Cinempathy: phenomenology, cognitivism, and moving images

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Some of the most innovative philosophical engagement with cinema and ethics in recent years has come from phenomenological and cognitivist perspectives. This trend reflects a welcome re-engagement with cinema as a medium with the potential for ethical transformation, that is, with the idea of cinema as a medium of ethical experience. This paper explores the phenomenological turn in film theory, emphasizing the ethical implications of phenomenological approaches to affect and empathy, emotion, and evaluation. I argue that the oft-criticized subjectivism of phenomenological theories can be supplemented by cognitivist approaches that highlight the complex forms of affective response, emotional engagement, and moral allegiance at work in our experience of movies. An empathic ethics or "cinempathy" is at work in many films, I suggest, such as Ashgar Farhadi's A Separation (2011), which offers a striking case study in cinematic ethics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e1-e13
Number of pages13
JournalContemporary aesthetics
VolumeSpecial volume 5
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • cinematic ethics
  • emotion
  • empathy
  • ethics
  • film aesthetics
  • film philosophy


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