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Filming Metaphysical Animals – A Symposium

Date: 3 May 2024

Venue: LAB 006, ARU Cambridge campus, East Road, Cambridge, CB1 1PT

You can also attend the symposium online with MS Teams.

If you are attending in person please register your place through Eventbrite

Blank and white film still of pelicans landing


As well as being friends and contemporaries, G.E.M. (Elizabeth) Anscombe (1919-2001), Philippa Foot (1920-2010), Iris Murdoch (1919-1999) and Mary Midgley (1919-2018) were four of the most important philosophers of the 20th Century. Despite many lively explorations of the intersections between film and philosophy, and the fact that many of the areas worked on by these philosophers (including ethics, metaphysics, and the relation between humans and animals) have been the topic of lively debate, the work of Anscombe, Foot, Midgley, and Murdoch has, to date, had little impact within film studies. This symposium represents a first attempt to remedy this situation. Drawing on specialist research but accessible to a general audience, it will include papers engaging with each of these philosophers’ work, showing various ways that it might help develop our understanding of film. There will also be opportunities for more general discussion, exploring the resonances between various avenues of inquiry that will open up.

In their book Metaphysical Animals (2022), Claire MacCumhaill and Rachael Wiseman write that Anscombe, Foot, Murdoch, and Midgley ‘learnt to see philosophy as... an ancient form of human enquiry, kept alive through thousands of years of conversation’. (p. xi) Filming Metaphysical Animals aims, in its small way, to help continue those ‘thousands of years of conversation’.

Filming Metaphysical Animals is organised by Dominic Lash, Associate Lecturer in Film at ARU. For any enquiries, please email Dominic: [email protected].

We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the British Association of Film, Television, and Screen Studies, which has helped to make this event possible.

To help us with hosting this event please register your attendance on Eventbrite.


10:15am Registration and coffee

10:45am Welcome and opening remarks

11:00am Lucy Bolton (Queen Mary University of London). ‘A strange and startling world’: cinema and the philosophy of Iris Murdoch.

11:30am Byron Davies (Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico City). Archival footage as specimen: photochemical images and organic forms (presenting online).

12:00pm Comfort break

12:10pm Alexander Sergeant (University of Portsmouth). The problem of the trolley problem: adapting Foot's famous thought experiment in popular media.

12:40pm Luke Kuplowsky (York University, Canada). The-world-as-cat: Mitsuaki Iwago's Interspecies Travelogues.

1:10pm Lunch

2:00pm Dominic Lash (ARU). Intention in film after Anscombe.

2:30pm Elizabeth Mackintosh (University of Winchester). Sea Beasts: Midgley, Monsters and Myths.

3:00pm Tomas Elliott (Northeastern University London). Mary Midgley on a trip to Peter Greenaway's ZOO: Evolution, Meaning, and Morality in 1985.

3:30pm Coffee break

3:45pm Closing discussion, beginning with a response to the day’s papers by Anat Pick (Queen Mary University of London).

4:30pm Close