Philosophy 150: Nature, Technology, and Society

Ned Hettinger
Fall 2005
Office: 16 Glebe, Rm. 201
Off. Hrs: Wednesday, 10-2
(Also, stop by my office or make an appointment)
Office Phone: 953-5786

Course Description and Goals

This course is an introduction to philosophical thinking about the relationships between technology, nature and society. It is divided into four parts. We first consider general issues in the philosophy of technology, focusing on Luddist philosophy (i.e., a skepticism toward the identification of new technology with progress). Secondly, we examine the debate over biotechnology, with emphasis on its use in the production of food and in altering humans. We then study the possibility of human restoration of degraded nature and ask whether this technology can provide for a healthy human relationship with nature. Finally, the course examines the critique of consumption and considers ecological design as a response to concerns about technology's affect on nature and society.

The main goal of the course is for students to develop their own understanding and evaluation of the appropriate relationships between nature, technology, and society.



Major Paper (34%)

5-7 page paper exploring the ethical and philosophical dimensions of an issue concerning nature, technology, and society. Students choose the topic, but the paper must be clearly related to and tied into the course. Papers will typically develop in greater depth a specific topic addressed in the course. A paper proposal is due on Friday, Oct. 28th. The paper is due on Friday, November 18th (unless the topic is consumption, in which case the paper is due on Friday, December 2rd).

Midterm and Final Exam (46%)

Multiple choice, short answer, and essay exams (23% each)

Reading Quizzes (10%), Class Participation (5%), and Attendance (5%) (20%)

There will be brief quizzes at the beginning of class on the reading for that class period, typically one per week. There will be no make ups, but I do offer "free quizzes" allowing students to replace missed quizzes. Class participation includes general quality of class involvement. Attendance is particularly important in this class. I want you to learn from each other. Also, developing the skill of thinking philosophically requires practice and following examples. These can't be adequately done on your own. Poor attendance will lower your grade; extremely poor attendance (missing over two weeks of class) is sufficient grounds for failing the course. If you have a good reason for missing class, please write it on a piece of paper (with the date missed and your name) and give it to me. I give assignments and distribute handouts and an attendance sheet at the beginning of class. Please come to class on time. It is your responsibility to sign the attendance sheet.