Philosophy of Film (Fall 2008)
Often, when one hears “philosophy of film,” one imagines something that would be better called philosophy in (or through) film. On this model, one picks a handful of philosophical films and then discusses whatever philosophical issues happen to be relevant. Although this may improve one's understanding of those particular films, such courses are typically too diffuse and do little to increase our understanding of philosophy. As such, we won't be doing much philosophy in film; instead, this course focuses on as a set of philosophical problems having to do with the nature of film and our experiences of it.
We will address questions such as: Can movies be art? What is film? What distinguishes narrative fiction films from documentaries? Do films have narrators? How do films move us? Why do people watch melodrama and horror if such movies depress and disgust audiences? Do films have authors whose artistic intentions matter? Can ethical flaws detract from the aesthetic value of a film? Can films instruct or corrupt us morally? What makes a good critic? Are some better than others? Can films “do philosophy”? In other words, is “philosophy in film” possible?
Students will gain a clear understanding of the major problems in the philosophy of film and several central issues in the philosophy of art. Focusing on these problems is the most effective way to sharpen the critical vocabulary used in film theory and criticism.