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The Ontology of Film is a middle category home to work on the nature of film. The question, What is film? has received fairly little attention. There is some controversy about what should fall under the category, but more agree that 'film' applies to far more than celluloid. Philosophers have been more concerned with aspects of film. Three question structure much of the discussion: (1) Do mainstream movies have authors? Or more specifically, is it appropriate to call a single person, or some very small group of people, the author of a mainstream movie? (2) Must narrative films have fictional narrators? Must we attribute the narration to a narrator who is part of the world of the fiction?  (3) Do film images really move, or is the impression of movement an illusion?

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63 found
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Film Authorship
  1. The Philosophy of Werner Herzog.M. Blake Wilson & Christopher Turner (eds.) - 2020 - Lexington Books.
    Legendary director, actor, author, and provocateur Werner Herzog has incalculably influenced contemporary cinema for decades. This essay collection by professional philosophers and film theorists from around the globe offers a diversity of perspectives on how the thinking behind the camera is revealed in the action Herzog captures in front of it.
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  2. The Palgrave Handbook of the Philosophy of Film and Motion Pictures.Noël Carroll, Laura T. Di Summa & Shawn Loht (eds.) - 2019 - Springer.
    This handbook brings together essays in the philosophy of film and motion pictures from authorities across the spectrum. It boasts contributions from philosophers and film theorists alike, with many essays employing pluralist approaches to this interdisciplinary subject. Core areas treated include film ontology, film structure, psychology, authorship, narrative, and viewer emotion. Emerging areas of interest, including virtual reality, video games, and nonfictional and autobiographical film also have dedicated chapters. Other areas of focus include the film medium’s intersection with contemporary social (...)
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  3. Mechanical Recording In Arnheim’s Film As Art.Yvan Tétreault - 2008 - Postgraduate Journal of Aesthetics 5 (1):16-26.
    In his classic Film as Art, Rudolf Arnheim sets out to refute the claim that “Film cannot be art, for it does nothing but reproduce reality mechanically”.1 The usual argument in favor of that claim, he explains, contrasts film with realist painting, and goes something like this: There’s no doubt that what appears on the canvas depends on the way the painter sees the world, on her particular technique, on the colors she’s using, and so on. It is elements like (...)
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  4. Minimal Authorship (of Sorts).Christy Mag Uidhir - 2011 - Philosophical Studies 154 (3):373 - 387.
    I propose a minimal account of authorship that specifies the fundamental nature of the author-relation and its minimal domain composition in terms of a three-place causal-intentional relation holding between agents and sort-relative works. I contrast my account with the minimal account tacitly held by most authorship theories, which is a two-place relation holding between agents and works simpliciter. I claim that only my view can ground productive and informative principled distincitons between collective production and collective authorship.
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  5. On Authorship and Collaboration.Paisley Nathan Livingston - 2011 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 69 (2):221-225.
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  6. Collective Authorship in Film.C. Paul Sellors - 2007 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 65 (3):263–271.
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Narration in Film
  1. Why Philosophy of Language is Unreliable for Understanding Unreliable Filmic Narration.Marc Champagne - 2022 - Epistemology and Philosophy of Science 59 (2):43-50.
    A typical device in film is to have a character narrating what is going on, but this narration is not always a reliable guide to the events. According to Maier, distortions may be caused by the narrator’s intent, naivety, use of drugs, and/or cognitive disorder/illness. What is common to these various causes, he argues, is the presence of a point of view, which appears in a movie as shots. While this perspective-based account of unreliability covers most cases, I unpack its (...)
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  2. Found Footage at the Receding of the World.Byron Davies - 2022 - Screen 23 (1):123-129.
    This essay argues that, despite the potential for an encounter between Stanley Cavell’s thought and found-footage experimental filmmaking, this has not yet taken place because the early Cavell’s picture of films as autonomous “wholes,” together with his "global-holistic" conception of modernism, prevented him from appreciating the expressive possibilities of filmic fragments. I then argue that these impediments to an encounter with found footage recede in Cavell’s later thought, as he moves away from a concern with modernism and as J. L. (...)
