“The reality in a photograph is present to me while I am not present to it; and a world which I know, and see, but to which I am nevertheless not present (through no fault of my subjectivity) is a world past”. So writes Stanley Cavell. And what goes for photography goes equally for film. In watching a film, we view unseen: we are extruded from its world. That is a basic metaphysical condition of the medium, from which Cavell develops an account of its nature. He discusses (amongst other things): the idea of acting in film; the cinematic significance of sound and colour; the idea of cinematic self-consciousness; and the relation between film and artistic modernism. The result is a rich and fecund work, which both raises and suggests an answer to the question of what the “philosophy of film” might be.

We shall read Cavell’s book (which is only available in English), together with related readings by Cavell and others. It is important that those who take this seminar have watched some films; but otherwise, no knowledge of film is presupposed.

Semester: ST 2023