segunda-feira, 9 de maio de 2011


CINEMA THINKS OUT OF THE TRADITION OF PHILOSOPHY: the contingency of written thinking.

Around the year of 1995, I tried for the first time to associate my two earliest passions, cinema and philosophy. Literature served as mediation. I thought a lot about these relations in the period of my adolescence, when I was attracted by the ideas of Sartre through his novels and plays, giving me many valuable and fascinating elements for thinking about the world. I knew that my first access to philosophy had been literary, that there should be a dimension of thought that was articulated in literature. Why not in cinema?

Like literature, cinema had always accompanied my formation as a thinker of a life that profoundly disappointed and scared me as something to be lived, but which was very interesting when put into images for distant contemplation. Life as a film or a book, life to be seen or read, never to be lived.

A meeting with Christian Metz in Cordoba in the sixties around semiology of cinema impressed me very much, especially concerning the possibility of considering cinema as a form of thinking. In our stammering tongues (I knew almost nothing of French, and Metz was arduously trying to speak Spanish), his course gave me elements and insights that only decades later I would dare to organize in a line of inquiry.

I started to dig in this curious prehistory, in this experience prior to my systematic philosophical studies at the University. I collected ideas, recalling films that had impressed me specially, connecting them to my early philosophical thoughts, and to insights that tormented me from childhood. Many things emerged in my conceptual imagination, and a book on these matters, after many versions, was sent in 1998 to the Gedisa publisher in Barcelona, which have just published the Crítica de la Moral Afirmativa (Critique of Affirmative Morals) in 1996.

Gedisa finally edited the cinema book in 1999 under the title: Cine: 100 años de Filosofia. Una Introducción a la filosofía a través del análisis de películas. (Cinema: one hundred years of philosophy. An introduction to philosophy through the analysis of films). The book won immediately a translation into Italian by Mondadori, with the curious title Da Aristotele a Spielberg, and years later a Portuguese translation by Rocco, with the title O cinema pensa (The cinema thinks)).

I think that European philosophers had, throughout history, one unresolved traumatic problem with the formulation of thoughts through images and sensible means of exposition, starting with the expulsion of the poets from the Platonic republic to the analyses of Habermas of Italo Calvino’ novels. It is amazing to see how twentieth-century philosophers who lived the emergence and first developments of the cinema, did not produce specific philosophical reflection on cinema and philosophy up to the recent works of Deleuze (the previous attempts of Bergson, Merleau-Ponty, Benjamin, Adorno, etc. always seem disappointing to me, as if cinema had always been thought of in a lateral and secondary way. I believe that cinema has very much to say for philosophy, much more than what Deleuze discovered with his bombastic style and his very controversial distinctions.

As seen above (see PHILOSOPHY), I see philosophical thinking as something traveling from analysis to existence and vice versa, on a two-way road. Thinking is, for me, the full continuum between the two things, not just the poles. It seems to me that literature and cinema, due to their more fluid forms of expression (and beyond their integration into more “popular” contexts as, say, literary best-sellers and Hollywood's cinema), are able to confront with more success the pressures of the mere representation of ideas, as in the current academic factory of philosophy for the intellectual masses.

In think that literature and cinema can think the flow of experiences and historicity without feeling the need to reduce it to intellectual forms of representation. It is in this territory where the cinema can think, even better than the tradition of written philosophy. A movie like Oliver Stone's “Natural born killers” can explore the Nietzsche’s subject of naturalization of values in almost unsuportable situations, showing how the impetuous forces of images can generate concepts in an unusual way.

Cinema and literature can be philosophical if we accept that language, style and grammar of philosophy can develop in a very wide spectrum, from the philosophical poem up to the exposition more mathematico, the essay and the aphorism: philosophy is not bound to a single style of argument. Thinking is only contingently connected to one written tradition, In order to think we need a mechanism to create concepts and connect them to each other, but nothing demands that this mechanism has only written results; images, still or in motion, can also generate concepts.

A central idea of my book of '99 is that cinema creates concepts not in a purely intellectual way, but intellectually-affective concepts, or "logopathic", as I prefer to say, giving affections and emotions a conceptual role. Logopathic concepts of cinema approaches philosophical problems and contributes frequently to put in question the traditional treatment given to them in written philosophy, which is “apatic”, generating purely intellectual concepts, without the impact on the senses. (In my book I showed how the hero of Hitchcock's "Rear window" would never discover the killer if he kept a Cartesian doubt about the facts). Something about the nature and limits of philosophical thinking should be said at the light of the studies on the relations between cinema and philosophy, relation still to be thought by philosophy.