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  3. Unreliability and Point of View in Filmic Narration.Emar Maier - 2022 - Epistemology and Philosophy of Science 59 (2):23-37.
    Novels like Fight Club or American Psycho are said to be instances of unreliable narration: the first person narrator presents an evidently distorted picture of the fictional world. The film adaptations of these novels are likewise said to involve unreliable narration. I resist this extension of the term ‘unreliable narration’ to film. My argument for this rests on the observation that unreliable narration requires a personal narrator while film typically involves an impersonal narrator. The kind of ambiguous story-telling that we (...)
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  4. The Palgrave Handbook of the Philosophy of Film and Motion Pictures.Noël Carroll, Laura T. Di Summa & Shawn Loht (eds.) - 2019 - Springer.
    This handbook brings together essays in the philosophy of film and motion pictures from authorities across the spectrum. It boasts contributions from philosophers and film theorists alike, with many essays employing pluralist approaches to this interdisciplinary subject. Core areas treated include film ontology, film structure, psychology, authorship, narrative, and viewer emotion. Emerging areas of interest, including virtual reality, video games, and nonfictional and autobiographical film also have dedicated chapters. Other areas of focus include the film medium’s intersection with contemporary social (...)
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  5. Le Grand Imagier Steps Out: The Primitive Basis of Film Narration.George M. Wilson - 1997 - Philosophical Topics 25 (1):295-318.
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  6. Fictional Indeterminacy, Imagined Seeing, and Cinematic Narration.Angela Curran - 2016 - In Katherine Thomson-Jones (ed.), Current Controversies in the Philosophy of Film. Routledge. pp. 99-114.
    This paper focuses on the debate over two central claims regarding cinematic narration: the claim that there are implicit cinematic narrators and the thesis that when we watch movies, we imagine seeing the events and characters in the film fiction. I examine what a consideration of the indeterminate nature of fictional narration, that is, what is specified by the fiction about how we come to imagine the story events, can contribute to the debate on these issues. It is argued that (...)
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  7. Narrative Manipulation and Documentary Truth.John Arthos - 1996 - Film and Philosophy:87-94.
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  8. Film Music and Narrative Agency.Jerrold Levinson - 1996 - In David Bordwell Noel Carroll (ed.), Post-Theory: Reconstructing Film Studies. U Wisconsin Press.
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  9. Narration in Motion.K. J. Thomson-Jones - 2012 - British Journal of Aesthetics 52 (1):33-43.
    The moving frame of a tracking or crane shot, or of a camera tilt or pan, can affect the way we engage with a film narrative. In this paper, I argue that certain uses of the moving frame in narrative fiction film prescribe us to imagine ourselves moving through the world of the film. The existence of such an imaginative prescription ultimately threatens the necessity of the cinematic narrator. In light of the standard indeterminacy of our means of access to (...)
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  10. Narrative.Paisley Livingston - 2001 - In Berys Nigel Gaut & Dominic Lopes (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics. Routledge.
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  11. Cinematic Narrators.Katherine Thomson-Jones - 2009 - Philosophy Compass 4 (2):296-311.
    This article surveys the current debate among analytic philosophers and film narratologists about the logic and phenomenology of cinematic narration. Particular attention is given to the question of whether every film that represents a fictional narrative also represents a narrator's fictional narration.
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  12. Unreliability Refigured: Narrative in Literature and Film.Gregory Currie - 1995 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 53 (1):19-29.
    Aims to improve an understanding of the theoretical issues in response to the influence of fiction. Four things in narrative unreliability; Relation between narration in literary fictions and film; Comprehension of narrative essentially a matter of intentional inference; Fictions misdescribed; Asymmetry between literature and film; Ambiguity and unreliability; Implied author and narrator.
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  13. The Philosophy of the Movies : Cinematic Narration.Berys Gaut - 2004 - In Peter Kivy (ed.), The Blackwell Guide to Aesthetics. Blackwell. pp. 230--253.
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  14. Against the Ubiquity of Fictional Narrators.Andrew Kania - 2005 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 63 (1):47–54.
