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

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

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

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

Synopsis

Without question, few directors have had such a powerful influence on the film industry and the moviegoing public as Steven Spielberg. Often referred to as the most successful American filmmaker of all time, Spielberg has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director six times, winning twice-for Schindler's List in 1994 and Saving Private Ryan in 1999. Seven of his films have received the Best Picture Oscar nomination. He has brought to life some of the most popular heroes of all time, such as Indiana Jones, as well as some of the most despised villains, including Amon Goeth from Schindler's List and the killer shark from Jaws. Whatever the subject-dinosaurs, war, extra-terrestrials, slavery, the Holocaust, or terrorism-one clear and consistent touchstone is present in all of Spielberg's films: an interest in the human condition. In Steven Spielberg and Philosophy, Dean A. Kowalski and some of the nation's most respected philosophers investigate Spielberg's art to illuminate the nature of humanity. The book explores rich themes such as cinematic realism, fictional belief, terrorism, family ethics, consciousness, virtue and moral character, human rights, and religion in Spielberg's work. Avid moviegoers and deep thinkers will discover plenty of common ground in this collection.

Excerpt

Dean A. Kowalski

No film director has had more impact on popular culture than Steven Spielberg. This volume acknowledges that fact. In its pages, you will find thirty years of Spielberg’s directorial efforts explored and assessed through the lens of philosophy. What you will also find (surprisingly, perhaps) is that philosophy is not so much something that you “have” as something that you “do.” Within each essay, the contributing authors discuss philosophical issues—“doing” philosophy—in metaphysics (the study of ultimate reality), epistemology (the study of knowledge), ethics (the study of right living), axiology (the study of value, of which ethics is one facet), aesthetics (the study of art and beauty), political philosophy, feminism, and mind, among other areas. Because we are teachers as well as scholars, each essay is written for those new to philosophy; thus, the discussions invariably presuppose very little philosophy background.

The first section, “Philosophy, the Filmmaker, and the Human Condition,” contains five essays. Gary Arms and Thomas Riley provide a proper introduction to the book. Arms pens part I of the essay, providing an analysis of Spielberg’s literary choices, and focusing particularly on War of the Worlds (2005) and Minority Report (2002). In the process, Arms provides us some insights into Spielberg’s approach to filmmaking. Riley authors part II of the essay, signaling the turn to philosophical exploration of Spielberg. Riley focuses on ethical issues in Spielberg’s films, especially War of the Worlds and Empire of the Sun (1987). He spells out how philosophical analysis is importantly distinct from other sorts of analysis: philosophers attempt to establish conclusions about nonempirical or conceptual matters via (objective) reasoning and logical argumentation. Michel Le Gall and Charles Taliaferro provide insights into the Indiana Jones movies (1981, 1984, 1989) . . .

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