Since the advent of cinema, the screen has both provided a laboratory for thinking through and experimenting with key issues in philosophy and has drawn on questions of metaphysics and epistemology to engage viewers’ imaginations and minds.
Over the last several decades, popular Hollywood cinema has increasingly turned to philosophical questions to provide thematic structure and depth to its commercial products. Movies such as The Matrix, The Truman Show, Ex Machina, Being John Malkovich, and 12 Monkeys raise important questions about how we understand our world, what constitutes reality, and why or how our existence matters or is meaningful. We will examine these films and others through the lens of both Philosophy and Film Studies and combine that with readings and exercises that engage with and integrate the two disciplines.
This course (a spinoff of Professor Slater’s recent Belief & Reality and Philosophy and Film courses*) thus integrates key concepts and methods from the fields of Philosophy and Film Studies, using each field as a way to understand, think through, and question the other. It will introduce you to some central methods and problems from two important and exciting branches of philosophy: metaphysics and epistemology. Epistemology addresses questions about our beliefs about the world around us. How are they formed and transmitted? When are they justified? At what point do they constitute knowledge? Metaphysics concerns the nature of existence and the most general features of reality. Under this heading, we’ll consider such topics as the nature of time, mind, free will, and our continued identity through time. In studying these issues, we will attend to how they are portrayed in contemporary film, often thinking about film itself as a medium for doing philosophy.
Concurrently, we will examine several fundamental concepts from Film Studies including the uses of style for storytelling, narrative strategies, cognitive models of meaning making, and film as an art form that seeks to exploit and shape our perceptions of time, space, and reality. As the questions from these two fields intersect, we will open up specific inquiries into how they can fit together as well as a broader examination of the conditions and consequences of producing knowledge within and across disciplines.
Instruction will be online and will be based on a series of interactive lecture modules that you can engage with either at scheduled times or at other times you find convenient as well as live group discussions via Zoom.
* Notes: Because of the topical / reading overlap with recent editions of PHIL 100: Belief & Reality and Philosophy & Film, students who have already taken these courses will not be able to receive credit for Philosophy of Film this summer. Because of the philosophical content of this course, it may satisfy the PHIL 100 prerequisite for more advanced PHIL courses; students interested in this possibility should get in touch with the instructors of those courses.
Films to be screened (tentative)
Films will be made available on Moodle to watch when students find it convenient; optionally, students will be able to join synchronized "viewing parties" to engage in a group chat during the screening.