Katheryn Doran

With Friends Like These…or: How Not to Respond to the Imposition Objection,” by Associate Professor of Philosophy Katheryn Doran, was recently published in the journal Aesthetic Investigation.

Doran said that many analytically trained philosophers argue that for a movie to do philosophy it must contain arguments, develop thought experiments, or provide counterexamples. If it does not, she said, any philosophy that might seem to be in it is regarded as 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,” Doran said.

She argues 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,” Doran said.

The paper provides an example in Doran’s account of Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia, on what she calls “its own philosophical terms.” Using this example, Doran said she has shown “that there are a variety of ways to establish whether a movie can do philosophy.”

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