Philosophy & Film with Mr. Woods

This year Deborah Perry and I have the opportunity to teach a new course called “Philosophy in Film,” a semester-long elective open to juniors and seniors in the upper school. Throughout the fall, we’re watching 12-15 films from various genres and discussing philosophical ideas, historical debates, and ethical dilemmas. Before and after each movie, we spend time reviewing foundational concepts and discussing excerpts of primary sources from related philosophers. For example, students spent the first few weeks exploring questions related to metaphysics and epistemology. During this time, students examined how certain concepts presented in René Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy, Augustine’s Confessions, and Plato’s Republic correspond to ideas portrayed in popular films such as Inception and The Matrix. The class is currently watching Being There, a 1979 satire featuring Peter Sellers based on the novel by Jerzy Kosinski– we’re examining the problem of subjective experience and the tension between perception and reality. The class has been a lot of fun so far and the students are definitely enjoying it. We’re looking forward to discussing the rest of the films lined up this quarter, including Gattaca, Groundhog Day, and Midnight in Paris.