The problem of interdisciplinarity between philosophy and film studies in Noel Carroll's talk

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Robbins, Papagena

I found Carroll's presentation today clear, well spoken, and interesting. The analysis of Sunset Boulevard, and the claim that the film itself is a philosophical text in its own right, addressing the philosophical needs of a popular audience, just as the canonical texts of philosophy address the needs of scholars, was compelling.

 
I really enjoyed the link he made between Sunset Boulevard's meditation on aging and mortality, and the meditations of canonical philosophical projects dedicated to the same, such as Heidegger's Being and Time, as a response to the possible philosophical objection to understanding the film as a philosophical text, he calls "the banality argument." I think it would be interesting to look at these two texts together and see what they have to say to each other, and understand how they both make their philosophical claims. I don't necessarily believe that, as a result of this line of argumentation, a philosopher would accept Sunset Boulevard as a philosophical text in the same way as Heidegger's masterpiece, however. The argument that they both do philosophy, the film is just in a manner more oriented toward the needs and abilities of a popular audience, which may blind academics from seeing its significance as a philosophical text in the world, is valuable, I believe.
 
Philosopher cinephiles also believe that films do philosophy, and there are many writings for the popular audience, arguably written to promote interest in philosophy, for those who are already film lovers, and deeper readings of films, for those are drawn to thought. What I thought was a bit strange was Carroll's insistence that when those scholars working within the discipline of philosophy use film as an element of their study it is always (I could be wrong, but he seemed to over-generalize this point) a manner of proving some philosophical principle, presumably taking the cinematic object as a dumb text that merely serves as an illustration of what the philosopher already knows it true. I didn't find this line of thought terribly convincing since there were no examples to support it (even if he had provided this support, it wouldn't mean that there were no examples to disprove the claim, however), and furthermore, the idea that, as a rule, philosophers dominate the filmic text to the point that it is unable to speak its own philosophical truth seemed unlikely. It may be the case that there are many philosopher cinephiles out there today that have not been trained to have proper respect for the filmic texts that they may chose to engage with in their investigations of particular philosophical problems, but I have trouble believing that Carroll's characterization is endemic to this interdisciplinary practice, especially having myself majored in philosophy, and knowing that Carroll himself has multiple degrees in the subject.
 
I am trying to understand what aim this exclusion might have for Carroll's project. Why is it necessary to assert such a thing? Are there no cases in which philosophers have contributed to a better understanding of the films they analyze, respectful to the text's contributions and resistances? If there are a minority of philosophers who are looking at films in a manner relevant to our discipline, what are they doing that could help us better understand the work we do with philosophy and film?
 

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