"Police Adjective" and Attunement to the Significance of Things

  • Craig Fox Associate Professor, Philosophy Department of Communication, Design, and Culture Associate Director, University Honors Program California University of Pennsylvania Box 100 250 University Ave. California, PA 15419 USA 1 724 938-4068 (office)
Keywords: film, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Corneliu Porumboiu, criticism, meaning, aesthetics


In this paper I consider Corneliu Porumboiu’s Police, Adjective (Romania, 2009) as an instance of a puzzling work of art. Part of what is puzzling about it is the range of extreme responses to it, both positive and negative. I make sense of this puzzlement and try to alleviate it, while considering the film alongside Ludwig Wittgenstein’s arguably puzzling “Lectures on Aesthetics” (from 1938). I use each work to illuminate possible understandings of the other. The upshot is that it is is plausible to regard both as engaged, in part, in preparing us to make sense both of themselves, and then also of other works.


Baz, Avner. 2012. When Words Are Called For. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Bouwsma, O. K. 1982. “A New Sensibility.” In Toward a New Sensibility, edited by J. L. Craft and Ronald E. Hustwit, 1–4. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press.

Cavell, Stanley. 1976a. “The Availability of Wittgenstein’s Later Philosophy.” In Must We Mean What We Say?, 41–67. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

--- 1976b. “Music Discomposed.” In Must We Mean What We Say?, 167–196. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

--- 2004. “The Investigations’ Everyday Aesthetics of Itself.” In The Literary Wittgenstein, edited by John Gibson and Wolfgang Huemer, 21–33. New York: Routledge.

Danto, Arthur. 1964. “The Artworld.” Journal of Philosophy, vol. LXI.

--- 2014. “2007 Lecture.” In Remarks on Art and Philosophy. Wolfville, NS, Canada: Acadia Summer Arts Program.

Delistrady, Cody. 2018, May. The Making of Guernica. http://www.blouinartinfo.com/news/story/3041089/the-making-of-guernica. Accessed 28.5.2018.

Elkins, James. 2008. “On the Absence of Judgment in Art Criticism.” In The State of Art Criticism, edited by James Elkins, 71–96. New York: Routledge.

Greve, Sebsastian, and Jakub Macha. 2016. “The Good, the Bad, and the Creative.” In Wittgenstein and the Creativity of Language, edited by Sebsastian Greve and Jakub Macha, 3–13. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kuehner, Jay. 2012, Spring. Corneliu Porumboiu. http://cinema-scope.com/cinema-scope-magazine/corneliu-porumboiu/.

Melville, Stephen. 2008. “Is This Anything? or, Criticism in the University.” In The State of Art Criticism, edited by James Elkins, 111–126. New York: Routledge.

Mulhall, Stephen. 2008. On Film. Second Edition. New York: Routledge.

Scott, A. O. 2009. “Jiggers: Here Comes the Dictionary!” New York Times, Dec. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/23/movies/23police.html, Accessed 1.9.2018.

Wartenberg, Thomas. 2016. “Film as Philosophy: The Pro Position.” In Current Controversies in Philosophy of Film, edited by Katherine Thomson-Jones. New York: Routledge.

Weissberg, Jay. 2009. “Police, Adjective.” Variety, Apr. Accessed at 27.5.2018.

Wimsatt, W. K., and M. C. Beardsley. 1946. “The Intentional Fallacy.” The Sewanee Review 54, no. 3.

Wittgenstein, L., G.H. Wright, H. Nyman, and P. Winch. 1984. Culture and Value. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 1966. “Lectures on Aesthetics.” In Lectures on Aesthetics, Psychology, and Religious Belief, edited by Cyril Barrett, 1–40. London: Blackwell.

Philosophy of film without theory