Existenz Menu
An International Journal in Philosophy, Religion, Politics, and the Arts
ISSN 1932-1066

Volume 12, No.1, Spring 2017


Jaspers as a Lens on Plato and Film-Philosophy
Shai Biderman | Beit Berl College and Tel Aviv University, Israel
Michael Weinman | Bard College Berlin, Germany

This editorial discusses the central theme of the issue as a whole: the need for, and possibility of, a wholesale reclamation of what is meant by a Platonic understanding of the relation between dialectic and the production and representation of moving images. The authors first discuss how Plato is currently cast in discussions of philosophical aesthetics, and especially in relation to film-philosophy. Next, it is argued that once we attend to how much Plato's own practice as an artist and thinker relied on the production of representation of images that both move and move their audiences, we see at once how distorted this view of Plato is. Finally the editors discuss the ways in which the issues as a whole pursues this central concern, however widely the subject matter of the individual articles vary one from the other.

Keywords: Jaspers, Karl; Plato; film-philosophy; dialectic; images; truth; transcendence; myth.

Dead Ringers: Plato and Turning the Camera Back
Timothy Secret | University of Winchester, Hampshire, England

This essay evaluates two models relating the Socratic practice of philosophy to cinema through the Delphic imperative to "know thyself." The first model runs into some ethical difficulties before being put aside because it depends on the notion of the auteur. The second works without reference to an auteur through the recent turn in film theory towards focusing on an audience encountering its own gaze on screen. This second proposal is tracked back to Sartre's account of shame as an engine of self-knowledge, which leads the author to Plato, specifically to the Ring of Gyges, which is considered as a model of cinematic experience, in relation to the gaze. Comparing Plato's version of the Gyges story with that of Herodotus and Diderot's Letter on the Blind, the essay concludes with the suggestion that a turn to the objective gaze in film theory is not unambiguously an advance.

Keywords: Sartre, Jean-Paul; KieĊ›lowski, Krzysztof; Plato; Herodotus; Diderot; gaze; shame; self-knowledge; auteur.

The Myth of Er as Rationalizing Recording Device
Michael Weinman | Bard College Berlin, Germany

This essay argues that the cosmic choreography that is sung and danced through the representation of Er's vision of the afterlife at the very end of Plato's Republic,recalled in a spectacular muthos that features images of the cosmos in motion and of souls following their thousand year journeys across this moving skyscape, demonstrates what was called the extremist position regarding the film-philosophy thesis in the Introduction to this issue. Er's vision, is cinematic in contemporary sense because cinematic reproductions proceed only as they solicit and express thought forms fundamentally foreign to the medium of the projected moving image. Just because Plato's thinking about the telos of the cosmos and the moral judgment we must make as we choose how to live can only express itself though the external medium of an image, the thought behind the concluding moment of Plato's Republic is cinematic.

Keywords: Plato; Er; Badiou; myth; dialectic; poetry; narrative; film-philosophy; representation.

Transcendence and Film
Allan Casebier | University of Miami

Responding to a notion first elucidated by Paul Schrader in The Transcendental Style in Film, the author argues that such a style is best understood by following the conceptualization of transcendence offered by Husserl and Jaspers. Still lives, a distinctive aspect of any film by the distinguished Japanese filmmaker, Yasujiro Ozu, illustrate the transcendental style. Jaspers and Husserl provide the conceptual framework for understanding both the concept of transcendence and the fruitfulness of the idea that there is a transcendental style in film. As Schrader conceptualized it, the transcendental style brings the transcendent to the forefront of consciousness in the film appreciator.

Keywords: Husserl, Edmund; Jaspers, Karl; Ozu, Yasujiro; phenomenology; transcendence; transcendental; film; reductions; horizon.

Learning to Notice: From Chauvet Cave to Plato's Cave and Beyond
Paul A. Kottman | New School for Social Research

Traversing the tens of thousands of years from the images in Chauvet to those in Plato's Republic, I argue we can track the achievement of a heightened awareness of our ways of noticing reality. Where some would attribute such a heightened awareness to a teleological development where human consciousness undergoes and brings about an intellectualization of reality, and where images are replaced by words and concepts, I rather find that we ought to focus on human expressive output in and through images as a series of visual, artistic accomplishments. As readers of Plato, we see a shift not away from, but rather precisely within our play with light and shadows.

Keywords: Merleau-Ponty , Maurice; Chauvet Cave; Plato; cave allegory; consciousness; phenomenology.

Accounting for Images in the Sophist
Abraham Jacob Greenstine | Duquesne University

The distinction between likenesses and apparitions was strongly thematized by Deleuze in a series of works, including but not limited to his canonical discussion of cinema. In this article, the author takes up one crucial antecedent text on this dichotomy: Plato's Sophist. Focusing on how Plato distinguishes a likeness from an apparition through the proportionality the does or does not obtain between the genuine and image, we see how both likenesses and apparitions can only be apprehended in relation to something else. The relationship of repetition and difference, of original and copy, gets radically refigured, with implications both for Platonic epistemology and for Deleuze's influential response to what he deems Platonism.

Keywords: Deleuze, Gilles; image; apparition; Sophist; falsehood; perception; difference; value.

Truth, Reality, and Fiction in the Documentary of Errol Morris: Refiguring Platonism in Epistemology and Aesthetics
Shai Biderman | Tel Aviv University and Beit-Berl College, Israel

This essay begins by contesting the status of Plato as a decisive commentator on the intersection of epistemology and philosophical aesthetics, questioning to what extent Plato's positions and practices align with that is generally called Platonism in contemporary philosophical discussions. On this basis, it is then argued that current discussions of the philosophical potencies of film miss an important element by ignoring the particular features of documentary as a genre that complements current discussions of film-philosophy, in particular the idea that films are philosophical with regard to the ethical domain. The case of Errol Morris is discussed at some length, demonstrating the ways in which a reconsideration of truth and image, in relation to production and representation through Plato and Platonism demand a deeper engagement with documentary.

Keywords: Platonism; cinema; documentary; truth; film-philosophy.

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