Course Details

Course offered Spring 2020

HONORS 397 B: Human/Transhuman/Posthuman (SSc)

HONORS 397 B: Human/Transhuman/Posthuman (SSc)

SLN 15124 (View UW registration info »)

John (Jack) Whelan (Foster School of Business)

Credits: 3, c/nc
Limit: 15 students

Credit Type

Note: this is a 3 credit course so will only count towards UW general education requirements, not Honors core curriculum.

The Western humanist tradition has presupposed the existence of the individual free human subject. Such a notion has been under attack from different quarters–from post-structuralist philosophy to Posthumanist thinking in the light of AI and machine learning. This confusion about the human has wide-ranging implications for political discourse, economic organization, and shaping contemporary ideas about human identity and meaning. This seminar will seek to understand the evolution of ideas about what it means to be human from secular rationalist and anti-rationalist perspectives primarily from Western secular and religious perspectives.

The themes for each week are listed below. The instructor will provide background information and resources to acquaint students with the different perspectives they will encounter, but the main goal of the course is to provide an opportunity for lively discussion around a topic that is of central concern for all thoughtful human beings: What do you think it means to be human?

The class will meet twice a week for 90-minute sessions. This is a credit/no credit class that will require modest level of reading and a final “reflection” paper to provide students with the opportunity to integrate themes developed in the class with concerns relevant to them. 

Week 1: Overview of Course Goals: Our Postmodern Condition
Week 2: The German Backstory: From Kant to Nietzsche
Week 3 The Hermeneutics of Suspicion: Nietzsche, Marx, Freud
Week 4: Structuralism and Post Structuralism: From de Saussure to Kristeva
Week 5 The Semiotics of the Secular West: From Descartes to Dawkins
Week 6 Postmodernism and the Critique of Western Rationality: Derrida and Baudrillard
Week 7 Axiality and Freedom: From Jaspers, Taylor, Kohlberg
Week 8: Aletheia: From the Renaissance to Heidegger
Week 9: Eschaton as Upload: Machine Learning, AI, and what comes next
Week 10: Wrap:. The Human Social-Political Future: Markets, Marx, or Something Else?