The Philosophy of Film and Beyond in Ten Titles

by David Tamés, March 12, 2023

Below is a starter bibliography—limiting myself to ten titles—that straddles the philosophy of film and other disciplines like neuroscience and cognitive science. Colman (2009) and Wartenberg (2015) are good starting points, the book introduces critical thinkers, and the article lays out the landscape from a philosopher's perspective, different from mine that comes from the hybrid perspective of a practitioner influenced by narrative theory, psychology, and neuroscience, in addition to philosophy.

The philosophy of film is a field that is not dominated by academic philosophers like some other areas of philosophical inquiry, so that you will find related resources from many fields outside of philosophy. There is a large body of literature on theoretical issues of film written by people in cinema studies, media and screen studies, literature, psychology, narrative theory, cognitive science, neuroscience, and more.

As I see it, cinema is a topic that naturally straddles philosophy and other disciplines. Sometimes this field is about the philosophy of film, and other times it’s about film as philosophy. The back and forth can be fascinating. The work of Vilém Flusser is remarkably prescient, and his short book, Towards a Philosophy of Photography, is another good starting point. It helps to have some background in critical theory to understand where he is coming from, but the book includes a glossary at the end. His writing is both playful and dense and rich in associations to a wide range of ideas that he does not cite, which can sometimes be infuriating.

  • Carel, Havi, and Greg Tuck. New Takes in Film-Philosophy, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, Amazon | WorldCat

  • Coëgnarts, Maarten. “Cinema and the Embodied Mind: Metaphor and Simulation in Understanding Meaning in Films,” Palgrave Communications, vol. 3, 2017, webpage

  • Flusser, Vilém. Towards a Philosophy of Photography, Reaktion, 2000, Amazon | WorldCat

  • Gallese, Vittorio, and Michele Guerra. “Embodying Movies: Embodied Simulation and Film Studies,” Cinema: Journal of Philosophy and the Moving Image, vol. 3, 2012, pp. 183–210, PDF

  • Lakoff, George, and Mark Turner. More than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor, University of Chicago Press, 1989. Amazon | WorldCat

  • Livingston, Paisley, and Carl Plantinga. The Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Film, Routledge, 2008, Amazon | WorldCat

  • Schwendener, Martha. The Photographic Universe: Vilém Flusser’s Theories of Photography, Media, and Digital Culture. Ph.D. Dissertation, Graduate Center, City University of New York, 2016, webpage

  • Wartenberg, Thomas. Thinking On Screen: Film as Philosophy, Routledge, 2007, Amazon | WorldCat

  • Wartenberg, Thomas. "Philosophy of Film", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Winter 2015, article