How do movies evoke and express ethical ideas? What role does our emotional involvement play in this process? What makes the aesthetic power of cinema ethically significant? Cinematic Ethics: _Exploring Ethical Experience through Film_ addresses these questions by examining the idea of cinema as a medium of ethical experience with the power to provoke emotional understanding and philosophical thinking. In a clear and engaging style, Robert Sinnerbrink examines the key philosophical approaches to ethics in contemporary film theory and philosophy using (...) detailed case studies of cinematic ethics across different genres, styles, and filmic traditions. Written in a lucid and lively style that will engage both specialist and non-specialist readers, this book is ideal for use in the academic study of philosophy and film. Key features include annotated suggestions for further reading at the end of each chapter and a filmography of movies useful for teaching and researching cinematic ethics. (shrink)
Introduction: why did philosophy go to the movies? -- The analytic-cognitivist turn. The empire strikes back: critiques of "grand theory" -- The rules of the game: new ontologies of film -- Adaptation: philosophical approaches to narrative -- From cognitivism to film-philosophy. A.I.: cognitivism goes to the movies -- Bande à part: Deleuze and Cavell as film-philosophers -- Scenes from a marriage: film as philosophy -- Cinematic thinking. Hollywood in trouble: David Lynch's Inland empire -- "Chaos reigns": anti-cognitivism in Lars von (...) trier's Antichrist -- Song of the earth: cinematic romanticism in Malick's The new world -- Coda: "the six most beautiful minutes in the history of cinema". (shrink)
Stanley Cavell's writing on film has been an important inspiration for the recent 'philosophical turn' in film theory. But few studies have explored the significance of Cavell's style of writing, how it communicates his distinctive manner of thinking with film. This article explores Cavell's style as a way of doing philosophy, and suggests that his attempt to capture the aesthetic experience of film in evocative prose makes an important contribution to developing new ways of thinking in film-philosophy.
Few cinephiles would deny the importance of mood in film, yet the aesthetics of mood are curiously overlooked today. On the one hand, mood is an essential dimension of cinema: we define certain genres, for example, by suggesting the moods they evoke. On the other hand, words frequently fail us when we try to articulate such moods in a more abstract or analytical vein. I offer in this essay some critical reflections on the significance of mood, suggesting that mood works (...) in narrative film by the disclosure of cinematic worlds. To explore variations in the aesthetics of mood — what I call disclosive, episodic, transitional and autonomous moods — I shall consider some selected mood-sequences from Brokeback Mountain, Fa yeung nin wa/In the Mood for Love, Habla con ella/Talk to Her and Mulholland Drive. My aim is to suggest the virtues of taking a more phenomenological approach to the aesthetics of mood, understood as a way of revealing or opening up a cinematic world; and to show how mood, in revealing distinctive cinematic worlds, is essential to our aesthetic and emotional engagement with film. (shrink)
In his 1979 foreword to The World Viewed, Stanley Cavell remarks on the curiousrelationship between Heidegger and cinema . Cavell is inspired to do so byTerrence Malick's Days of Heaven , a film that not only presents us with images ofpreternatural beauty, but also acknowledges the self-referential character of thecinematic image . For Cavell, Malick's films have a formal radiance thatsuggest something of Heidegger's thinking of the relationship between Being and beings,the radiant self-showing of things in luminous appearance . Days (...) of Heaven doesindeed have a metaphysical vision of the world, but 'one feels that one has never quiteseen the scene of human existence-call it the arena between earth and heavenquite realized this way on film before' . As Cavell observes, however,the relationship between Heidegger's philosophy and Malick's films seems to challengeboth philosophers and film-theorists. The film-theorists struggle to show how Heidegger isrelevant to the experience of cinema, while the philosophers grapple with the question ofcinema and aesthetics, precisely because film puts into question traditional concepts ofvisual art, as Walter Benjamin showed long ago .In what follows, I take up Cavell's invitation to think about the relationshipbetween Heidegger and film by considering Malick's 1998 masterpiece, The Thin Red Line.The question I shall explore is whether we should describe The Thin Red Line as'Heideggerian Cinema'. Along the way I discuss two different approaches to the film: a'Heideggerian' approach that reads the film as exemplifying Heideggerian themes; and a 'film as philosophy' approach arguing that, while the film is philosophical, we should refrain from reading it in relation toany particular philosophical framework. In conclusion, I offer some brief remarks abouthow The Thin Red Line can be regarded as 'Heideggerian cinema,' not because we need toread Heidegger in order to understand it, but because Malick's film performs a cinematicpoesis, a revealing of world through image,sound, and word. (shrink)
