Philosophy 150.001: Nature, Technology, and Society

(T,Th, 12:15-1:30: Maybank 206)


            Ned Hettinger                                                                                               Office: 16 Glebe, Rm. 201

             Fall 2010                                                                                                      Off. Hrs: Wednesday, 10-2

             Office Phone: 953-5786                                                                               (Also, stop by my office or

             Email:                                                                        make an appointment)


             Class Webpage:

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 assumption that new technology always constitutes progress). Secondly, we examine some specific technologies, including biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technology and geoengineering. 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. In examining restoration, we hope to clarify different ways to think about nature. Finally, the course examines the critique of consumption and progress and considers simple living and ecological design as responses to concerns about technology’s affect on nature and society.

           The main aim of the course is for you to develop your own understanding and evaluation of the appropriate relationships between nature, technology, and society.



The readings are available from the class webpage or through the Library’s electronic reserves page (password is: hettinger).


Midterm Exam (23%) Thursday, October 7th  

Final Exam (23%) Tuesday, December 14, 12-3pm, in our classroom

Major Paper (34%)

5-7 page paper exploring the ethical and philosophical dimensions of an issue concerning nature, technology, and society. Papers will typically develop in greater depth a specific topic addressed in the course. Students choose the topic, but the paper must clearly be related to and tied into the course. A paper proposal is due on Friday, Oct. 22th. The paper is due on Friday, November 19th.

Reading Quizzes (10%)

Weekly unannounced quizzes on the reading for that day. I do not give quiz makeups, but I do give “free quizzes” that can be used to substitute for a missed quiz. Also if you must miss a class, you can email me a brief description of the reading (or readings) for that day before class and that will count for the quiz, should we have one.

Class Participation (5%) and Attendance (5%)

Class participation includes general quality of class involvement. Attendance is particularly important in this class. I want you to learn from each other and from class discussion. 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) will dramatically lower your grade and is grounds for failing the course. If you have a good reason for missing class, please write it on a piece of paper (or email me) and include the date missed and your name. Please come to class on time: Assignments, reading quizzes and an attendance sheet are given at the beginning of class. It is your responsibility to make sure you have signed the attendance sheet.


Grading Scale:             I use the College’s numeric grading scale. A = 4.0 , A- = 3.7, B+ = 3.3, B = 3.0, B- = 2.7, C+ = 2.3, C = 2.0, C- = 1.7, D+ = 1.3, D = 1.0, D- = 0.7, F = 0.0