quinta-feira, 16 de agosto de 2018


Por Susana Viegas


Neste ensaio analiso as diferentes modalidades de pensamento que ocorrem entre a filosofia e as imagens em movimento partindo da distinção metafilosófica elaborada por Gilles Deleuze entre “pensar” e “filosofar”. Esta é uma distinção fundamental para a possível elaboração de uma filosofia do cinema, ou, pelo menos, para afirmar que “o cinema filosofa”, uma tese atualmente imersa num certo equívoco. Neste sentido, como possível resolução para tal mal-entendido, sugiro uma adequada designação deleuziana de “pensar com conceitos” e “pensar com imagens”, num processo recíproco fundamental entre o campo filosófico e o não filosófico das artes. Começando com uma introdução à noologia em Deleuze e uma descrição dessas ideias e do seu valor estético, prossigo com uma análise mais detalhada sobre imagens em movimento, metáforas e adaptação cinematográfica de modo a, dentro de uma abordagem pós-continental e pós-analítica, questionar se o cinema filosofa.
Deleuze, filosofia do cinema, metafilosofia, noologia, imagem em movimento

1 Introduction: Thinking Films

What is truly involved in defending that “film thinks” or that “film philosophizes”? Are these statements equivalents or antonyms? In defending one statement (either that “film thinks” or that “film philosophizes”), the other must by obligation be rejected (“So, film thinks, but it does not philosophize?”)? Could a Deleuzian metaphilosophical definition of what it means to think with images be suitable to resolve this continental-analytic gap? To consider this metaphilosophically means to first establish a plane of immanence that defines “philosophy”, “concept”, and “thinking” - the philosophical praxis. This problem, before being resolved with the potentially distinct modalities of all “philosophical films,” of all possible works, must answer to the possibility of having a kind of philosophy that has not only a linguistic nature but also an audio-visual one. This means opening the philosophical field to new ways of expression, to challenge what we think the philosophical praxis to be.
With this article, my aim is to show the Deleuzian conditions for a film to think-whenever it creates sensations that persist, through employing a composition of affects and percepts that do not rely on the human (sentiendum). A film provides us a possible world that is self-referential and autopoietic, but its thought should not be in the screenplay or in its dialogues (verbal language) though may exist in between images and sounds (a montage is the assemblage of movement-images).
Thus, as we will see, a filmmaker thinks in terms of audio-visual sensations. Yet, the philosophical concept of the movement-image is not simple: it can perfectly be Griffith’s close-ups in The Musketeers of Pig Alley, Chaplin’s index of equivocity in The Idle Class, or Godard’s faux raccords in Breathless, but it is never just a moment of recognition. In this sense, Griffith, Chaplin and Godard think about movement, time and gesture because their close-ups, indices of equivocity and faux raccords, their ideas seen as pre-concepts, are violent toward our normal way of feeling and thinking (by mere recognition): these ideas are unexpected and unexperienced until that moment.
Daniel Frampton argues that film’s essence is to think, by which it opens “another future” for philosophy itself-for “another kind of philosophy” (2006, p. 183). So, let us imagine that film thinks. How do we realize this? So many movies have made us think about distinctive subjects: Griffith’s The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912), Chaplin’s The Idle Class (1921), Vertov’s The Man With a Moving Camera (1929), Buñuel’s Land Without Bread (1933), Ozu’s Tokyo Story (1953), Godard’s Breathless (1960), Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), Varda’s Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962), Snow’s Wavelength (1967), Tarkovsky’s The Mirror (1975), Haneke’s Funny Games (1997), Nolan’s Memento (2000), Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing (2012), to name just a few. For one reason or another, we find something thought provoking in these movies. But when we claim that these films think, we are not attributing them with a specific or unique characteristic that would differentiate them from other forms of art. In fact, other forms of art can also think by creating autopoietic sensations in the realm of the possible. We can think through painting, photography, music or any other art form. But what kind of image of thought is involved here when we claim that “film thinks”?

