[SydPhil] [Philosophy at UWS seminar] Robert Sinnerbrink: "Empathic Ethics: Phenomenology, Cognitivism, and Moving Images", March 20, 2015

Diego Bubbio D.Bubbio at uws.edu.au
Thu May 14 10:21:35 AEST 2015

Philosophy @ UWS Seminars 2015

The Philosophy Research Initiative at UWS presents:

Dr Robert Sinnerbrink (Macquarie University)

Title: Empathic Ethics: Phenomenology, Cognitivism, and Moving Images

Date/Time: Wednesday May 20, 3.30 pm - 5.00 pm
Place: University of Western Sydney, Bankstown Campus, Building 3, Room 3.G.27  [How to get to Bankstown Campus]<http://www.uws.edu.au/campuses_structure/cas/campuses/bankstown>


Can movies ‘do ethics’? Some of the most innovative philosophical engagement with cinema and ethics has come from phenomenological and cognitivist perspectives in film theory. This trend reflects a welcome re-engagement with cinema as a medium with the potential for ethical transformation, that is, with the idea of cinema as a medium of ethical experience. This challenges the sceptical view according to which cinema’s power of affective and emotional engagement reproduces ideological biases through viewer manipulation. My paper explores the phenomenological turn in film theory (with its focus on affective, empathic, and embodied responses to cinema), emphasizing the ethical implications of phenomenological approaches to affect and empathy, emotion and evaluation, care and responsibility. The oft-criticised ‘subjectivism’ of phenomenology, I argue, can be supplemented by recent cognitivist approaches that highlight the complex forms of affective response, emotional engagement, and moral allegiance at work in our experience of moving images. At the same time, the cognitivist temptation towards reductionism or inadequate accounts of aesthetic experience can be avoided by way of ‘thick’ phenomenological description and hermeneutic interpretation. I explore this exciting crossover between phenomenological and cognitivist approaches in regard to recent films that have attracted critical attention from both perspectives. My claim is that an ‘empathic ethics’ is at work in many films: film provides a powerful means of enacting the affective temporal dynamic between empathy and sympathy, emotional engagement and multiple perspective-taking. Taken together, these elements of cinematic ethics offer experientially rich, context-sensitive, and ethically singular forms of imaginative engagement in social situations that reveal the complexities of a cultural-historical world. I elaborate this thesis by analysing a key sequence from Ashgar Farhadi’s A Separation (2011), a film that offers a striking case study in cinematic ethics

Robert Sinnerbrink is Australian Research Council Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Macquarie University, Sydney. He is the author of New Philosophies of Film: Thinking Images (Continuum, 2011),Understanding Hegelianism (Acumen, 2007), and is a member of the editorial board of the journal Film-Philosophy. He has published numerous articles on the relationship between film and philosophy in journals such as Angelaki, Film-Philosophy, Necsus: European Journal of Media Studies, Screen, and Screening the Past. He is currently completing a book entitled Cinematic Ethics: Exploring Ethical Experience through Film (Routledge, 2015).

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