Philosoflicks 6: Thoughtless Images, aka Guns R Us.


In “Let’s Make More Movies,” the epistemological anarchist Paul Feyerabend wrote this:

The separation of subjects that is such a pronounced characteristic of modern philosophy is … not altogether undesirable. It is a step on the way to a more satisfactory type of myth. What is needed to proceed further is not the return to harmony and stability as too many critics of the status quo, Marxists included, seem to think, but a form of life in which the constituents of older myths —theories, books, images, emotions, sounds, institutions — enter as interacting but antagonistic elements. Brecht’s theatre was an attempt to create such a form of life. He did not entirely succeed. I suggest we try movies instead. (P. Feyerabend, “Let’s Make more Movies,” in The Owl of Minerva: Philosophers on Philosophy, Ch. J. Bontempo and S. J. Odell (eds), McGraw-Hill: New York 1975, pp. 201-210.)

By cine-phenomenology, I mean the direct expression of philosophical ideas in cinematic, visual terms, from a first-person point of view.
Intertitles are printed texts inserted into (especially silent) films in order to convey dialogue, descriptions, or expository material directly relevant to but not necessarily covered by the filmed material, e.g.,
And montage is the cinematic technique, discovered by Sergei Eisenstein, of combining, juxtaposing, ordering, and sequencing (more generally, synthesizing) visual images for the production of various kinds of aesthetic and emotional effect.This is my sixth Philosoflick.  It’s an experiment in visual philosophy, blending text and images–employing cine-phenomenology, intertitles, and montage–inspired by Feyerabend and Eisenstein, by Chris Marker’s La Jetée, and by W.G. Sebald’s pictorial novels.


At the end of the 19th century and crossing over into the early 20th century, when professional academic philosophy and empirical psychology had their parting-of-the-ways in the major flap about Psychologism, one of the important sub-flaps was a controversy within empirical psychology itself, about “imageless thought.”

Briefly put, Introspectionist psychologists in the phenomenological tradition of Franz Brentano were deeply split as to whether human thinking DID or DIDN’T require associated mental imagery.

Some experimental Introspectionists said YES!, with first-person empirical evidence to prove it, and some other experimental introspectionists said HELL NO!, with first-person empirical evidence to prove it.

The result was a general skepticism about first-person evidence and phenomenology more generally in empirical psychology, and ultimately an even deeper skepticism about the very existence of human consciousness, over and above brain processes and human behavior.

Enter Behaviorism and hard-core “scientific psychology,” followed eventually by a Cognitivist reaction, then Cognitive Neuroscience.

And “the rest is silence”–cognitive neurosilence, that is.

Although it is obviously closely related, my specific topic in this philosoflick is not imageless thought, yes or no?, but instead its flip-side, thoughtless images, by which I mean:

pure images that are immediately identified under some label or name, dissociated from any further discursive (i.e., conceptual, propositional, or logical) thinking.

So, e.g., you’re watching TV or a movie and someone comes onto the screen, front and center, 3/4 profile, like most such shots, or face-on, and boom!, you see a palm tree, the iconic LA city hall, him and his uniform, hat, badge, and big ugly gun in one perceptual take, and label him “LA cop!” That’s a thoughtless image.

More precisely, however, I’m interested in–

(i) the cognitive powers and effects of labeled pure images, dissociated from further discursive thinking,

(ii) the ideological manipulation of cognition by means of labeled pure images, for capitalist economic and/or contemporary political purposes, and also, sharply on the contrary,

(iii) the anti-manipulative and subversive powers and effects of labeled pure images, in service of intellectual and practical liberation.

I call this philosoflick “Thoughtless Images, aka Guns R Us.”

The American War of Independence

Revolutionary War Pistols

Revolutionary War Rifles

Yosemite Sam

Quick Draw McGraw

American Civil War Machine Gun

Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo

An American Civil War Soldier Got His Gun

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, 1929

Scarface, Starring Paul Muni

Machine Gun Kelly

Johnny Dillinger Got His Gun

Gun Crazy, Starring Peggy Cummins and John Dall

Annie Get Your Gun, Starring Betty Hutton

Lee Harvey Oswald Got His Gun

John F. Kennedy Assassination

Lee Harvey Oswald Assassination

Bobby Kennedy Assassination

Martin Luther King Assassination

Mark David Chapman Got His Gun

John Lennon Assassination in Art

John Lennon Assassination in Reality

Yosemite Sam

Dirty Harry, Starring Clint Eastwood

Smith & Wesson, Springfield MA U.S.A.

Lots of Guns

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold Got Their Guns


School Shooting Victims

Warning This Property Protected by Smith & Wesson

Tupac Shakur Got His Gun

The Notorious B.I.G. Got His Gun

Yosemite Sam

Die Hard Trilogy, Starring Bruce Willis

Off the Chart

Unrelated, but NERF guns (or blasters) have gotten SO FREAKING AWESOME ...

Paolo (our junior brother)at TOYS’R’US (Trying out out a Nerf gun ...

Toy Gun

Help NRA Protect Your Gun Rights for the Next 200 Years!

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About Z

Z is a 50-something cosmopolitan anarcho-philosopher, and previously was a tenured full professor of philosophy at a public university somewhere in North America, but still managed to escape with his life.