2 A Deleuzian Noology

According to Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, to think is not an exclusively philosophical event since we not only think philosophically with concepts, but may also think in a non-philosophical way with sensations, through percepts (which are not perception: for example, the intensity of Pollock’s paintings) and affects (which are impersonal and independent of emotions or feelings: the intensity of the tides of Mont Saint Michel in Malick’s To the Wonder (2012); Francis Bacon’s figures, for instance).
Although diverse artistic forms of expression have the ability to force us to think, only philosophy can make us think it in a philosophical way. Yet, this is not a tautological argument as long as philosophy is defined as the creative process of producing and thinking with concepts (Deleuze; Guattari, 1994, p. 5). Therefore, what is tautological is to claim that to think philosophically is to think conceptually.
Our quest is towards the difference between “philosophizing” and “thinking otherwise”, as only the first would be exclusive to philosophy itself, and thus unachievable by other modes of expression. I am also looking for the connections between thinking philosophically and thinking otherwise, limited here to its connection with art and artistic thought.
What do we mean by “thinking”? Deleuze argues that all philosophical thinking requires an “image of thought” (2010, pp. 118-126)-What are the conditions of thought? How is an idea expressed? Why should we think?-which is a pre-philosophical plane of immanence for philosophy itself. Thinking always requires moral assumptions, either explicit or implicit, either objective or subjective (like the Cartesian cogito), on what it means to think, to be oriented within thought-after all, everyone knows what it means to think.
In Nietzsche and Philosophy (from 1962), Deleuze developed the problem of describing and outlining what an image of thought is, and its role in thought. In this book Deleuze devotes a whole chapter to the “new image of thought” by developing the three theses of dogmatic thinking: the classical image of thought of recognition opposed to the modern image of thought, which is non-representational. However, it would only be in Proust and Signs (1964), where he would relate the image of thought to the question of the “truth of time” (Deleuze, 2000, p. 94). There, for the first time, following Nietzsche’s idea that the main element of thought is no longer the truth but the value and sense, he sustained the inner, inseparable connection between the arts and thought (a new image of thought: the truth vs. value). In this sense, Marcel Proust as a novelist created an image of thought different from that created by philosophers.
A few years later, in a 1968 interview (about the re-edition of Nietzsche’s complete work), Deleuze would state: “Godard transforms cinema by introducing thought into it. He didn’t have thoughts on cinema, he doesn’t put more or less valid thought intocinema; he starts cinema thinking” (2003, p. 141). However, even if in The Time-Image(almost twenty years later), the artists are seen as philosophers, in What Is Philosophy?, Deleuze seems to be more prudent when working with Guattari by declaring that the artists are “almost-philosophers.”
What separates artists and philosophers and, besides the difference, what bonds them? Philosophers can only create what needs to be created, when they feel forced to think something new, thus feeling the pressure of the outside on the philosophical field (Where...? How...? When...?). This intensive encounter with the outside, the non-philosophical field, is a necessary step to create something new philosophically (from the sentiendum towards the cogitandum). Therefore, if we only think forced by external aggressions, it means that to think is not a natural exercise. What is normal to a philosophical work is assuring that this pre-philosophical plane becomes philosophical by being inhabited by concepts. Deleuze explains:
One might call this study of images of thought “noology” and see it as the prolegomena to philosophy. It’s what Difference and Repetition is really about, the nature of the postulates of the image of thought. And the question runs right through The Logic of Sense, where height, depth, and surface are taken as the coordinates of thinking; I come back to it in Proust and Signs, because Proust confronts the Greek image with all the power of signs; then I come to it again, with Felix, in A Thousand Plateaus, because the rhizome’s the image of thought that spreads out beneath the tree image (1995, p. 149).
One of the consequences of this Deleuzian noology, despite its variations, would precisely be that of the unnatural and “involuntary” origin of thought, in a Heideggerian sense-the genesis of thought is not in itself but outside, it is heterogenetic(Viegas, 2013). With this heterogenetic quality, we somehow guarantee that there is no hierarchy between disciplines, that philosophy is not a privileged, superior discipline, and that its function is concrete and does not dilute itself into abstraction.