My notions of “logopathy” and “image-concept” tried to avoid controversial dichotomies, revealing the affective nature of intellect and the cognitive import of affection. European philosophy, dominated throughout the tradition from Greece until nineteenth century by intellectualism, only recently felt the need to challenge rationality intellectualy defined, rethinking the traditional relations between thinking and feeling. 

A fundamental fact was the appearance, in the history of European philosophy, of philosophers of life, of will and instincts, and existential thinkers who I began to call "logopathic thinkers", such as Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Freud, Heidegger and Sartre, if read in contrast with the European tradition. These thinkers, in very different directions, intended to challenge the intellectualist tradition in philosophy, making room for other dimensions of humanity connected to will, unconscious, affections and power. 

The emergence of “logopathic thinkers” in the history of European philosophy seems to me a fact of fundamental importance to think the relations between cinema and philosophy, since it indicates the fact that the demand of extending the boundaries of thinking responds also to an internal need of the traditional written philosophy, The logopathic 19th century European philosophers were trying to express their ideas pushing the boundaries of written language in their traditional expressive possibilities, as making their thoughts “visual” and “in movement”, avoiding the limitations of linear reasoning and trying to capture a temporalized truth.  Philosophy went in the direction of images long before cinema attempted to approach philosophy.

In my book and in my further research, I have tried to show this double movement of confluence, between an increasingly conceptual and philosophical cinema, and an increasingly imagistic and historical philosophy. European philosophy and cinema meet precisely when philosophy itself becomes logopathic. But European philosophers are very far from having even approached this rich source of reflections about the intellectual-affective constitution of concepts. 

Some of my main publications in this area:


Cine: 100 años de Filosofia (Cinema: One hundred years of philosophy). This book was released in 1999, but recently, in 2015, it won a second edition corrected, enlarged and illustrated. In this new edition, we find the addition of many end-of-chapter exercises denominated as "Building a Concept", in which the way concepts can arise from images without written mediation is explained.

De Hitchcock a Greenaway pela história da filosofia (From Hitchcock to Greenaway through the history of Philosophy). Nankin Publishers, São Paulo, 2007.

Diálogo/Cinema. (Dialogue/Cinema) (In collaboration with Marcia Tiburi). Senac Publishers, São Paulo, 2013.


"Recordando sem ira" (Look back without anger). In: BACK Silvio (Org). A guerra dos pelados. Ed. Annablume, São Paulo, 2008.
“Eutanasia poética” (Poetic euthanasia). In: CUNHA, Renato. O cinema e seus outros. LGE, Brasília, 2009.

"Para una des-comprensión filosófica del cine: el caso Inland Empire, de David Lynch" (Towards a philosophical non-understanding of films:The David Lynch's Inland Empire case). Revista Enl@ce. Año 6, number 2, Universidad del Zulia, Venezuela, May-August 2009.

"Três ensaios sobre a repetição: Kierkegaard, Jarmush, Hitchcock,Van Sant e três damas que desembarcam antes de chegar (Uma reflexão transversal sobre escrita e imagem)" (Three essays on repetition: Kierkegaard, Jarmush, Hitchcock,Van Sant and three ladies disembark before arriving at destination (A transversal reflection on images and writing). In: TIMM DE SOUZA Ricardo et alia (Org). Literatura e Cinema. Encontros contemporâneos. Ed. Dublinense, Porto Alegre (Brazil), 2013.

"Existencia naufragada. Los 4 viajes del Titanic" (Existence shipwrecked. Titanic's four travels). Revista Per la Filosofia. Fabrizio Serra editore, Pisa - Roma, 2015.

"Repetición y cine vacío" (Repetition and Empty Cinema). Revista La Cueva de Chauvet, Malisia, La Plata (Argentine), 2016.

"Cine, filosofía y filosofía analítica" (Cinema, philosophy and analytic philosophy). In: SANTAMARIA VELASCO Freddy et alia (Orgs). Cine y Pensamiento. Estéticas contemporáneas. Universidades Bolivariana, Uniclaretiana y Santo Tomás, Medellín/Bogotá (Colombia), 2017.

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