Classic Questions and Contemporary Film
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Classic Questions and Contemporary Film

An Introduction to Philosophy

Dean A. Kowalski

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eBook - ePub

Classic Questions and Contemporary Film

An Introduction to Philosophy

Dean A. Kowalski

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About This Book

Featuring significant revisions and updates, Classic Questions and Contemporary Film: An Introduction to Philosophy, 2nd Edition uses popular movies as a highly accessible framework for introducing key philosophical concepts

  • Explores 28 films with 18 new to this edition, including Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Hotel Rwanda, V for Vendetta, and Memento
  • Discusses numerous philosophical issues not covered in the first edition, including a new chapter covering issues of personal identity, the meaningfulness of life and death, and existentialism
  • Offers a rich pedagogical framework comprised of key classic readings, chapter learning outcomes, jargon-free argument analysis, critical thinking and trivia questions, a glossary of terms, and textboxes with notes on the movies discussed
  • Revised to be even more accessible to beginning philosophers

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Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Argument


Upon carefully studying this chapter, students should better comprehend and be able to explain:
  • The ways in which philosophy, following the example of Socrates, can be distinguished from mere rhetoric and sophistry, and the value of philosophical exploration.
  • A working definition of philosophy, including its primary sub-areas of philosophical exploration (especially metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics).
  • Different kinds of arguments to employ and fallacies to avoid in (philosophical) reasoning.
  • The debate about whether philosophical analysis can establish objectively true statements, and some arguments relevant to this debate.
  • How Thank You for Smoking, Minority Report, and The Emperor’s Club can be employed to better understand and appreciate philosophy and the philosophical process.
It’s often said that everyone has a philosophy. It’s also often said that philosophical musings are merely matters of opinion. But in very important ways, both of these assertions misrepresent philosophy. First, philosophy isn’t so much something you have; rather, it is something that you do. It is a process or activity, and a carefully crafted one at that. Second, when taking care to do philosophy well, it is unfair to say that philosophical judgments are merely matters of personal opinion. This chapter strives to reinforce these refined estimations of philosophy. The chapters that follow will further reinforce them. By the time you reach the end of the text, and with the help of some very notable philosophers from the history of philosophy, you should have a much better grasp of what philosophy is and how it is done. And as you work through the text, you’ll get a chance to watch—and think carefully about—some of your favorite films. What could be better than that?
philosophy: the intellectual activity of discerning and removing contradictions among nonempirical, reasoned beliefs that have universal importance, with the resulting benefit of achieving a greater understanding of the world and one’s place within it.


Gorgias (excerpt)1

Plato (427–347 BCE) is one the most important figures from the history of western philosophy. It is widely held that his Academy served as the model for modern universities. His greatest work is the Republic, which is an extended treatise on justice (among many other topics). Here we read an excerpt from one of his earlier dialogues; as is often the case, his famed teacher Socrates is the main character.
A Socrates and Gorgias attempt to define rhetoric. How would you define it?
B What is the most effective way to persuade someone of something?