Imagination has been the focus of much philosophical inquiry in recent decades. Although it plays an essential role in linking emotional engagement with ethical experience, imagination has received comparatively little attention in film-philosophy. In this article, I argue that imagination plays an essential role in linking emotional engagement with moral-ethical experience. Drawing on phenomenological, cognitive and aesthetic perspectives, I focus on perceptual imagining and suggest that an account of embodied cinematic imagination — encompassing both perceptual/sensory and propositional/cognitive imagining — is (...) especially relevant to theorizing cinematic experience. The interplay of first-person empathic and third-person sympathetic perspectives is another essential feature of our emotional and ethical engagement with cinema. By synthesizing ‘bottom-up’ sensory, affective responses to audiovisual images, with ‘top-down’ cognitive processes associated with mental simulation, an account of embodied cinematic imagination can explain how emotional engagement and ethical responsiveness work together in our experience of audiovisual narratives. (shrink)
The films of Michael Haneke, so some critics argue, exploit the nihilism of a media-saturated culture, indulging in a dubious manipulation of audience expectations and our fascination with violence. Such criticisms, however, misunderstand or distort the complex moral, political, and aesthetic purpose of Haneke’s work. Indeed, his films are better understood as examining the socially disorienting and subjectively disintegrating effects of our post-humanist world of mass-mediatised experience. At the same time, they are highly reflexive cinematic works that force us to (...) reflect – both morally and aesthetically – upon our relationship with cinematic and media images. These two strands of Haneke’s work comprise a sustained meditation on what we might call the “post-humanist condition”: a cinematic critique of the disintegration and fragmentation of affect and subjectivity, a disintegration closely linked with contemporary forms of mediatised spectacle and the cynical consumption of images of violence. Given the mediatised nature of contemporary social experience, the only effective way to engage in cinematic critique is by means of the very images that capture and captivate us. (shrink)
he enigmatic films of David Lynch have been interpreted from a variety of perspectives. Among these we can find Lynch the postmodernist ironist, Lynch the transgressive neoconservative, and Lynch the visionary explorer of the unconscious. Martha P. Nochimson's recent study, for example, presents an eloquent case for regarding Lynch as a Jungian 'surfer of the waves of the collective unconscious', whose films combine the intuitive embracing of subconscious Life Energy with a celebration of the creative power of Hollywood mythology.  (...) For Nochimson, Lynch's transformation of the masculine action hero into intuitive 'boundary crosser' shows the redemptive quality of his cinematic vision, which we experience sensuously rather than comprehend rationally. (shrink)
This paper develops a genealogical critique of the concepts of biopower and biopolitics in the work of Foucault and Agamben. It shows how Heidegger's reflections on Machenschaft or machination prefigure the concepts of biopower and biopolitics. It develops a critique of Foucault's account of biopolitics as a system of managing the biological life of populations culminating in neo-liberalism, and a critique of Agamben's presentation of biopolitics as the metaphysical foundation of Western political rationality. Foucault's ethical turn within biopolitical governmentality, along (...) with Agamben's messianic gesture towards a utopian community to come, are questioned as political responses to biopower regimes. (shrink)
This essay seeks to further the critical reception of Stiegler's philosophy of technology by situating his work within the legacy of critical theory and deconstruction. Drawing on what Richard Beardsworth has described as Stiegler's 'Left-Derrideanism'-his radical re-thinking of the problem of technics and related call for a "politics of memory"-I argue that Stiegler's transformation of both Heidegger and Derrida retrieves and renews the interrupted Frankfurt school tradition of culture industry critique. What we might call Stiegler's 'deconstructive materialism' reinvigorates the project (...) of a cultural politics that would take place in the intersection between culture, technics, and politics in the more conventional sense. In this respect, Stiegler's culture industry redux points to a number of important practical cultural responses to the debilitating malaise that increasingly afflicts politics in liberal capitalist democracies. I conclude by suggesting what such a Stieglerian 'cultural politics of memory' might entail. (shrink)
