Ontology as critical groundwork

Dominic Lash

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Paper


Encounters between film and philosophy tend to take one of two forms: either a philosophical framework organises the analysis of films, or films are used as evidence for (or against) particular philosophical ideas. Both these practices are extremely valuable, but I wonder if their prevalence means we give less attention than we should to some less ambitious, perhaps more localised, uses of philosophy with regard to film. An alternative to the choice between seeing films as doing philosophy or merely as illustrating philosophical work might be to examine the fruitful intersections between different kinds of thinking. I shall limit my discussion to one specific example, namely Étienne Souriau's work on the ontology of fictional beings and the use I make of it in my doctoral research (which concerns critical orientation and disorientation). Souriau's essential insight is that, although fictional beings clearly do not exist in the same sense as the people and objects we meet in our everyday lives, they are distinct from purely subjective fantasies precisely because they are intersubjective. This has interesting consequences for our understanding of the ways fictional beings solicit our attention, emotions, or desires – questions which are the territory of criticism. I will show how I put Souriau's ideas to work not so much as conceptual tools with which to work, but more as a helpful guide for my own critical practice. Some fairly abstract ontology has ended up clarifying my concrete critical analyses, and in this presentation I shall attempt to explain how.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 21 Oct 2017
EventMethodologies in Film-Philosophy - King's College London, London
Duration: 21 Oct 201721 Oct 2017


WorkshopMethodologies in Film-Philosophy


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