Emotional engagement and moral evaluation: exploring cinematic ethics

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Film theory traditionally has been wary of cinema’s ethical potential, treating it as a deceptive medium requiring theoretical analysis and ethico-political critique. Although philosophers of film have recently begun exploring the question of ethics and cinema, there is surprisingly little consensus on what this means. How do movies express ethical ideas? How can they reveal the complexities of a moral situation? What kind of ethical experience can cinema evoke? I explore these questions in this chapter, focusing on the role of emotional engagement and moral evaluation. I suggest that the prevailing model of emotional engagement/moral evaluation—associated with theorists such as Noël Carroll, Carl Plantinga, and Murray Smith—should be supplemented by an account of emotional estrangement and moral-cognitive dissonance, and show how these processes contribute to ethical experience by analysing a key scene from Michael Haneke’s film, Amour [2012].
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocial aesthetics and moral judgment
Subtitle of host publicationpleasure, reflection and accountability
EditorsJennifer A. McMahon
Place of PublicationNew York ; London
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor and Francis Group
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781315148496, 9781351373333
ISBN (Print)9781138553262
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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