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From text to film: when philosophy is featured on the big screen

Every month this term and next term, Richard Feist, associate professor in the School of Ethics, Social Justice and Public Service, invites the entire University community to (re)discover film classics that tackle unusual philosophical themes. Become part of the Philosophy and Film Club!


A balanced diet

Why film? “As a professional philosopher,” explains Professor Feist, “I naturally prefer writing to tackle an idea. Having said that, film offers something unique. I often compare books to vegetables, and films to fruit: the first are essential, but involve a certain amount of effort; most people generally enjoy the second. Film, therefore, has its place in a healthy intellectual diet, even though it is based on reading. The advantage of a film is that it can transmit an idea powerfully and quickly.”


Cultivating a healthy critical distance

Of course, informed film buffs claim to have a nuanced point of view on the works presented to them. Still, as Professor Feist notes in paraphrasing Descartes, very few people complain that they didn’t receive their fair share of reason at birth. “Every text,” he explains, “is ideological in and of itself, and that is not new. Whether it’s Aristotle or Plato, what is said gives away an intention. And what is not said is sometimes just as revealing.”


How, then, to cultivate a healthy critical distance in the face of the overabundance of content that is offered to us today? Professor Feist gives us five golden rules.

1. First, think about your own biases, their nature and where they come from.
2. As intellectuals, don’t feel pressured to have an opinion about everything.
3. If you don’t understand a topic, don’t intervene; admit your ignorance.
4. Don’t confuse “demonstrating critical thinking” with “doubting everything.”
5. Don’t confuse the ability to understand a reasoning given (homophobic, misogynist or racist, for example) with subscribing to this reasoning.


Past screenings (2018-2019 academic year)

Friday, October 19 - Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story

Friday, November 23 - Detour

Don’t miss our next screenings!


Friday, December 21 - It’s a Wonderful Life

Friday, January 11 - A Scanner Darkly

Friday, February 1 - Blade Runner

Friday, March 8 - The Seventh Seal

Friday, April 12 - My Dinner with André 


Want more? Professor Feist drew up a list of 11 other films that are worth the detour.

1. Casablanca (1942)
2. Blade Runner (1982)
3. The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988)
4. Total Recall (1990)
5. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
6. The Matrix (vol. 1 to 3) (1999, 2003 and 2003)
7. V for Vendetta (2006)
8. Metropolis (1927)
9. Lord of the Rings (2001, 2002 and 2003)
10. 12 Monkeys (1995)
11. Solaris (1972)


2018—November 23, Detour

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