    In this paper I argue against the theory--popular among theorists of narrative artworks--that we must posit a fictional narrative agent in every narrative artwork in order to explain our imaginative engagement with such works. I accept that every narrative must have a narrator, but I argue that in some central literary cases the narrator is not a fictional agent, but rather the actual author of the work. My criticisms focus on the strongest argument for the ubiquity of fictional narrators, Jerrold (...)
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  15. The Literary Origins of the Cinematic Narrator.Katherine Thomson-Jones - 2007 - British Journal of Aesthetics 47 (1):76-94.
    This paper reveals an ulterior motive for insisting on the necessary presence of narrators in film: the desire to fit film into a literary paradigm. Despite important theoretical links between film and literature, the assumption that films must be like novels in always having narrators is unsound. By moving beyond literature in the comparison of narrative media, and focusing specifically on cases of ‘breaking the fourth wall’ in film and theatre, we find that the presence and function of a cinematic (...)
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  16. Need There Be Implicit Narrators of Literary Fictions?Thomas E. Wartenberg - 2007 - Philosophical Studies 135 (1):89 - 94.
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Movement in Film
  1. Found Footage at the Receding of the World.Byron Davies - 2022 - Screen 23 (1):123-129.
    This essay argues that, despite the potential for an encounter between Stanley Cavell’s thought and found-footage experimental filmmaking, this has not yet taken place because the early Cavell’s picture of films as autonomous “wholes,” together with his "global-holistic" conception of modernism, prevented him from appreciating the expressive possibilities of filmic fragments. I then argue that these impediments to an encounter with found footage recede in Cavell’s later thought, as he moves away from a concern with modernism and as J. L. (...)
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  2. L'immagine-inazione. Lo spazio e il tempo nel passaggio dall'image-mouvement all'image-temps in Gilles Deleuze.Fabio Vergine - 2019 - In Enrico Giannetto (ed.), La memoria del cielo. Catania CT, Italia: pp. 1-18.
    Nella sua riflessione filosofica sull’immagine filmica Gilles Deleuze sembra aver tradotto nella maniera più immediata, ancorché insolubilmente problematica, la presenza di uno spazio e di un tempo che giocano il proprio ruolo su di una forma passiva di soggettività: è proprio ne L’image- mouvement, infatti, che Deleuze mostra come uno dei passaggi più proficui delle sue osservazioni sul cinema sia proprio la crisi di ciò che egli definisce immagine-azione, a favore, invece, di un’immagine-tempo, o situazione ottica e sonora pura. Per (...)
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  3. Film Ontology: Extension, Criteria and Candidates.Frank Boardman - 2019 - In Noël Carroll, Laura T. Di Summa & Shawn Loht (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of the Philosophy of Film and Motion Pictures. Springer. pp. 3-27.
    What sort of thing is film? Before we can answer this question, we’ll have to first determine which things count as “films” in the relevant sense and work out what we ought to look for in an acceptable answer. There is little consensus among philosophers of film on any stage of this process. Here I make the case for a particular understanding of “film” to investigate as well as a particular set of criteria to use in that investigation. I then (...)
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  4. The Moving Image.Nick Wiltsher & Aaron Meskin - 2019 - In Noël Carroll, Laura T. Di Summa & Shawn Loht (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of the Philosophy of Film and Motion Pictures. Cham, Switzerland: Springer. pp. 49-69.
    Films typically provide an experience that is very much like the experience of ordinary motion. It is for this reason that they are commonly known as moving pictures or, slightly more broadly, moving images. Our focus in this chapter is on making sense of that experience. We begin our chapter by exploring the centrality of the experience of movement to film. We turn then to various explanations of that experience. Perhaps film images are transparent and allow us to indirectly see (...)
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  5. The Philosophy of Werner Herzog.M. Blake Wilson & Christopher Turner (eds.) - 2020 - Lexington Books.
    Legendary director, actor, author, and provocateur Werner Herzog has incalculably influenced contemporary cinema for decades. This essay collection by professional philosophers and film theorists from around the globe offers a diversity of perspectives on how the thinking behind the camera is revealed in the action Herzog captures in front of it.
