The last decade has witnessed an important revival of the philosophy of film, due to a revolution about the status and power of images in popular culture, to the new analytical resources provided by digital technology, and to the increasing proximity of philosophy to the world of communication problems. Considered during many years as a small field in the academic research, it is nowadays getting a growing importance because philosophers are using film as a mean to address and exemplify a broad range of philosophical issues (as testified on the recent Livingstone and Plantinga's The Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Film).

This project places itself within this new exciting philosophical field almost unknown in Portugal, where the dominance of the deleuzian tradition threats to become almost ‘totalitarian’. Accordingly, the fundamental questions we aim to address are such as ‘What is the philosophical relevance of Films?’ ‘(How) Can Films aid us on better understanding philosophical questions such as the ones related with the nature of perception, cognition, emotion, consciousness, ideology, morality or the meaning of life?’

To try to answer these questions, we depart from a new trend in philosophical approach to films, which consider movies as bringing genuine philosophical insights. This view, often classified as Film as Philosophy goes back to such authors as Stanley Cavell (1979, 1981, 1983, 1996) and is more recently explicitly endorsed and redefined by philosophers such as Mulhall (2001) or Frampton (2006).

This new perspective goes against the two more traditional philosophical approaches to films: 1- the conception regarding Films as “illustrations” of views and arguments properly developed by philosophers (i.e. prior or at least independently from film analysis), or 2-Films as “philosophy’s raw material”, i.e., as mere subjects of analysis of a certain (previous) conceptual framework.\nConsistently with this new approach, we will not adopt a specific philosophical framework and apply it to films. On the contrary, the main idea is that films themselves provide new tools, problems and perspectives capable of reshape some traditional philosophical questions and methodologies.\nMore specifically, this project will develop research in two main lines (both consistent with the Film as Philosophy approach): (1)- Cognitivist line of research and, (2)- Critical Theory line of research. \nRegarding line (1) our purpose is to address some of the most important proposals and results in recent Cognitive neuroscience and Philosophy of Cognitive Sciences by taken Film as central in the understanding of those proposals and results. Line (2) focuses on what, inevitable, cognitive studies leaves behind, i.e., the very content of the films themselves. This research line addresses the personal, cultural, social and political issues raised by films themselves. Of main significance is the fact that Lines (1) and (2) will be regarded not as incompatible. In fact, for us and contrary to the received view, (1) and (2) are not rival, but complementary views: while (1) regards questions of ‘form’ (related with way films are received by the spectator) (2) focus its attention on the ‘content’ of particular movies. To work out these approximations between the two approaches (one more ‘objective’, other more hermeneutical) is one of the more significant and original aims of the project.\nThe team is composed by researchers and students from different backgrounds. Some members are from Philosophy and others from Communication Sciences (specialized in the field of Film Studies). Those from Philosophy also have different competencies ranging from the Philosophy of Emotions, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Neuroscience, and Cognitive Sciences. It should also be noticed that more than one of the members composing the team also have a notable experience with actual process of Filmmaking. \nThis intersection between ‘pure’ philosophical competencies, Cognitive Sciences, Film Studies and filmmaking turns this team especially well suited to approach successfully the questions we propose to address. \nFinally, it should be strongly stressed the network of contacts with high-level international specialists in the area (four Consultants from the UK and USA) conjoined with the fact that some members of the team have formation in this area at some of the best international centres and universities. \nThe main work in fundamental research will be framed in the Laboratory for Advanced Research on Film & Philosophy (to be created by this project), where workshops and other activities will contribute to the production of original and international outputs. In this context, two important initiatives will take place: the production of a Compendium on Philosophy and Film and the Philosophy Trough Film initiative. It is expected that these, more public, initiatives help change the, somehow stagnant, field of Film Studies in Portugal.