  • Viegas, 2013
    O que nos faz pensar? Heidegger, Deleuze e a filosofia do cinema
    Revista Exagium, 2013
With the heterogenetic origin of philosophical thinking we go a little further in our quest. But the problem that I wish to focus on and develop here regards the claim that film philosophizes. I wish to demonstrate that although a film (or another artistic form) can make us think, even think in a philosophical way (such as ethical dilemmas, legal injustices, or existential crises, for example), it does not think philosophically-unless we state that to think philosophically may be something else other than to think conceptually.

3 Plato and the Realm of Shadows

What different kinds of interferences occur between moving images and philosophy? What is the role of a philosophy of film and of thinking film in our everyday life? Philosophy and art differ not only in the nature of their thinking expression, but also in their qualities-even if between them “disturbing affinities appear on what seems to be a common plane of immanence” (Deleuze, 1994, p. 91). These kinds of intrinsic interferences occur when one slides onto the other’s plane.
So, why choose film to understand these different qualities? First of all, we may think that there has been a close relationship between philosophy and images in general, from the moment philosophers began using images as a common philosophical rhetorical resource. It is precisely at this level that the general comparison between film and Plato’s Allegory of the Cave will be relevant to our analysis (Bauer, 2005, p. 44). However, more important than the physical resemblance between the film spectator and the Cave prisoner, and the movie theatre and the cave, are their differences, which I intend to point out.
  • Bauer, 2005
    Cogito ergo film: Plato, Descartes and Fight Club
    Film as Philosophy, Essays on Cinema after Wittgenstein and Cavell, 2005
Nowadays, to say that films are philosophically relevant is quite a familiar and popular assertion. But, how did philosophers receive moving images? In which sense is film relevant to the philosophical field? How can we articulate film within a philosophical development, instead of a mere artistic illustration/adaptation of the philosophical work? Both philosophical concepts and aesthetic-non-philosophical images express a diversity of thought. Deleuze did not claim there was a clear autonomy between disciplines. On the contrary, he advocated that “between” disciplines there is an asymmetric resonance oriented by that common “noological” element which can mutually suggest and stimulate new ways of philosophical and artistic expression. Philosophy needs this non-philosophical field.
In the particular field of philosophical studies on image and the imagination, such as those by Jean-Paul Sartre or Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Deleuze (1995, p. 47) notes the singular place of Henri Bergson’s Matter and Memory. Indeed, Bergson’s doctoral thesis, Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness (1889), along with Matter and Memory (1896) are considered two fundamental works of the “philosophical revolution” which occurred at the end of the nineteenth century against the naïve ontology of common sense that tended to “reify” the images as a copy of reality (Sartre, 2012). This theory tended to ontologically understate the role of images (understood as superficial copies) regarding the things they are images of. In his 1907 work The Creative Evolution, Bergson highlighted, on the negative criticism he made of the cinematograph, the inertia of the film audience toward the images seen on the screen (1970, p. 753).
  • Deleuze (1995, p. 47)
    Negotiations, 1995
  • Sartre, 2012
    The Imagination: A Psychological Critique, 2012
This idea was widely generalized and was at the origin of the famous analogy made between the movie theatre and the Allegory of the Cave. The common analogy between the Cave and the cinematic phenomenological experience has only contributed to the increasing devaluation and general depreciation, by aesthetics and the philosophy of art, of the cinematographic art as a valuable and independent philosophical field of studies (Jarvie, 1999, p. 418).
  • Jarvie, 1999
    Is Analytic Philosophy a Cure for Film Theory?
    Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 1999
Plato (1991) created the visual metaphorical idea of a cave where prisoners, unable to move and forced to look just at the shadows that appear in front of them, consider those shadows as reality itself, unaware of their true nature. They only see “shadows of” the reality (514a). In order to access the true nature of their situation, to see outside that confined space, they would need to free themselves, abandon the cave and confront reality for what it is. With that empowered knowledge, they would abandon their previous beliefs (previously taken in a dogmatic and uncritical way) and question the information transmitted by their senses. The Platonic question was not centred on an aversion towards all images per se-as he himself used images in a pedagogical manner, as mental experiments-rather, it was focused on the etymologic origin of ideas or forms at the eidos-images as intelligible models.
