11 April: Martin Seel

Visiting expert


Illusion and Immersion in Cinema

My talk will discuss the relations between four possible claims concerning the relation between illusion and immersion within the experience of feature films: 1. Illusion explains immersion. 2. Immersion explains illusion. 3. Illusion and immersion explain each other. 4. Immersion can be explained without reference to illusion. In defending thesis (4) I will argue for an anti-illusionist understanding of how movies can move their audience. My message therefore will be: Immersion – in cinema as well as in the other arts – works without illusion.

Active Passivity: On the Aesthetic Variant of Freedom


“Being with oneself in the other” is a well-known formula that Hegel uses to characterize the basic relation of subjective freedom. This phrase points to the fact that subjects can only come to themselves if they remain capable of going beyond themselves. This motif also plays a significant role in Hegel’s philosophy of art. I intend to further develop this motif by exploring the extent to which this polarity of selfhood and otherhood is also characteristic for states of aesthetic freedom. I will not be offering an exegesis of Hegel’s writings, but will attempt to remain as close as possible to the spirit of Hegel’s philosophy – with some help from Kant and Adorno. I shall begin with some key terms on the general state of subjective freedom in order to distinguish it from the particular role of aesthetic freedom and then finally, drawing again on Hegel, to work out the sense in which aesthetic freedom represents an important variant of freedom.

Martin Seel is Professor of Philosophy at the Goethe University Frankfurt. He is the author of many books on philosophy and aesthetics, including Asthetik des Erscheinens, translated into English as Aesthetics of Appearing (Stanford UP, 2004). He is also known as promoter of philosophy beyond academia, having published a regular philosophy column in Germany’s most widely-read weekly newspaper, Die Zeit. A selection of these have been collected in book form as Vom Handwerk der Philosophie, 44 Kolumnen (Munich, 2001). Professor Seel’s visit to the University of Kent is hosted by the Aesthetics Research Centre and supported by the KIASH visiting expert scheme.