PhD Oral Exam - Trevor Mowchun, Humanities
When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
The various forms of cross-pollination and encounter between film and philosophy have generated thought experiments which make it possible to think beyond what the two fields can do for each other to what they can do together. My guiding intuition in this thesis is that the distinct historical evolutions of film and philosophy intersect in the speculative domain of the Western metaphysical paradigm, as the film medium technologically and aesthetically reestablishes conditions for “truth” within a contemporary intellectual climate which is often described as politically “post-truth.” As the long age of metaphysics comes to a close at the turn of the 19th century, ushered in by Nietzsche’s bold declaration “God is dead” and subjected thereafter to standardized modes of critique from both continental and analytical philosophic traditions, I explore how the emergence of film at this time and its representation of what André Bazin calls “the world in its own image” marks a migration of metaphysics from rational speculation through concepts to mechanical revelation through images and sounds. The rebirth of the world in its own image in the wake of the death of God is the self-affirmation of life and marks the first principle of a new cine-metaphysics. I take seriously what appears as a mere historical coincidence (claiming that it is not a coincidence) and seek to analyze its implications for film-philosophy. With the birth of film following the death of God, I suggest that the world’s radical exposure and dramatic appearance onscreen and on its own terms, as it were, constitutes the basis not just for a continuation or return but rather a transformation of the philosophical tradition of metaphysics, rendering metaphysics “physical” and yielding a series of ontologically perspicuous figures of cinematic space-time brought to light by various aesthetic incarnations of the world in its own image. Through both theoretical and hermeneutic investigations into the metaphysical legacy of the moving image, one of my main conclusions is that in philosophy metaphysical thinking tends to result in conceptual abstraction or confusion, or is at least accused of such results, whereas cinema, conceived of as enacting the very object of metaphysical thought, can bring about the audiovisual clarity of the everyday.