  • Plato (1991)
    The Republic of Plato, 1991
Hence, a revision of the Platonic theory of Ideas is concomitant with the revision of a modern visual cultural theory of images. Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) has functioned as a well-known case study. Somehow, “Vertigo is, in a sense, the ultimate anti-Platonic film” (Žižek, 2004, p. 157): Scottie (James Stewart) finds out that the copy that deceived him turns out to be the only possible original. Indeed, this film is directly related to the Platonic theory of Ideas with its distinction between original, copy, and simulacrum, though it does so by reverting its original structure. Thus, if the first shock is the acknowledgment that the original was the copy, the most important shock in this anti-Platonic revision is, as Žižek notes, to acknowledge that the copy of a copy is indeed the only possible original (Judy, as Madeleine). Therefore, the shadows of shadows correspond to the material life of the projected photograms and not to real objects.
  • Žižek, 2004
    Organs without Bodies: On Deleuze and Consequences, 2004
“Overturning Platonism, then, means denying the primacy of original over copy, of model over image; glorifying the reign of simulacra and reflections” (Deleuze, 1994, p. 66). In his aim to overcome Platonism, after Difference and Repetition and Logic of Sense, Deleuze gradually moves away from the concept of simulacrum to rhizome (even if he still uses it in Francis Bacon). The Deleuzian simulacrum is not the representational link between an original model and a copy. Rather, it is the rhizomatic and intensive series of copies that are divergent from a possible original model. Simulacra do not pretend to be the original; they do not imitate-they repeat, as in Andy Warhol’s serial art work. In the Deleuzian ontology of the dialectical game between real and actual, the simulacrum opposes itself not to reality but to the copy. Much of Deleuze’s criticism of the Platonic metaphysical dualism, which has an analytical and disjunctive opposition, subsists here. For Deleuze, copy and simulacrum are not equivalent (1990, p. 257) because the simulacrum is not self-oriented by the resemblance criteria to reality; it does not want to deceive or be something else (in the same sense that a falsification of a painting wants to be the original painting).
  • Deleuze, 1994
    What is Philosophy?, 1994
We are looking for a way out of the cave, if possible by paradoxically defending a Platonic perspective on the Greek paideia and its present version. Just as images and allegories were used by philosophers to educate and to express their conceptual work, moving images can be understood as a modern pedagogical tool for new ways to perceive and to feel, new ways to think (Viegas, 2016). Indeed, in the 1986 preface that Deleuze wrote for Serge Daney’s Ciné-Journal, he argues for “new audio-visual combinations and major pedagogical lines” (1995, p. 71). Just as the Platonic allegory is guided by the Greek ideal of a paideiadespite its misleading element, we may say that there will be a pedagogical use of moving images. The idea of paideia, more than the allegory per se, is fundamental to the study of cinema as a public, free and anonymous education. In fact, the philosophy of film argues for the return of the philosophical domain to the public sphere, the ágora, a return to the original Greek roots. Philosophy of film today is far from the Greek ideal of paideia, at least in its Deleuzian analysis-as a non-knowledge without the negative element that is normally associated with it (Deleuze, 1994, p. 180).
  • Viegas, 2016
    Toward a Cinematic Pedagogy: Gilles Deleuze and Manoel de Oliveira
    The Journal of Aesthetic Education, 2016
  • Deleuze, 1994
    What is Philosophy?, 1994
However, if moving images force us to review the optical illusion and the cerebral cortex connection between what the technical mechanism and what the automatism are, in Deleuze, a philosophy of film will be seen as a conceptual practice and not only as a case study for the aesthetic field. This means that Deleuze understands film as a new experience, as a possible field in which to create new percepts and affects, the elements that constitute his logic of sensation. Although Deleuze does not conceptualize the role of the spectator, he defines the creation of a subjectivity that is particular to the cinematic experience with moving images, which does not reduce itself to a psychological analysis (as the question of the gaze, voyeurism, identification, empathy, ...) but which centres itself on possible new ways of thinking. This thinking does not have to be human any more. The viewer’s experience is different from the natural, ordinary experience in its quotidian world: with non-human thoughts and non-human sensations. The new ways of feeling and thinking will be reflected in a new sensibility towards reality itself, expanding consciousness beyond its natural limits.

