Thursday, August 30, 2007

Philosophy of Film

The thread is now open! *Represent* your thoughts, please. :-)

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

I know i dropped this class, but I still feel like sharing this little poem I wrote about the reading for last night and philosophy in general.

Identity is Bullshit by Christopher D. Pedersen

I want you to imagine a time
Before the spork
and before this rhyme
There existed a utensil
without a name
But still its use remained the same
ITS A SPOON! Said a wise man
ITS A FORK! said another
But the wisest of all was a bruther
Yo mutherfucker!
Let's call it a spork!

Whats the moral of this poem?
The philosopher Roger Scruton needs to quit bickering about whether photography is a "Representation" or an "Intention", just call it a "represintention" and move on with life. All of this philosophy is just a waste of time arguing over semantics. When i signed up for this course i knew that it was the Philosophy of Film. But I did not
think that it was LITERALLY the philosophy OF film. I thought it was more along the lines of
philosophy IN film. I suppose I guessed WRONG. Thanks for reading this poem

stefan cadra said...

What an enlightened fellow...
and stuff.

I can only hope that I exuded the same aroma of wisdom in my undergraduate years.

Andrew said...

I wonder if maybe you're misinterpreting Scruton's point. He is not questioning it (film or photography as an art form) simply to frustrate or fluster any peer or scholar. He simply is trying to convey a premise that he concluded was just and had worth. The biggest thing you must learn about Philosophy is that you can't enter into a Philosophical Debate or Argument simply because of your emotions or everything you had been taught says that the premise is wrong. You must justify your position through facts and through other premises in order to effectively conclude the argument or debate. Yelling at a Philosopher simply because he flustered you just makes it evident that you didn't have mental capacity or willpower to effectively argue any point. You simply want to say he is wrong... I say justify it.

Charlie said...

After Professor Ribeiro gave me threatening looks, I decided it would be best if I posted a couple of comments.

I am not a big fan of Scruton's definition of art for one main reason: he is completely negligent of epistemological concerns. For something to be considered art, it is in no way dependent upon people's beliefs. Scruton claims that photography is representational art only if the photograph has been manipulated in some way by the artist (i.e. the artist has exerted some sort of control over the photograph (or negative)).

Here are a couple of different scenarios in which, under Scruton's view, the photographs would be classified as art, but the scenarios seem to lead to counterintuitive results.

A photographer takes a picture of a spork. He (or she) intends to cut the picture in half and piece it back together again, thereby manipulating the photo and expressing his thoughts. Before he is able to manipulate the photo, the photographer is involved in a car crash in which he sustains brain trauma, causing him to have mild amnesia. When he asks his wife about the spork photo, she mistakenly says, "Oh, you took that picture yesterday. You cut it in half and pieced it back together again to make an artistic statement. Why the hell did you take a picture of a spork?"
The photographer then submits the picture to a local art show. He informs all of the spectators about the manipulation process, and consequently, they come to believe, mistakenly, that the spork photo is art.
According to Scuton's theory, the fact that everybody, including the artist, has a justified belief about the classification of this photo is completely irrelevant. Everybody believes it is art when, in fact, it is just a picture of a spork. This just seems counterintuitive to me.

Similarly, a scenario could be constructed in which nobody believes it is art when in fact it is. Let's say the same photographer takes the spork photo and is able to manipulate it before the car crash. The photo is now art. His wife says to him, "You took that photo and intended to manipulate it, but you were not able to before the car wreck. Really, why they spork?" The photographer then decides not to cut the photo (even though he already has) but, because of how beautiful he finds sporks, he submits the photo to the art show. He tells the onlookers that the photo is in no way manipulated, and nobody believes that it is art. But the problem is that nobody actually knows that it is art. Again, they have a false belief about the metaphysical status of the photograph.

