This review essay’s title is partly in homage to Arthur Danto’s well-known essay “Philosophy As/And/Of Literature” (Danto 1984). But this title also helps to organize my comments, both appreciative and critical, and it does so by pointing toward a range of issues about philosophy and film that is similar to a range of issues that have been raised about philosophy and literature. Specifically, I would have liked more attention to philosophy and film. But I am quite ready to admit that my own sensibility here may be extremely idiosyncratic and may present nothing that Thomas Wartenberg needs to or even does disagree with. This suggestion about philosophy and film comes at the end of the essay.
The following three talks were originally delivered as part of the “Author Meets Critic” session on Thomas E. Wartenberg’s Thinking on Screen: Film as Philosophy (2007)* at the American Philosophical Association Central Division Meeting in Chicago. The session was sponsored by the Society for the Philosophical Study of the Contemporary Visual Arts on 17 April 2008.
Roy M. Anker
Book Review of Paisley Livingston, Cinema, Philosophy, Bergman: On Film as Philosophy
Jason Wesley Alvis
Thomas Deane Tucker and Stuart Kendall, eds., Terrence Malick: Film and Philosophy
Between Movies and Mind, Affective Neuroscience, and the Philosophy of Film
Murray Smith’s Film, Art, and the Third Culture makes a significant contribution to cognitive film theory and philosophical aesthetics, expanding the conceptual tools of film analysis to include perspectives from neuroscience and evolutionary psychology. Smith probes assumptions about how cinema affects spectators by examining aspects of experience and neurophysiological responses that are unavailable to conscious, systematic reflection. This article interrogates Smith’s account of emotion, empathy, and imagination in cinematic representation and film spectatorship, placing his work in dialogue with other recent interventions in the fields of cinema studies and embodied cognition. Smith’s contribution to understanding the role of emotion in screen studies is vital, and when read in conjunction with recent publications by Carl Plantinga and Mark Johnson on ethical engagement and the moral imagination, this new work constitutes a notable advance in film theory.
I would like to begin my “response” to my “critics” by acknowledging my sense that they are less critics than fellow travelers in a joint project of understanding the philosophical significance of film. Each of them has provided me with help and support over the years. My own attempt to think philosophically about film was aided substantially by my discovery that Cynthia Freeland was also engaged in the same line of inquiry, and this, in turn, resulted in our collaborating on the first anthology about film written exclusively by philosophers, Philosophy and Film, published in 1995. Richard Eldridge and I have also maintained an ongoing if somewhat episodic discussion over the years about my understanding of film and the significance of Stanley Cavell’s account of the cinema, a conversation that has helped me refine my own thinking even as the conversation challenged it. So I would like to begin, then, by thanking rather than responding to these two friends and colleagues.
Review Essay on: COGNITIVISM GOES TO THE MOVIES: Paisley Livingston and Carl Plantinga, eds., THE ROUTLEDGE COMPANION TO PHILOSOPHY AND FILM; Carl Plantinga, MOVING VIEWERS: AMERICAN FILM AND THE SPECTATOR’S EXPERIENCE; Torben Grodal, EMBODIED VISIONS: EVOLUTION, EMOTION, CULTURE, AND FILM
This article modifies philosopher Tamar Szabó Gendler's theory of imaginative resistance in order to make it applicable to film and analyze a distinctively adverse kind of resistant response to James Cameron's Avatar (2009). Gendler's theory, as she states it, seeks to explain resistance to literary stories in a straightforwardly cognitivist, but narrowly rationalistic fashion. This article introduces elements from recent work at the intersection of philosophy of film and the emotions to augment Gendler's theory so that it can be used to explain why some viewers hesitate or even refuse to imagine some cinematic fictional worlds. The method used is analytic philosophy of film. The analysis reveals that some viewers are cognitively impoverished with regard to imagining race in general: they will likely have extreme difficulty in centrally imagining racially "other" characters, which also bodes ill for their real-world prospects for moral engagements concerning race.
This article argues that cognitive film theory has largely overlooked the phenomenon of disgust insofar as it can be racialized, but could be developed to account for it. Critical race theory, especially in its analytic mode, has similarly failed to offer an account of racialized disgust, although some thinkers in the phenomenological tradition have analyzed related phenomena. The article proposes to reconcile these three research areas by drawing on recent work concerning disgust and arguing for its relevance to viewers’ reactions to depictions of race in film, thereby developing an improved set of diagnostic tools for the analysis of cinematic spectatorship. The method used is analytic philosophy of film. The analysis reveals that many viewers embody their sense of race through disgust reactions and that these reactions constitute crucial components regarding how they perceive and understand narrative characters in film.
Climate Change and the Cinematic Ethics of Immersive Filmworlds
Ludo de Roo
In an age of ecological disasters and increasing environmental crisis, the experience of any cinematic fiction has an intrinsic ethical potential to reorient the spectator’s awareness of the ecological environment. The main argument is that the spectator’s sensory-affective and emphatically involving experience of cinema is essentially rooted in what I call “elemental imagination.” This is to say, first, that the spectator becomes phenomenologically immersed with the projected filmworld by a cinematic expression of the elemental world, and second, much like there is no filmworld without landscapes, the foundational aspect of elements are revealed as preceding and sustaining the narrative and symbolic layers of film experience. While suggesting the existential-ethical potential of this fundamental process of film experience, the second aim of this article is to show that this form of elemental imagination complements more mainstream “environmentalist” films, such as climate change documentaries and blockbuster apocalyptic genre films.