4 Spiritual Life

Temporal relations are never seen in ordinary perception, but they can be seen in the image, provided the image is creative. The image renders visible, and creative, the temporal relations which cannot be reduced to the present. (Deleuze, 2007, p. 290)
  • Deleuze, 2007
    Two Regimes of Madness, Texts and Interviews 1975-1995, 2007
The affects and percepts belong at their inception to a temporal subjectivity that is not time but is in time. Sensations give thoughts a body. In this case, the difference “mediates and is mediated” by the same, the opposite, and the similar.
How can we grasp this pre-individual and pre-representational state? If cinema is the art of repetition (the continuous, infinite mechanical reproduction of movies), then how can we escape this closed scheme and look for the difference that differs in cinema? Where does difference lie in the classification of all the cinematographic signs? According to Deleuze, in becoming: at the temporality between moving images. The creation of philosophical concepts, of scientific functions, and the creation of artistic sensations will correspond to the three independent modes that the brain has as a “junction-not a unity-of the three planes” (Deleuze; Guattari, 1994, p. 208), to struggle against chaos towards the organized tension between the finite and the infinite, the actual and the virtual. The cinematographic mechanism is closer to the human mind through the processes of connecting the particular elements of each, i.e., images and ideas. Cinema can thus be a form of providing images, of becoming and making visible mental processes, not so much in the sense of an “image-of-thinking”, but as moving images that think and which force us to think. In this case we then have thinking-images.
  • Deleuze; Guattari, 1994
    What is Philosophy?, 1994
The cinematographic machine through self-moving images moves the mind, the spiritual life of the spectator: “Cinema puts movement not just in the image; it puts it in the mind. Spiritual life is the movement of the mind” (Deleuze, 2007, p. 288). Thus, it has all the importance of liberating the spectator’s mind from the intellectual passivity characteristic of the Cave prisoners, of a torpid mind not in the sense of images in general, seen as shadows of another reality, but torpid as in the cliché of recognition and representation (the same). This liberation as a struggle against cliché is announced at the end of The Movement-image. In modern cinema, the filmmaker’s main task will be that of fighting against cliché, breaking with the mechanistic structure and revealing the cliché qua cliché, thus creating a new cinematographic image that makes us think differently, that make us feel otherwise, just as happened during the cinematographic avant-gardes of the 1920s and 1950s.
  • Deleuze, 2007
    Two Regimes of Madness, Texts and Interviews 1975-1995, 2007
In this sense, John Mullarkey supports the idea that the time-image is the thematization of the movement-image itself; it thematises the excesses of the movement-images clichés (2008, p. 93). The time-image is the “awareness of the clichés”, marked by “dispersive situations”, by the “weak connection” or the “form-ballade”. The new cinematographic images are less interested in representing an external model (easy recognition of the common-place), and more interested in showing the character seeing what he sees, listening to what he hears (intensive encounters), becoming themselves signs: “it is an image of an image.” In this sense, Deleuze’s preference for the time-image would be explained by the argument that if cinema repeats the history of philosophy (Mullarkey, 2008, p. 87), then the time-image would be an improved image.
Although we do not want to overvalue the time-image over the movement-image (Martin-Jones, 2011, p. 7), we understand why Deleuze’s interest in cinema was directly connected to a previous philosophical interest, a concern with the purpose of philosophy itself: of finding a new sense for philosophical expression. First, films allowed him to think about, among other questions, the deterritorialization of the Cartesian cogito and the dogmatic image of thought from that philosophical tradition. Through cinema, Deleuze considered other ways of seeing and feeling, but he considered philosophical thinking from a different perspective, on a philosophical path that goes from film to philosophy, and vice-versa. If Deleuze argued that “the brain is the screen”, he also argued that “the eye isn’t the camera, it’s the screen” (Deleuze, 1995, p. 54) in this way criticizing phenomenological interpretations that insist on the camera-eye analogy, already debated by one of the pioneers of the psychology of film, Hugo Münsterberg.