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  6. The Palgrave Handbook of the Philosophy of Film and Motion Pictures.Noël Carroll, Laura T. Di Summa & Shawn Loht (eds.) - 2019 - Springer.
    This handbook brings together essays in the philosophy of film and motion pictures from authorities across the spectrum. It boasts contributions from philosophers and film theorists alike, with many essays employing pluralist approaches to this interdisciplinary subject. Core areas treated include film ontology, film structure, psychology, authorship, narrative, and viewer emotion. Emerging areas of interest, including virtual reality, video games, and nonfictional and autobiographical film also have dedicated chapters. Other areas of focus include the film medium’s intersection with contemporary social (...)
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  7. Does the Debate About Cinematic Motion Rest on a Mistake?Rafael De Clercq - 2017 - Analysis 77 (3):519-525.
    The debate about cinematic motion revolves around the question of whether the movement of cinematic images is real. That the movement we perceive in film should be construed as the movement of images is taken for granted. But this is a mistake. There is no reason to suppose that cinematic images of moving objects are themselves perceived to be moving. All that is necessary is to perceive these images as continuously changing images of one and the same object.
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  8. The 'I' of the Beholder: On Richard Allen, Projecting Illusion: Film Spectatorship and the Impression of Reality.Karen Bardsley - 1998 - Film-Philosophy 2 (1).
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  9. Moving Pictures.Arthur C. Danto - 1979 - Quarterly Review of Film Studies 4 (1):1-21.
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  10. Motion(Less) Pictures: The Cinema of Stasis.J. Remes - 2012 - British Journal of Aesthetics 52 (3):257-270.
    While some film theorists and philosophers have seen motion as a necessary element of cinema, this view is challenged by a body of avant-garde films which offer little or no movement. These experiments—by film-makers such as Andy Warhol, Larry Gottheim, and Michael Snow—challenge essentialist definitions of film, while simultaneously foregrounding the crucial role played by duration in cinema’s ontology.
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  11. Seeing Motion and Apparent Motion.Christoph Hoerl - 2015 - European Journal of Philosophy 23 (3):676-702.
    In apparent motion experiments, participants are presented with what is in fact a succession of two brief stationary stimuli at two different locations, but they report an impression of movement. Philosophers have recently debated whether apparent motion provides evidence in favour of a particular account of the nature of temporal experience. I argue that the existing discussion in this area is premised on a mistaken view of the phenomenology of apparent motion and, as a result, the space of possible philosophical (...)
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  12. Il Rilievo Della Visione Movimento, Profondità, Cinema Ne Le Monde Sensible et Le Monde De L’Expression.Anna Caterina Dalmasso - 2010 - Chiasmi International 12:83-110.
    Le relief de la vision. Mouvement, profondeur et cinéma dansLe monde sensible et le monde de l’expressionEst-il possible d’établir une connexion entre Le monde sensible et le monde de l’expression et la pensée du dernier Merleau-Ponty? De quelle manière une formulation germinale de la réflexion ontologique serait-elle présente dans le cours de 1953? Et quels sont les éléments de contact et de convergence qui permettent de retracer un tel lien?J’ai l’intention de proposer cette hypothèse à partir d’une considération du thème (...)
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  13. Projecting Illusion: Film Spectatorship and the Impression of Reality.Richard Allen - 1995 - Cambridge University Press.
    Projecting Illusion offers a systematic analysis of the impression of reality in the cinema and the pleasure it gives to the film spectator. Film provides a compelling experience that can be considered as a form of illusion akin to the experience of day-dream and dream. Examining the concept of illusion and its relationship to fantasy in the experience of visual representation, Richard Allen situates his explanation within the context of an analytical criticism of contemporary film and critical theory. He argues (...)
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  14. The Illusion of Realism in Film.Andrew Kania - 2002 - British Journal of Aesthetics 42 (3):243-258.
    Gregory Currie, arguing against recent psychoanalytic and semiotic film theory, has defended various realist theses about film. The strongest of these is that ‘weak illusionism’—the view that the motion of film images is an illusion—is false. That is, Currie believes film images really do move. In this paper I defend the common-sense position of weak illusionism, firstly by showing that Currie underestimates the power of some arguments for it, especially one based on the mechanics of projection, and secondly by showing (...)