This paper pursues the lsquo;thinking dialoguersquo; between Hegel and Heidegger, a dialogue centred on Heideggerrsquo;s lsquo;confrontationrsquo; with Hegelrsquo;s Phenomenology of Spirit. To this end, I examine Heideggerrsquo;s critique of Hegel on the relationship between time and Spirit; Heideggerrsquo;s interpretation of the Phenomenology as exemplifying the Cartesian-Fichtean metaphysics of the subject; and Heideggerrsquo;s later reflections on Hegel as articulating the modern metaphysics of lsquo;subjectityrsquo;. I argue that Heideggerrsquo;s confrontation forgets those aspects of Hegelrsquo;s philosophy that make him our philosophical contemporary: Hegelrsquo;s (...) thinking of intersubjectivity and recognition, of the historicity of the experience of spirit, and his critique of modernity. The point of this dialogue is to begin a retrieval of Hegel from Heideggerrsquo;s critical deconstruction, and thus to suggest that the future of Hegelmdash;in Catherine Malaboursquo;s phrasemdash;remains something still to-come. (shrink)
Given the so-called ?crisis? in film theory, the digital mutations of the medium, and the renewed interest in historicism, cinephilia, and film philosophy, André Bazin's thought appears ripe for retrieval and renewal. Indeed, his role in the renaissance of philosophical film theory, I argue, is less epistemological and ontological than moral and aesthetic. It is a quest to explore the revelatory possibilities of cinematic images; not only their power to reveal reality under a multiplicity of aspects but to satisfy our (...) desire for myth ? to allow an aesthetic overcoming of the limits of consciousness and memory. The question I wish to explore is whether cinema has the power to restore our belief in reality, in the worlds that film can reveal, in the experience that it can capture and transfigure. My case study for exploring this question, the question of belief in cinema or what we could call a Bazinian cinephilia, will be Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life (2011); a film whose sublime aesthetics and unorthodox religiosity has provoked polarised critical responses, but whose remarkable ambition is to create a mythology ? personal, historical, and cosmological ? capable of reanimating belief in cinema and in the world. (shrink)
:This article analyses some of the aesthetic and philosophical strands of Lars von Trier's Melancholia, focusing in particular on the film's remarkable Prelude, arguing that it performs a complex ethical critique of rationalist optimism in the guise of a neo-italictic allegory of world-destruction. At the same time, I suggest that Melancholia seeks to “work through” the loss of worlds – cinematic but also cultural and natural – that characterises our historical mood, one that might be described as a deflationary apocalypticism (...) or melancholy modernity. From this perspective, Melancholia belongs to a genealogical lineage that links it with two earlier films important for von Trier: Ingmar Bergman's Shame [Skammen] and Andrei Tarkovsky's The Sacrifice . All three films share a concern with apocalypticism, world-sacrifice, and historical melancholia; but they also explore different responses to the imagined experience of a catastrophic loss of world. By examining these films in relation t.. (shrink)
Some of the most innovative philosophical engagement with cinema and ethics in recent years has come from phenomenological and cognitivist perspectives. This trend reflects a welcome re-engagement with cinema as a medium with the potential for ethical transformation, that is, with the idea of cinema as a medium of ethical experience. This paper explores the phenomenological turn in film theory, emphasizing the ethical implications of phenomenological approaches to affect and empathy, emotion, and evaluation. I argue that the oft-criticized subjectivism of (...) phenomenological theories can be supplemented by cognitivist approaches that highlight the complex forms of affective response, emotional engagement, and moral allegiance at work in our experience of movies. An empathic ethics or “cinempathy” is at work in many films, I suggest, such as Ashgar Farhadi’s A Separation, which offers a striking case study in cinematic ethics. (shrink)
Recognition, Work, Politics includes a range of essays in contemporary French critical theory around politics, recognition, and work, and their philosophical articulations. These issues are addressed from directions that include post-structuralism, the paradigm of the gift, recognition theory, and post-marxism.
