Philosophy of Film

Edited by Aaron Smuts (Rhode Island College)
About this topic

"Philosophy of Film" is often used to describe a few different kinds of work. Two are most important. We should distinguish between philosophy in or through film, and the philosophy of or about film. When one does philosophy through film, one seeks to either illuminate some philosophical idea or to make progress on some philosophical issue through a discussion of a movie. One might even attribute the philosophical work to the film. We might call this philosophy in film. In contrast, the philosophy of film is the philosophy about film.  It asks about the nature of film, our experience of it, how it works its magic on us, and what limitations it might have. The analytic philosophy of film is principally issue driven. One of the issues concerns the philosophical limits of film, whether philosophy in film is possible. This mid-level category is home to both kinds of work, philosophy through film and the philosophy of film.

Key works

Carroll's Philosophy of Motion Pictures and Gaut's A Philosophy of Cinematic Art are two leading monographs offering opposing views on a wide range of issue in the analytic philosophy of film.


Livingston and Plantinga's Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Film is by far the best source for survey articles on topics and figures in the area. Thomson-Jones's Aesthetics and Film provides a clear, brief introduction to several important topics in the area.

Related categories

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Material to categorize
  1. L'Atalante Lost and Regained: Michael Temple (2006) Jean Vigo (French Film Directors).Michael Abecassis - 2007 - Film-Philosophy 11 (3):198-203.
  2. Opening the Door to the Subconscious: Gwynne Edwards (2005) A Companion to Luis Bunuel.Michael Abecassis - 2006 - Film-Philosophy 10 (1):64-70.
  3. Le Petit Theatre de Renoir, on Martin O'Shaughnessy Jean Renoir.Michael Abecassis - 2004 - Film-Philosophy 8 (1).
    Martin O'Shaughnessy _Jean Renoir_ Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2000 ISBN 0719050626 hb; 0719050634 pb 251 pp.
  4. ‘Are You Still You?': Memory, Identity and Self-Positioning in Total Recall.Nathan Abrams - 2003 - Film and Philosophy 7.
  5. The Principle of Revelation : Catherine Lupton (2005) Chris Marker: Memories of the Future.Eduardo Abrantes - 2006 - Film-Philosophy 10 (1):1-14.
  6. Art and Prudence.Mortimer Jerome Adler - 1978 - Arno Press.
    CHAPTER ONE Plato IT is a mark of wisdom in Greek political thought that the form and content of education receive primary consideration from those who are ...
  7. Photovoltaic Performance of Gallium-Doped ZnO Thin Film/Si Nanowires Heterojunction Diodes.Guvenc Akgul, Funda Aksoy Akgul, Husnu Emrah Unalan & Rasit Turan - 2016 - Philosophical Magazine 96 (11):1093-1109.
  8. Mössbauer Effect Studies of Fe–C Combinatorially Sputtered Thin Films.M. A. Al-Maghrabi, R. J. Sanderson & R. A. Dunlap - 2013 - Philosophical Magazine 93 (24):3278-3290.
  9. The Viewer's Dialectic.Tomás Gutiérrez Alea & Iraida Sánchez Oliva - 1988 - Editorial José Martí.
  10. A Postmodern Cinema the Voice of the Other in Canadian Film.Mary Alemany-Galway - 2002 -
  11. Film on the Left: American Documentary Film From 1931 to 1942.William Alexander & Russell Campbell - 1984 - Science and Society 48 (3):358-361.
  12. Norbert Elias's Motion Pictures: History, Cinema and Gestures in the Process of Civilization.Gadi Algazi - 2008 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 39 (3):444-458.
    Norbert Elias’s project in The process of civilization involved reconstructing invisible movement—both the slow tempoof long-term historical change and the modification of psychic structures and embodied dispositions. To do this, he resorted to uncommon devices: treating historical texts as constituting a series amenable to a rudimentary discourse analysis, he constructed an imagined ‘curve of civilization’ serving as an approximation of the hidden process of change. Elias’s curve was not supposed to represent single past states, but movement itself, its direction and (...)
  13. Imaginary Placements: The Other Space of Cinema.Amir Ameri - 2011 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 69 (1):81-91.
  14. Shadow Philosophy: Plato’s Cave and Cinema.Nathan Andersen - 2014 - Routledge.
