With Friends Like These… or: How Not to Respond to the Imposition Objection
Many analytically trained philosophers argue that for a movie to do philosophy it must contain arguments, or develop thought experiments, or provide counterexamples, otherwise whatever philosophy might seem to be in it is just the viewer's projection. Most of the analytic responses to what Tom Wartenburg calls the “the imposition objection” (IO), including his own, share an assumption I argue is unfounded, namely, that the traditional philosophical text is the standard by which we should judge the philosophical status of anything, including movies. I argue that tethering movies’ philosophy bona fides to standard philosophical works actually invites IO, absent a known philosophically minded creator behind the production. Accepting the argument-centric written text as the standard also begs the question about the nature of philosophy, and discounts (or worse) the philosophical powers of movies and other media; such a position also impoverishes the many and complex ways philosophy deepens our understanding of the world, of others, and of ourselves. I offer a liberating example in my account of Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia on its own philosophical terms.
Elgin, Catherine. 1999. Considered Judgment. Princeton: Princeton University Press/Princeton.
Light, Andrew. 2003. Reel Arguments: Film, Philosophy, and Social Criticism. New York/ London: Routledge/New York.
Mulhall, Stephen. 2002. On Film. New York/ London: Routledge/New York.
Nolan, Christopher, director. 2002. Insomnia. USA.
Nunan, Richard. 2010. “Filmosophy and the Art of Philosophical Analysis of Films.” Film and Philosophy 14: 135-54.
--- 2014. “Film as Philosophy in Memento: Reforming Wartenberg’s Imposition Objection.” Film and Philosophy 18:1-18.
--- 2017. “Authorial Intent, Alien3, and Thomas Wartenberg’s Alleged Necessary Condition for Films to Do Philosophy.” Film & Philosophy 21:52-73.
Smith, Murray. 2006. “Film Art, Argument, and Ambiguity.” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 64 (1):33-42.
Smuts, Aaron. 2009. "Film as Philosophy: In Defense of the Bold Thesis." Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 67.4: 409-420.
Wartenberg, Thomas. 2007. Thinking On Screen: Film as Philosophy. New York/ London: Routledge/New York.
Wartenberg, Thomas. 2015. “The Imposition Objection Reconsidered: A Response to Richard Nunan.” Film and Philosophy 19: 1-14.
Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 1958. Philosophical Investigations. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, Inc.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal. Note: up to volume 4 issue 2, an incorrect copyright line appears in the PDFs.
Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).