Film Pilosophy Philosophy in Films Essay

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Film Pilosophy

Philosophy in Films

Attempts to explain the universe and the world around us have consumed the human race since at least the beginning of recorder history, and likely for millennia before that. Understanding reality, and even simply determining what (if anything) is real, or can ever be known to be real; what can be known, and how can it come to be known; what is the source of matter, or the definition of it, for that (or any other) matter -- these questions have been answered countless times by more people than can be imagined, most of them long past forgotten. Yet the questions remain, for none of the answers was ever truly satisfactory. Of course, for certain people answers are never really satisfactory, or at least not satisfying. For philosophers, the quest -- or quest-ioning -- itself must be the ultimate satisfaction and enticement all rolled into one. Whether or not there is such a thing as "real truth" -- objective and eternal fact -- is itself a major philosophical question, but it is fairly certain that no philosopher or philosophy has ever been able to, or likely will ever be able to, pose an undoubtedly true answer to any of these questions. This has not, thankfully, stopped people from trying.

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There are, of course, modern philosophers who practice their craft in perfectly respectable offices and libraries and cramped studies, philosophizing and writing tomes one their ponderings that are published and read by other philosophers and their university students, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this practice of philosophy. Though the end of the questions is never in sight, philosophical progress continues to be made as each generations brilliant thinkers tackle the same problems as the revered men and women of the past, building on the thoughts that preceded their own. It must be admitted, however, that as essential to the progress of human thought as this brand of philosophy is, it is not nearly the most exciting.

Essay on Film Pilosophy Philosophy in Films Attempts to Assignment

For that honor, we need look no further than your local multiplex. Granted, truly masterful pieces pf cinema with true probative value into philosophical inquiries are fairly far between (mixing probative and fiscal value does not often seem to go hand in hand), and to be fair, the philosophies presented in such films would not be exist without the more academic type of philosopher. But when a good director and a brilliant writer get together and really engage the audience in a story and a philosophical inquiry, the true magic of philosophy -- and of movie going -- comes alive. Philosophical films must still contain a narrative, and this is the structure that draws the audience in. Weaving deep and meaningful philosophical inquiry into such a narrative takes great skill, and makes the philosophical questions posed in such movies (they rarely provide any explicit or even implicit answers) all the more profound for the emotive response linked to the intellectual climax -- and Aristotelian catharsis of heart and mind.

Cinematic philosophy is also compelling because it can touch on many interrelated issues without the narrative and through-line of the film itself becoming sidetracked. This is impossible in a written text (or often in a discussion of a philosophical film); one thought must follow another in logical progression, and if other tangential thoughts occur they must be relegated to a separate space, and a separate argument. Film allows multiple elements and thoughts to exist within the same space (i.e. The "lens" or frame of the screen), and in this way can actually tackle philosophical issues in a way that is at once more comprehensive and less complete.

Se7en provides an excellent example of this dichotomy in philosophical films. It explores the nature of evil from many perspectives: morality, absolute realities, a component to the divine worldview, not to mention the simple human realities of dealing with entirely immoral or amoral forces. At the same time, it never comes to a real determination about the nature or even the existence of evil, but instead leaves the question lingering after the sudden and incredibly powerful climax with Somerset's literary reference: "Ernest Hemingway once wrote, 'The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.' I agree with the second part." The ambiguity of this line is as ambiguous one of the central aspects of the film. Obviously, Somerset believes that the world is worth fighting for, but does he disagree with the first part of the quote, or simply not agree with it. That is, does he see the world as ambiguous and neutral, or as the opposite of fine -- as evil. And if the latter, why is worth fighting for? The plot, of course, directs these questions at John Doe -- is he evil, or simply a man? Can a man be purely evil?

If any man can be purely evil, John Doe certainly fits the bill, but through the character of Mills. Reading the film as an allegory of sorts, with Doe as the Devil and Somerset as God or an angel (someone on that team, at any rate), Mills would be the man -- or more accurately his soul -- caught between the two. He is certainly not seen as either righteous or irredeemable, but seems fairly arrogant and lacking in control over his temper. He undoubtedly has good intentions at his heart however, and is thus a sort of every man. His eventual decision -- made through Wrath -- to kill John Doe seems to suggest that evil, if it exists anywhere, exists to some degree in every person. Mills has the same capacity to kill as John Doe, if not the same willingness. Evil, then, does not really exist, or at least not as an absolute, but rather is a reflection of the darker side of humanity that exists in every individual.

The question of individuality and humanity itself is the central question raised in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. Based on a novel by science fiction author cum philosopher Phillip K. Dick (some of whose other stories were turned into the films Total Recall and Minority Report), the action of this film deals with Deckard, a detective sent to "retire" four replicants, androids who are human in every aspect except for the technology that created and sustains them. because they think, move, look, and evidently feel the same as humans, the question of who is and who is not human becomes essential as Deckard grapples with the morality of his profession and task, and with the larger issues of whether or not Tyrell, the head of the corporation that designs and builds the replicants, has overstepped his bounds and come to near to playing God in his creation of human life. It stands to reason that a thinking, feeling being that sees itself as human -- as the replicants encountered in this film do -- are in fact truly human.

Perhaps more importantly, however, Blade Runner addresses issues of humanity. Or perhaps more correctly, of inhumanity. Deckard is not especially morally conflicted on the issue until he meets and falls in love with Rachel, a replicant complete with a set of false memories that full believes she is human being. He is willing to kill or "retire" without giving it a second thought, but when such action would cause himself pain, he begins to question it. Even this selfishness, an essential -- if not the essential -- human characteristic is embodied by the replicants. The original four that Deckard is sent after are on a quest to prolong their artificially shortened lives at any cost, and feel the pang of personal loss just as Deckard does. In the end however, the replicants prove more selfless, raising the question of who truly possess the finer aspects… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Film Pilosophy Philosophy in Films.  (2009, June 9).  Retrieved March 1, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Film Pilosophy Philosophy in Films."  9 June 2009.  Web.  1 March 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Film Pilosophy Philosophy in Films."  June 9, 2009.  Accessed March 1, 2021.