    Shadow Philosophy: Plato’s Cave and Cinema is an accessible and exciting new contribution to film-philosophy, which shows that to take film seriously is also to engage with the fundamental questions of philosophy. Nathan Andersen brings Stanley Kubrick’s film A Clockwork Orange into philosophical conversation with Plato’s Republic , comparing their contributions to themes such as the nature of experience and meaning, the character of justice, the contrast between appearance and reality, the importance of art, and the impact of images. At (...)
  15. Mists of Regret: Culture and Sensibility in Classic French Film.Dudley Andrew - 1996 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 54 (3):301-302.
  16. History and Timelessness in Films and Theory.Dudley Andrew - 1993 - In David E. Klemm & William Schweiker (eds.), Meanings in Texts and Actions: Questioning Paul Ricoeur. University Press of Virginia. pp. 115--32.
  17. Questions of Cinema.Dudley Andrew & Stephen Heath - 1983 - Substance 12 (3):95.
  18. Concepts in Film Theory.J. Dudley Andrew - 1985 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 44 (1):83-85.
  19. Major Film Theories: An Introduction.J. Dudley Andrew - 1977 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 36 (1):121-123.
  20. The Relationship Between Change Detection and Recognition of Centrally Attended Objects in Motion Pictures.Bonnie L. Angelone, Daniel T. Levin & Daniel J. Simons - 2003 - Perception 32 (8):947-962.
  21. Digital Images and Persistence in Cinema.Daniela Angelucci - 2011 - Rivista di Estetica 51 (1):5-16.
  22. Studies of Threading Dislocations in Nb Films.R. Appleton, W. Swiech, M. Ondrejcek & C. Flynn - 2003 - Philosophical Magazine 83 (14):1639-1651.
    We obtain strain contrast in low-energy electron microscopy, by dark-field imaging of the strain-sensitive variants of a surface reconstruction. This is employed to make visible the strain fields of dislocations in Nb thin single-crystal films. The strain field symmetries reveal the dislocation Burgers vectors and identify the existence of [111] a /2 and [100] a Burgers vectors for threading dislocations in these epitaxial materials. The contrast also allows interfacial and screw dislocations to be imaged.
  23. Dina Iordanova, David Martin-Jones and Belén Vidal (2010) Cinema at the Periphery.Rowena Santos Aquino - 2011 - Film-Philosophy 15 (2):106-112.
  24. Beckett's Film, “Which Could Only Have Been Played by Buster Keaton”.Paul Ardoin - 2015 - Angelaki 20 (4):5-21.
    This article uses Deleuze's three-part theory of the movement-image as a way to investigate the potential importance of his unexplored claim about the casting of Beckett's Film. In “The Greatest Irish Film” Deleuze writes that the starring role in Film “could only have been played by Buster Keaton” 23), but he does not explain why. Here, I return to the Bergsonian basis of Deleuze's film theory, as well as to early responses to Beckett's Film, in order to complicate our understanding (...)
  25. Between Pleasure and Horror: Watching Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.Amelia Arenas - 2004 - Arion 12 (1):1-16.
    No categories
  26. Film and Reality: An Historical Survey.Roy Armes - 1974 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 33 (2):241-243.
  27. Mick LaSalle The Beauty of the Real: What Hollywood Can Learn From Contemporary French Actresses.Richard Lindley Armstrong - 2015 - Film-Philosophy 19.
  28. Film Essays and Criticism.Rudolf Arnheim - 1998 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 56 (4):415-417.
  29. Film as Art.Rudolf Arnheim & Arthur Knight - 1958 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 17 (2):260-262.
    In the fall of 1957 the University of California Press expanded Arnheim’s 1933 book _Film_ by four essays and brought that landmark work back into print as _Film as Art._ Now nearly fifty years after that re-edition, the book continues to occupy an important place in the literature of film. Arnheim’s method, provocative in this age of technological wizardry, was to focus on the way art in film was derived from that medium’s early limitations: no sound, no color, no three-dimensional (...)
  30. Film as Educator.William Arrowsmith - 1969 - Journal of Aesthetic Education 3 (3):75.
