The Philosophy of Film and Film as Philosophy



Film as philosophy, Voyeurism, Hitchcock, Socrates, Thought-experiments


There are two respects in which the medium of film and the discipline of philosophy intersect. First, the philosophy of film asks philosophical questions about the nature of film. Second, the notion of film as philosophy (FAP) proposes that films themselves can contribute to a range of philosophical debates. FAP raises some troubling conceptual problems. How is it possible for film to contribute to philosophical debate? And, if it is possible, why should we turn to film for those contributions rather than to traditional academic sources? I address these problems with a “Socratic Model” of the role of film in philosophical debate. I argue that the representational limitations of motion pictures are compatible with film acting as a “midwife” for philosophical insights in its audience. Furthermore, where a film facilitates insights into the philosophy of film, I argue that it can be better positioned to prompt those realisations than an academic text. I put this model into practice with an account of the philosophical value of Hitchcock’s Rear Window, which invites its audience to consider moral and epistemic issues surrounding the activity of film viewing.

Author Biography

Tom McClelland , University of Sussex, UK

Tom McClelland is a DPhil student at the University of Sussex. He is currently writing a thesis on the “Hard Problem” of consciousness, which develops a Neo-Russellian account of the metaphysical status of conscious experience. His first paper in the philosophy of film explored the relevance of Being John Malkovich (1999) to the metaphysics of mind.




How to Cite

McClelland , T. (2022). The Philosophy of Film and Film as Philosophy. Cinema: Journal of Philosophy and the Moving Image, (2), 11–35. Retrieved from