Philosophy of Film

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

"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.

Introductions

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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  1. The Audience Effect. On the Collective Cinema Experience.Enrico Terrone - forthcoming - British Journal of Aesthetics:ayab013.
    The Audience Effect. On the Collective Cinema Experience HANICHJULIAN edinburgh university press. 2017. pp. 256. £19.99.
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  2. CALL ME BY YOUR NAME E O PRESENTE DESLOCADO: ANOS 80 OU VISÃO DA ANTIGUIDADE?Gustavo Ruiz da Silva - 2021 - Contemplação 1 (24):52-63.
    Este artigo pretende fazer uma leitura possível do filme Call me by your name (2017), dirigido por Luca Guadagnino. O que se levanta como hipótese é que as relações entre Elio consigo mesmo, com seu ambiente e aqueles a sua volta não expressam o tempo lá representado, mas são um mascaramento de um momento em que as possibilidades eram outras. Para tal, apresentar-se-á uma breve introdução ao roteiro do filme, a fim de se entender quais são as problemáticas que o (...)
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  3. ‘Guilty’ Pleasures Are Often Worthwhile Pleasures.Brandon Cooke - 2019 - Journal of Scandinavian Cinema 9 (1):105-109.
    A guilty pleasure is something that affords pleasure while being held in low regard. Since there are more opportunities to experience worthwhile pleasures than one can experience in a finite life, it would be better to avoid guilty pleasures. Worse still, many guilty pleasures are thought to be corrupting in some way. In fact, many so-called guilty pleasures can contribute to a good life, because they are sources of pleasure and because they do not actually merit guilt. Taking pornography as (...)
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  4. Allan James Thomas (2018) Deleuze, Cinema and the Thought of the World.Lapsley Robert - 2021 - Film-Philosophy 25 (2):224-227.
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  5. Michelle Devereaux (2019) The Stillness of Solitude: Romanticism and Contemporary American Independent Film.Suzanne Ferriss - 2021 - Film-Philosophy 25 (2):216-219.
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  6. Lucy Bolton (2019) Contemporary Cinema and the Philosophy of Iris Murdoch.Davina Quinlivan - 2021 - Film-Philosophy 25 (2):220-223.
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  7. Robert Sinnerbrink (2019) Terrence Malick: Filmmaker and Philosopher.George Crosthwait - 2021 - Film-Philosophy 25 (2):207-211.
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  8. Barry Nevin (2018) Cracking Gilles Deleuze's Crystal: Narrative Space-Time in the Films of Jean Renoir.David Deamer - 2021 - Film-Philosophy 25 (2):212-215.
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  9. Narrative Difference: Jacques Rancière, Gilles Deleuze and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.Jade de Cock de Rameyen - 2021 - Film-Philosophy 25 (2):165-186.
    How should critics approach narrative temporality in times of ecological disorder? Literary critics have attempted to bridge eco-criticism with narrative theory, shifting attention from narrative content to narrative form. Econarratology studies how narrative shapes our understanding of the environment. Yet, eco-critical interrogations of narrative form are lacking. Grounded in a homogeneous conception of time, narratology often relays a dichotomy between narrativity and “dysnarrativity”. This dichotomy fails to translate the variety of temporal processes in film. I shall highlight the problem underlying (...)
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  10. “I Said Something Wrong”: Transworld Obligation in Yesterday.Steven Gimbel & Thomas Wilk - 2021 - Film-Philosophy 25 (2):151-164.
    Danny Boyle's film Yesterday is a contemporary morality play in which the main character, Jack Malik, a failing singer-songwriter, is magically sent to a different possible world in which the Beatles never existed. Possessing his memory of the Beatles’ catalogue in the new possible world, he is now in sole possession of an extremely valuable artifact. Recording and performing the songs of the Beatles and passing them off as his own, he becomes rich, famous, and deeply unhappy. Once he confesses (...)
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  11. Picturing the Autobiographical Imagination: Emotion, Memory and Metacognition in Inside Out.Wyatt Moss-Wellington - 2021 - Film-Philosophy 25 (2):187-206.
    Inside Out develops novel cinematic means for representing memory, emotion and imagination, their interior relationships and their social expression. Its unique animated language both playfully represents pre-teenage metacognition, and is itself a manner of metacognitive interrogation. Inside Out motivates this language to ask two questions: an explicit question regarding the social function of sadness, and a more implicit question regarding how one can identify agency, and thereby a sense of developing selfhood, between one’s memories, emotions, facets of personality, and future-thinking (...)
