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The Mind Screen

Identification Desire and Its Cinematic Arena

Georg Schmid

For well over a century cinema has exerted enormous influence, yet many questions regarding its fascination remain unanswered. Films work so well because the viewers tend to unconsciously identify with the actors/actresses. The desire to become another, substituting identity by identification, can be traced to the illusion that the filmic heroes/heroines are immortal – identifying with them raises the possibility of gaining «deathlessness.» Viewers can, without real life risks, experiment with the existential drafts presented; the power of imagination is mobilized. Based on a multidisciplinary approach (semiotics, psychoanalysis, cultural anthropology, plus a healthy dose of film history), this book presents prolegomena of a philosophy of cinema.
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47 Inject and Evacuate


Brain research and the neurosciences, it appears, have established a paradigm that has widely substituted earlier philosophical and psychoanalytical attempts to explain what is going on in our minds. Witness the often heated (not to say ungracious) debates between the exponents of one or the other camp. Colin McGinn (habitually not intent to please) counts among those who simply brush aside, often quite bellicosely, research work on the functioning of the brain as quasi unscholarly–it being, if one can put it that way, devoid of real insight except for mere technicalities. In his turn, Sam Harris, in a fierce rebuttal of the concept of free will has cast fundamental doubt on “soul stuff” by saying that “The unconscious operations of a soul would grant you no more freedom than the unconscious physiology of your brain does.”

Indeed it is hard to see how even a perfect neuro-imaging device would help us understand why something is going on in our brains–and not just how. It may well be that any explanation has to be undertaken from a position which could be described as being separate, distant, “transcendental” from (or to, respectively) of what is to be explained. Even purely situational explanations demand an outside perspective, and this of course is required in a much more crucial way in regard to problems of the utmost complexity. Not least in this respect it is astonishing that psychoanalytical techniques of attempts to explain “soul stuff” have been discarded...

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