The Philosophy of Science Fiction Film

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University Press of Kentucky, Dec 14, 2007 - Performing Arts - 240 pages
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The science fiction genre maintains a remarkable hold on the imagination and enthusiasm of the filmgoing public, captivating large audiences worldwide and garnering ever-larger profits. Science fiction films entertain the possibility of time travel and extraterrestrial visitation and imaginatively transport us to worlds transformed by modern science and technology. They also provide a medium through which questions about personal identity, moral agency, artificial consciousness, and other categories of experience can be addressed. In The Philosophy of Science Fiction Film, distinguished authors explore the storylines, conflicts, and themes of fifteen science fiction film classics, from Metropolis to The Matrix. Editor Steven M. Sanders and a group of outstanding scholars in philosophy, film studies, and other fields raise science fiction film criticism to a new level by penetrating the surface of the films to expose the underlying philosophical arguments, ethical perspectives, and metaphysical views. Sanders’s introduction presents an overview and evaluation of each essay and poses questions for readers to consider as they think about the films under discussion.The first section, “Enigmas of Identity and Agency,” deals with the nature of humanity as it is portrayed in Blade Runner, Dark City, Frankenstein, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Total Recall. In the second section, “Extraterrestrial Visitation, Time Travel, and Artificial Intelligence,” contributors discuss 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Terminator, 12 Monkeys, and The Day the Earth Stood Still and analyze the challenges of artificial intelligence, the paradoxes of time travel, and the ethics of war. The final section, “Brave Newer World: Science Fiction Futurism,” looks at visions of the future in Metropolis, The Matrix, Alphaville, and screen adaptations of George Orwell’s 1984.

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The editor lists three types of analysis: context, film, and topics. Classic films were selected for philosophical treatment, e.g. the Matrix is likened to Plato’s Cave. Other popular philosophers are Descartes, Heidegger, Hobbes, Hume and Nietzsche. There are three parts having four papers each, by a total of thirteen contributors. Films often quote influential predecessors and seek either general or improved solutions, e.g. Metropolis’ machine woman is like Wizard of Oz’ tin woodsman later echoed in C3PO. Settings are often case studies for logic problems that may introduce new assumptions, e.g. previously hidden forces or actors. Paradoxes are highlighted and heuristics proposed. The look and feel may have unique aesthetic texture, e.g. tech noir. Ethical questions often form themes and may be treated mythically, displaced by alien culture or time travel, for a different perspective that changes the intellectual and political constraints, e.g. involving power, laws, sex or war. Metaphysical questions around death are pursued, e.g. resurrection. The future may be seen as utopian or dystopian, or time may be flexible so that future or past can be changed. Reviewers are sometimes aware of their own cognitive processes so that interpretation is an art. 


An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science Fiction Film
What Is It to Be Human?
Recalling the Self
Picturing Paranoia
The Existential Frankenstein
Technology and Ethics in The Day the Earth Stood Still
Some Paradoxes of Time Travel in The Terminator and 12 Monkeys
A Philosophical Od yssey
TerminatorFear and the Paradox of Fiction
The Dialectic of Enlightenment in Metropolis
Imagining the Future Contemplating the Past
Disenchantment and Rebellion in Alphaville
The Matrix The Cave and the Cogito

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About the author (2007)

Steven M. Sanders, emeritus professor of philosophy at Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts, is coeditor of The Philosophy of TV Noir. He lives in Franklin, Massachusetts.

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