Literature Review

This project is inspired by the recent tendency to look at films not as “illustrations” of views and arguments properly developed by philosophers (i.e. prior or at least independently from film analysis), nor as “philosophy’s raw material”, nor as a source for its ornamentation, but, rather, as “philosophical exercises, philosophy in action— film as philosophizing”, as Stephen Mulhall has put it (Mulhall, 2001). This tendency can be traced back, for instance, to Jean Epstein, who thought of film as a “machine for thinking time”, and it may be found in the works of Gilles Deleuze (Deleuze, 1983, 1985), who developed the notion of film as thought, but the dominant influence in recent studies on film and philosophy is Stanley Cavell, who has written extensively on film as something “meant for philosophy” (Cavell, 1979, 1981, 1983, 1996), that is, meant to reshape what philosophy has had to say in the past about reality and representation, art and mimesis, greatness and convention, skepticism and transcendence, language and expression, just to mention some of his favorite themes. \n Cavell’s work on film has lead many Anglo-American philosophers to redefine the methods, aims, and contents of the philosophy of film, and to reject the hitherto dominant film theory based mainly on continental thought. This rejection has been pushed to an extreme, e.g., by David Bordwell, Nöel Carrol or David Rodowick (Bordwell, 1989, Carroll, 1988, 2003, 2008, Rodowick, 2001, 2007). Along with many others, they have undertaken the critique of the tendency to produce a philosophy of film based on semiotics or semiology, or on psychoanalysis, or on Ideologiekritik, or, for that matter, on any philosophical current not born from an investigation on how concrete films are made and, most importantly, on their specific effect. This approach has lead to the development of several cognitive film theories that focus on such important philosophical themes as perception, memory, consciousness, language, expression, narrative or emotion (see, for example, Buckland, 1996, Carrol 1988, Currie 2005, Falzon 2002). In the Anglo-Saxon world, Wittgenstein and Cognitive Science have become more germane to the philosophy of film than Freud, Marx, Saussure, Althusser or Deleuze (see Goodenough, 2005). \n However, as for instance Daniel Frampton’s “Filmosophy” has demonstrated (Frampton, 2006), the idea of interpreting films as philosophizing or as “vehicles of knowledge” is not at all incompatible with making use of continental philosophy, including Deleuze’s, and there is still much to be learned from the old masters of film theory, like Münsterberg, Eisenstein, Artaud, Balazs, Astruc or Bazin. Moreover, for almost two decades, a philosopher like Slavoj Žižek, whose provocative thought is based not only on Freud and Lacan but also on Hegel, Marx and the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School, has been as influential in the field of film studies as almost any other thinker, both in the Anglo-Saxon world and outside of it (for example, Žižek, 2001). \n What this suggests is that the new approach to the philosophy of film is still very far from being exhausted, and that a dialogue with all the tradition of philosophy (both Anglo-Saxon and Continental) is apt to greatly enrich the new approach to the philosophy of film. And this is precisely what is at stake in our project: on the one hand, to contribute to the ongoing debate on the philosophy of film along the lines of the most recent research of “film as philosophizing”; on the other hand, to engage the philosophical tradition in that same debate (not necessarily on the same lines as Frampton’s or Žižek’s, of course). \nPlato’s questioning of the value of art and his metaphysics of the image, Aristotle’s meditations on the tragic form, narrative, character, etc., Descartes’ notion of the self as res cogitans (and of course the critique of this notion, both modern and contemporary), Hegel’s dialectic approach to the arts, Marx’s and the Frankfurt School’s critique of ideology as embedded in the works of art, Nietzsche’s idea of art as “will to power” (and therefore as “interested”, not, as in the Kantian tradition, as “disinterested”), Heidegger’s radical new notion of truth as alētheia, or Freud’s and Lacan’s concept of the unconscious— these are all examples of philosophical ideas that may prove fruitful to the task of researching the relationship between film and philosophy. What is critical, however, is that these ideas are not just applied to film, but that instead they function merely as tools to a deeper probe into the specific nature of film as an art form, or better still, into the nature of concrete films as works of art. The crucial point of Cavell’s approach is that, by offering a “view of the world unseen” (i.e. seen through the automatism of the camera), film gives privileged access to the world, and therefore it must force us to rethink the way we understand the world (for a broad perspective on this topic: Carroll and Choi, 2006, Chateau, 2003, Smith and Wartenberg, 2006). \nWhatever the philosophical school one has been schooled in (whether it’s Hegelianism or Cognitive Science, just to name two of the most opposed), the philosophy of film remains a new, different task that still has to be carried out, for the benefit of film but also for the benefit of philosophy as an explanation of the world we are moving on. This is why we believe that the research on film is such a crucial methodological question for the advance of philosophy of language and communication, because if film has been used as a moving stage, it is not only for image and sound, but also, and precisely, for life and its concepts, values, feelings, knowledge and communication. A massive collection like the one published, this year, by Routledge (Plantinga and Livingston, 2009) illustrates perfectly the extreme relevance of this new philosophical field.

