In the last few decades, there has been an increase in interest in using film (and popular culture, more generally) to teach philosophy. In addition, there has been some effort to use film and popular culture in philosophical work, and there have been philosophically-minded film makers. Given my own obsessive consumption of popular culture and philosophy, a “Philosophy & Film” course was all but inevitable.
Overview of the course
The course began as a series of conversations with David Magill; at the time, we were both at Pitt-Johnstown, and we thought it would be great to team teach a course on this material. Although that course never came to fruition, the courses brought together as a composite in this syllabus eventually did.
The class has three major sections:
- Philosophy through film: how have film makers explored traditional questions in or highlighted problems from the history of philosophy? Topics in this section include: truth, knowledge, mindedness, and personal identity.
- Social thought through film: how film can illustrate, reinforce, and critique norms of femininity, masculinity, and race?
- Film as literary pursuit: how does a mass medium like film stand up to analysis using standard tools from literary analysis? Topics in this section include the nature of adaptation, satire, authorship, and the morality of cinematic representations.
Along the way, we wonder about what sorts of things are relevant to the interpretation of a film (e.g., the script, facts about production, interviews with filmmakers, deleted scenes, affiliated websites, and the like); that is, we consider intertextuality, paratextuality, metatextuality, and hypertextuality. We also cultivate an appreciation for the difference between enjoying a film and understanding why it might be a good (or bad) film.
A list of the films
- Jiro Dreams of Sushi
- Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.
- Waking Life
- Blade Runner
- Fast, Cheap and Out of Control
- Blade Runner
- Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
- Good Hair
- High Noon
- Fight Club
- Do the Right Thing
- The Killers 1946
- The Killers 1964
- Dr. Strangelove
- Blazing Saddles
- Battle of Algiers
- The Wild Bunch
- Taxi Driver
- King of Comedy
- Inglorious Basterds
- I [heart] Huckabees
- 8 1/2
- Cecil B. Demented
- The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975
- Roger and Me
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