PHL 395 Philosophy and Film

Dr. Dennis Weiss

Spring Semester, 2013

Course Description

Course Syllabus

Course Links

Course Policies

Contact Information

Office: HUM 154 Office Phone: Ext. 1513; 815-1513 
Office Hours: MW 11:00 - 11:50, TTh 2:00 - 3:00 and by appointment  E-Mail:


Thinking Through Film: Doing Philosophy, Watching Movies. Damian Cox and Michael P. Levine

Some readings will be available via the Internet or Blackboard.

Note: You must bring your readings to class. This includes all textbook readings as well as online readings. Not having enough credit to print is an unacceptable excuse for failure to bring your readings.


Please review:

Blackboard Forum Posts 100 points
4 In Class Writing Assignments @ 25 points each 100 points
5 Short Essays/Projects @ 50 points each 250 points
Film and Philosophy Project 200 points
Class Participation 100 points
Attendance 100 points
Extra Curricular Activities 20 points
Total Available Points  770 points

Blackboard Forum Posts

With each new reading assignment, prior to that reading being discussed in class, I will ask you to write a brief "micro" essay or forum post, usually analyzing some aspect of that day's reading assignment. Sometimes I will simply ask you to record your philosophical reactions to the reading. These micro essays serve a number of purposes: they motivate you to complete the reading and come to class, help to focus your reading, provide a study aid for essays and writing assignments, and stimulate class discussion. Your essay should be posted to the Discussion Board section of Blackboard prior to the class day. Posts should be approximately 150 words in length. At the end of the semester I will award up to 100 points for these forum posts, deducting 10 points for each one you failed to complete. You can miss two forum posts without incurring a penalty. If you complete 100% of the forum posts, I will award you 10 bonus points for your excellent performance. I encourage you to reflect on and comment on your classmate’s posts as part of your own post.

In Class Writing Assignments  

Five times during the semester, I will assign in-class writing assignments. These assignments may be individual or group efforts. They will generally not be announced in advance, so you must come to class regularly, prepared to write about the philosophical issues being read and discussed in class. The writing assignments will be essay in format and will require you to compare and contrast philosophers or philosophical views or identify key issues and arguments or develop an argument of your own. The assignments will be graded on a scale of zero to 25. Writing assignments can not be made up if you miss class, regardless of the reason for your absence. No exceptions will be made to this policy. You can drop your one lowest grade.

Short Essays/Projects

With each of the five sections of this course, there is a formal writing assignment due. Some of these assignments may be group assignments. Essays will be based on the readings and films studied in each section. More information on each of these assignments will be given in class and posted to the course syllabus.

Film and Philosophy Project

In small groups you will work on a final project that can take one of several forms:

More information on this project can be found by clicking on the above link.

Class Participation: How Engaged Are You?

In her article "Feminist Epistemology" Naomi Scheman points out that feminist epistemologists argue that it is misleading to think of epistemic agency as ideally exercised in solitude. Knowing and coming to know, Scheman contends, are social and interactive. "They are things we do, and things we are appropriately held responsible for doing, in social and cultural settings that variously help and hinder our doing them well." I wholeheartedly agree with Scheman that knowing is a practice that ideally occurs in a social setting. Each of us is responsible for participating in a variety of communities of knowers and it is a responsibility we ought to take seriously. Our class is one such community, a community in which we must actively participate in the social practice of knowing. To encourage your participation in this community of learners and to encourage you to come to class prepared to discuss that day’s issues, at the end of the semester, you will receive a grade based on your class participation throughout the semester. The grade you receive will be based on, among other things, your regular attendance, your improvement over the course of the semester, and, to the greatest extent, your willingness to contribute in a meaningful way to the daily class discussion. Other indices of an engaged student include:

The following is meant only as a rough guide as to how your participation grade will be determined:  

90 - 100 points
Participates voluntarily and frequently. Is regularly engaged in the class discussions. Shows a good grasp of the material and good preparation.
80 - 89 points
Participates voluntarily with less frequency but still makes an important contribution to the class discussion.
70 - 79 points
Participates voluntarily but shows a lesser grasp of the material or little preparation.
60 - 69 points
Participates only when asked to do so.
59 points or less
Does not participate or is frequently absent.


Attending class is a key factor in college success. Not only does regular attendance help you succeed, it also helps the class work well and succeed. As my class participation guidelines make clear, a classroom is a community of learners in which we are all engaged in mastering material. It's far easier to do that when everyone attends regularly. Philosophy is best done in dialogue, freely exchanging ideas and opinions with others, learning from others, and helping others to learn. When you fail to attend class, you lose points and your class participation grade suffers.

Your attendance in class is a necessary part of participating in a learning community.  For these reasons, attendance is mandatory and I will regularly take class attendance. You can miss two class days with no penalty. After two absences, I will deduct 10 points from a total of 100 for each additional absence, regardless of why you are absent. Additionally, if you miss the equivalent of one's week's classes, I reserve the right to lower your final grade by one-half grade (.5). If you miss the equivalent of two weeks' classes, your final grade may be lowered by one full grade. Any additional absences may mean you fail the course. If you miss any class, please be responsible for getting class notes, assignments, etc. from another student in class. It may help to have available telephone numbers or e-mail addresses of one or two classmate

Activities outside of regular class hours

As part of the regular course requirements, you will be expected to occasionally participate in events outside of the regular class hours. You may be asked to watch videos on your own time and attend evening events. Additionally, as part of the English and Humanities Department's efforts to encourage student participation in college cultural activities, I will ask that you attend two events during the semester. Following your attendance at each event, within one week you must submit a brief reflection on what you observed, for which I will award you 10 points apiece. At least one of these events must be sponsored by the English and Humanities Department, and can include lectures, Players' productions, etc. More information concerning this will be provided in class.

E-Mail Addresses

You are expected to have an active York College e-mail address and to check it regularly during the semester. I will send e-mail only to your address. If you wish to use other addresses, such as private internet service provided addresses, you should set up your YCP address so that it automatically forwards your mail to that address.

Electronic Submissions

Please note that I do not accept electronic submissions of assigned work. You are responsible for insuring that I receive a hardcopy of your work by the assigned deadline.

Your Responsibilities

You should explore the following links so that you better understand the standards that we will adhere to in this course.

It is your responsibility to remain apprised of all assignments and any changes in the syllabus or grading policies. I reserve the right to make changes to class policies and the syllabus as I deem necessary. I expect that you will be in class daily, having prepared your work and ready to discuss the material. 

You should obtain the names and contact information from several of your fellow classmates so that you have someone to contact if you must miss class. You should not depend on either e-mailing or phoning me to learn what you missed in class or find out your assignment for the following class. 

You should strictly observe the following policies: