The ontology of film

2002 2002

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Abstract (summary)

Contemporary philosophers have tried to determine whether transparency, illusionism, or perceptual realism best explains realism in film. In this dissertation I will explain these three doctrines, critically evaluate them, and discuss the criticisms that have been raised against them. I will then propose my own account of the ontology of film.

In Chapter 1 I will discuss the doctrine of transparency that is defended by Kendall Walton, which says that most films are transparent because we see through them to the real world. I will argue that most films do not allow us to see the real world when we look at them because filmmakers creatively manipulate their images. They also employ animated, computer-animated, and computer-generated film images that don't involve photographing reality.

In Chapter 2 I will explain the doctrine of illusionism, which says that film images engender in the viewer an illusion of the reality of the fictional world. I will critically discuss Gregory Currie's arguments against illusionism in his book Image and Mind. I will argue that most film viewers do not experience cognitive illusions while watching films, but they do experience perceptual illusions.

In Chapter 3 I will explain the doctrine of perceptual realism that is endorsed by Gregory Currie. Currie argues that film viewing is realistic because it approximates our normal experience of perceiving the real world. I will argue that Currie's account is inadequate because he does not clearly explain how our perceptual mechanisms work in recognizing objects in film images to be like objects we have seen before.

In Chapter 4 I will summarize the strengths and weaknesses of the three doctrines. In Chapter 5 I will explain how films are creative works of art by discussing how filmmakers intentionally manipulate film images. I will ultimately show how films do not reproduce reality, but rather alter, distort, and transform reality, as well as create new realities. My task in this dissertation is to critically evaluate the three contemporary doctrines of film realism and to offer a comprehensive new theory that can better explain the ontology of film.

Indexing (details)

Motion Pictures
0422: Philosophy
0900: Motion Pictures
Identifier / keyword
Philosophy, religion and theology; Communication and the arts; Aesthetics; Film; Illusionism; Ontology; Realism; Transparency
The ontology of film
Books, Julie N.
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 63/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
9780493880228, 0493880224
Aune, Bruce A.
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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