  • Martin-Jones, 2011
    Deleuze and World Cinemas, 2011
  • Deleuze, 1995
    Negotiations, 1995
We need to go forward in this analogy between the camera and the human mind within a pre-individual ontological model. Despite the analogy between the brain and the screen, Deleuze does not limit the relationship to the phenomenological camera-eye analogy, which tends to anthropomorphize the camera by considering it as having a point of view or a subject, identical either to the perspective of the character/actor or to the standpoint of the filmmaker/screenwriter. Foremost, Deleuze also discards the traditional relationship between a subject and an object. The brain is the subject, a “brain-thought”, a brain-screen that utters “I” as a spirit which conceives philosophically and which feels artistically. Thus, the primordial relationship in the philosophical field, according the Deleuzian terminology, occurs between the brain and chaos. According to the Bergsonian definition of the universe, everything is a matter-image including one’s own brain, but between the matter-image of the universe and its perception, there is a gap, an interval, shorter or longer, which thus determines the difference-in degree, not nature-between the matter of the world and its perception. This interval is purely temporal.
Nevertheless, to Deleuze, the core of cinema, or its differential mark, is to create a shock in thought by the communication of vibrations, directly reaching our nervous and cerebral system. The temporality of moving images not only has the function of giving continuity to actions in a logical-sequential form, but most of all it has the function of creating vibrations in our nervous and cerebral system. Since it is time in its non-empiric form that appears between the two regimes of moving images (the movement-image and the time-image), it is “the absolute and ultimate Difference” (Deleuze, 2000, p. 41) that is not an extrinsic difference between the two regimes. A difference provokes a crisis in the concept of truth. Moreover, that is Antonin Artaud’s point of view: cinema as a neurophysiologic vibration. Raymond Bellour analyses the rapprochement between the “mirror neurons” and the issue of the brain in Deleuzian philosophy. He explains the influence of neurosciences in Deleuze’s philosophy of film in a new way:
  • Deleuze, 2000
    Proust and Signs, 2000
We notice, and this is essential, that these two types of break between neurons are analogous to the comparison that Deleuze makes between The Movement-Image and The Time-Image, between the types of link belonging to each of these two main forms of image: the rational interval of the action image, the irrational interstice that makes the crystal-image (Bellour, 2010, p. 83).
  • Bellour, 2010
    Deleuze: the Thinking of the Brain
    Cinema: Journal of Philosophy and the Moving Image, 2010
In the end, this influence means that “[t]here is no science of the cinema. There is no science of the viewer; there are only the spectator’s thoughts and experiences” (Bellour, 2010, p. 92). Therefore, the only criterion Deleuze has to evaluate the quality of the films he analyses as “good” or “bad” seems to be not only of a technical order (editing, the plot, the types of shots, etc.), but also the film’s capacity (thinking-images) to make us think philosophically, with the possible creation of concepts. In this sense, Patricia Pisters (2012) proposes a third type of moving image- the neuro-image that comes from the future, grounded in the time of death. There is no possible representation of death or of the future; they are the category of the new that escapes the logic of representation, the empty time of Thanatos.
  • Bellour, 2010
    Deleuze: the Thinking of the Brain
    Cinema: Journal of Philosophy and the Moving Image, 2010
  • Pisters (2012)
    The Neuro-Image: A Deleuzian Film-Philosophy of Digital Screen Culture, 2012

5 Do Films Philosophize? Some final, but inconclusive, remarks

Stanley Cavell (1979) and Gilles Deleuze argue that both experimental, self-reflexive, and popular movies can illustrate philosophical problems as well as positively contribute arguments and ideas not yet thinkable by philosophers alone- not only in the sense that cinema is a privileged tool to disclose and promote philosophical ideas, but in the sense that it is philosophical. Cinema is understood as a philosophical praxis. However, the question that guided Deleuze in his quest and in his writing of the Cinema books concerned the difference of cinema when related to other forms of art, specifically what cinema was giving us that we could not find in literature, in photography, in painting, or even in philosophy, or at least, what cinema was giving philosophers that any other art form could not give. This would be its cinematic techniques to express temporality, movement, and also gesture.