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  12. Silence as Elective Mutism in Minor Cinema.Tanya Shilina-Conte - 2021 - Film-Philosophy 25 (2):130-150.
    This article advances mutism as a creative mode and conceptual tool to treat silence in cinema. Whereas mutism can be a productive concept for the study of auditory and visual absence in a broader...
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  13. The Kierkegaardian Existentialism of Richard Linklater's Before Trilogy.Zachary Xavier - 2021 - Film-Philosophy 25 (2):110-129.
    This article examines the Kierkegaardian existentialism set in motion by Richard Linklater's Before trilogy: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight. In doing so, it asserts the efficacy of cinema as a medium of existential import, one that is particularly suited to give form to Søren Kierkegaard's project. The identification of three existential stages of life – the aesthetic, ethical, and religious – is perhaps Kierkegaard's most notable contribution to philosophy. This article contends that Linklater's aesthetic strategy – namely, his (...)
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  14. Breathing, Cinema and Other “Nobjects” in Camille Vidal-Naquet’s Sauvage.Emilija Talijan - 2021 - Film-Philosophy 25 (2):87-109.
    This article examines the breathing and breathless body in Camille-Vidal Naquet’s Sauvage. Respiration has been characterised by Peter Sloterdijk, in the first volume of his Sphären trilogy, as the first extension of the womb. The air we breathe is a “nobject” that escapes the subject-object relation, like the placenta before it. Sauvage engages the respiratory, alongside the placental and the acoustic, as three pre-oral “nobjects” for exploring what Leo Bersani has termed the body’s “somatic receptivity”. Duration, framing, lighting, and camera (...)
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  15. "I Saw a Different Life. I Can't Stop Seeing It": Perfectionist Visions in Revolutionary Road.Paul Deb - forthcoming - Film-Philosophy.
    In this article, I claim that Sam Mendes' Revolutionary Road is a recent version of the film genre that Stanley Cavell calls the “melodrama of the unknown woman”. Accordingly, my discussion focuses on two key elements of that identification: the film's overriding dramatic and thematic emphasis on conversation; and the central characters’ relation to the wider social and political concerns of America.
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  16. "How Shall We Put Ourselves in Touch with Reality?" On Baldwin, Film, and Acknowledgment.Francey Russell - 2020 - Social Research: An International Quarterly 87 (4):991-1021.
    What might film’s contribution be to the work of acknowledgment, apology, and moral repair? James Baldwin's 1976 book on film, The Devil Finds Work, can be read as a reflection on the role that film might play in the extensive, multi-dimensional, public task of, as he puts it, putting ourselves in touch with reality, specifically the reality of American racism as an integral to American reality, its past and present. Developing Baldwin's thought, this paper outlines two broad types of cinematic (...)
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  17. I Want to Know More About You: On Knowing and Acknowledging in Chinatown.Francey Russell - 2018 - In Garry L. Hagberg (ed.), Stanley Cavell on Aesthetic Understanding. pp. 3-35.
    What is the difference between knowing someone and acknowledging them? Is it possible to want to be acknowledged while remaining unknown? And if one’s desire to know another person is too consuming, can this foreclose the possibility of acknowledgment? Cavell argues that we sometimes avoid the ethical problem of acknowledgment by (mis)conceiving our relations with others in terms of knowledge and that this epistemic misconception can actually amount to a form of ethical harm. I show that Polanski’s Chinatown helps us (...)
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  18. ‘Somewhere Between Science and Superstition’: Religious Outrage, Horrific Science, and The Exorcist.Amy C. Chambers - forthcoming - History of the Human Sciences:095269512110044.
    Science and religion pervade the 1973 horror The Exorcist, and the film exists, as the movie’s tagline suggests, ‘somewhere between science and superstition’. Archival materials show the depth of research conducted by writer/director William Friedkin in his commitment to presenting and exploring emerging scientific procedures and accurate Catholic ritual. Where clinical and barbaric science fails, faith and ritual save the possessed child Reagan MacNeil from her demons. The Exorcist created media frenzy in 1973, with increased reports in the popular press (...)
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  19. Tosaka Jun y las funciones epistémicas de la cultura: materiales para un estudio sobre transhistoricidad e identidades colectivas.Montserrat Crespín Perales - 2021 - Logos. Anales Del Seminario de Metafísica [Universidad Complutense de Madrid, España] 54 (1):55-80.
