This book has two aims: to introduce the reader to philosophical ideas that have shaped and are still shaping our world, and to suggest ways to get more out of movies than mere entertainment.

The two aims are related. Philosophical ideas are sweeping, abstract, and seemingly remote from real life. The embodiment of philosophical ideas in stories, characters, and visual presentations insures that these ideas have concrete and specified meanings, and that their relevance to real life situations is in view. Movies show what philosophers are talking about.

Philosophy, in turn, brings out the depth and inner meanings of films. It is easy to become absorbed in the often brilliant elements of cinematic creation--dialogue, acting, sounds, camera work, and so forth. Such absorption, however, may prevent viewers from seeing the over-all significance or deeper meaning of films. Good production values may distract from the fact that films can be substantial contributions to the understanding of significant problems. Philosophical interpretations of films focus on the comprehensive statements and ultimate implications of works, and they connect films to the more universal thoughts and aspirations that artists as well as thinkers have developed in their attempts to make sense of their lives and the world.

Philosophy is, of course, a rather wide field. The present book takes its lead from “Educating Rita.” The heroine of that film sets out to get an education—in order to “find herself.” Finding herself defines her philosophical journey. The films discussed in the following chapters all deal with aspects of what it is to find one’s self. They clarify and develop a conception of human existence that has guided Western thought from Socrates to Existentialism and beyond: that a person’s true identity is not based on such external and inherited institutions as class, nationality, cultural tradition, organized religion, or race, but on an independent individuality that shapes itself through critical reflection and transcending imposed definitions. Self-determination, one might say, is the philosophy to which this book is devoted.

Jorn K. Bramann

From: Jorn K. Bramann: Educating Rita and Other Philosophical Movies

Philosophical Films: A Special Topics Course