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  15. External Realism About Cinematic Motion.Trevor Ponech - 2006 - British Journal of Aesthetics 46 (4):349-368.
    Cinematic motion is, I argue, a genuine and intrinsic property of some cinematic works and not just a matter of how things look to us. It is an event—an item's change of position—happening prior and external to our sensory responses to movies. I therefore defend against common-sense illusionism a minority opinion within cinema studies: that movie viewing normally occasions veridical perceptions of a kind of objective displacement. I also dispute another version of anti-illusionist realism about cinematic motion, the implication that (...)
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Ontology of Film, Misc
  1. Found Footage at the Receding of the World.Byron Davies - 2022 - Screen 23 (1):123-129.
    This essay argues that, despite the potential for an encounter between Stanley Cavell’s thought and found-footage experimental filmmaking, this has not yet taken place because the early Cavell’s picture of films as autonomous “wholes,” together with his "global-holistic" conception of modernism, prevented him from appreciating the expressive possibilities of filmic fragments. I then argue that these impediments to an encounter with found footage recede in Cavell’s later thought, as he moves away from a concern with modernism and as J. L. (...)
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  2. Cavell on Color.Byron Davies - 2021 - Conversations: The Journal of Cavellian Studies 9:90-113.
    This essay aims to understand the relations between Stanley Cavell’s theoretical generalities regarding the medium of film and his readings of individual films, with a particular focus on his writing on color in his book The World Viewed. I argue that a specific idea of color as connected to abstraction (as well as a correlative idea of black-and-white as connected to figuration) grounds the relations between Cavell’s general statements about color and his readings of individual color films, and that this (...)
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  3. Time Metaphors in Film: Understanding the Representation of Time in Cinema.Silvana Dunat - 2022 - Film-Philosophy 26 (1):1-25.
    According to conceptual metaphor theory, there are two basic metaphorical models for conceptualising time in terms of space: the ego-moving model maps our movement through space onto our imagined movement through time, while the time-moving model represents time as an entity moving through spatial locations, the ego being just a passive observer. The aim of this article is to investigate how time is conceptualized in film where ego, movement, time and space also play basic roles. I compare the two linguistic (...)
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  4. The Pragmatic Constraint and Revisionary Ontologies of Art.Eric Wilkinson - 2021 - American Society for Aesthetics Graduate E-Journal 13 (1):19-22.
    At the heart of Anders Pettersson’s 2017 book, The Idea of a Text and the Nature of Textual Meaning, is his proposed “cluster” definition of a textual work. On this view, a text is a cluster of three kinds of objects: all the physical exemplars of the work, the work’s meaning, and the complex signs that convey that meaning. Pettersson contrasts this with the “ordinary conception” of a text, wherein a text is a unitary object made of the signs and (...)
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  5. Remember the Medium! Film, Medium Specificity, and Response-Dependence.Clotilde Torregrossa - 2020 - Dissertation, University of St. Andrews
    Medium specificity is a theory, or rather a cluster of arguments, in aesthetics that rests on the idea that media are the physical material that makes up artworks, and that this material contains specific and unique features capable of 1) differentiating media from one another, and 2) determining the aesthetic potential and goals of each medium. As such, medium specificity is essential for aestheticians interested in matters of aesthetic ontology and value. However, as Noël Carroll has vehemently and convincingly argued, (...)
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  6. The Specter of the Electronic Screen: Bruno Varela's Reception of Stanley Cavell.Byron Davies - 2021 - In David LaRocca (ed.), Movies with Stanley Cavell in Mind. London, UK: pp. 72-90.
    An analysis of some work by the Oaxaca-based Mexican experimental filmmaker and video artist Bruno Varela via the latter’s reading of the late U.S. philosopher Stanley Cavell, especially Cavell’s 1982 essay “The Fact of Television.” This essay focuses on the aesthetic possibilities of the very constitution of the electronic image, based in Cavell’s understanding of television’s dependence on notions of “switching,” as opposed to “succession,” as well as how those notions play a role in Varela’s understanding of what it is (...)
