Fiction recs for Philosophy class!
June 23, 2016 2:34 PM   Subscribe

I'm teaching an introductory ethics course, and I'd like to see if the hivemind has better suggestions for short fiction that deals with either the purpose of a social contract, or demonstrates how social contracts go horribly wrong.

I've been using Octavia Butler's "Speech Sounds", but I'm thinking of transitioning that to just a paper topic rather than a discussion piece.

I'd prefer that the story be
: less than 15 pages long (they seem to have troubles actually finishing readings longer than this)
: not racist/sexist/classist/ableist unless it's very clear these constructs are being dismantled or analyzed
: available online (I know linkrot is a real thing, but it's easier for students with accessibility needs to access something available in text format as opposed to PDFs)
: fictional!

If it matters, we'll be reading whatever ends up being selected alongside John Rawls and Malcolm X. I suppose I prefer SF/F and dystopic fiction, but regular ol' literary fic is great too.
posted by zinful to Writing & Language (7 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
"The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson never gets old!

"Singing My Sister Down" by Margo Lanagan is online, though perhaps not legally. It's a story with a lot to unpack about punishment and justice.
posted by nicebookrack at 2:48 PM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Those who Walk Away from the Omelas is kind of mind blowing.
posted by Deoridhe at 4:13 PM on June 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" is perfect - it's explicitly about the ethical costs of a social construct.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:14 PM on June 23, 2016

Recently on Metafilter: Trojan Horses by Jess Zimmermann. It's about a future where companies send their employees to the past/alternate timelines to collect material samples.
Of course, there’s no way I could stay. Even if I could somehow hack the shuttle to return without me, it’s extremely frowned upon to spend too much time in an alt—not actually illegal, since none of our governments have jurisdiction here, but something approaching taboo. In theory this has something to do with colonialism and not polluting the past, but given that our entire civilization is built on colonialism and polluting the past, I think it’s probably more about collective guilt. On some level, we know it’s not right to force our way ever further back in time, squeezing out the real inhabitants and paving over their cultures with our comforts. If people started doing the same thing to the alts, it would remind us that we’re already assholes.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:41 PM on June 23, 2016

An excerpt from Lord of the Flies? (Apparently there's a film adaptation, maybe a clip could be shown instead.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:41 PM on June 23, 2016

Kurt Vonnegut, "Harrison Bergeron."

Kurt Vonnegut, "Barnhouse Effect"

Kurt Vonnegut, Any Reasonable Offer.

Basically, lots of Kurt Vonnegut
posted by yesster at 8:09 PM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

The classic story "The Cold Equations" by Tom Godwin.

The overly self-conscious story "Cloak of Anarchy" by Larry Niven.

The overlooked, but classic, story "The Last of the Deliverers," by Poul Anderson.

I imagine there are a couple of good ones that I can't recall in "Thought Probes" and "Philosophy Through Science Fiction." These are sf anthologies, available thru Amazon, that are apparently designed for classroom use to explore philosophical questions. The latter may be an updated version of the former.
posted by Mr. Justice at 11:20 AM on June 24, 2016

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