  31. Tarnish Films and Stress Corrosion Cracking of Α-Brass.R. J. Asaro - 1972 - Philosophical Magazine 26 (2):425-442.
  32. Film in Ethnographic Research.Patsy Asch & Timothy Asch - 1995 - In Paul Hockings (ed.), Principles of Visual Anthropology. De Gruyter. pp. 335-360.
    No categories
  33. Review of The Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Film. [REVIEW]Paloma Atencia-Linares - 2010 - Disputatio 3:317-320.
  34. Transport Studies of Carbon-Rich a-SiCx:H Film Through Admittance and Deep-Level Transient Spectroscopy Measurements.I. Atilgan, O. Ozdemir, B. Akaoglu, K. Sel & B. Katircioglu - 2006 - Philosophical Magazine 86 (19):2771-2796.
  35. Amnésies Fictions du Cinéma d'Après Jean-Luc Godard.J. Aumont - 1999 -
  36. What is Left in Cinema?Jacques Aumont - 2011 - Rivista di Estetica 51 (1):17-31.
  37. What Is a Western? Politics and Self-Knowledge in John Ford'sThe Searchers.Robert B. Pippin - 2009 - Critical Inquiry 35 (2):223-253.
  38. Resuscitating the Subversive in Unlikely Couples.Sondra Bacharach - unknown - Film and Philosophy 13.
  39. We Did It Again: A Reply to Livingston.Sondra Bacharach & Deborah Tollefsen - 2011 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 69 (2):225-230.
  40. How Films Behave and Narrate.H. Bacon - 2007 - Film and Philosophy 11:29.
  41. A Phenomenology Of Film Narration.Henry Bacon - 2007 - Film and Philosophy 11.
  42. Play, or, Watching a Film About Muslim Boys.Gabeba Baderoon - forthcoming - Feminist Studies.
    No categories
  43. Cinnamon; Play, or, Watching a Film About Muslim Boys; Contemporary Architecture.Gabeba Baderoon - 2003 - Feminist Studies 29:638-642.
    No categories
  44. Always Too Long: My Short-Film Experience.Mieke Bal - 2015 - Empedocles: European Journal for the Philosophy of Communication 5 (1):13-18.
    No categories
  45. Islam, Consciousness and Early Cinema: Said Nursî and the Cinema of God.Canan Balan - 2016 - Film-Philosophy 20 (1):47-62.
  46. Other Bother: The Alien in Science Fiction Cinema, on Aliens R Us: The Other in Science Fiction Cinema , Edited by Ziauddin Sardar and Sean Cubitt.Jon Baldwin - 2003 - Film-Philosophy 7 (3).
    _Aliens R Us: The Other in Science Fiction Cinema_ Edited by Ziauddin Sardar and Sean Cubitt London: Pluto Press, 2002 ISBN 0-7453-1544-5 (hb) 0-7453-1539-9 (pbk) 208 pp.
  47. The Law of Historical Films: In the Aftermath Of.Daphne Barak-Erez - unknown -
    Filmmaking and the narration of history have been engaged in a complex relationship ever since the early days of filmmaking. Many films tell stories unfolding in previous times or about actual historical events, and their narration of history is often criticized as inaccurate, fictitious, or even intentionally misleading. When a highly publicized film suggests a controversial narrative of a certain chapter in history, a debate usually follows in the public arena, be it as part of the ongoing intellectual discourse or (...)
    No categories
  48. The 'I'of the Beholder'.Karen Bardsley - 1998 - Film-Philosophy 2 (1).
  49. On Not Being Porn: Intimacy and the Sexually Explicit Art Film.Anthony Barker - 2013 - Text Matters - a Journal of Literature, Theory and Culture 3 (3):186-202.
    Since the mid-twentieth century, we have passed from a time where sexual frankness was actively obstructed by censorship and industry self-regulation to an age when pornography is circulated freely and is fairly ubiquitous on the Internet. Attitudes to sexually explicit material have accordingly changed a great deal in this time, but more at the level of the grounds on which it is objected to rather than through a general acceptance of it in the public sphere. Critical objections now tend to (...)
  50. The Tactile Eye.Jennifer Marilynn Barker - 2004 - Dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles
    Going to the movies is a sensual experience. When we say we are moved by a film, that it touches us, or that we respond to it viscerally, we mean it in a more-than-metaphorical sense. These claims imply an intimate and distinctly tactile relationship between film and viewer that is an important factor in our attraction and response to the movies. "The Tactile Eye" examines the tactility of the film experience, asking how films' meaning and significance are made at our (...)
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