Gorgias defines rhetoric

Gorgias, what is the art which you profess?
Rhetoric, Socrates, is my art . . . .
And are we to say that you are able to make other men rhetoricians?
Yes, that is exactly what I profess to make them . . . .
Very good then; as you profess to be a rhetorician, and a maker of rhetoricians, let me ask you, with what is rhetoric concerned: I might ask with what is weaving concerned, and you would probably reply, with the making of garments?
And music is concerned with the composition of melodies?
It is . . . .
Answer me in like manner about rhetoric: with what is rhetoric concerned?
With discourse.
What sort of discourse, Gorgias? Such discourse as would teach the sick under what treatment they might get well?
Then rhetoric does not treat of all kinds of discourse?
Certainly not.
And yet rhetoric makes men able to speak?
And to understand that about which they speak?
Of course . . . .
I am not sure whether I entirely understand you, but I dare say I shall soon know better; please answer me a question: you would allow that there are arts? . . .
If rhetoric is one of those arts which works mainly by the use of words, and there are other arts which also use words, tell me what is that quality in words with which rhetoric is concerned. Suppose that a person asks me about some of the arts; he might say, “Socrates, what is arithmetic?” I should reply to him that arithmetic is one of those arts which take effect through words. And then he would proceed to ask: “Words about what?” and I should reply, Words about even and odd numbers, and how many there are of each . . . And suppose, again, I were to say that astronomy is only words; he would ask, “Words about what, Socrates?” I should answer that astronomy tells us about the motions of the stars and sun and moon, and their relative swiftness.
You would be quite right, Socrates.
And now let us have from you, Gorgias, the truth about rhetoric. Would you admit it to be one of those arts which . . . fulfill all its ends through the medium of words?
Words which do what? To what class of things do the words which rhetoric uses relate?
To the greatest, Socrates, and the best of human things.
But which are the greatest and best of human things? I dare say that you have heard men singing at feasts the old drinking song, in which the singers enumerate the goods of life, first health, beauty next, thirdly, as the writer of the song says, wealth honestly obtained.
Yes, I know the song; but what of it?
I mean to say that the producers of those things which the author of the song praises, that is to say, the physician, the trainer, the money-maker, will at once come to you, and first the physician will say: “O Socrates, Gorgias is deceiving you, for my art is concerned with the greatest good of men and not his.” And when I ask, Who are you? he will reply, “I am a physician.” And I shall say: do you mean that your art produces the greatest good? He will answer, “Certainly, for is not health the greatest good? What greater good can men have, Socrates?” And after him the trainer will come and say, “I too, Socrates, shall be greatly surprised if Gorgias can show more good of his art than I can show of mine.” To him again I shall say, Who are you, honest friend, and what is your business? “I am a trainer,” he will reply, “and my business is to make people beautiful and strong in body.” When I am done with the trainer, there arrives the money-maker: “Consider Socrates,” he will say, “whether Gorgias or anyone else can produce any greater good than wealth.” And do you consider wealth to be the greatest good of man? “Of course,” will be his reply. And we shall rejoin: Yes; but our friend Gorgias contends that his art produces a greater good than yours. And then he will be sure to go on and ask, “What good? Let Gorgias answer.” Now I want you, Gorgias, to imagine that this question is asked of you by them and by me. What is that which, as you say, is the greatest good of man, and of which you are the creator? Answer us.
That good, Socrates, which is truly the greatest, being that which gives to men freedom in their own persons, and to individuals the power of ruling over others in their several states.
And what would you consider this to be?
What is there greater than the word which persuades the judges in the courts, or the senators in the council, or the citizens in the assembly, or at any other political meeting? If you have the power of uttering this word, you will have the physician your slave, and the trainer your slave, and the money-maker of whom you talk will be found to gather treasures, not for himself, but for you who are able to speak and to persuade the multitude.
Now I think, Gorgias, that you have very accurately explained what you conceive to be the art of rhetoric; and you mean to say, if I am not mistaken, that rhetoric is the artificer of persuasion, having this and no other business, and that this is her crow...

Table of contents

  1. Cover
  2. Title Page
  3. Copyright
  4. Preface
  5. Acknowledgments
  6. About the Website
  7. Chapter 1: Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Argument
  8. Chapter 2: Epistemology and Skepticism
  9. Chapter 3: God, Creation, and Evil
  10. Chapter 4: Freedom, Fate, and Determinism
  11. Chapter 5: Mind, Body, and Consciousness
  12. Chapter 6: Ethical Foundations and Moral Truth
  13. Chapter 7: Ethics and Values
  14. Chapter 8: The State, Social Contracts, and Justice
  15. Chapter 9: The Human Condition
  16. Appendix
  17. Glossary
  18. Index
  19. EULA
Citation styles for Classic Questions and Contemporary Film

APA 6 Citation

Kowalski, D. (2015). Classic Questions and Contemporary Film (2nd ed.). Wiley. Retrieved from (Original work published 2015)

Chicago Citation

Kowalski, Dean. (2015) 2015. Classic Questions and Contemporary Film. 2nd ed. Wiley.

Harvard Citation

Kowalski, D. (2015) Classic Questions and Contemporary Film. 2nd edn. Wiley. Available at: (Accessed: 14 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

Kowalski, Dean. Classic Questions and Contemporary Film. 2nd ed. Wiley, 2015. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.