This article sketches a commonplace yet neglected epistemic puzzle raised by the diversity of our film-viewing practices. Because our appreciative practices allow for variability in the “instances” of cinematic works we engage, many of our experiential encounters with those works are flawed or impoverished in a number of ways. The article outlines a number of ways in which instances of cinema can vary—including, for example, in terms of color, score, and aspect ratio. This variability of instances of cinema and, hence, the variability in our experiences of a cinematic work raise potential problems around normative questions of interpretation and evaluation.
Roy M. Anker
Book Review of Paisley Livingston, Cinema, Philosophy, Bergman: On Film as Philosophy
Paul Taberham and Kaitlin Brunick
Noël Carroll, Minerva’s Night Out: Philosophy, Pop Culture, and Moving Pictures Reviewed by Paul Taberham
Peter Wyeth, The Matter of Vision: Affective Neurobiology & Cinema Reviewed by Kaitlin Brunick
Sartre's recollection, in Les Mots, of his first visit to the cinema is a multi-layered and ambivalent text through which Sartre proposes a number of interlocking arguments: concerning the contrast between the 'sacred' space of the theatre and the non-ceremonial space of the cinema, between the theatre as associated with paternal authority, and the cinema as associated with a clandestine bond with the mother. But the text also sets up a quasi-sociological account of the public Sartre encounters in the cinema itself as revealing to him the truth of the social bond, a truth he expresses with the term 'adherence', and which he says he only rediscovered in his experience of being a prisoner in the Stalag in 1940. Rather than the basis of a sociological account of the social bond, which would seem at odds with Sartre's social philosophy, I read this as the expression of a desire for physical proximity. The space of the cinema thus develops a fantasy, and this is in continuity with the role of the cinema in the evolution traced in Les Mots, in which it is described as instigating a withdrawal into imaginary life and an indulgence in daydreaming. Through reference to Christian Metz and to Roland Barthes, whose essay 'En sortant du cinéma' is proposed as a parallel and a response to Sartre, I suggest that the 'true bond' of adherence which Sartre encounters is an unconscious rather than an epistemological truth.
Adrian van den Hoven
This collection of twenty-one articles by thirteen American, six British, and two Canadian scholars is divided into four sections: Sartre and Philosophy; Sartre and Psychology; Sartre: (Auto)biography, Theater, and Cinema; and, finally, Sartre and Politics. The great diversity of approaches and commentaries is a tribute to the stature of Sartre, whose writings continue to have an impact on the English-speaking world and farther afield.
Phenomenology Encounters Cognitivism
Since the early 1990s, phenomenology and cognitivism have become influential strands of inquiry in film theory. Phenomenological approaches remain focused on descriptive accounts of the embodied subject’s experiential engagement with film, whereas cognitivist approaches attempt to provide explanatory accounts in order to theorize cognitively relevant aspects of our experience of movies. Both approaches, however, are faced with certain challenges. Phenomenology remains a descriptive theory that turns speculative once it ventures to “explain” the phenomena upon which it focuses. Cognitivism deploys naturalistic explanatory theories that can risk reductively distorting the phenomena upon which it focuses by not having an adequate phenomenology of subjective experience. Phenomenology and cognitivism could work together, I suggest, to ground a pluralistic philosophy of film that is both descriptively rich and theoretically productive. From this perspective, we would be better placed to integrate the cultural and historical horizons of meaning that mediate our subjective experience of cinema.
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.