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Unit outline_

PHIL2658: Philosophy in Film

Semester 2, 2021 [Normal day] - Remote

This unit will use the screening and criticism of carefully chosen classical and contemporary films to raise important philosophical questions and to contribute to our response to them. Each film screening will be paired with a key philosophical question that is explored in the film and further investigated in class: problems of freedom, human action, democracy, crime, love, otherness, marriage, conversation, selfhood, and being human. The class will also explore some central questions in the philosophy of film.

Unit details and rules

Academic unit Philosophy
Credit points 6
12 credit points at 1000 level in Philosophy or 12 credit points at 1000 level in Film Studies
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator David Macarthur,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Final essay
60% Formal exam period
Due date: 19 Nov 2021 at 23:59
2500 to 3000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7
Presentation Tutorial presentation
10% Ongoing 500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1
Assignment Take-home assignment
25% Week 08
Due date: 11 Oct 2021 at 23:59
1500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7
Participation Tutorial participation
5% Weekly Ongoing
Outcomes assessed: LO1

Assessment summary

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100



75 - 84



65 - 74



50 - 64



0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 What is philosophy of film? Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 02 Skepticism Lecture and tutorial (3 hr)  
The Matrix Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 03 Is film art? Lecture and tutorial (3 hr)  
Week 04 Narration and cinema Lecture and tutorial (3 hr)  
Rashomon Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 05 Cinematic realism Lecture and tutorial (3 hr)  
Week 06 Unknowness Lecture and tutorial (3 hr)  
Letter from an Unknown Woman Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 07 Other minds skepticism Lecture and tutorial (3 hr)  
Week 08 Love and beauty Lecture and tutorial (3 hr)  
Groundhog Day Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 09 The question of acknowledgment Lecture and tutorial (3 hr)  
Week 10 The Ordinary Lecture and tutorial (3 hr)  
The Awful Truth Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 11 Imaginative identification Lecture and tutorial (3 hr)  
Week 12 Selfhood Lecture and tutorial (3 hr)  
Bladerunner Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 13 Moral perfectionism Lecture and tutorial (3 hr)  

Attendance and class requirements

  • Attendance: According to Faculty Board Resolutions, students in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences are expected to attend 90% of their classes. If you attend less than 50% of classes, regardless of the reasons, you may be referred to the Examiner’s Board. The Examiner’s Board will decide whether you should pass or fail the unit of study if your attendance falls below this threshold.
  • Lecture recording: Most lectures (in recording-equipped venues) will be recorded and may be made available to students on the LMS. However, you should not rely on lecture recording to substitute your classroom learning experience.
  • Preparation: Students should commit to spend approximately three hours’ preparation time (reading, studying, homework, essays, etc.) for every hour of scheduled instruction.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. This unit of study will introduce students to philosophical issues through their experience and reflection upon 6 films. The course will discuss different ideas of what philosophy in film might be and introduce students to the importance of Stanley Cavell’s thinking to this issue. Generically, this unit of study should help to impart new forms of understanding (especially new ways of looking at film, philosophy, and philosophy in film), enhance critical thinking skills, and facilitate the ability to speak and write clearly, rationally and succinctly.
  • LO2. Read, understand and critically engage with philosophical texts both historical and contemporary.
  • LO3. Identify, formulate and assess philosophical problems and demonstrate an understanding of important conceptual distinctions.
  • LO4. Demonstrate disciplinary expertise in several major areas of philosophy, such as aesthetics, epistemology, ethics, the history of philosophy, logic, metaphysics, theories of the self, philosophy of science, and political philosophy.
  • LO5. Express themselves precisely and demonstrate an ability to make rationally persuasive arguments.
  • LO6. Demonstrate sensitivity, intellectual honesty, generosity and cultural competence in interpretation and argument.
  • LO7. Effectively apply philosophical knowledge and approaches to issues encountered in an interdisciplinary context.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

No changes have been made since this unit was last offered


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

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