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PHIL11-130: Philosophy and Film January 2020 [Standard]

General information

This subject introduces a number of central philosophical questions as they encountered in feature films, short films, and on television. In such films and television shows as The Matrix, Gattaca, The Simpsons, Total Recall, Groundhog Day, and Dr Strangelove, students will encounter and discuss issues of personal identity, the reality of the material world, the ethics of genetic engineering, the idea of virtue, and the nature of the mind.


Academic unit:Faculty of Society & Design
Subject code:PHIL11-130
Subject title:Philosophy and Film
Subject level:Undergraduate
Semester/Year:January 2020
Credit points:10

Delivery & attendance

Delivery mode:


Workload items:
  • Lecture: x12 (Total hours: 36) - Weekly Lecture
  • Tutorial: x12 (Total hours: 12) - Weekly Tutorial
  • Personal Study Hours: x12 (Total hours: 72) - Recommended study hours


Prescribed resources: No Prescribed resources. After enrolment, students can check the Books and Tools area in iLearn for the full Resource List.
[email protected] & Email:[email protected] is the online learning environment at Bond University and is used to provide access to subject materials, lecture recordings and detailed subject information regarding the subject curriculum, assessment and timing. Both iLearn and the Student Email facility are used to provide important subject notifications. Additionally, official correspondence from the University will be forwarded to students’ Bond email account and must be monitored by the student.

To access these services, log on to the Student Portal from the Bond University website as

Enrolment requirements

Requisites: ?


Restrictions: ?


Assurance of learning

Assurance of Learning means that universities take responsibility for creating, monitoring and updating curriculum, teaching and assessment so that students graduate with the knowledge, skills and attributes they need for employability and/or further study.

At Bond University, we carefully develop subject and program outcomes to ensure that student learning in each subject contributes to the whole student experience. Students are encouraged to carefully read and consider subject and program outcomes as combined elements.

Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs)

Program Learning Outcomes provide a broad and measurable set of standards that incorporate a range of knowledge and skills that will be achieved on completion of the program. If you are undertaking this subject as part of a degree program, you should refer to the relevant degree program outcomes and graduate attributes as they relate to this subject.

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Subject Learning Outcomes (SLOs)

On successful completion of this subject the learner will be able to:
  1. Understand the aims and methods of philosophy.
  2. Understand issues in philosophy, including philosophy of art, epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of mind and ethics.
  3. Have capacity to write intelligently and engagingly about the ideas expressed in, or raised by, films.
  4. Discuss philosophical ideas in a respectful and engaging manner.


Assessment details

TypeTask%Timing*Outcomes assessed
*Class Participation Tutorial Participation 10% Ongoing 1, 2, 4.
Essay Essay (1500 words) 30% Week 5 1, 2, 3.
Essay Final Essay (2000 words) 40% Week 12 1, 2, 3.
*In-Class Quiz - Individual Paper-based Examination (Closed) 20% Week 14* 1, 2, 3.
  • * Assessment timing is indicative of the week that the assessment is due or begins (where conducted over multiple weeks), and is based on the standard University academic calendar
  • C = Students must reach a level of competency to successfully complete this assessment.

Assessment criteria

High Distinction 85-100 Outstanding or exemplary performance in the following areas: interpretative ability; intellectual initiative in response to questions; mastery of the skills required by the subject, general levels of knowledge and analytic ability or clear thinking.
Distinction 75-84 Usually awarded to students whose performance goes well beyond the minimum requirements set for tasks required in assessment, and who perform well in most of the above areas.
Credit 65-74 Usually awarded to students whose performance is considered to go beyond the minimum requirements for work set for assessment. Assessable work is typically characterised by a strong performance in some of the capacities listed above.
Pass 50-64 Usually awarded to students whose performance meets the requirements set for work provided for assessment.
Fail 0-49 Usually awarded to students whose performance is not considered to meet the minimum requirements set for particular tasks. The fail grade may be a result of insufficient preparation, of inattention to assignment guidelines or lack of academic ability. A frequent cause of failure is lack of attention to subject or assignment guidelines.

