From Subjects to Cyborgs

A seminar blog

Protected: Finally! – Results!

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(Almost) final words

It is not quite over yet – at least for some of you. I am still planning to write that post on that neurobiology article, but since some of you are already working on reworking your essays, I thought it best to give the details now. So here it goes:

If you wish to receive a grade, please send one PDF with all three (reworked) assignments to me by September 30th, 2016. Reworking is not mandatory, but resending is! This is, because I want to be sure that you have had the opportunity to go over these texts and have consciously made a decision on how much work you would like to put in. I will not grade anything that has not been resent.

The PDF should contain a cover page which states the class title, your name and some contact details, as well as the titles of the assignments and their length (word count). Each assignment should please start on a fresh page – it is easier to read that way. Also, I appreciate margins that are not too narrow and print that has a reasonable size. Include complete lists of references and make all references to one style! I don’t care which one (but Harvard works best), but make it one and the same for all your texts.

I would like to compile a reader of all final papers for the participants of the class only. I think it would be very interesting for all of us and really quite impressive. If you wish for your papers to be included, please also send them as three/two separate papers in a doc/odt format. I cannot copy the texts out of PDF documents. The reader would be available in early fall. So much for the formalities.

gradingI promised details on grading as well. When grading papers I usually work with a point scale to a maximum of 100. I will not tell you the “cut off” point for specific grades, because that tends to lead to misunderstandings. Be assured, when you were close to getting a better (or worse) grade, I will have considered if you should have gotten more or less points extra careful. The passing grades are distributed along a normal distribution, making it slightly more likely to receive a grade between 1,7 and 3,3 than receiving any one of the more extreme values. The minimum that must be reached to pass is 50 points – all of you easily would get that and more on the first draft!

I also usually work with questions and give points according to how well you have done any of these things. They will, in this class, be slightly different for each assignment. The first assignment, because it was in many ways the easiest, will be valued slightly less, than the second and the third (If you only did two assignments, the distribution of points will be 1st=40/2nd=60).


1st assignment – The set essay question (30 points)

  1. Does the paper address the statement appropriately and argue a concise point?
  2. Does the author develop a clear and well structured argument?
  3. Does the authors make appropriate use of sources/evidence and provide adequate citations and references?


2nd assignment – Free essay (35 points)

  1. Does the have a clear objective/hypothesis? Does it address this statement appropriately and argue a concise point?
  2. Does the author develop a clear and well structured argument?
  3. Does the authors make appropriate use of sources/evidence and provide adequate citations and references?


3rd assignment – Research Proposal (35 points)

  1. Does the proposal state a clear research question? Does it say how this research question addresses a gap in the reviewed literature?
  2. Does the proposal say how the research will answer the proposed question? Does it explain, why a certain approach/method is used? Does it demonstrate knowledge of the method in question?
  3. Does the author show sufficient knowledge of the field (literature review) and a realistic understanding of the challenges involved (methodological reflection and research plan)?


Grading is not arbitrary, but please keep in mind that writing is a very individual process: There is no single right way of doing this, so it is likely that very different texts will receive similar marks. If you have any questions afterwards, you are welcome to make an appointment and ask, how your grade came about.


Feedback time

There is still some things to come over the summer – and I promise another blogpost for next week. But before all of you go off on your summer work/travel/leisure I would very much appreciate an overall feedback, now that you have seen all we did this summer. Please follow this link and answer three questions (1 ranking, 1 rating, 1 free answer). This is really very important for me, so I appreciate your cooperation.

Proposals are online



And please not: FRIDAY will be a DOUBLE SESSION again – and we will have no session on the 22nd. There is no additional reading.

Also, the venue has changed for this session. We will meet Garystr. 55/305.


Posthumanism and a crazy roboter guy

Now, that we have spent almost all semester on thinking about how we might think of subjects/selfs/humans beyond the liberal self there comes the final blow: Posthumanism. I have not done a lot of work myself on the subject and I admit to having been sidetracked. Basically, I got stuck finding out more about a “crazyroboter scientist who might be considered an extremist in the field from our point of view but, in fact, has a much better understanding of robotics than all of us. hence it might have a point. But lets take one step at a time.

What is posthumanism? From what I understand it a strand of thought that considers the cyborg much more than just an imaginative resource. The self here is  defined informationally. That means, the self exists independently of the body, which is merely a prosthesis of some kind (and which could be of another kind, i.e. a machine) (Hayles 1999:  3). This truly is the stuff of science fiction, but in terms of theories of the self it isn’t actually so far out there. The relationship between consciousness, body and identity is one of the basic problems of philosophy. This question was prominently raised, for example, by John Locke and René Descartes. I cannot here go into sufficient detail but let me give it to you in two sentences: Descartes argument, often summarized in the statement “I think, therefore I am.” believes the self to be situated in the soul – and therefore to be immaterial and at least theoretically independent of the body. John Locke in defiance of this view argues, what is called a “psychological continuity” position: We are one and the same person because our consciousness is continuous. Suffice to say, philosophical debates become more complicated from there.*

Posthumanism builds on the idea that the self is only loosely coupled with the body – a body which limits the self. Which is why technology and bio-engineering are so great – they may soon make it possible to transcend these limits and give us the “homo evolutis”:


Being a little cyborg may be a weird idea – but transcending being human in a biological and consequently philosophical sense? To me, that is a bit scary. Is that just because it is so new? Or is there something to be scared of. Posthumanism is not mainstream, but many of the proponents are very influential in the technology scene. Silicon valley start ups (read: global technology companies) might simply create a posthuman world without asking around for our approval first. So, there is why I got sidetracked. Did you?

Badmington’s text sets out to answer another question, namely how such development might theorised. He draws on ideas of reiteration and repetition that we have encountered before, so there is a lot to discuss. But will it be enough to keep us from going extinct just to rethink who we are?

*Olga kindly drew up a reading list of philosophical literature relevant to the idea of the self as well as an excerpt regarding Fichtes work. Thank you very much for all the effort, it is much appreciated!

LINK: Now, I have not watched all of these videos, but as an entertaining option for learning more about the philosophical discussion, you my try the short videos in chapter 6 of this introductory online course to philosophy. Make sure you check all info, though ;-).