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PHI 109 — Philosophy in Film: Profound Ideas Explored by Master Filmmakers

Quarter: Fall
Day(s): Tuesdays
Course Format: On-campus course
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Sep 26—Dec 5
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm
Drop Deadline: Oct 9
Units: 2
Tuition: $460
Instructor(s): Forrest Hartman
Status: Open
Please Note: No class on November 21
On-campus course
7:00—8:50 pm
Sep 26—Dec 5
10 weeks
Drop By
Oct 9
2 Units
Forrest Hartman
Please Note: No class on November 21
Profound philosophical questions—such as what truth could mean in a foundationless world of alternative facts; how to live authentically in a world awash in moral relativism; and where to look for meaning in a world where traditional philosophies appear impotent—are often addressed provocatively by serious filmmakers. In this course, we will put foundational philosophical texts side by side with important films, revealing how some of our most creative minds grapple with difficult questions in a visual medium. We will see, for example, how the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men contrasts a powerful, apocalyptic postmodern morality with a traditional Kantian rational ethics. Christopher Nolan’s Memento demonstrates Ludwig Wittgenstein’s refutation of the traditional Cartesian dogma that understanding and meaning are mental phenomena. The dude and his cohorts in The Big Lebowski turn out to be Nietzschean nihilists. Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon demonstrates the fragility of objective truth and confirms Nietzsche’s claim that everything is interpretation. What Heidegger means by “authenticity” may be nowhere better illustrated than in Kurosawa’s Ikiru. By the end of this course, students will have a better understanding of how and why film enables us to address the urgent problems of modern life beyond the abstractions of traditional philosophy.

Students will be required to view films on their own time outside of class. The films can be rented or streamed instantly through Netflix, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play Movies, and/or other online providers. Films can also be purchased on DVD, but this may be cost-prohibitive for most students. With this in mind, students are encouraged to be resourceful and rent films from the providers listed above.

Forrest Hartman, Senior Adjunct Professor in Critical Studies, California College of the Arts

Forrest Hartman’s research interests are based in the history of ideas and cultural studies, especially the relationship between the sciences and the humanities. He received an MA in rhetoric/philosophy from UC Berkeley and a PhD in evolutionary biology from the University of Michigan.

Textbooks for this course:

There are no required textbooks; however, some fee-based online readings may be assigned.