    La obra del filósofo japonés Tosaka Jun permanece todavía muy desconocida, tanto en el entramado acotado de los estudios japoneses, como en el campo filosófico. Y esto a pesar de la importancia de sus reflexiones para el ayer al que perteneció y el ahora que se resignifica, en parte, con los materiales residuales del siglo pasado. Dentro de su proyecto filosóficamente polifónico, Tosaka se empeñó en clarificar las relaciones entre nacionalismo cultural, capitalismo, totalitarismo y vida cotidiana. Este trabajo presenta su (...)
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  20. SportsCenter: The Documentary? A Response to Pratt.Jonathan Frome - 2020 - Wiley: The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 78 (1).
    The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Volume 78, Issue 1, Page 94-97, Winter 2020.
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  21. Coordinating the Defense: A Reply to Frome.Henry John Pratt - 2020 - Wiley: The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 78 (1):97-100.
    The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Volume 78, Issue 1, Page 97-100, Winter 2020.
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  22. A Miraculous Materialism: Lines of Flight in We Have a Pope and Corpo Celeste.Silvia Angeli & Francesco Sticchi - 2021 - Film-Philosophy 25 (1):1-17.
    This article considers Nanni Moretti's We Have a Pope and Alice Rohrwacher's Corpo Celeste via the notion of lines of flight as developed by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. We argue that, in spite of stylistic and thematic differences, the two films present clear similarities since they highlight and address conflicts and tensions existing within the contemporary Catholic religious order. Both films present cracks and horizons of becoming within the institutionalised Catholic Church, tracing possible paths of transformation for viewers aligning (...)
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  23. David Martin-Jones (2018) Cinema Against Doublethink: Ethical Encounters with the Lost Pasts of World History.Simon Dickson - 2021 - Film-Philosophy 25 (1):74-78.
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  24. Murray Smith (2017) Film, Art, and the Third Culture: A Naturalized Aesthetics of Film.Will Kitchen - 2021 - Film-Philosophy 25 (1):83-86.
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  25. Francesco Sticchi (2019) Melancholy Emotion in Contemporary Cinema: A Spinozian Analysis of Film Experience.Claudio Celis Bueno - 2021 - Film-Philosophy 25 (1):70-73.
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  26. Laura McMahon (2019) Animal Worlds: Film, Philosophy and Time.Savina Petkova - 2021 - Film-Philosophy 25 (1):79-82.
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  27. Bernd Herzogenrath (Ed.) (2017) Film as Philosophy.Christa van Raalte - 2021 - Film-Philosophy 25 (1):66-69.
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  28. Kate Ince (2017) The Body and the Screen: Female Subjectivities in Contemporary Women's Cinema.Laura Staab - 2021 - Film-Philosophy 25 (1):62-65.
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  29. Trembling Meaning: Camera Instability and Gilbert Simondon's Transduction in Czech Archival Film.Jiří Anger - 2021 - Film-Philosophy 25 (1):18-41.
    Many experimental found footage films base their meanings and effects on an interaction between the figurative content of the image and its material-technological underpinnings. Can this interaction arise accidentally without artistic appropriation? A recently digitised film by the Czech cinema pioneer Jan Kříženecký, Opening Ceremony of the Čech Bridge, presents such an exercise in accidental aesthetics. At one point, the horizontal and vertical trembling of the cinematograph – obtained from the Lumière brothers – translates into a trembling of the figures (...)
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  30. André Bazin's Eternal Returns: An Ontological Revision.Jeff Fort - 2021 - Film-Philosophy 25 (1):42-61.
    The recent publication of André Bazin's Écrits complets, an enormous two-volume edition of 3000 pages which increases ten-fold Bazin's available corpus, provides opportunities for renewed reflection on, and possibly for substantial revisions of, this key figure in film theory. On the basis of several essays, I propose a drastic rereading of Bazin's most explicitly philosophical notion of “ontology.” This all too familiar notion, long settled into a rather dust-laden couple nonetheless retains its fascination. Rather than attempting to provide a systematic (...)
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  31. Time to Revisit Classical Film Theory.Lester H. Hunt - 2021 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 79 (1):42-51.
    Film audiences are no longer in a position to know for certain which images, or features of images they see on the screen were created by photography and which were created in a computer. Yet they are reacting to the advent of computer graphics as if it is merely a technical improvement, not a change in the nature of film itself. This would mean that one of the most influential early theories of film—realism—is wrong. It held that film is by (...)
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  32. Empathie in der Kunst.Íngrid Vendrell-Ferran - forthcoming - In Siegmund Judith (ed.), Handbuch Kunstphilosophie.
