Howard University College of Arts and Sciences
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Current Topics: Africana Philosophy and Film

Phil 164

Dr. Charles Verharen

The first part of the course will examine the origins and nature of the most basic questions philosophy raises: 

What is there in the universe or outside of it?
What is knowledge, how may we reach the truth?
How should we decide what is valuable?
How should we live our lives?

The course will furnish broad outlines of the four branches of philosophy that treat these questions: ontology, epistemology, axiology, and praxiology. Beginning with ancient Egyptian and ending with contemporary African American reflections, the course will sample a wide range of Africana philosophy. The special interest of the course will be to examine answers to these questions found in films expressing Africana experience. If her schedule permits, Dr. Françoise Pfaff of Howard’s Department of Modern Languages will present a lecture on Hollywood’s image of Africa in the first part of the course. The precise content of the first part of the course will be determined by the students’ backgrounds in philosophy. 

The second part of the course will pursue Cynthia Freeland and Thomas Wartenberg’s idea that “the relationship between philosophy and film is not one-way: While philosophy can bring out important aspects of films, film also can challenge philosophy to think of itself and its questions in new ways” (Philosophy and Film, 1-2). The course will philosophize about film as an aesthetic object, comparing theories of film criticism with literary criticism. However, its primary interest is in uncovering hidden expressions of philosophy in film. 

The course will analyze West African, Caribbean, and United States films selected by consensus among students and the instructor. The selection may include films such asKeita (The History of the Griot), Ta Dona, Saaraba, Yeelen, Taafe Fanga, Genesis, Sarraounia, Black Shack Alley, Black Orpheus, Daughters of the Dust and other films by contemporary African American directors.


African American Philosophy
Afro-Caribbean Philosophy
Ancient Egyptian Philosophy
Ancient Egyptian Philosophy
Ancient Greek Philosophy
Classical Ethics
Comparative Philosophy: Philosophical Explanations of Evil Across Cultures
Current Topics: Philosophy and Ethics of Appropriate Technology and Development
Current Topics: Africana Philosophy and Film
Environmental Ethics
Ethics and Public Policy
Ethics of Medical Care
Ethics of Medical Care
History of Africana Philosophy
Introduction to Ethics
Introduction to Philosophy
Introduction to Social and Political Philosophy
Medieval Philosophy
Modern Philosophy
Philosophy of Education
Philosophy of Language
Philosophy of Mind
Philosophy of Religion
Philosophy of Social Science
Principles of Reasoning
Representative Thinkers
Seminar on Aristotle 
Symbolic Logic


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