Philosophy of Film (Spring 2013) - First Exam

Philosophy of Film (S13) - First Exam

Before you begin writing, read this entire document.

Answer four (4) questions. All key terms, theories, and named objections must be explained.

Answer one question from 1-2. (Film as Art)

1. Evaluate the Causation Argument for the claim that photography cannot be art.

(This question requires evaluation. You should explain the argument and then raise an objection. Your objections do not have to be original.)

2. Evaluate the Aesthetic Interest Argument for the claim that photography cannot be art.

(This question requires evaluation. You should explain the argument and then raise an objection. Your objections do not have to be original.)

Answer one question from 3-5. (Medium Specificity)

3. Explain Carroll's argument against the claim that "it is just common sense that you don't make a tool do what it can't do. You pick the right tool for the job. You don't use a machete to cut a diamond; you don't make film do the work of theater."

(Pick the strongest objections. Do not attempt to explain them all.)

4. Evaluate Gaut's claim that cinematicity is a pro tanto virtue in a work of film and that the lack of cinematicity is a pro tanto defect.

(This question requires evaluation. You should explain his argument for the claim and then raise an objection. If you think that he is right, you should counter the strongest objection that you can think of.)

5. Evaluate Gaut's claim that fixed divergences with reality cannot be use for expressive purposes ("Cinematic Art," p.308).

(This question requires evaluation. You should explain Gaut's argument and his reply to the most obvious objection. Is his reply successful?)

Answer one question from 6-8. (Film Authorship)

6. Evaluate the "Duck Soup" (McCarey, 1933) Objection to Livingston's theory of cinematic authorship.

(This question requires evaluation. You should begin by explaining Livingston's theory. Then you should show how Sarris' comments on "Duck Soup" at the end of "Toward a Theory of Film History" (p.37) could be used as an objection to Livingston's theory. What does the theory appear to rule out? Does Livingston have a plausible reply, or is his theory dead as a duck?)

7. Evaluate Gaut's Great Expectations objection to the claim that directors can be the authors of mainstream movies.

(This question requires evaluation. You should setup the target theory and then explain Gaut's example. It is designed to show that something is neither necessary nor sufficient for authorship. Explain. Then evaluate the objection. Does it rest on a false analogy? If so, explain where the comparison between literature and film goes wrong.)

8. Evaluate Gaut's argument for the difference between authorship in theater and film.

(This question requires evaluation. You should explain the proposed difference. It will take a bit to make it clear. Then you should evaluate the proposal. Does it compare the comparable? Or does the argument rest on an ontological mistake. Explain.)

Answer question 9. (Evaluation)

9. Evaluate the "I know it's a comedy, but it isn't funny" Objection to the Pluralistic Category Approach (PCA) to film evaluation.

(This question requires evaluation. Explain the PCA and its virtues. What does it purport to do? Then raise the objection. How big of problem this? What is the basis of most critical disputes?)

Note: When evaluating an argument, you need to build up the argument and then show where it might go wrong. To build up an argument, you must do more than merely offer a formalization. You must explain the argument. Explain why someone might believe the premises. Typically, showing where an argument goes wrong will require arguing that one of the premises is false. When providing your own evaluations, be sure to consider obvious, compelling replies to your objections. If you think an argument is good, then you will need to defend it against the strongest objections that you can think of.

Note: Keep quotations to an absolute minimum. Never use a quotation to speak for you. I can't think of a good reason why you would need to use many quotes.

Due Date

Thursday, 3/7/2013


You have at most 3300 words (roughly 11 pages, double-spaced, Arial, 12 point font).


The exam must be typed. It should be double spaced. It should have one inch margins. You should use a 12 point font. I prefer Arial, since it is easy to read. Please follow the general paper and exam instructions under the "course documents / writing" section on Blackboard.

Write a separate short essay for each answer. Do NOT try to answer all the questions in a single essay. Formal introductions and conclusions are unnecessary, though you must use paragraphs.

Please skip a line or two between your answers. Include the question number at the start of each answer. Do not copy the questions.


You don't have much space, so you will need to be clear and to the point. Clarity should be your chief goal in writing the midterm. Pick your words carefully. Write to be understood. Assume that you are writing the paper to be read by someone completely unfamiliar with the issues.

I want you to explain the theories and objections as clearly as you can within the space allotted. I do not want papers that are longer than the word limit. The space limitation is designed to force you to practice verbal economy. That said, it is impossible to write a set of adequate answers in much less than the allocated space. You'll have to use most of the space, and use it well.


You are required to hand in a paper copy at the start of class on the due date. In addition you must submit the midterm through Safe Assign via Blackboard by 11:59 pm on the due date. (11:59 pm is after class, not to be confused with the night before.) Safe Assign is a plagiarism detection tool. It will compare your paper against others available online, in journals, submitted in this class, RIC, and from all other universities that use the software.

Note: Plagiarism will result in a failing grade in the class, not just on this assignment.


Your paper should be clearly written, well-structured, and free of grammatical and spelling errors. It is practically impossible to get higher than a C if you start writing the night before the paper is due. The grading scale is as follows:

A = excellent

B = good

C = meets minimal expectations

D = bad

F = awful


Before writing this paper you must read several documents under the writing section of the course Blackboard page. Read the following: 1. Writing Tip Sheet, 2. General Instructions, and 3. Pryor's "Writing Philosophy Papers". The last document is the most important.