  • Cavell (1979)
    The World Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology of Film, 1979
With its aberrant movements and irrational cuts, with its indices of equivocity, between images and between images and sounds, cinema creates a suspension of disbelief in the world, not to show the act of thinking (what to think and how) but to show what is not thinkable (Schefer, 1997). To quote What Is Philosophy?: “[Hubert] Damisch has insisted more than other writers on art-as-thought and painting-as-thought” (Deleuze; Guattari, 1994, p. 233). When we mention “pensive images” or “images-that-think”, most of the time we are referring to photographed and painted images. Damisch asks what it means for a painter to think, and finds his answer in Pollock’s unique style:
  • Schefer, 1997
    L’Homme ordinaire du cinéma, 1997
  • Deleuze; Guattari, 1994
    What is Philosophy?, 1994
On the floor I am more at ease. I feel nearer, more a part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting. [...] When I am in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing. It’s only after a sort of “get acquainted” period that I see what I have been about. I have no fears about making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess (Pollock, 1947-48, p. 79).
  • Pollock, 1947-48
    My Painting
Still, if art is a form of thinking (as Hubert Damisch and Roland Barthes claim), why should cinema be considered as a form of philosophizing? By distinguishing the true nature of film-the creation of blocks of space-time, the filling/delimitation of the plane of composition with affects and percepts (sensations)-from its philosophical appeal, we expose the functioning of thought in a non-conceptual shape (to think with no concepts, to think with images and sounds), and give philosophy a non-philosophical understanding of itself. In this sense, our aim with this essay was to conceptually develop the elaboration of a philosophy of film-not so much as Stephen Mulhall’s radical “philosophy in action” (2001), but as a “praxis, or action-thought” (Deleuze, 2008, p. 156) according to which we can “think in cinema through cinema” (Deleuze, 2008, p. 160).
  • Deleuze, 2008
    Cinema 2, 2008
  • Deleuze, 2008
    Cinema 2, 2008
To think philosophically is not to apply “ready-made concepts” (Deleuze, 1995, p. 50), or simply recognise. Likewise, to use film as the illustration/adaptation of a philosophical theory or of a philosophical concept is to stop movement, to use moving images as still images that fit a priori conceptual work (Dwyer, 1999).
  • Deleuze, 1995
    Negotiations, 1995
  • Dwyer, 1999
    Straining to hear (Deleuze)
    A Deleuzian Century?, 1999
In this research, I have expanded the idea of image described in section 3. Since we are no longer comparing “thinking with concepts” to “thinking with images”, but differentiating what “thinking with concepts” and “thinking with movement-images/time-images/...” consist of, in cinema, the thought is not added a posteriori to still images, but these moving images are immediately thinking-images, the “involuntary” origin of thought- a conceptual montage/assemblage of the thoughts that once we had (to repeat the poetic title of Thom Andersen’s essay film from 2015, “partially inspired” by Deleuze’s Cinema books), but which we do not own and did not wish-for.
In second place, it becomes even more ambiguous that through that identity (film as philosophy), a film may be considered as fundamental a work to the study of philosophy as a book (verbal language, or the traditional literary medium). As a result, from a philosophical point of view a film may be at the same level as a philosopher’s writings-not to mention philosophers who were or are filmmakers, a topic to be dealt with elsewhere. That would be Deleuze’s odd position: “Theoretically, Godard would be capable of filming Kant’s Critique or Spinoza’s Ethics, and it wouldn’t be abstract cinema or a cinematographic application” (Deleuze, 2003, p. 141). Although the link between philosophers and filmmakers may be strong, its strength is not in their expressions (via a more or less abstract adaptation) but within its exclusive creative nature: sensations which express, which make sensible the virtual side of the event that cannot be actualized, thus sharing with philosophy the non-empirical form of time of the event. To think in film within an aesthetic or philosophy of art with philosophy’s own resources (verbal language) is different from thinking of cinema exclusively through cinema (non-verbal language of the audio-visual).
