Josef Früchtl Former Senior Fellow

Josef Früchtl

Research Project

Trust in the world. A contribution to film as philosophy

Within the pragmatist tradition the old epistemological question: ‘What can we know? What is certain at all?’ is answered by the statement: ‘We have to rely on something’ (Wittgenstein, On Certainty). Looking back to a certain tradition of scepticism (Hume), existentialism (Kierkegaard, Sartre) and ontology (Hei- degger), this statement is made concrete by saying: ‘We have to trust in our practices, moral ideas, the presence or ‘naked that’ of things, the hidden God.’ During the last thirty years philosophy, somewhat surprisingly, has made acquaintance with a new ally in answering her old question. It is film, one of the most popular media and art forms of the 20th century, that seems to deal in its form and content with comparable problems. For Cavell the link between philosophy and cinema has to be seen in the ‘ordinary’, for Deleuze in (a Bergsonian concept of) time and movement. But such a link is discussed in different ways within the analytic tradition as well. The general questions of the proposed research then are: How does it make sense to say that cinema, and above all modern, non-narrative cinema, restores our trust or belief in the world? What does it mean to say that film is (a kind of) philosophy?
Whereas a great part of the discussions of the past thirty years within the humanities and social sciences dealt under the label of post-modernity with concepts of radical doubt about reality, knowledge, moral universalist claims, subjective and political agency, my research project suggests a new introduction of the concept of trust or belief. And it does so from the background of cinema as one of the most significant cultural media of our times. The concept of trust at present re-enters our discussions above all in a social, political, and currently economical context. But the significance of that concept is much bigger. Trust and belief are indispensable in the epistemological and meta-physical (ontological) realm. They form a conditio sine qua non: no one can live without it, and there is no culture, no form of life that works without it, particularly under modern conditions. More specifically, trust and belief are a compensation for missing information, not (so much) for missing power. Underlining the expression ‘particularly under modern conditions’ requires that one has to refer not only to actual sociology (A. Giddens, N. Luhmann, J. Haber- mas) but also to modern cinema, a cinema that begins with Italian neo-realism, is continued by the Nouvelle Vague and nowadays by non-narrative Hollywood movies. Arguing for that thesis, then, can rely philosophically on pragmatist and phenomenological-ontological sources at first instance but it gets a real innovative turn by contrasting and enriching these sources with and through the analysis of films that are playing with our modern lack of information.