Plan and Methods

Research plan and methods\nThe main objective of the project is to explore the current trend of Film as Philosophy, i.e., the view according to which films can make a direct contribute to philosophy. Given the wide range of application of such an approach, we have to narrow our own research to two more specific fields in accordance with the team’s specific scientific competencies. Therefore, we will mobilize our efforts by investigating two specific lines of research both consistent with the Film as Philosophy main ‘policy’:\n(1)- Cognitivist line of research\n(2)- Critical Theory line of research\nRegarding line (1) our purpose is to explore the so-called ‘New-paradigm’ in Cognitive Sciences taking Film as central in its better understanding. Generally, the basic assumption of the New-paradigm is that the basic and more fundamental kind of cognition raises from the sensorio-motor integration in the environment by means of the genesis of the objective representations of space and time, framing and uniting the disperse sensorial information the creature receives trough its sense organs (this has, of course a certain kantian inspiration). On this view, reasoning is a matter of planning/imagining off-line possible scenarios by visually manipulating events and objects in the internal created spatio-temporal framework. \nThe relation to be explored between the new cognitive paradigm and film is twofold: in one hand, philosophical work on cognition can gain some insight by exploring this cinematic perspective and, on the other hand (and more important to our purposes), this approach can be applied to Film Studies themselves – reassessing a very important tradition in Cognitive Film Studies that tries to answer some important questions regarding some known perplexities concerning the spectator cognitive and emotional engagement with films. An example of such application could be, for instance, to explore the suggestion - assuming the above stated proposals from the new cognitive science paradigm - that the spectator is easily engaged in the ‘reality’ of the film due to a formal continuity between her cognitive/imaginary dynamics and the film’s own dynamic.\nThis approach is a clear example of how films can contribute to the best understanding of such important philosophical notions as “Cognition”, “Emotion”, “Consciousness” or “Memory”.\n(2)- Critical Theory line of research\nLine (2) focuses on what, inevitably, cognitive studies leave behind, i.e., the very content of the films themselves. This research line addresses in a philosophical framework the personal, cultural, ethical, social and political issues raised by the films themselves independently of the conscious intentions of their authors. That there are such ‘philosophical contents’ intrinsically embedded in the films themselves is an important part of the idea of Film as Philosophy. A “critical theory”, in the sense of the Frankfurt School, is a theory that, unlike the theories in natural science, is not “objectifying”, but rather “reflective”. This means that it tries to enlighten by debunking the “dominant ideology” inherent, for instance, in films, or else by revealing what, for instance in a film, negates the “dominant ideology”. In a broader sense, however, any film theory is “critical” if its description of a film reflects upon its value, i.e. if it is at the same time descriptive and evaluative. Any study of the culture value of a film or its place in the history of film is, in this sense, “critical”; any analysis, for instance, of the subliminal message of a film (whether linked to the critique of “ideology” or not) is “critical”; any analysis of the ethical or political message of a film is also “critical”. We use the term “Critical Theory” in this broader sense.\nLine (2) will develop this broader sense of Critical Theory calling to their request a necessary dialogue with all the tradition of philosophy (both Anglo-Saxon and Continental) to enrich the new approach to the philosophy of film.\nAlthough (1) and (2) are already quite innovative on their specific approaches, our major and important ‘upshot’ and original claim is to search for a Unified approach merging (1) and (2). Usually, these perspectives are considered as excluding each other and competing. On the contrary, our own conviction is precisely that (1) and (2) are not incompatible. The main important point here is that they answer different questions within the Film as Philosophy framework. Whereas cognitive studies focus on more ‘formal’ questions concerning the nature of film reception and engagement, the Critical view regards the personal, political contents of films. We aim to clearly demarcate each line’s field of application in order to avoid methodological confusions. Moreover, and in accordance with such methodological clarification, it will be explored the reasonable claim that (1) and (2), not only are not incompatible but, above all, they can complement each other. Assuming the above distinction between formal cognitive/reception and significant cultural/political content it is not difficult to notice that a question such as “How do the specific contents of a particular movie are conveyed to the audience, by means of a certain kind of emotional and cognitive engagement with the movie?” establishes a very direct and obvious link between the research domains of lines (1) and (2). This project is thus expected to contribute with significant and innovative results not only in Philosophy of Film but, more important, in Philosophy ‘generally’. This will be achieved by showing how to bring together two methods traditionally seen as incompatible: the hermeneutic and the scientific/objective ones. This is a clear case where films can contribute to Philosophy.\nThe development of lines of research (1) and (2) as well as their mutual complement relation, will be explored within the ‘Laboratory for Advanced Research on Film & Philosophy’. This laboratory will consist in a series of advanced initiatives devised to 1- develop a strong teamwork and dialogue among team members with different perspectives and backgrounds; 2- Improve the team competencies by establishing a strong and continuous networking with some of the most important authors and institutions in the field; 3 – to produce innovative outputs (e.g., the Film & Philosophy Compendium). The target of these activities is the specialized international community of Film and Philosophy. Papers in international specialized journals and communication in international conferences and meetings are the expected results. Other results will be multimedia material with built in philosophical impact. It should be mentioned that four PhD thesis are also to be counted as material outputs from this Laboratory (See task description for more details). \nThe elaboration of the Film & Philosophy Compendium will be a major contribution of this project. The research team will produce an ensemble of about 200 files whose main objective is the critical fixation of major philosophical contributions and enquires on film experience and theory, necessary to push advanced research in the area. This will be an open project: each entry of the Compendium will provide an approach to the work of one philosopher or film theorist. This is a work in progress project that will based on a wiki platform. Through this technological and interactive platform, not only all the material will be online and accessed, but it can be extended, reviewed and commented at any time. Some video excerpts of films will be associated with it. The platform will have a management structure, based at the Institute of Philosophy of Language. That structure will review and select the new material and contributions for editorial purposes. The target of this particular task will be more oriented to Portuguese language spoken universities and research centres. It is expected to help changing the national current perceptions on what regards the relation between Film and Philosophy (Please see task description for more details).\nAnother innovative output that will be produced by the Laboratory will consist in the Philosophy Trough Films task. It will be more concept oriented working on the philosophical questions that are relevant to film history and practice. Because it is driven to encourage philosophy teachers and researchers to use film as a philosophical tool, its main objective is also to provide the universal access to an organized and critical online resource (probably materialized in a series of DVDs), where philosophical concepts will be paired with critical explorations of selected films. The main output will consist in a film program and, with the possible collaboration of graduate students, a film program catalogue will be produced. This activity aims to gain a relevant social impact; specially within Philosophy Teachers (both at the Secondary level as well as the University level) (See task description for more details).

