Abstract

This essay uncovers and analyzes philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein's little-known writings on film and related media, revealing their importance for film and media studies, the field of film philosophy, and for understanding Wittgenstein's later ethical thought. Through an explication of Wittgenstein's idiosyncratic ordinary-language philosophy, the author argues that these cinema remarks speak to Wittgenstein's sense that cinematic media offered new conceptualizations for thought on a variety of subjects. These include the nature of time, visual and phenomenological experience, and subjectivity. The remarks make clear, among other discoveries, that Wittgenstein was thinking about the relation of cinema and “the skeptical mindset” decades before Stanley Cavell made his influential arguments for such a connection. While the first half of the essay draws out the ethical stakes behind Wittgenstein's film remarks, the latter half turns explicitly to the philosopher's later, complex thought about ethics itself. Showing the importance of aesthetics, visuality, and sight to Wittgenstein's understanding of the field, this section addresses his notions of “aspect-seeing” and “aspect-change.” From this, the final section of contends that Wittgenstein's ethics want to work in the way he feels film can—by enabling one to “see anew” one's way of seeing as a way of seeing, thus opening new ethical-existential possibilities for one's way of being in the world.

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