People are being introduced to the key concepts of philosophy through science fiction in a course run by London-based philosopher Peter Worley. The course, run in London on six evenings in September and October, under the auspices of The Philosophy Shop, explores philosophical questions and themes behind much modern science fiction literature, films and television dramas. That can be The Matrix’s introduction to the question, ‘how do we know what is real?’ through issues around personal identity in a film like Bladerunner to complex issues around ethics and epistemology in films like Solaris or 20001: a Space Odyssey.


The programme starts with a general introduction to philosophy, and links science fiction with the key concept of the ‘thought experiment’. Dating back to Plato, the thought experiment is an imagined scenario in which the philosopher is able to consider the various implications of an idea – which is almost a definition of the science fiction of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

The course covers such issues as: personal identity (Bladerunner, The Prestige, Memento, Solaris, Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde); free will (Gattaca, Groundhog Day, Minority Report, The Truman Show); knowledge / the external world (Total Recall, Abre Los Ojos, The Electric Ant); space time / time travel (Terminator, The Time Machine, Dr Who, 12 Monkeys, Back to the Future), and philosophy of mind (I Robot, Colossus: The Forbin Project, 2001: a Space Odyssey, A.I.).


According to the organisers: ‘Space is limited, so pre-booking essential: to book your tickets please email or phone 020 8699 9314.’


Comment: Isn’t this starting the whole process off by being extremely judgemental? Philosophy – for it to be of value – has to challenge preconceptions and accept no limits. So stating, from the start, that ‘Space is limited’, makes the whole course flawed.