  • Deleuze, 2003
    Desert Islands and Other Texts (1953-1974), 2003
The difference in Deleuze’s approach is that, for him, film concepts, such as the affection-image in Griffith’s close-up, are created by philosophy-it is the necessary condition for the plane of immanence-, but after the moving images (after the close-up in Griffith’ The Musketeers of Pig Alley). If images and sounds and their montage provoke a shock to thought, in a movement that goes from images to thought, from percepts to concepts, Deleuze also mentions its reverse, from thought to images, or affects (2008, p. 154). In this case, we create figures and metaphors. But Deleuze’s use of metaphors should be taken carefully, as for him a metaphor can easily be reduced to the cliché that he tried so hard to eliminate from philosophical thought; a metaphor is thus a pseudo-concept because it is always mediated by representation.
Finally, what is the role of a philosophy of film and of thinking film in our everyday life? Films have to do with our lives, our present moment; movies are not just stories, but they dialogue with us, they test our values, our limits, our prejudices and our tolerance. We cannot deny that moving images can be seen as a democratization of thought-the film theatre seen as a modern ágora. As a consequence, the philosophical debate may leave the traditional academic circuits of the discipline, and even as simple an act as watching a movie can, intentionally or not, be touched by philosophical ideas. Some movies invite us to philosophical debate and reflection. Some movies give us the tools to critical thinking, by not showing us what to think but how.
Nevertheless, does this way of approaching philosophy not have a tendency to oversimplify thought with a superficial elaboration of a popular philosophy? Not necessarily. In 1973, Deleuze took part in Richard Pinhas’ musical project by reading aphorism 638 of Human, all too Human, by Friedrich Nietzsche. Once again, he was searching “for new means of philosophical expression” (Deleuze 1994, p.xxi), possibly a pop’philosophie as a tool to disclose the philosophical text in a non-habitual philosophical environment (Leclercq, 2005, pp. 150-151). In this particular case, philosophy is no longer seen as the conceptual creative activity but in an eclectic sense, as closer to the “popular philosophy” defended by Noël Carroll:
  • Leclercq, 2005
    La réception posthume de l’œuvre de Gilles Deleuze
    Gilles Deleuze, héritage philosophique, 2005
That in addition to being a very well designed and polished Hollywood exposé, Sunset Boulevard also performs the function of popular philosophizing-of bringing to mind truths about the human condition that have been forgotten, neglected, or repressed (2009, p. 196).
As a consequence of the argument of this essay (on the difference between “thinking” and “philosophizing”), we may say that this does not mean the announced democratization of philosophy, but of thought-shared with other artistic forms such as painting, architecture, graphic novels, etc.. This position struggles with a natural resistance. Because film-philosophy was not an obvious solution, Cavell and Deleuze’s efforts during the 1970s and 80s were received with suspicion within the traditional philosophical community. The problem was, first of all, one of philosophical style and expression. To quote Robert Sinnerbrink, “We might call this the problem of giving voice to philosophy’s encounter with film, and to film’s opening up of philosophy to cinematic exploration” (2014, p. 51). As he argues, the connection between film and philosophy in this film-philosophy model is also a transformative (not illustrative) experience, opening the philosophical field to new ways of expression that challenge what we think the philosophical praxis to be.


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This article is a final version of a presentation delivered at the SEP-FEP Joint Annual Conference, University of Dundee, UK, in September 2015. This work was supported by the FCT-MCTES [grant number SFRH/BPD/94290/2013]. For his encouragement and advice, I would like to thank James Williams.
Recebido: 22 de Fevereiro de 2017; Aceito: 02 de Maio de 2017
Este é um artigo publicado em acesso aberto (Open Access) sob a licença Creative Commons Attribution, que permite uso, distribuição e reprodução em qualquer meio, sem restrições desde que o trabalho original seja corretamente citado.
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