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  7. Film Theory After Copjec.Anthony Ballas - 2021 - Canadian Review of American Studies 1 (51):63-82.
    The importation of Lacanian psychoanalysis into film theory in the 1970s and 1980s ushered in a new era of cinema scholarship and criticism. Figures including Raymond Bellour, Laura Mulvey, and Christian Metz are often considered the pioneers of applying Lacanian psychoanalysis in the context of film theory, most notably through their writings in Screen Journal. However, where French and British scholarship on Lacan and film reached its limits, American Lacanianism flourished. When Joan Copjec’s now classic essay “The Orthopsychic Subject: Film (...)
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  8. Film Ontology: Extension, Criteria and Candidates.Frank Boardman - 2019 - In Noël Carroll, Laura T. Di Summa & Shawn Loht (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of the Philosophy of Film and Motion Pictures. Springer. pp. 3-27.
    What sort of thing is film? Before we can answer this question, we’ll have to first determine which things count as “films” in the relevant sense and work out what we ought to look for in an acceptable answer. There is little consensus among philosophers of film on any stage of this process. Here I make the case for a particular understanding of “film” to investigate as well as a particular set of criteria to use in that investigation. I then (...)
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  9. Sound in Film.Paloma Atencia-Linares - 2019 - In Noël Carroll, Laura T. Di Summa & Shawn Loht (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of the Philosophy of Film and Motion Pictures. Springer. pp. 189-214.
    This chapter is focused on the philosophy of film sound in the analytic tradition and its limitations; drawing from current literature in other fields, it aims to complement some philosophical discussions typically centered on the image with their aural counterparts. Firstly, it provides an overview of early skeptical views on the contribution of sound to the artistic status of films and critically questions the status of sound in contemporary philosophical conceptions of film suggesting a revision that takes seriously the idea (...)
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  10. The Sonic Art of Film and the Sonic Arts in Film.John Dyck - 2019 - In Noël Carroll, Laura T. Di Summa & Shawn Loht (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of the Philosophy of Film and Motion Pictures. Springer. pp. 801-821.
    My goal in this chapter is threefold. First, I argue that film is, at least partly, an art of sound. Most films are not made merely to be seen; they are also made to be heard. This offers an alternative to traditional accounts of film, which take film to be an essentially visual artform, and it suggests new directions for research in philosophy of film. Second, I argue that there are several distinct arts of sound in film. Some of these (...)
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  11. La philosophie d'après le cinéma. Une lecture de La projection du monde de Stanley Cavell.Hugo Clémot - 2014 - Rennes, France: Presses Universitaires de Rennes.
    It is around The World Viewed, a famous book by Stanley Cavell (1979), that the reflections of this work are aggregated. By reading the writer's work slowly and patiently, Hugo Clémot offers a reading of his cinematographic and philosophical thought, enlightened by Wittgensteinian sources and by Cavell's work as a whole.
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  12. The Palgrave Handbook of the Philosophy of Film and Motion Pictures.Noël Carroll, Laura T. Di Summa & Shawn Loht (eds.) - 2019 - Springer.
    This handbook brings together essays in the philosophy of film and motion pictures from authorities across the spectrum. It boasts contributions from philosophers and film theorists alike, with many essays employing pluralist approaches to this interdisciplinary subject. Core areas treated include film ontology, film structure, psychology, authorship, narrative, and viewer emotion. Emerging areas of interest, including virtual reality, video games, and nonfictional and autobiographical film also have dedicated chapters. Other areas of focus include the film medium’s intersection with contemporary social (...)
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  13. Mechanical Recording In Arnheim’s Film As Art.Yvan Tétreault - 2008 - Postgraduate Journal of Aesthetics 5 (1):16-26.
    In his classic Film as Art, Rudolf Arnheim sets out to refute the claim that “Film cannot be art, for it does nothing but reproduce reality mechanically”.1 The usual argument in favor of that claim, he explains, contrasts film with realist painting, and goes something like this: There’s no doubt that what appears on the canvas depends on the way the painter sees the world, on her particular technique, on the colors she’s using, and so on. It is elements like (...)
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1 — 50 / 63