Philosophy of Film (Spring 2013) - Second Exam

Philosophy of Film (S13) - Second Exam

Before you begin writing, read this entire document.

Answer four (4) questions. All key terms, theories, and named objections must be explained. You have 3,600 words. (There is a 2,400 word minimum.)

I. Answer one question from 1-4. (Documentary)

1. Evaluate Currie's theory of documentary.

(This question requires evaluation. Explain his theory. Then raise an objection or two.)

2. Evaluate Currie's claim that "photographs seem to have an affective capacity that handmade pictures lack" (p.145).

(This question requires evaluation. You also might want to consider Bazin's similar comments in the ontology essay. What exactly is Currie's claim? Why does he think it? Is it a true generalization?)

3. Evaluate the biopic objection to Carroll's theory of documentary.

(This question requires evaluation. Explain Carroll's theory. Then raise the biopic objection. Does Carroll have a plausible reply?)

*4. Evaluate the "Alien Autopsy" objection to the claim that documentaries are a species of non-fiction.

(This question requires evaluation. You should also consider the fact that we classifying largely accurate historical novels as works of fiction. And we consider history books that contain lots of errors to be non-fiction. So what should we say about putatively documentary films such as "Alien Autopsy"? Are they fiction or non-fiction? Are they documentaries? *This is probably the most interesting and the most difficult question in part I of the exam.)

II. Answer one question from 5-6. (Narrators)

5. Evaluate the Analytic Argument (aka "the a priori argument") for the claim that fictional narrators are ubiquitous in film. The argument has two parts. You should evaluate both. Make sure to evaluate Kania's defense of the the first part of the argument, the argument for the first sub-conclusion that narration entails a narrator.

(This question requires evaluation. Explain the argument. The second part is clearly invalid. Say why. Then explain Kania's defense of the first part. Does his argument work?)

6. Evaluate the indeterminacy defence of the Mediated Version of the Fictional Showing Hypothesis (MV-FSH).

(This question requires evaluation. You should explain what a fictional showing is. You should explain how the mediated version gets around the problems of the Face-To-Face version. Then you should consider the indeterminacy defense against the appropriate objection. You might want to consider if the defense undermines the support for any version of the FSH.)

III. Answer one question from 7-8. (Unreliable Narrators and The Ontological Gap)

7. Evaluate Currie's theory of unreliable narration. Consider the details of the theory. Can his specific account explain what we find in common examples, such as "Fight Club"?

(This question requires evaluation. You should explain Currie's theory and why he thinks that we need not appeal to implicit narrators. Then you should evaluate his theory. The potential problems are in the details.)

8. Evaluate Kania's comment in note #36 that Thackeray cannot be an unreliable narrator since he created the world of the fiction. It is unclear whether Kania means to generalize this to all unreliable narration, or just cases like Vanity Fair. But, for the sake of argument assume that he means to defend the claim that authors cannot be the source of unreliable narration. Is this true? Why or why not?

(This question requires evaluation. You should make a case for the claim. Can Shakspeare be wrong that Hamlet is the prince of Denmark? Could he be wrong that Hamlet is 30 years old in Act V? Why or why not? Then evaluate the claim that no author can be an unreliable narrator.)

IV. Answer one question from 9-10. (The Paradox of Fiction)

9. Evaluate Radford's reply to the Fourth Solution (eg., The objection featuring the mother who reads about a bus accident elsewhere and grabs her children in relief when they return from school). Is crying at movie closer to Radford's other example, that of the man who is saddened by the thought that his sister would have been unhappy had she never had children? If not, why not? If so, is this clearly irrational, as Radford claims?

(This question requires evaluation. Explain Radford's argument. Explain how the Fourth Solution is an objection. Explain Radford's reply and evaluate it. Since Carroll defends what looks like Radford's Fourth Solution, you might want to consider Carroll's argument in your evaluation, but this isn't required.)

10. Evaluate Carroll's defense of the rationality of typical emotional responses to fiction.

(This question requires evaluation. Explain the paradox. Explain why one might be lead to deny that such reactions are rational. Explain Carroll's solution to the how question. Then explain how this is supposed to solve the rationality question. Evaluate his argument. What sense of "rational" does he have in mind? What might Radford mean by "rational"?)

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

Tuesday, 4/16/2013


You have at most 3600 words (roughly 12 pages, double-spaced, Arial, 12 point font). The exam should be no less than 2,400 words, about 8 pages. (I will deduct a letter grade for every 300 words shy of the minimum.)


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.