1. Compendium

1-Elaboration Phase:

Objectives – Research and production of written material about relevant authors in the context of the Project, namely philosophers and film theorists. The ensemble of those texts and files intend to be an encyclopedic registration of philosophical questions about film and filmic experience. 

Methodology – Making of files (dossiers) with the following structure: Author’s Name to be treated, Presentation (biographical information and theories` context), Main Thesis, Author’s Texts translated by Research Members, Critical commentary on translated texts, Bibliography, and other resources.

Final results – Constitution of a solid and critical database (texts, links, etc.). That information would be a reference to following contributions.

Human and material Resources – The task will be done by Research Members. Books and films (DVDs) are necessary.

2- Constitution of the online platform:

Objectives – Making of a database using the information as above described, and make it available on-line.

The Compendium is one of the pedagogical purposes of the Project. Thus, it will set up a resource for research and analysis which may support the work of researchers and philosophy teachers, since it provide specific examples from Cinema History, already organized from a philosophical point a view

Methodology – The database is settled in Instituto de Filosofia da Linguagem`s Site ( The information will be available in hypertext, like «wikipedia». Furthermore, whereas work in progress, it may be updated at any moment, by elements of international research community, who might insert other authors, contents or writings.

Final results – Construction of a hyper-textual resource available on-line, with detailed information on relevant authors on film and philosophy, either classics or contemporaries.

Connection with other tasks – This task links with work done at the Laboratory.

