• Alicia Leo

Philosophy & Film/TV

During my undergraduate studies, I took a philosophy course that challenged me in ways I never could have imagined. It was a new way of thinking that was hard for me to comprehend. I was assigned to write a short argumentative essay about a topic of my choice. Of course, I chose Film/TV.

I argued that the film industry assists the human race in constructing our own personal values and meaning of our own life circumstances.

This is a direct effect from the fact that individuals have a natural attitude that takes a variety of presuppositions for granted. In this course I learned about a philosopher named Natanson’s work. He believed that the common-sense assumptions that we have as a society are what we understand and apply to our daily life in order to live.

Natanson’s writing states, “we naively assume that this world has a history, a past, that it has a future, and that the rough present in which we find ourselves is epistemically given to all normal me in much the same way” (Natanson XXVI). In film and television, this every-day life is portrayed in various ways, but aligns closely with what we perceive in our consciousness of our everyday life. Although films and shows may not completely accurately portray what we encounter in our personal every-day lives, they prompt the audience to ask questions about their own experiences and relate it back to the narrative present in the film.

For example, many social standards are followed, but also sometimes broken, as a result of film/television portraying them a certain way. Some stories are written to purposely challenge the ideas that we have as a society in order to force us to reflect on our own personal situations. Among other topics, this is often found with portrayals of sexuality and mental health in films.

While watching a film or show, one assumes that the story is part of our everyday reality, unless it is extremely futuristic or far from reality. This is what allows our natural attitude to attach our own personal experiences to the ones that are in the film by presupposing that the circumstances align.

If it is true that as humans we presuppose many things in our consciousness due to our natural attitude, then it could not be false that films would have the same impact on our own personal lives.

In Natanson’s work, there is a discussion about the biographical situation. This touches upon how “each person continues throughout his life to interpret what he encounters in the world in the perspective of his special interests, motives, desires, aspiration, religious and ideological commitments” (Natanson XXVII).

Although each person has the ability to make these interpretations on their own, the film/television industry has served as an escape from our natural reality and allows us to insert our own emotions to become invested in a narrative personally. The natural attitude is a necessary condition of films constructing personal meaning into our lives because the social world is saturated with typifications that create the possibility of presuppositions creating our beliefs. Storytelling's purpose is to tell a narrative that one will resonate with and send a message. It is up to the audience, or spectators, to make this connection.

My thesis could not be false because we, as a society, have to recognize that we set meaningful standards of evaluation of the things we are conscious of.

Many of these could be considered presupposed because of the natural attitude. While watching film, the messages received are evaluated to align and relate to our own personal experiences due to their form. This is why we form our own opinions and beliefs about our lives based on these stories.

I argue that as humans we have a natural tendency to presuppose many things that are parts of our consciousness. Once you synthesize a meaning of something, the concept becomes a standard in your own mind. This happens on a daily basis when we take things for granted instead of understanding the lack of its presence in our consciousness. Our consciousness is a relation, so when we presuppose that things are true, we are understanding their existence in relation to other attributes.

In this case, we are comparing this phenomenon to moments in films. According to another philosopher named Husserl, when we describe a moment, we reduce it. As mentioned before, film/television are mediums that allow us to immerse ourselves into a narrative that is closely aligned to our reality. When watching films we presuppose that the same circumstances in our given reality are followed in the narrative as well, including social norms.

Shared beliefs that we regard to be true-social beliefs come from things like film because the purpose of films is to tell a story that resonates with the audience by each person correlating the story in some way to their personal experiences. This changes our actions because we presuppose that the circumstances will be true, regardless of the situation.

Although this may not always work out in our favor, we see things in a way that correlates directly back to the messages fed to us. I argue that my thesis is still very true, therefore, when watching film we must be more conscious of the effects the messages have on us as the audience.

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