Quality assurance

For the purposes of quality assurance, Bond University conducts an evaluation process to measure and document student assessment as evidence of the extent to which program and subject learning outcomes are achieved. Some examples of student work will be retained for potential research and quality auditing purposes only. Any student work used will be treated confidentially and no student grades will be affected.

Study information

Submission procedures

Students must check the [email protected] subject site for detailed assessment information and submission procedures.

Policy on late submission and extensions

A late penalty will be applied to all overdue assessment tasks unless an extension is granted by the subject coordinator. The standard penalty will be 10% of marks awarded to that assessment per day late with no assessment to be accepted seven days after the due date. Where a student is granted an extension, the penalty of 10% per day late starts from the new due date.

Policy on plagiarism

University’s Academic Integrity Policy defines plagiarism as the act of misrepresenting as one’s own original work: another’s ideas, interpretations, words, or creative works; and/or one’s own previous ideas, interpretations, words, or creative work without acknowledging that it was used previously (i.e., self-plagiarism). The University considers the act of plagiarising to be a breach of the Student Conduct Code and, therefore, subject to the Discipline Regulations which provide for a range of penalties including the reduction of marks or grades, fines and suspension from the University.

Bond University utilises Originality Reporting software to inform academic integrity.

Feedback on assessment

Feedback on assessment will be provided to students within two weeks of the assessment submission due date, as per the Assessment Policy.

Disability support

If you have a disability, illness, injury or health condition that impacts your capacity to complete studies, exams or assessment tasks, it is important you let us know your special requirements, early in the semester. Students will need to make an application for support and submit it with recent, comprehensive documentation at an appointment with a Disability Officer. Students with a disability are encouraged to contact the Disability Office at the earliest possible time, to meet staff and learn about the services available to meet your specific needs. Please note that late notification or failure to disclose your disability can be to your disadvantage as the University cannot guarantee support under such circumstances.

Subject curriculum

What can we know about the world? This is one of the oldest - and hardest - philosophical questions. The sceptic answers: nothing! Rene Descartes, the great French philosopher of the 17th century was not a sceptic, but he introduced a seemingly devastating argument for scepticism: the dreaming argument. Then, in the late 20th century, filmmaker Paul Verhoeven, with the help of Philip K. Dick (who wrote the story) and, of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger, update the argument in a remarkable way.

The Matrix ups the ante, with what looks like an even deeper sceptical scenario perpetrated by the machines of The Matrix. This is a version of Descartes' Evil Demon Hypothesis. We use the film to explore the vexed philosophical question of the nature of reality.

Movie-makers love time-travel: The Terminator saves the world by travelling back in time, Donnie Darko saves his mother and kid sister by travelling back in time. But does time travel make any sense? Could I go back in time, kill my own grandfather and so ensure that my own mother was never born? If my mother was never born, then I was never born. But how could I then be around to do all the grandfather-killing? We present a philosopher's guide to making time travel possible.

Is it possible, even in principle, for a robot to think - really think? Can a robot fall in love? (Steven Spielberg thinks they can.)

What is the difference between a person with free will and a puppet? It depends on what we mean by "free will", of course. We find out by playing with the Dark Mirror episode Bandersnatch.

What is the role of memory in establishing our identity? Should we be held responsible for doing something that we could have no memory of doing? Memento is a film that challenges conventional philosophical notions of the relation between identity and memory. We use it to explore the limits of personal identity.

People willingly sit in darkened rooms and watch horrible events unfold;events that would distress and revolt them were they ever truly encountered. Why? This is the paradox of horror. We explore the question by watching a truly disturbing realist horror film from the Austrian master Michael Haneke; a kind of deconstruction of all those rampant killing movies.

Groundhog Day runs an extraordinary thought experiment. How does one construct a meaningful life if evey day is pretty much a repetition of every other day? What is meaning? How is it related to happiness? What does death and mortality have to do with it?

The moral of Woody Allen's brilliant and bleak film is that it pays to be morally bad. Nice people get walked all over. Evil-doers prosper. So why be a good person? Does Woody Allen come up with an answer? Does he even pose the question right?

How much luck do you need in order to be good? What kind of luck? What does this mean for our judgement of other people?

We try to answer this question with help from the Joker and Batman (and Commissioner Gordon).

Approved on: Nov 27, 2019. Edition: 1.4