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Abraham Jacob Greenstine

Abstract

Plato’s Sophist is a critical dialogue for the question of images, for here the interlocutors divide images into two kinds – likenesses and apparitions – in their hunt for an account of sophistry. Yet much of the recent scholarship on the Sophist does not make much of this division. This chapter defends the continuing significance of the distinction between likeness and apparition. It argues for its importance in Plato’s analysis of images, in his theory of accounts, and in his endeavor to differentiate philosophy from sophistry. It further contends that one can only distinguish likenesses from apparitions by establishing a correct perspective on both the image and the original. Thus, the Sophist exhorts us differentiate likenesses from apparitions, even as we struggle to consistently find the right perspective for this task. Living in the cinematic age only intensifies the need to distinguish likeness from apparition. Over the course of this chapter, we consider two films that advance our questions about perspectives, images, and falsity: Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949) and Orson Welles’ F for Fake (1974). Like the Sophist, both films reveal a world of apparitions, where names are confused, lies are constant, and the truth is elusive.

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Jorge Tomas Garcia

Abstract

The present chapter proposes an ontological and aesthetic analysis of the film image highlighting its power as a simulacrum. To carry out this analysis, the text considers three different positions: the Platonic, the Bergsonian and the Deleuzian. The Platonic discussion is based on the difference between the model, the copy and the simulacrum. According to Plato, simulacra superficially represent their resemblance to the model. Henri Bergson develops an ontological study of the material world and the moving images that compose it. Bergson makes a classification of the arts taking into account his approach to movement. In relation to Platonism, it can be said that Bergson considers cinema as a simulacrum or an inappropriate representation of reality. Finally, for Gilles Deleuze, the cinema reproduces the image-movement and produces the time-image, which enhance the image-cinema, since they generate a new affective experience within the scope of the Virtual. This power leads to reevaluate the importance of simulation within the arts and therefore the Platonic hierarchies.

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Timothy Secret

Abstract

In this chapter, the author offers a reflection on the famous command of the Oracle at Delphi gnōthi seauton (“know thyself”) in order to advance our understanding of the dynamic interaction between knowledge of the self and right action. This is done alongside and by means of a critical reflection on recent developments in cinema studies. The chapter begins with a reflection on the self-conscious cinematic presentation of the protagonist Filip Mosz in Krzysztof Kieślowski’s quasi-autobiographical film Camera Buff (Amator). Following this, a novel and sustained reading of the Ring of Gyges is offered as one way of understanding to role of the gaze in cinematic experience, building off a reconstructive analysis of the concept of the “objective gaze” in light of Sartre’s analysis of shame as a motor of self-knowledge. Finally, this re-reading of Sartre on shame and the gaze in concert with the place of the gaze in Plato’s retelling of the Gyges story is put into conversation with Herodotus’s version of the Gyges story and Diderot’s Letter on the Blind. In this closing moment, it is argued that the notion of the objective gaze, as advanced in classical film theory, does not necessarily contribute to our understanding of self-knowledge or right action.

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David H. Calhoun

Abstract

Plato’s account of philosophical transcendence links together wonder, spectacle, ascent, and love. A preoccupation with transcendence and its corollary Platonic themes is replicated in the cinematic work of writer / director Terrence Malick, who reinterprets them in terms of Kierkegaardian existential quest. Malick’s films Knight of Cups (2014) and To the Wonder (2012) illustrate failed moves of ascent toward transcendence, but they also shed light on successful ascent. A persisting problem in interpretation of Plato is the nature of ascent and transcendence, particularly with respect to the question of how ascent relates to concrete reality. Some commentators read Platonic ascent in dualistic terms, as abandonment of concrete immanence; by contrast, a more holistic view asserts that to love the Good is to orient oneself toward concrete individual things in the light of the ideal. Malick offers a cinematic argument for holistic transcendence, depicting ascent as a conversion insight that the ideal is present in the concrete and provides grounding and intelligibility for the concrete. To make the movement of ascent is to grasp the dialectical or synthetic relationship between the transcendent and the immanent, and to affirm both the transcendent source and the imperfect beauty it grounds.

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Adrian Switzer

Abstract

The focus of the chapter is on Bernardo Bertolucci’s film The Conformist; specifically, the chapter argues that the Platonic aspects of the film are key to its counter-fascist politics. Though intended by Bertolucci to be counter-fascist, still, the film depicts Fascist Italy beautifully and presents its protagonist – a state operative hired to kill his former philosophy professor – in sympathetic light. Plato’s allegory of the cave, which is referred to and restaged a number of times in the film, is meant to represent breaking from fascist politics and turning toward the light of progressivism. Yet, the parallel between the Platonic allegory and its depiction in Bertolucci’s film is inexact, which leaves the politics of these scenes and images in an ambivalent state. Generally, an artwork of one political significance always can be appropriated by the politics it opposes; the chapter develops this point about film in particular through Benjamin’s writings on film. According to Benjamin, film is the form of everyday modern life. Our habitual ways of behaving and the ways in which memory and forgetting blend into one another are all essentially filmic. The formal coincidence between film and the everyday means that every act, utterance and gesture is political – and, as such, ambivalently positioned between progressivism and regressivism. An artwork whose politics are decidedly counter-fascist is one that queers, in a formal sense, the scenarios in which the characters’ speech and acts are staged; in the case of film, such queering of the everyday is effected at the formal level of composition and editing. The chapter argues that to decide the politics of an artwork for counter-fascist progressivism, as Bertolucci successfully does, the work must stand in queer relation to the political reality that it critically reperforms; or, to put the same in Platonic terms, Bertolucci’s film “participates (methexis)” in the forms, signs and imagery of Fascist Italy so as to divide and multiply their significance away from a single, regressive meaning.

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Paul A. Kottman

Abstract

From Chauvet Cave to Plato’s cave, we can track the achievement of a heightened awareness of our ways of noticing reality, not as an ‘intellectualization’ of reality, but as a series of visual, artistic accomplishments – a significant shift, precisely, in our play with light and shadows. This is the achievement of a heightened awareness of our ways of noticing reality, not as an ‘intellectualization’ of the world, but as a series of pictorial accomplishments – a shift, precisely, in our play with light and shadows from within the picturing itself. Noticing a painting of a lion, and noticing a threatening lion, are after all distinct kinds of noticing – not only because the former is an unreal appearance and the latter is not (since, again, that the ‘reality’ of the bear is noticed in part in the act of making the image) – but because coming to know the difference or contrast between the image of the bear and the bear is how we “let ourselves be guided by the world.” The installation of imagined bears and lions on the walls of caves provides the necessary contrast between being guided by the world, and being guided by something else (our “free association,” perhaps). Image-making is also one way we teach ourselves what is real.

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Michael Weinman

Abstract

This essay introduces the idea of a rationalizing recording device, a mechanism by which the thoughts and actions of one or more persons are both preserved and made more accessible to reason. Plato’s Myth of Er is depicted as being such a device, since its story is cinematic in the contemporary sense. Just as films can affect viewers by making one aware of thoughts that cannot be carried in the medium of the moving image itself, so too does Plato express his thoughts about the telos of the cosmos and the moral judgment one must make when confronted with choosing how to live through the external medium of a moving image.