Freshman Seminar: Philosophical Themes in Movies

Spring 2011

When and Where: Tuesdays, 1pm to 2:50pm, in Humanities and Social Sciences 8025. Note: no meeting 12 April.

Instructor: Jonathan Cohen (email: 'joncohen', followed by the at sign, followed by 'aardvark.', followed by the four letter initials of the university, followed by '.edu')
office: (858) 534 6812

Office hours: Tuesdays 10-11:30, in H&SS 8072 (and by appointment; please feel free to call)


We'll be discussing philosophical themes and problems that emerge in popular movies. Topics to be discussed may include knowledge and reality, moral responsibility, personal identity, and emotion.

Course Expectations

Students will be expected to watch the assigned movies (easily obtainable through rental outlets, netflix, amazon instant video, etc., and free at the UCSD film and video collection at Geisel Library -- links below) and to come to the seminar ready to participate in discussion.

In addition, every student will be required to write a very short review (one page, maximum) of each of the three assigned movies that brings out what is (in your view) the single most interesting philosophical question raised by the movie, and explains how the movie sheds light on that question. These reviews will be graded on a simple acceptable/unacceptable scale.


All freshman seminars are graded P/NP. You must hand in your movie review at every meeting (after the first one) to receive a P in the course.

Tentative Schedule

Please note that the course skips a week in April when I have to be out of town: there will be no meeting on 12 April.

Date Movie Assignment
29 MarchIntroduction; no reading
5 April Memento
19 April The Matrix
26 AprilCrimes and Misdemeanors