This volume examines critical social philosophy today, furthering the dialogue between German critical theory and French post-structuralism, exploring the relationship between philosophy and social theory, and developing new approaches to theories of recognition, social hope, and modern power.
Since the early 1990s, phenomenology and cognitivism have become two of the most influential approaches to film theory. Yet far from being at odds with each other, both approaches offer important insights on our subjective experience of cinema. Emotions, Ethics, and Cinematic Experience explores how these two approaches might work together to create a philosophy of film that is both descriptively rich and theoretically productive by addressing the key relationship between cinematic experience, emotions, and ethics.
This article explores the Hegelian ‘night of the world’ that plays such an important role in Žižek’s theorisation of the subject. In the first part, I examine how the themes of the “pre-synthetic imagination” and “abstract negativity" are crucial to understanding Žižek’s theorisation of the Hegelian subject. In the second part, I consider how this Hegelian model of the subject is decisive for understanding Žižek’s conception of Hegelian “concrete universality,” and how the latter concept figures prominently in Žižek’s analysis of (...) the relationship between the abstract negativity of the subject and the political question of confronting global capitalism. Žižek’s unorthodox reading of the Hegelian ‘night of the world’—the radical negativity that haunts subjectivity—is developed further in an explicitly political direction. This Hegelian theme helps explain Žižek’s recent critique of the ‘Fukuyamaian’ consensus, shared both by moral-religious conservatives and libertarian ‘postmodernists’, that global capitalism remains the ‘unsurpassable horizon of our times’. In conclusion I raise some questions about Žižek’s combining of abstract and determinate negation in his ‘romantic’ reading of the negativity of the Hegelian subject. I then critically examine the implications Žižek draws from this analysis in In Defense of Lost Causes , which presents a sustained argument to reclaim the revolutionary tradition of Leftist politics. (shrink)
What Kompridis admirably describes as the transformative power of disclosing critique should be incorporated into a renewed model of critical theory. At the same time, disclosing critique should be regarded as supplementing, rather than supplanting, those normative forms of analysis and reflection that remain rooted in experiences of social suffering, which are precisely what continue to give critical theory its normative ground and theoretical impetus. In this way, we could agree with Kompridis that practicing world-disclosing critique, and thereby retrieving the (...) aesthetic critique of modernity, will ensure that critical theory continues to have a future worthy of its past. Adapted from the source document. (shrink)
This chapter offers a critical discussion of the relationship between poststructuralism and film theory. I commence with a brief account of poststructuralism’s distinctive features. I then turn to the key poststructuralist thinkers such as Derrida and Deleuze, and explore why poststructuralist thinkers themselves may have eschewed reflecting on the medium. I then consider the critique of poststructuralist contribution to film theory, suggesting what elements of that critique remain pertinent. Finally, I consider Deleuze, the only poststructuralist thinker to have focused on (...) cinema, and argue that much of his cinematic philosophy implies a critical distancing from the psycho-semiotic/poststructuralist approach to film theory. (shrink)
One of the questions that Gilles Deleuze explores is the relationship between cinema and belief: can cinema restore the broken link between us and the world? Does modern cinema have the power to give us ‘reasons to believe in this world’? My case study for exploring the question of belief in cinema, or what I call a Bazinian cinephilia, is Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life (2011); a film whose sublime aesthetics and unorthodox religiosity have provoked polarized critical responses, but (...) whose ambition is to create a mythology—personal, historical, and cosmological—capable of reanimating belief in cinema and in the world. At once a religiousmetaphysical work and a meditation on the origins and ends of life, The Tree of Life expresses a philosophical version of cinephilia: a love of existence, an aesthetic response to nihilism, affirming the world’s dialectic of nature and grace via cinema’s revelatory powers. (shrink)
