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Seeing the Light: Exploring Ethics Through Movies

March 2012, ©2011, Wiley-Blackwell
Seeing the Light: Exploring Ethics Through Movies (EHEP002831) cover image


Seeing the Light: Exploring Ethics Through Movies is an engaging and innovative approach to the study of philosophy and the development of moral reasoning skills.
  • Features broad coverage of topics in ethics and moral reasoning
  • Offers an innovative and imaginative approach to showing relevance of movies for ethical reflection
  • Draws on a diverse selection of popular movies, foreign films, and documentaries to illustrate ethical dilemmas and character development on the big screen that has application to our lives
  • Presents coverage of  major ethical theories ranging from Ethical Egoism and Cultural Relativism to Utilitarianism, Kantian Ethics, Rawls' Justice Theory, Aristotle's Virtue Ethics, and Feminist Ethics
  • Demonstrates how film is a powerful vehicle for sharpening skills in analysis and moral reasoning
  • Includes accompanying website
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Table of Contents

Preface xi

Acknowledgments xvi

0.0 Introduction to the Text 1

Where We Go From Here 5

Structure of the Text 6

Works Cited 7

Online Resources 7

Unit 1 The Human Condition 9

1.0 Introduction to Unit 1 11

Tools for the Journey 14

Aristotle’s Poetics and the Six Components of a Movie 15

Works Cited 21

1.1 Authenticity 22

The Ethical Framework: Existential Philosophy 23

SPOTLIGHT: Groundhog Day 24

SPOTLIGHT: Up in the Air 30

Short Takes: Revolutionary Road 36

Outtakes: Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Paulain (Amélie) 37

Short Takes: The Visitor 38

Outtakes: Alice and Midnight in Paris 39

Works Cited 40

Online Resources 41

Discussion Questions 42

1.2 Personal Identity 43

SPOTLIGHT: Avatar 45

SPOTLIGHT: The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum 48

Short Takes: All of Me 52

Short Takes: Big 55

Short Takes: Prelude to a Kiss 55

Outtakes: The Unmistaken Child 57

Outtakes: Lât Den Rätte Kama In (Let the Right One In) 58

Outtakes: Being John Malkovich and Memento 58

Works Cited 59

Online Resources 60

Discussion Questions 61

1.3 Autonomy and Liberty 62

SPOTLIGHT: Million Dollar Baby 64

SPOTLIGHT: District 9 67

SPOTLIGHT: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days 73

Short Takes: The Shawshank Redemption 75

Outtakes: The Soloist 77

Outtakes: K-19: The Widowmaker 77

Outtakes: Yogen (Premonition) 78

Works Cited 79

Online Resources 80

Discussion Questions 81

1.4 Courage and Inner Strength 82

SPOTLIGHT: The Hurt Locker 85

SPOTLIGHT: The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day 88

SPOTLIGHT: El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan's Labyrinth) 91

Short Takes: Die Hard 96

Outtakes: Dirty Pretty Things 97

Outtakes: Thunderheart 98

Works Cited 99

Online Resources 99

Discussion Questions 100

Unit 2 Ethical Theory 101

2.0 Introduction to Unit 2 103

Moral Agency 104

Applying the Theories 105

Works Cited 115

Online Resources 115

Discussion Questions 116

2.1 Ethical Egoism 117

The Ethical Framework: Ethical Egoism 119

SPOTLIGHT: What About Bob ? 121

SPOTLIGHT: The Proposal 125

Short Takes: Clueless 128

Outtakes: The Social Network 130

Outtakes: The Purple Rose of Cairo 131

Outtakes: Solitary Man 132

Outtakes: Ghost Town 133

Works Cited 133

Online Resources 134

Discussion Questions 134

2.2 Cultural Relativism 135

The Ethical Framework: Cultural Relativism 136

SPOTLIGHT: Witness 138

SPOTLIGHT: Gran Torino 140

SPOTLIGHT: Mutluluk (Bliss) 142

Short Takes: Boyz N the Hood 144

Short Takes: The Godfather 145

Outtakes: The Namesake 147

Works Cited 148

Online Resources 149

Discussion Questions 149

2.3 Utilitarianism 150

The Ethical Framework: Utilitarianism 151

SPOTLIGHT: Outbreak 153

SPOTLIGHT: Minority Report 155

Short Takes: The Manchurian Candidate 158

Short Takes: Torchwood: Children of Earth 159

Short Takes: Secrecy 160

Outtakes: Star Chamber 162

Outtakes: Inception 163

Works Cited 165

Online Resources 166

Discussion Questions 166

2.4 Kantian Ethics 167

The Ethical Framework: Kantian Ethics 169

SPOTLIGHT: Alien 171

SPOTLIGHT: The Truman Show 176

SPOTLIGHT: School of Rock 178

Short Takes: La Historia Oficial (The Official Story) and Cautiva (Captive) 180

Short Takes: Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring 182

Outtakes: Shattered Glass 183

Works Cited 184

Online Resources 185

Discussion Questions 185

2.5 Rawls' Justice Theory 186

The Ethical Framework: Rawls' "Justice As Fairness" 188

SPOTLIGHT: My Cousin Vinny 190

SPOTLIGHT: The Accused and The Brave One 193

Short Takes: Michael Clayton 197

Short Takes: John Q 199

Short Takes: Stand and Deliver 201

Outtakes: El Secreto de Sus Ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes) 203

