Philosophy of Technology (Undergraduate)

Spring 2021

From Descarte's The World

A free verse rendition of the most famous passage from the Zhuangzi. From Kuang-Ming Wu, The Butterfly as Companion: Meditations on the First Three Chapters of the Chuang-Tzu, State University of New York Press, Albany NY, 1990, p. 115.


Course CodesLocation Times
PHIL-SHU 1301555 Century Avenue, Room 303Wednesdays, 5:00pm to 8:00pm


NameEmailOfficeConsultation Times
Anna Greenspanag158@nyu.edu1555 Century AvenueBy appointment.
Brad Weslakebrad.weslake@nyu.edu1555 Century Avenue, Room 961By appointment.


This course aims to train students to think philosophically about our rapidly changing—and ever more intimate—relationship with machines. The course is historically oriented, and typically focuses on some of the following subjects: artificial intelligence, robots, cyborgs, automation and science fiction speculation. This semester, we will focus on the theme of simulation. This section is for undergraduate students, enrolled in Shanghai. For the postgraduate section, see here.


The final grade will be determined approximately as follows:

Attendance and participation: 15%
Weekly reading assignments: 15%
Media review: 10%
Midterm Exam: 25%
Final paper: 35%

Assessment dates:

Midterm Exam: Posted Wednesday 10 March, Due Wednesday 17 March
Final Paper Outline: Wednesday 21 April
Final Paper: Wednesday 12 May

Assessment instructions:

Weekly reading assignments: PDF
Midterm Exam: PDF
Outline and final paper: PDF



Attendance and Lateness

Students are required to attend all classes on time. An explanation for every absence or late attendance must be submitted in writing to the instructors. Every failure to attend class on time will count against the component of the final grade awarded for attendance and participation, unless an explanation is received and approved at least one day prior to the class in question. Requests for exceptions will be considered on a case by case basis, and typically granted only when related to an illness or other unforeseeable change in circumstance. Students who have been excessively absent will be considered to have unofficially withdrawn and will be given a final grade of F.


It is a condition on passing this course that students read and adhere to the NYU Shanghai policy on academic integrity as described in the current NYU Shanghai Academic Bulletin. Breaches of academic integrity could result in failure of an assignment, failure of the course, or other sanctions, as determined by the Academic Affairs office.

Late Assignments

Assignments are due at the dates and times indicated on this syllabus. The late penalty for the final paper is one component of a letter grade per day (an A becomes an A–, etc.) All other late assignments will receive an F.

Electronic Devices

You may not use mobile devices in class unless otherwise indicated.

Disability Disclosure Statement

NYU is committed to providing equal educational opportunity and participation for students with disabilities. It is NYU Shanghai’s policy that no student with a qualified disability be excluded from participating in any NYU Shanghai program or activity, denied the benefits of any NYU Shanghai program or activity, or otherwise subjected to discrimination with regard to any NYU Shanghai program or activity. Any student who needs a reasonable accommodation based on a qualified disability is required to register with the Moses Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) for assistance. Students can register online through the CSD and can contact the Director of the Academic Resource Center with questions or for assistance. For more information see here.

Title IX Statement

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs. It protects victims of sexual or gender-based bullying and harassment and survivors of gender-based violence. Protection from the discrimination on the basis of sex includes protection from being retaliated against for filing a complaint of discrimination or harassment. NYU is committed to complying with Title IX and enforcing University policies prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex. Mary Signor, Executive Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity, serves as New York University’s Title IX Coordinator. The University’s Title IX Coordinator is a resource for any questions or concerns about sex discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual violence, or sexual misconduct and is available to discuss your rights and judicial options. University policies define prohibited conduct, provide informal and formal procedures for filing a complaint and a prompt and equitable resolution of complaints.

Links to the Title IX Policy and related documents:

Course Materials


Meeting 1: The Western Tradition I: Plato (Wednesday 27 January)

Meeting 2: The Western Tradition II: Descartes (Wednesday 3 February)

Meeting 3: The Western Tradition III: Leibniz and Kant (Wednesday 10 February)

Spring Festival: 11–19 February

Meeting 4: Asian Perspectives I: Zhuangzi (Wednesday 24 February)

Meeting 5: Asian Perspectives II: Vasubandhu (Wednesday 3 March)

Meeting 6: Recurrence: Nietzsche and Deleuze (Wednesday 10 March)

Meeting 7: Feminist Speculations: Irigaray and Plant (Wednesday 17 March)

Meeting 8: The Imitation Game: Turing (Wednesday 24 March)

Meeting 9: The Experience Machine: Nozick (Wednesday 31 March)

Qingming: 5–7 April

Meeting 10: The Virtual and the Real: Chalmers (Wednesday 14 April)

Meeting 11: Copy and Simulation I: Baudrillard (Wednesday 21 April)

Meeting 12: Copy and Simulation II: Byung-Chul Han (Wednesday 28 April)

Meeting 13: Mind, Body and Self I: The Self in the Virtual World (Wednesday 5 May)

Meeting 14: Mind, Body and Self II: The Virtual Self in the World (Wednesday 12 May)

Updated: 27 April 2021