Books  |  ,   |  October 29, 2019

Personhood in Science Fiction: Religious and Philosophical Considerations

Book by Juli L. Gittinger.
Published by Palgrave Macmillan.
245 pages.

This book addresses the topic of personhood—who is a “person” or “human,” and what rights or dignities does that include—as it has been addressed through the lens of science fiction. Chapters include discussions of consciousness and the soul, artificial intelligence, dehumanization and othering, and free will. Classic and modern sci-fi texts are engaged, as well as film and television. This book argues that science fiction allows us to examine the profound question of personhood through its speculative and imaginative nature, highlighting issues that are already visible in our present world.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
    • Defining “science fiction”
    • Organization and method
    • Brain versus mind, thinking versus understanding
    • Consciousness
    • Soul
  • Defining personhood in a posthuman world
    • An introduction to Westworld
    • Personhood as social
    • Outward personhood
    • Inward personhood: religious and spiritual evolutions
  • Dehumanization of the “non-human” being
    • Dehumanizing of the Other
    • Cylons, replicants, and clones
    • Empathy as uniquely human
    • Does a “person” require a “soul”?
    • Dehumanization as legitimation for extinction: the Borg
  • Embodied and non-bodied selves
    • The bicameral mind
    • Minds in bodies, ghosts in shells
    • Bodies without souls
    • Mind without body
    • Computer brain, human brain
  • Ethics of AI
    • Human-Robot relations
    • In whose image?
    • Ethics of creation
    • Purpose of AI
    • Asimov’s “Reason”
    • AI without ethics
  • Artificial consciousness and synthetic souls
    • The android soul
    • Developing the soul
    • Memories and emotion
    • Souls, androids, and cyborgs
    • Redux: Does a “person” require a “soul”?
  • The alien-other: monsters, mutants, and othered bodies
    • The racialized alien-other
    • Aliens and immigrants
    • Threats of extinction
    • Mutation
    • Eugenics as solution to “defective” humanity
    • The disabled Other
  • Free Will?
    • Personhood, free will, and moral responsibility
    • Free Will: “Time to write my own fucking story”
    • Predestination: “God has a plan.”
    • Determinism: “Does all of this have to happen again?”
    • The player piano

About the Author

Juli L. Gittinger is a Lecturer of South Asian religions and Program Coordinator for Religion at Georgia College, USA.  Her areas of personal research interest include Hindu nationalism, religion in media, and religion/pop culture.