Literature/philosophy

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Question
many experts take a philosophical approach to film as an art form so my question is what is meant by philosophy to film studies ..so many meanings to that one word 'philosophy' ..thankyou again tue ..val

Answer
Hey Val,

Goodness, you really have a knack for impossible questions! This is far too broad and unspecific to answer. Philosophy is many things, and there is no particular meaning to the way philosophy is used in relation to film. Usually, the word "philosophy", when used in context, covers "a philosophy", i.e. one theory, or particular way of looking at things, as opposed to others. And it can be anything. "Philosophy" is an even broader term than "ideology" and it encompasses all ideologies. To give you an idea of its broadness, I can tell you that the father of sociology, Auguste Comte, divided all social and cultural development - that is to say, all human history - into three overall stages:

1. The religious stage.
2. The philosophical stage.
3. The scientific stage.

We're talking about periods in cultural history lasting for many centuries. The religious stage is when people believe in supernatural things (which people have done since they first evolved from apes). The philosophical stage is when people start beliving in theories based on ideas about reason and logic (which starts in Ancient Greece, and still hasn't ended), and the scientific stage is when people start investigating the natural environment around them by the empirical method, using experiments, and getting dependable results (this has only started to happen in earnest during the last two or three centuries).

Philosophy means "love of wisdom", or "love of knowledge". Before modern science, philosophy was the best kind of science people had (you can see here how the philosphical method differs from the scientific method: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophical_method). Philosophy encompasses all sorts of systems of thinking and reasoning, and a given philosophy is typically based on certain ideas or approaches to analytical reasoning. "Moral philosophy", for instance, is about what is morally right or wrong. This is not a science, because as yet science cannot speak to what is right or wrong. And because it is not a science, it has to be based on various ideological ideas, which a lot of people may disagree about. The ideas that a given philosophy is based on typically come from some individual thinker (a philosopher) who had his own reasons for coming up with that particular system of thought. Maybe he just invented the ideas as a purely intellectual process; maybe he developed them from those of a previous thinker; or maybe he had some personal emotional experiences or epiphanies that led him to think in a certain way.

Most philosophy since the Antiquity has been developments of the two major movements in ancient philosophy; the respective ideas of Plato and Aristotle.

Plato said that all ideas and objects had "ideal forms" which comprised unchanging truth. I.e. somewhere in some metaphysical realm there were an "ideal horse", an "ideal chair", ideal goodness, etc. This has always been interpreted as a kind of static world-view bordering on "absolute idealism" which means that everything in the world springs from ideas, and has no truly physical reality. (Personally, I believe this is a misinterpretation; I think Plato was simply inventing "the concept" of things. We now have the concept of a horse, which is an ideal image that encompasses all real horses - this is exactly what I think Plato meant.)

Aristotle (who was Plato's student) did not care for the "world of ideas"; he said that everything has physical and objective reality, and is grounded in the real world. He was the first person to properly define the scientific method of investigating the world to see how it works. But as a true ancient Greek he also considered philosophical logic to be superior to reality, so sometimes he didn't bother testing his theories; he just declared that it was so, because it was logical, and if the real world was not like that, then the world was at fault!

Philosophy since then has been building on these two trends. Platonists and neo-platonists typically believe in a static world of unchanging moral laws, based on metaphysical idealism which (in the utmost extreme) denies the objectivity of physical reality, instead saying that everything is subjective, i.e. all things are constructs of the mind. Aristotelians have become closer and closer to modern scientists, hailing the physical reality as the only reality. The Aristotelians, of course, are right, as science is increasingly replacing philosophy.

So, taking a philosophical approach to film as an art form means that a critic or other expert chooses his or her favorite type of interpretation to analyse the film according to. And then we're back to film theory: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Film_theory

All straight? :-)

Good luck with your studies,
- Tue

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Tue Sorensen

Expertise

I am an authority on the complete works of Shakespeare, and can answer any questions relating to his plays, poetry and life. I specialize in interpretation, double-meanings and translation into modern language.

Experience

I was a top-rated Allexperts expert on this same subject several years ago.

Organizations
Former member of the Danish Shakespeare Society, as well as an active participant in the scholarly SHAKSPER mailing list.

Education/Credentials
Three years of studying English literature at the University of Aarhus, Denmark

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