this course will help you refine your ability to reason carefully, question your assumptions, and write compellingly. You will be expected to develop and present your own views on the issues that we are discussing.

Course Requirements:

Students will be assessed on the basis of participation in discussion, quizzes, short argumentative papers, a presentation, and a take-home final exam.

Intended Audience:

This course is designed to provide first-year students with an intensive introduction to philosophy in a seminar format. I assume only significant interest in the topic, not previous experience.

Class Format:

Two one-and-a-half hour meetings with guided discussion.


PHIL 196 - First Year Seminar
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
 In Person
MW 11:30AM - 1:00PM
002 (SEM)
 In Person
TuTh 10:00AM - 11:30AM

Textbooks/Other Materials

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Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

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