    Dieses Kapitel handelt von der Empathie in der Kunst. Ich beginne mit einer Reflexion über die Ursprünge des Begriffes und seine Verwendung in der Ästhetik. Es folgt eine Analyse der Empathie im Vergleich zu anderen Formen der Anteilnahme an Kunstwerken. Im dritten Teil untersuche ich die Mechanismen der Empathie in der Kunst und die Funktion der Imagination. Der vierte Teil widmet sich der Bedeutung der Gefühle bei der Empathie für Kunstfiguren. Schließlich thematisiere ich den epistemischen, moralischen und ästhetischen Wert der (...)
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  33. ‘We Have Come to Be Destroyed’: The ‘Extraordinary’ Child in Science Fiction Cinema in Early Cold War Britain.Laura Tisdall - forthcoming - History of the Human Sciences:095269512097734.
    Depictions of children in British science fiction and horror films in the early 1960s introduced a new but dominant trope: the ‘extraordinary’ child. Extraordinary children, I suggest, are disturbing because they violate expected developmental norms, drawing on discourses from both the ‘psy’ sciences and early neuroscience. This post-war trope has been considered by film and literature scholars in the past five years, but this existing work tends to present the extraordinary child as an American phenomenon, and links these depictions to (...)
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  34. Estética inorgánica. Detroit en Only Lovers Left Alive.Leonardo Arriagada - 2020 - Archivos de la Filmoteca (78):111-124.
    El cine de Jim Jarmusch es reconocible por captar momentos de quietud en los que la acción y el drama son secundarios. Es por ello que su film Only Lovers Left Alive ha sido tan destacado por críticos y académicos. Esta película ha llevado a la pantalla la estética ruinosa de Detroit. Este artículo amplía esas recientes investigaciones, para postular que la Detroit de Jarmusch es una ciudad estéticamente inorgánica. Siguiendo a grandes rasgos los lineamientos de Wilhelm Worringer, se analiza (...)
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  35. Interdisciplinarity, Multidisciplinarity and Transdisciplinarity in Humanities.Banu Akçeşme, Hasan Bakır & Eugene Steele - 2016 - Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
    The domination of single subjects in academic programmes and institutions has recently been called into question. Literary studies are currently opening themselves up to the epistemological renewal that other fields can offer. They are increasingly borrowing theoretical tools from other subjects in order to analyse the historical, socio-political and institutional conditions of the production of literary texts, to identify the general discursive circumstances in which they emerge, and to study the relationship between literature and other media. Similarly, while subjects such (...)
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  36. Becoming-Flashdrive: The Cinematic Intelligence of Lucy.Laurence Kent - 2020 - Film-Philosophy 24 (3):284-303.
    An important but easily forgotten moment in the history of film-philosophy is Jean Epstein's assertion that cinema, more than merely thinking, has a kind of intelligence. If it is a newfound conception of rationality that is needed for any contemporary ethical relation to the world, as thinkers from Reza Negarestani and Pete Wolfendale to feminist collective Laboria Cuboniks have espoused in their respective neo-rationalist projects, then cinema as a thinking thing must be interrogated in its relation to reason. A somatophilia (...)
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  37. The Politics of Humour in Kafkaesque Cinema: A World-Systems Approach.Angelos Koutsourakis - 2020 - Film-Philosophy 24 (3):259-283.
    Kafka's work has exercised immense influence on cinema and his reflections on diminished human agency in modernity and the dominance of oppressive institutions that perpetuate individual or social alienation and political repression have been the subject of debates by philosophers such as Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, and Alexander Kluge. Informed by a world-systems approach and taking a cue from Jorge Luis Borges’ point that Kafka has modified our conception of the future, and André Bazin's suggestion that (...)
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  38. A Cinema for the Ears: Imagining the Audio-Cinematic Through Podcasting.Dario Llinares - 2020 - Film-Philosophy 24 (3):341-365.
    Podcasts have been described as “a cinema for the ears” and this application of a visual rhetoric to describe an audio-only experience results in an attempt to define what is still a relatively new medium. I argue that it is possible to consider something cinematic without the presence of moving images. Assertions in favour of the cinematic nature of podcasts often employ the visual imagination of listeners evoked by heightened audio characteristics that a particular podcast may possess. By focusing on (...)
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  39. The Scream Itself: Masochistic Jouissance and a Cinema of Speechlessness in La Grande Bouffe.Sharon Jane Mee - 2020 - Film-Philosophy 24 (3):321-340.