The relationship between film and philosophy, along with the idea of film as philosophy, has attracted widespread interest over the last decade. Film theorists and philosophers of film have explored not only the philosophical questions raised by cinema as an artform, but also the possibility that cinema might contribute to philosophical understanding or even engage in varieties of “cinematic thinking” that intersect with, without being reducible to, philosophical inquiry. Inspired by the work of Gilles Deleuze and Stanley Cavell, many theorists (...) are now engaged in what has come to be known as “film-philosophy,” developing philosophical insight out of their close engagement with film, and bringing philosophical... (shrink)
This chapter offers a critical discussion of the idea of filmosophy or film as philosophy. I explore the debate surrounding the idea of “film as philosophy”, distinguishing this approach from more traditional philosophy of film, and suggesting that it has a long history going back to key figures in early film theory. I then focus on the seminal work of Stanley Cavell and Gilles Deleuze, often described as the inaugurators of film-philosophy. Finally, I examine recent proposals concerning the idea of (...) “film as philosophy”, which argue for a more transformative relationship between philosophy and cinema, and offer some concluding reflections on how we might respond to some of the objections raised against this approach. (shrink)
How can Benjamin's theses help us to understand the secret architectures of the present? This volume takes up the architectural challenge in a number of innovative ways, collecting essays by both well-known and emerging scholars on time in cinema, the problem of kitsch, the design of graves and tombs, the orders of road-signs, childhood experience in modern cities, and much more. Engaged, interdisciplinary, bristling with insights, the essays in this collection will constitute an indispensable supplement to the work of Walter (...) Benjamin, as well as providing a guide to some of the obscurities of our own present. (shrink)
Nikolas Kompridis has recently argued that the future of critical theory depends upon a critical appropriation of Heidegger’s concept of ‘world disclosure’, and hence on a transformation of critical theory into a form of ‘world-disclosing critique’ oriented towards the future. This article engages in a critical dialogue with Kompridis' account of world-disclosing critique, arguing that critical theory should embrace it as an innovative way of retrieving the forgotten tradition of aesthetic critique of modernity.
As Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sydney for over 20 years, György Márkus exerted a profound influence on a generation of philosophers and students from many disciplinary backgrounds. His legendary lecture courses, spanning the history of modern philosophy from the Enlightenment through to the late 20th century, were memorable for their breadth, erudition, and philosophical drama. Always modest despite his mastery of the tradition, Márkus’s approach to this history of philosophy never failed to emphasize its continuing role in (...) shaping our inherited understanding of philosophy as ‘its own time comprehended in thoughts’. This is especially true of his contribution to the philosophical discourse of modernity, which we could summarize as comprising an original philosophy of cultural modernity. In what follows, I briefly reconstruct Márkus’s account of the adventures of the concept of culture, focusing on his definitive essay ‘The Path of Culture: From the Refined to the High, From the Popular to Mass Culture’ but also referring to other relevant Márkus texts, offering some critical remarks on his account of culture and its relationship with modern aesthetics, both classical and contemporary. (shrink)
Simon Critchley's Infinitely Demanding makes a timely contribution to contemporary debates in ethics and political philosophy. For all its originality, however, one can raise critical questions concerning Critchley's account of the forms of resistance possible within liberal democratic polities. In this article I question the adequacy of Critchley's ethically based neo-anarchism as a response to neo-liberalism, critically analysing the role of ideology in his account of the motivational deficit afflicting capitalist liberal democracies.