Film and the Emotions

Film and the Emotions

Film and the Emotions

Film and the Emotions


Philosophy and Poetry is the 33rd volume in the Midwest Studies in Philosophy series. It begins with contributions in verse from two world class poets, John Ashbery and Stephen Dunn, and an article by Dunn on the creative processthat issued in his poem. The volume features new work from an internationalcollection of philosophers exploring central philosophical issues pertinent topoetry as well as the connections between the two domains.


Noël Carroll

Movies are a mass art form. By “movies” here I am, of course, referring to mainstream, motion-picture, narrative fictions, whether seen on the silver screen or tv (where many tv programs are themselves movies, in my sense of the term). Movies, in the way that I am using it, are intended to command large audiences. Typically nowadays they are made in order to make substantial profits and, in order to do so, they need to be capable of engaging the multitudes. Movies succeed, when they do succeed, in large measure, by addressing the emotions of spectators. the emotions are able to perform this function so well, because the emotions, or, at least, the emotions usually stirred up by the movies, are broadly convergent across vast populations, populations, indeed, that generally enjoy being thrust into the relevant emotional states, so long as they do not have to pay the price that those states standardly exact (as sadness, for example, correlates with personal loss). That is one of the reasons that viewers flock to the movies. the emotions not only contribute to the intelligibility of motion-picture narratives, but they do so in a way that promotes pleasure.

1. the qualification above is meant to allow for movies made by communist states and other organizations that are not made for profit but are aimed at mass audiences.

2. Emotions in daily life solve the frame problem; they organize the buzzing confusion in terms of our interests. Similarly, by engaging our moral emotions, moviemakers enable us to organize the incoming stimulus coherently, very often, as we shall see, by stoking our sense of good and evil.

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