Owl of Minerva film series
Doubt, Dreams, & Dogmatism
This fall’s film series is devoted to problems in the theory of knowledge. The philosophical problems the films address include the following:
• How can we be justified in our belief in an objective, mind-independent world when the only evidence we have for such a world seems to be based on subjective appearances presented to our senses? Can we rule out the possibility that the world external to our senses is radically different even from the way physics tells us it is? Is it really not possible to tell whether we are dreaming or awake? (Waking Life, The Matrix, Johnny Got His Gun).
• Skeptical scenarios invented by philosophers often turn on the principle that we must doubt or withhold our assent to a proposition when we have equal evidence that contradicts it. But is the capacity to doubt always an intellectual virtue? Or are there some cases where it is better to doubt even in the absence of contrary evidence because the cost of getting things wrong is just too high? (Doubt).
• Is it possible to ‘photograph reality’? How do we decide which perspective---if any---gives us insight into the true nature of the objects of our perception? (Blow Up).
• Could a disembodied being be omniscient? Are there things an angel (e.g.) cannot know except by becoming acquainted with them by becoming embodied? (Wings of Desire).
• Much of our knowledge about the past is based on testimonial evidence. But can our beliefs about the past ever be rationally grounded on the shifting sands of human testimony? (Capturing the Friedmans).
• Some people seem incapable of assenting to propositions for which there is overwhelming evidence (e.g. the existence of the Holocaust). What is the best way to describe people in such a condition? Are they willfully ignorant or self-deceived? If the latter, how is self-deception possible, anyway? (Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.).
• When seemingly rational people disagree, must their disagreement always be explained as due to some implicit bias on the part of at least one party? Is it rational for people who are ‘epistemic peers’---who have the same intelligence, reasoning powers, and background information---to disagree about the truth of some proposition? Or does a body of evidence rationally justify at most one attitude (belief/disbelief) toward any particular claim? (12 Angry Men).
• The causes of certain events and certain of our experiences are mysterious to us. But may we not always reason to the best explanation in such cases? When may we reason to the best explanation and when must we suspend judgement altogether about the cause of some event? (Picnic at Hanging Rock).
All films will be shown in AJB E105 (Adler Journalism School Frank Miller Screening Room) on alternate Thursdays starting at 6:30pm. Please see the attached schedule below for information about each film and precise dates.
Students can enroll in PHIL 1950: Philosophy in Current Events, Text, and Film and receive 1 semester hour of credit for attending the film screenings (and/or philosophy club meetings and departmental colloquia), and writing a brief ICON discussion post on each.
The Owl of Minerva Theater would not be possible without the help of our undergraduate Philosophy Interns.