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Trevor Hedberg

I've had considerable success using Zootopia to teach about moral psychology and implicit bias. The film's top quality and absolutely loaded with examples of various psychological phenomena that hinder sound moral judgment. You can read more about how I used it in some prior courses here: http://www.thedeviantphilosopher.org/Units/PsychologicalObstaclestoActingEthically

One of my other big successes has been using the South Park episode "You Have 0 Friends" to teach about friendship in the social media age. As the title suggests, it's South Park's take on Facebook. The episode is only 20 minutes, so you can watch the whole thing in class, discuss it, and then connect it to the relevant reading for the day (which in my case is typically a selection from Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics).

I'd also recommend looking at the recent film Get Out, which was a masterclass social commentary on race. And if you want a short story that captures the deontology / consequentialism divide, Ursula Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" gets mentioned frequently.


I've had particular success with Groundhog Day and with the Orson Scott Card short story "Fat Farm." The latter provides a vivid depiction of Parfit-style splitting cases.


Oh, I should have mentioned: I pair Groundhog Day with the Nicomachean Ethics.


And one more that I haven't taught, but that I've thought would be very good: "Sex and/or Mr. Morrison," by Carol Emshwiller, which raises questions about the metaphysics of gender. The story appears first in the Harlan Ellison-edited anthology Dangerous Visions, and it's worth reading that version for Emshwiller's included afterword.

Robert Gressis

I always use TV shows because they're shorter and I can show them in class.

When I teach Philosophy and Pop Culture, I usually have a section on The Good Life, using Guignon's reader (which I don't like, btw, so I'm trying to do things differently now). Here's what I pair with what:

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, "The Russian Monk"--Jim Gaffigan Show, Season 2, Episode 1, "The Calling" (about whether or not you have a divine calling to a particular vocation)

Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance"--Parks and Recreation, Season 4, Episode 4, "Pawnee Rangers" (about whether a simple life or a political life is the better life; could be used for Rousseau vs. Aristotle too).

Friedrich Nietzsche, "The Gay Science"--Breaking Bad, Season 1, Episode 1, "Pilot" (about whether living the good requires you to go beyond morality)

W. E. B. DuBois, "Of Our Spiritual Strivings"--Master of None, Season 1, episode 4, "Indians on TV" (about whether you have an obligation to advance your group's interests or your own, as well as double-consciousness of the sort DuBois discusses)

Martin Buber, "The Way of Man, According to the Hasidim"--Community, Season 1, episode 1, "Pilot" (about whether or not you need a community in order to have deep satisfaction)

I also do a philosophy of technology section where we watch the following shows:

Black Mirror, Season 1, episode 2, "15 Million Merits" (I use it to discuss how constant stimulation distracts us and undermines what Matthew Crawford calls "The Attentional Commons")

Black Mirror, Season 1, episode 3, "The Entire History of You" (I use it to discuss the notion of the quantified self, which Sherry Turkle discusses in Reclaiming Conversation)

I use Crimes and Misdemeanors to discuss the Ring of Gyges.

Finally, I think Black Mirror, Season 3, Episode 1, "Nosedive" would be good for friendship or just social striving in general and Black Mirror, Season 4, Episode 1 "USS Callister" is worth it for toxic masculinity among other things.

Rob Gressis

Also see this: http://philfilms.utm.edu

Derek Bowman

This is a very small example, but I often play the Rage Against the Machine song "Down Rodeo" when teaching Marx. While several of the band's songs have Marxist themes, this lyric in particular emphasizes the difference between the popular conception of 'Marxism' in American politics (free stuff) with Marx's actual focus (controlling the means of production):

"A thousand years they had the tools, we should be takin' 'em
F*** the G-ride, I want the machines that are makin' em!"

Of course this song is now older than my students, so it's not exactly on the cutting edge of pop culture.


Peter Watts's short story *The Things* is a fantastic re-telling of John Carpenter's classic film *The Thing* (1982), but from the thing's point of view.

Like his novel Blindsight, it's a meditation on the difference between sentience and sapience, intelligence and consciousness, inspired by Thomas Metzinger's "Being No One: The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity". It makes for a really cool supplement to the philosophy of mind.

Anyone can read the story--or listen to an audio recording--for free at http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/watts_01_10/

(P.S. - Blindsight is a brilliant piece of literature that does a phenomenal job of building in the philosophy. It's also available for free online, because it was published under a Creative Commons license.)


X Files: Jose Chung's From Outer Space

Epistemic/Perspectival Issues, Perhaps ethical issues such as rape

Marcus Arvan

Thanks for all the great suggestions, everyone! Please feel free to keep 'em coming. :)


The Good Place name-drops philosophers left and right, from Aristotle to Kant to Hume to Scanlon.

LOST is, subtly, about existentialism.

The Dark Knight series is useful for politics, especially in the third movie, which uses the various members of the main cast to depict a variety of responses to political problems.

The Matrix, obviously. "What is real," etc.

You could use Catch-22 to talk about paradoxes, circular reasoning, and other shenanigans.

You could use Blade Runner/Blade Runner 2049/Ex Machina to talk about what makes humans human.

Sherlock Holmes uses complicated reasoning methodology, which could lead into deduction/abduction/induction or Bayesian epistemology or whatever.

Lovecraft, despite being inordinately racist, asks challenging questions about the limits of human knowledge.

Serenity has a wonderful line in it about how utopia couldn't be populated by the type of people who are necessary to establish utopia.

"With great power comes great responsibility"?

Jessica Jones (on Netflix) asks some interesting questions about personal responsibility.

At the beginning of "Criminal," Eminem does this bit about how, if you believe everything he says on his records, "I'll kill you," which, to put it lightly, should generate some lively classroom discussion about speech and the morals of making art.

...I could probably go on.

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