2. Pedagody

Objectives – Organization and exhibition of a film program in two semesters, during the graduate Seminar on Film Programming, at Communication Sciences Department of the Nova University.The main purpose of the program is to test and promote films` understanding based on and through the exploration of philosophical questions. A catalogue including all materials of the program will be published.Methodology – The program is divided into 4 sections, which correspond to 4 important philosophical subjects: Existence and Transcendence, Logical Questions, Affection & Language, and Mind. Students will be exposed to a carefully and updated selection of short philosophical texts illustrating the issue under consideration. A member of the team with advanced philosophical background will present in a 12 hours seminar the conceptual framework, the main problems, methodologies, and philosophical solutions that are part of the current philosophical agenda of the issue under consideration (.e.g., Logic, or Existence vs. Transcendence). After that the students will see the selected films which will be introduced and commented by a research team member, and discussed with students in the end of each session. Program schedule:Conceived as laboratory, this program will be divided in four series, two for each semester:March 2009 – July 20091st series: Existence and Transcendence (foreseen films: The Navigator, by Buster Keaton, Vampyr, by Carl Dreyer, Late Spring, by Yasujiro Ozu, The Seventh Seal, by Ingmar Bergman, Vivre sa Vie, by Jean-Luc Godard, La Notte, by Michelangelo Antonioni);2nd series: Logical Questions (foreseen films: A Night at the Opera, by the Marx Brothers, Young Mr. Lincoln, by John Ford, The Rules of the Game, by Jean Renoir, Rashomon, by Akira Kurosawa, Last Year in Marienbad, by Alain Resnais, Fellini 8 1/2, by Federico Fellini, Cartesius, by Roberto Rossellinii);October 2009 – March 20103th series: Affection & Language (foreseen films: It’s a Wonderful Life, by Frank Capra, The Philadelphia Story, by George Cukor, Letter from an Unknown Woman, by Max Ophuls, Persona, by Ingmar Bergman, Ma Nuit chez Maud, by Eric Rohmer, The Wild Child, by François Truffaut, Red Desert, by Michelangelo Antonioni); 4th series: Mind (foreseen films: Laura, by Otto Preminger, Vertigo, by Alfred Hitchcock, Rope, by Alfred Hitchcock, F for Fake, by Orson Welles, 2001, a Space Odissey, by Stanley Kubrick, My American Uncle, by Alain Resnais, Mulholand Drive, by David Lynch). Final results – Students will have theoretical and practical abilities to analyze philosophical questions transmitted by films.. Edited catalogue with important material on Film & Philosophy will be available.The catalogue will include extracts of the materials utilized in philosophical seminar, research team introductions to each topic and a selection of student texts on relevant filmsConnection with other tasks – This task is a pre-condition to the task 3 (Philosophy through Films program - public phase). It could also be connected with task 2 (Film & Philosophy Compendium – elaboration).Human and material resources – The task will be completed by research team members. Films (DVDs), and books are necessary, as well as DVD player and screen projector. Desktop computers will be used to review films for analysis. 

3. Laboratory

Objectives: This laboratory will consist in a series of advanced initiatives devised to 1- develop a strong teamwork and dialogue among team members with different perspectives and backgrounds 2- Improve the team competencies by establishing a strong and continuous international networking with some of the most important authors and institutions in the field 3 – to produce innovative ad specialized outputs (e.g., the Film & Philosophy Compendium, papers to submit to international Journals). The Lab main focus will consist in the development of lines of research (1) (Cognitive Studies) and (2) (Critical Theory) as well as their mutual complementary relation.


1-‘Internal Weekly Workshop’ where the members of the team will present their work in progress (including PhD Thesis) to the other members in order to suggest important interchange of ideas and confront of different competencies.

2-‘Specialized National Meetings Series’; meetings with several national specialists external to the project in order to strong and elucidate some specific scientific competencies necessary to the accomplishment of the objectives (eg: Filmmakers, Neuroscientists, Psychologists or Sociologists)

3- ‘Periodical International Meetings’ with the presence of the Consultants of the project. The consultants will give conferences and participate in scientific sessions with the members of the team (regarding this last initiative; some scientific meetings will take place by Videoconference – using the facilities already disposable in the IFL’s videoconference room)

4- ‘Film Illustration of Thesis’. In some cases, the members will use fragments of existing movies to illustrate their points and test specific proposals, in other cases some specific samples of film will be specially conceived in order to achieve that goal. This provides an direct application and confrontation of theory with data (see, bellow, about the resources). 

Results: The target of these activities is the specialized international community of Film and Philosophy. Papers in international specialized journals and communication in international conferences and meetings are the expected results of the methodologies stated above. It should be mentioned that four PhD thesis are also to be counted as material outputs from this Laboratory.

Connection with other tasks: This task should be considered the ‘centre’ of the Project. Therefore, it relates to almost all the other tasks with special mention to task Film & Philosophy Compendium and the International Congress on Film & Philosophy.

Human and material resources: This task will strongly depend on already available equipment (Videoconference, data-shows and screens and Final Cut Pro software) but clearly some more is needed: a DVD Player 

The Laboratory work will heavily depend on the four Consultants expertise (From such important Universities such as Harvard University and Kent University). Also a Post-doc scholarship for one year will be requested.