This line of reasoning may also leave us vulnerable to some type of photographic skepticism. We may never truly know for sure if a picture we are looking at is manipulated or not. Perhaps the photographer lies and claims that he did manipulate it. If you find a random photo on the street, you might be looking at art and not know it.

These counterintuitive concerns may not refute Scruton's view. Just because a theory has queer consequences does not show that it is false. But it should at least get our attention. I believe that a theory of art which includes beliefs might be a more accurate theory.

My apologies for the lengthy blog. Blame it on professor Ribeiro.

Charlie said...

Since my last blog wasn't long enough, here is another.

I don't believe Lopes sufficiently refutes Scruton's style argument. Scuton claims that a photograph lacks representation because the photographer lacks control. Lopes counters this by claiming that "A walk around any group photography exhibition provides ample evidence that photographs have perceptible stylistic properties that tie them to their makers" (p. 37). Furthermore, he says, "the argument requires us to underestimate badly the degree of control photographers exercise over the appearance of their photographs" (p. 37). Photographers are able to control numerous aspects of their photos. This is how we are able to identify the works of specific photographers.

But this is not what Scruton argues. Scruton believes that control is not exerted over the medium, which is the camera. The painter exerts control over his (or her) canvas, paintbrush, etc. That is his medium. Now if the photographer decides to cut the picture, paint over it, or manipulate it in any way, then Scuton will agree that it is art. But until then, the camera is still just a part of the causal process. A recognizable style has nothing to do with the control over the photo qua photo. If a photographer always photographs dogs, then he has a style, a doggy style, but the control he exerts is still over the subject of the photo, not the photo itself.

Scruton and Lopes seem to be using the word "style" differently. (Actually, Scruton doesn't even use the word "style". At least not when naming his argument). Scruton uses it to denote the control a photographer has over the camera. Lopes uses it to denote recognizable patterns within the works of a single photographer.

Andrew said...

Right, but at the same time remember that maybe at a glance the photos that were manipulated were looked over and either thought of as art, but that the professor also said that the changes how small they may be, if they are some how in some way shape or form detectable by a microscope the "photo" constitutes art according to Scruton's theory. But I understand and agree I don't see how cutting up a negative and piecing it back together effectively constitutes art. I can accept the premise but I don't agree with it.

Anonymous said...

Sit back and enjoy the freak show, don't worry about what you call it.
-cdp

Anonymous said...

O ya and to this guy, "Yelling at a Philosopher simply because he flustered you just makes it evident that you didn't have mental capacity or willpower to effectively argue any point. You simply want to say he is wrong... I say justify it." I didn't say he was wrong, i said what he has to say is not important or worth reading. I do understand what Roger Scruton had to say, nothing. He is just arguing over the meanings of words. Words aren't real, they are just tools we invented to make life easier.
-cdp

Anna Christina Ribeiro said...

Christopher Pedersen,

I regret that our course on the philosophy of film did not fulfill your expectations, and you chose to drop it.

Since this is a forum for students in the course, however, I must ask you to stop contributing entries to the blog.

If you have any further questions or comments about the course or any of the texts we are reading, please direct them to me either via e-mail or in my office.

Best wishes for your academic career,

Prof. Ribeiro

Charlie said...

I'm frustrated. These documentaries we've been watching only make it worse. The problem isn't with the documentaries themselves, it is a much larger issue. It is an epistemic issue. There are countless issues with opposing viewpoints which we must somehow decide between. Global warming is one of these issues. But the problem is that none of us (in the class) are really qualified to make scientific claims about the issue. So, like so many issues, we defer to the experts (the scientists, climatologists, etc.). Now we must try to form our beliefs based upon the testimony of experts. The problem arises when these experts give us two conflicting stories. Now our justification, or our reasons, for believing either view is equivalent. Both sides cannot be right, but we would be equally justified in believing either.

