Steven Spielberg and Philosophy: We're Gonna Need a Bigger Book

Steven Spielberg and Philosophy: We're Gonna Need a Bigger Book

by Dean A. Kowalski (Editor)


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Has any film director had a greater impact on popular culture than Steven Spielberg? Whether filming Holocaust heroes and villains, soldiers, dinosaurs, extraterrestrials, or explorers in search of the Holy Grail, Spielberg has given filmgoers some of the most memorable characters and wrenching moments in the history of cinema. Whatever his subject — war, cloning, slavery, terrorism, or adventure — all of Spielberg's films have one aspect in common: a unique view of the moral fabric of humanity. Dean A. Kowalski's Steven Spielberg and Philosophy is like a remarkable conversation after a night at the movie theater, offering new insights and unexpected observations about the director's most admired films. Some of the nation's most respected philosophers investigate Spielberg's art, asking fundamental questions about the nature of humanity, cinema, and Spielberg's expression of his chosen themes. Applying various philosophical principles to the movies, the book explores such topics as the moral demands of parenthood in War of the Worlds; the ultimate unknowability of the "other" in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Schindler's List; the relationship between nature and morality in Jurassic Park; the notion of consciousness in A.I.: Artificial Intelligence; issues of war theory and ethics in Munich; and the foundation of human rights in Amistad. Impressive in scope, this volume illustrates the philosophical tenets of a wide variety of thinkers from Plato to Aquinas, Locke, and Levinas. Contributors introduce readers to philosophy while simultaneously providing deeper insight into Spielberg's approach to filmmaking. The essays consider Spielberg's movies using key philosophical cornerstones: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, axiology, aesthetics, and political philosophy, among others. At the same time, Steven Spielberg and Philosophy is accessible to those new to philosophy, using the philosophical platform to ponder larger issues embedded in film and asking fundamental questions about the nature of cinema and how meanings are negotiated. The authors contend that movies do not present philosophy — rather philosophy is something viewers do while watching and thinking about films. Using Spielberg's films as a platform for discussing these concepts, the authors contemplate questions that genuinely surprise the reader, offering penetrating insights that will be welcomed by film critics, philosophers, and fans alike.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813133898
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
Publication date: 02/04/2011
Series: The Philosophy of Popular Culture
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Dean A. Kowalski is associate professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha. He is editor of The Philosophy of The X-Files and author of Classic Questions and Contemporary Film: An Introduction to Philosophy.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction Dean A. Kowalski 1

Part I Philosophy, the Filmmaker, and the Human Condition

The "Big-Little" Film and Philosophy: Two Takes on Spielbergian Innocence Gary Arms Thomas Riley 7

The Recovery of Childhood and the Search for the Absent Father Michel Le Gall Charles Taliaferro 38

Levinasian Ethics of Alterity: The Face of the Other in Spielberg's Cinematic Language John W. Wright 50

The Paradox of Fictional Belief and Its Moral Implications in Jaws Christopher R. Trogan Dean A. Kowalski 69

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence and the Tragic Sense of Life Timothy Dunn 82

Part II Values, Virtue, and Justice

What Is Wrong with Cloning a Dinosaur? Jurassic Park and Nature as a Source of Moral Authority James H. Spence 97

Is Oskar Schindler a Good Man? Roger P. Ebertz 112

A Spielbergian Ethics of the Family in Saving Private Ryan and The Color Purple Robert R. Clewis 129

Human Rights, Human Nature, and Amistad David Baggett Mark W. Foreman 150

Terrorism, Counterterrorism, and "The Story of What Happens Next" in Munich Joseph J. Foy 170

Part III Realism, Mind, and Metaphysics

Spielberg and Cinematic Realism Keith Dromm 191

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence: Artistic Indulgence or Advanced Inquiry? V. Alan White 210

Minority Report, Molinism, and the Viability of Precrime Dean A. Kowalski 227

Appendix: Discussing Five Spielberg Films 248

Contributors 267

Index 271

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