    This article argues for an understanding of the scream at the nexus of a pre-verbal, imperceptible and inaudible operation. The work of Jean-François Lyotard describes a figure that breaks with figurative, illustrative and narrative forms, and takes up an operative function. In aesthetic terms, this operative figure – the figure of the matrix of desire – is what Lyotard describes as “seeing” rather than “vision”. That is, a child-like look that does not recognise the world by which it might master (...)
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  40. Kara Keeling (2019) Queer Times, Black Futures.William Brown - 2020 - Film-Philosophy 24 (3):379-382.
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  41. On Pros and Cons and Bills and Gates: The Heist Film as Pleasure.Julian Hanich - 2020 - Film-Philosophy 24 (3):304-320.
    This article tries to shed light on the multiple, but underrated pleasures of the heist film – a genre that has attracted numerous major directors from Jean-Pierre Melville and Stanley Kubrick to Michael Mann and Steven Soderbergh, but has received limited scholarly attention. I approach the genre from a, broadly, philosophical perspective and draw on thinkers such as Peter Sloterdijk, Georg Simmel, Paul Souriau and Bruno Latour to argue that their emphasis on skillful action and kinaesthetic empathy, smooth transgression of (...)
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  42. Catherine Wheatley (2019) Stanley Cavell and Film: Scepticism and Self-Reliance at the Cinema.Daniele Rugo - 2020 - Film-Philosophy 24 (3):375-378.
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  43. Daniel Shaw (2019) Stanley Cavell and the Magic of Hollywood Films.Kyle Barrowman - 2020 - Film-Philosophy 24 (3):371-374.
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  44. Thomas Elsaesser (2019) European Cinema and Continental Philosophy: Film As Thought Experiment.Michelle Devereaux - 2020 - Film-Philosophy 24 (3):366-370.
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  45. Empathy as the Opposite of Egocentrism: Why the Simulation Theory and the Direct Perception Theory of Empathy Fail.Robert Blanchet - 2020 - Topoi 39 (4):751-759.
    This paper presents a new, third-personal account of empathy that characterizes empathy as being sensitive to others’ concerns as opposed to remaining stuck in one’s egocentric perspective on the world. The paper also demonstrates why this account is preferable to its two main rivals, namely the simulation theory of empathy, and the direct perception theory of empathy.
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  46. La estética y el arte a debate (II).José Ramón Fabelo Corzo & Mariana Romero Bello (eds.) - 2018 - Puebla, Pue., México: Colección La Fuente, BUAP.
    El presente libro recopila algunas de las mejores investigaciones presentadas en el “IX Coloquio Internacional de Estética y Arte” en La Habana en diciembre del 2015, redactadas ahora a modo de artículos. La estética y el arte a debate II está compuesto por 27 artículos y se encuentra dividido en cinco bloques que, de alguna manera, reflejan las temáticas centrales alrededor de las cuales giró el encuentro del 2015. Los bloques temáticos son: 1 Arte, estética y política, 2 Cine y (...)
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  47. The Film When Day Breaks – a Visual Lieu de Mémoire for the Yugoslav Jewry.Klaus-Jürgen Hermanik - 2020 - Zeitschrift für Religions- Und Geistesgeschichte 72 (1):65-79.
  48. The Puzzle of Good Bad Movies.Uku Tooming - 2020 - Journal of Aesthetic Education 54 (3):31-46.
    There are bad movies, and there are movies that are so bad that they are good. So-called good bad movies have received a lot of attention from critics and moviegoers in recent years. Many people, including those with good taste, are willing to invest their time and resources in watching and discussing them. In this paper, I will argue that the fact that aesthetically competent consumers of cinema are engaging with good bad movies challenges an intuitive assumption according to which (...)
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  49. Editorial preface.R. L. Hall - 2020 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 88 (1):1-3.
  50. The Phenomenological Movement in Context of the Philosophy of Film and Motion Pictures.Shawn Loht - 2019 - In Noël Carroll, Laura T. Di Summa & Shawn Loht (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of the Philosophy of Film and Motion Pictures. Springer. pp. 285-313.
    This chapter surveys foundational concepts in the history of phenomenology for the purpose of highlighting their relevance for key contemporary issues in the philosophy of film. A central argument concerns phenomenology’s capacity for unraveling the ontology of film, given phenomenology’s emphasis on accounting for the ontology of phenomena through description based in first-person experience. On this ground, the chapter defends the claim that film’s ontology stems from the projective intentionality of the film viewer, where the communicative nature of embodied vision (...)
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