There are several options at this point. We could suspend judgment altogether. We could simply refrain from forming a belief about the issue. However, these type of epistemic issues occur so frequently that you would have to suspend a myriad judgments. Also, as Al Gore suggested, these are moral issues. If the issue was choosing between forks and sporks, then there isn't as much pressure to decide. But morality might require us to decide on other issues.

We could also make the practical move and choose to assent with one side just to have a belief about it (even though we acknowledge the equivalent evidence). But I have two problems with this option. First, it could be argued that any person who chooses their belief based on practicality is motivated by something other than reasons and evidence. They probably will assent to the position to which they had a previous inclination. If a hippie is unsure about the global warming issue, and he wants to choose a side just to be practical, then he will probably choose Al Gore's side. Second, at worst, the person is being irrational. They are holding a belief without sufficient reason.

Now for the last option. The first two were presupposing a neutral observer, a person who had no previous beliefs about the topic. But many times, we have beliefs about something before ever subjecting them to philosophical scrutiny. For example, most people hold religious beliefs before they ever begin looking for evidence. (Please note, this is not necessarily a bad thing). Now, if person, P, holds belief, Q, before ever looking at the evidence, then P may be justified in continuing to believe Q even though there is equal evidence for some contradictory belief, R. Here's what this means for global warming. If I believe that mankind is having a direct impact on global warming, then I may be justified in continuing to believe this even though there is equal evidence for believing otherwise. To continue with the religion analogy, if I believe that Christianity is the one true religion, I may be justified in continuing to believe this even though Christianity does not have an epistemic advantage over the other religions.

So I'm frustrated because I'm no closer to forming an opinion than before. And until more convincing arguments are presented, I will probably be void of anything resembling a confident belief.

After I look at these I wonder if I am abusing my blogging privileges.

William Terrell said...

Hello class,
I'm still having trouble with the necessary conditions that distinguish documentaries from other genres of film. My first instinct was to say that structure of the film was the distinguishing factor, but surely we do not want to classify Reiner's "This Is Spinal Tap", Guest's "Best in Show" and other "mocumentaries" as documentaries since they are entirely fiction. However, after watching "The Great Global Warming Swindle", I am hesitant to call any documentary totally non-fictitious, and most probably have some elements of fiction in them. Michael Moore's movies are biased but seem to present real facts, and it seems that his movies are in no real danger of losing documentary status. So, can documentaries be biased and contain false information?
So I'm looking for help with this. X is a documentary, if X is a film that objectively documents a situation instantiated in the world which exists independent of the existence of X.

matt thomas said...

I've come to realize there is no way for to attribute something semi-intelligent regarding philosophy of film, so i will instead summarize my opinion of philosophy.

I am a minor in philosophy, which i know in a forum like this is a crappy place to start, and i have enjoyed al l the courses i've taken in this minor. I've come to the conclusion that the majority of philosphers are intellects with the sense that there is something going on around us. My problem with philosophy is that usually, philosophers will start in this beautiful place called uncertainty, and try label something that cannot be put into words. This usually ends up backing the rhetorician into a corner, demanding he defend his position the rest of his/her days. On the positive side philosophy has given me the desire to see things from all angles and to respect other peoples opinions and beliefs..

i hope i'm not stepping on anyones toes, i love everybody...even the dood who gets up the exact same time every class to do God knows what

Emily said...

Hi guys.
I wrote my paper on the nature of documentary film. My question is this: Carroll frequently speaks of communication between the filmmaker and the audience. He claims that the audience needs to evaluate the film assertively. Is Carroll suggesting that a film be classified as a documentary or "film of presumptive assertion" merely by the approval of the audience?

Tony said...

I think this communication is meant by carroll as a means by which the director delivers all of the background information necessary for the audience to process the scenes and how they relate to the plot. This doesn't necessarily make them a documentary, i believe it is just a way of narration by the director

RJ said...

While I was writing my essay for the final exam, I began to think that intention of the author is not really as important as perception of the audience. Most of the authors we discussed established there ideas from intention. Are there any good essays on perception?

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