Subjectivity in Film: Mine, Yours, and No One’s

Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 11 (2024)
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A classic and fraught question in the philosophy of film is this: when you watch a film, do you experience yourself in the world of the film, observing the scenes? In this paper, we argue that this subject of film experience is sometimes a mere impersonal viewpoint, sometimes a first-personal but unindexed subject, and sometimes a particular, indexed subject such as the viewer herself or a character in the film. We first argue for subject pluralism: there is no single answer to the question of what kind of subjectivity, if any, is mandated across film sequences. Then, we defend unindexed subjectivity: at least sometimes, films mandate an experience that is first-personal but not tied to any particular person, not even to the viewer. Taken together, these two theses allow us to see film experience as more varied than previously appreciated and to bridge in a novel way the cognition of film with the exercise of other imaginative capacities, such as mindreading and episodic recollecting.

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Author Profiles

Sara Aronowitz
University of Toronto, St. George Campus
Grace Helton
Princeton University

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