Outtakes: Food, Inc. and Darwin’s Nightmare 204

Works Cited 205

Online Resources 205

Discussion Questions 206

2.6 Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics 207

The Ethical Framework: Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics 208

SPOTLIGHT: The Insider 210

SPOTLIGHT: To Kill a Mockingbird 214

Short Takes: Idiocracy 218

Short Takes: Lethal Weapon 2 219

Outtakes: Ghosts of Abu Ghraib and Taxi to the Dark Side 220

Works Cited 223

Online Resources 223

Discussion Questions 224

2.7 Feminist Ethics 225

The Ethical Framework: Feminist Ethics 226

SPOTLIGHT: Pleasantville 230

SPOTLIGHT: The Island 234

Short Takes: Terminator 2: Judgment Day 237

Short Takes: Secrets and Lies 239

Outtakes: Salt 240

Works Cited 241

Online Resources 242

Discussion Questions 242

Unit 3 Ethical Dilemmas 245

3.0 Introduction to Unit 3 247

Works Cited 251

Online Resources 251

3.1 Confronting the Dilemma 253

Setting Up the Dilemma 254

SPOTLIGHT: Fargo 258

SPOTLIGHT: Vitus 263

Short Takes: Fearless and The Sweet Hereafter 265

Short Takes: The Fabulous Baker Boys and Crazy Heart 267

Outtakes: Juno 268

Outtakes: Slumdog Millionaire 268

Works Cited 269

Online Resources 269

Discussion Questions 270

3.2 Encountering Evil 271

SPOTLIGHT: Silence of the Lambs 274

SPOTLIGHT: The Dark Knight and The Empire Strikes Back 277

SPOTLIGHT: Wizard of Oz 280

Short Takes: Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner) 283

Short Takes: The Matrix 284

Outtakes: Fanny and Alexander 285

Outtakes: Nuit et Brouillard (Night and Fog) 285

Works Cited 287

Online Resources 288

Discussion Questions 288

3.3 Impact of Perspective 289

Assessing the Impact of Diverse Perspectives 290

Frames of Reference 291

SPOTLIGHT: House of Sand and Fog 292

SPOTLIGHT: 21 Grams 295

SPOTLIGHT: Powwow Highway 298

Short Takes: Så som i himmele (As it is in Heaven) 302

Outtakes: Mississippi Masala 304

Outtakes: Paradise Now 304

Works Cited 305

Online Resources 305

Discussion Questions 306

3.4 Reflecting on Ethical Decisions 307

Ethical Reflection 308

SPOTLIGHT: Touching the Void 311

SPOTLIGHT: Sleep Dealer 315

Short Takes: Thelma & Louise 318

Short Takes: The Verdict 320

Short Takes: North Country 321

Outtakes: Efter brylluppe (After the Wedding) 324

Works Cited 325

Online Resources 325

Discussion Questions 326

Unit 4 Conclusion and Sources 327

4.0 Conclusion to the Text 329

Works Cited 332

4.1 Reading List 333

4.2 Contemporary Moral Problems 335

4.3 Official Websites 338

Index 344

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Author Information

Wanda Teays is a professor of philosophy and ethics at Mount St. Mary's College in Los Angeles, where she is also Chair of the Philosophy Department. She is the author or editor of numerous books and articles on ethics, global justice, and critical reasoning, including Bioethics and Culture; Bioethics, Justice, and Health Care; and Second Thoughts: Critical Thinking for a Diverse Society.

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“Wanda Teays in Seeing the Lighthas written an enthusiastic volume for use as the primary textbook for an introductory class in ethics, both normative and applied.  Although intended for a post-secondary audience the text could be used successfully in a secondary educational setting as well.”  (Metapsychology, 13 August 2013)



Wanda Teays is truly an original thinker and captivating writer.  Now I know how to answer the question "Have you seen any good movies lately?"  Teays analyzes the ethical content of a battery of classical and very recent films, and I can't wait to get a copy of the book and teach it.  What an intellectual and emotional blast that will be.

-Rosemarie Tong, UNC Charlotte


This is a wonderful book!  Film is a dynamic vehicle to engage philosophy.  You should buy this book if you want to energize your teaching or if you're looking for new avenues for your research.  Teays has got it spot on.

-Michael Boylan, Marymount University

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Purchase Options
Seeing the Light: Exploring Ethics Through Movies
ISBN : 978-1-4443-5586-4
224 pages
March 2012
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Seeing the Light: Exploring Ethics Through Movies
ISBN : 978-1-4443-3288-9
383 pages
March 2012, ©2011
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Seeing the Light: Exploring Ethics Through Movies
ISBN : 978-1-4443-3287-2
383 pages
March 2012
$109.95   BUY

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