Philosophy and Film

Carl Plantinga

in Cinema and Media Studies

ISBN: 9780199791286
Published online October 2011 | | DOI:
Philosophy and Film


Although the philosophy of film dates as far back as Harvard professor Hugo Münsterberg’s 1916 The Photoplay: A Psychological Study, the philosophy of film has only recently become a part of mainstream aesthetics and philosophy generally. Early film theorists such as André Bazin, Siegfried Kracauer, and Rudolph Arnheim, though not professional philosophers, engaged in examinations of the film medium that are clearly philosophical. Many film theorists have been trained in philosophy, and much of their work can be deemed philosophical as well. However, although a few professional philosophers made the study of film a major element of their work before the 1980s (Stanley Cavell, for example), it was not until that decade that academic philosophers began to train their attention on film in greater numbers. Since that time, the philosophy of film has become alive with debate, research, and excellent publications, with contributions by well-known aestheticians such as Noël Carroll, Gregory Currie, Cynthia Freeland, and George Wilson. We might also note the rise in the number of courses on the philosophy of film. One cannot draw a clear or concise line between film theory and philosophy; both aim at the general understanding of the film medium and its implications. The claim that only professional philosophers engage in the philosophy of film defines the field too narrowly; many film theorists are also trained in philosophy and employ philosophical methodologies. One might say, then, that the philosophy of film is more likely than film theory to draw on philosophical methodologies, to consult the work of philosophers, or to be written by professional philosophers. Yet much of the philosophy of film is also film theory, and vice versa. Given that there exists a separate Oxford Bibliographies Online entry on “Film Theory,” the idea of the philosophy of film will be more narrowly construed here than it might be otherwise. The relationship between philosophy and film extends beyond the philosophy of film. Recently there has been a flurry of scholarly examinations of the possibility, at one extreme, that films can “think” or “do” philosophy, ranging to more modest claims that films are philosophical in some sense, or that they can serve as prompts or aids in philosophical investigation.

Article.  7304 words. 

Subjects: Media Studies ; Film ; Radio ; Television

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