Philosophy of Film: A Cognitivist Approach (Phil s24a)

Professor William Seeley

Bates College


Course Description:

In this course we will examine several philosophical problems surrounding film as both a form of fine art and a medium of popular entertainment. What makes film a unique artform? How are movies different from television and documentaries…or not? How do films convey an illusion of reality in the theater? What is the basis for our emotional interactions with characters? Who is the film author? What is the nature of cinematic narration? The course will take a cognitivist approach. Cognitivist theories attempt to explain spectator engagement with film as an extension of ordinary perceptual and emotional experiences. But this is not the only approach to the philosophy of film, and over the course of the semester we will also discuss the differences between cognitivist, theories of film and a range of alternatives.


Course Goals:

The goals of this course are threefold: First and foremost we will try to come to an understanding of what philosophy of film is and how it differs from other approaches to studying film as an artform. In this context the course will introduce students to the basic problems and methods that define the field. The specific lens we will use to approach this material is a cognitivist theory of film. We will explore and evaluate cognitivist theories as alternatives to traditional positions in film theory. Along the way we will explore and evaluate the ways in which neuroscience has come to contribute to cognitivist approaches to film and philosophy of art more generally.


**  This seminar will be of interest to students with a background in philosophy of art and cognitive science. However, the course does not presuppose any prior specialized knowledge of philosophy, psychology, or neuroscience and should be of interest to students in film studies, film production, or any student with a general interest in film.


Bates College 2011

Brooklyn College 2004