"Intersection of Aesthetics and Ethics in Hugo Munsterberg's The Photoplay: A Psychological Study"


last update: 20151225

Intersection of Aesthetics and Ethics in Hugo Munsterberg's The Photoplay: A Psychological Study

This paper elucidates the intersection of aesthetics and ethics in Hugo Munsterberg's Photoplay: A Psychological Study (1916). How a photoplay influences the audience, the main theme of Photoplay, is a problem that has aesthetic, ethical, and psychological aspects. In Photoplay, which consists of "Aesthetics of Photoplay" and "Psychology of Photoplay", the ethics of a photoplay is an underlying rather than overt theme. When Munsterberg spoke of how a photoplay influences the audience, however, he explicitly spoke of the moral influence. If we elucidate his ethics and aesthetics, we have to understand his idealism, Neo-Kantian philosophy, in Philosophie der Werte (1908), and Eternal Values (1909). He argued the significance of idealism for Americans and criticized American culture from the German Idealistic viewpoint between 1900 and 1910. During WWI, he tried to ease the political and cultural conflict between Germany and America. In this context, in 1915, he found aesthetic values in Photoplay. That is, it achieved the paradigm shift from exhibition to narrative in the film style represented by D.W. Griffith. In a narrative-oriented film, the audience empathizes with characters, aesthetically or morally. Munsterberg idealistically discussed the aesthetic and moral emotions of a photoplay audience. This paper describes the philosophical and cultural background behind Munsterberg's film theory.

Keywords: Hugo Munsterberg, The Photoplay: A Psychological Study, classical film theory, art and morality, aesthetics and ethics

REV: 20151225
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