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PHL 242 H5S Science Fiction And Philosophy

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PHL 242 H5S Science Fiction And Philosophy

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PHL 242 H5S Science Fiction And Philosophy

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Course Code: PHL242H5S
University: University Of Toronto

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Country: Canada

Question:

The re-envisioned worlds, projected futures, and invented possibilities science fiction provides us with are excellent fodder for philosophical thinking. This is at least partly because science fiction, seemingly at such a remove from the world we dwell in, through these made-up worlds, futures, and possibilities, often expresses, or translates, the anxieties, and also aspirations, we are most intimate with. In this course, we will read works of science fiction and of philosophy which pose complementary questions, or exhibit complementary themes.
These are as follows: Surveillance and self-regulation; abjection; guests, parasites, and hosts: the permeable border between the self and the other; the relation between nature and technology; atrocity and the politics of eternal recurrence; queerness and the politics of the death drive; language-games and the social constitution of knowledge; the relationship between discourse and subjectivity; cruel optimism (attachments which undermine human flourishing); and, finally, the relationship between history, genealogy (alternative history-making), and social change.       

Answer: 

In Foucaultian genealogy, Foucault seeks to find alternatives to certain systemic failures apparent in the pursuit of origins in history. Linear history ignores phenomena it classifies as noise which is characterized by chaos. In demand for truth, History frustrates those who do not see events as final or as isolatable. Benjamin, on the other hand, focuses on the differences between historicism and historical materialism. In the same way, Foucault seeks to uncover a path for historians who desire total knowledge without avoiding the exceptional or dominating the present with pretensions of perspective.
Benjamin is criticizing historicism which is concerned with understanding the past only with relation to itself. Historicism seeks to understand the past by allocating history specific times or eras. This is flawed in that it isolates events and pays little if any attention to the linkages between events. There is a preference for the victor in an event. This further leads to a preference for the rulers given every ruler is the heir of the past victor. Cultural treasures reveal the perverse nature of historicism in the perception of time. Benjamin would rather have us relate to the past in a space that removes isolation and one that is open to pain and suffering that marks an event. In this perspective, there is a redemptive story. This perspective views the past from nowhere at all rather than from the position of the present. By appreciating time, the historical materialist makes the past inform the present, and the present informs the past. The cultural treasure is a relic of a shared past. This perspective is a dialectic between a revolutionary and a conservative voice. Salvation in Benjamin’s schema appears in his theory of messianism. Objects are redeemed by being deconstructed or used in alternative ways. Given there are victors and losers, a messianic hope is both strong and weak. Present revolutions continue past revolutions. Redemption is guaranteed as long as the past is always present, as long as it is not lost.
Lee Edelmen critiques the rhetoric of ‘having hope for the future’ in several aspects. First, the future may be lifeless and not within reach of life given the inanimate existed before the animate. The future is, therefore, a mere fantasy. Second, the future justifies the decision we make in conflicts or when we take sides. For if there is no future, what is there to fight for today? Politics uses the future to justify its endeavours while carrying the presupposition that politics itself will survive in the future. From Lee’s perspective, a salvation which is in the future is misguided. Such salvation is used to give hope to people who if they fail to accept will be considered inhumane or irresponsible.
Classism- A science-fiction story relating to this concept would be set in the future around one thousand years from today. In this world, all children are given the same platform from which they can launch themselves into whatever place or life they liked. By homogenizing upbringing and opportunities for children, no one is at a disadvantage. However, as they grow, differences in achievement in various spheres become apparent. This story has philosophical significance in showing that such a radical shift in action still sees class struggles persisting.

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