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Croatian Journal of Philosophy

Volume 19, Issue 2, 2019

Philosophy of Art

Britt Harrison
Pages 331-349

Introducing Cinematic Humanism
A Solution to the Problem of Cinematic Cognitivism

A Cinematic Humanist approach to film is committed inter alia to the following tenet: Some fiction films illuminate the human condition thereby enriching our understanding of ourselves, each other and our world. As such, Cinematic Humanism might reasonably be regarded as an example of what one might call ‘Cinematic Cognitivism’. This assumption would, however, be mistaken. For Cinematic Humanism is an alternative, indeed a corrective, to Cinematic Cognitivism. Motivating the need for such a corrective is a genuine scepticism about the very notion of the cognitive. Using historical reconstruction, I reveal how ‘cognitive’ has become a multiply ambiguous, theory-laden term in the wake of, indeed as a consequence of, Noam Chomsky’s original stipulative definition. This generates a constitutive problem for cognitivism as both a research programme and a set of claims, and as such poses a trilemma for philosophers of film, art and beyond. I propose a Cinematic Humanist solution to the problematic commitments of cognitive film theorising and, in so doing, gesture towards a methodology I am calling ‘philosophy of film without theory’.

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