PHIL 136-H02 - Honors Colloquium in Philosophy – Spring 18

The Philosophy of Film Noir - Syllabus – keep handy for reference


Dr. Aeon J. Skoble  --  341 Tillinghast, x2460

Email:     Web:

Office hours: MTR 11-12, or by appointment


Required Texts:

The Philosophy of Film Noir, Mark T. Conard, ed. (Univ. Press of Kentucky)

Additional readings to be distributed in class or via web

For film viewings, you can either (a) borrow them from your local public library, (b) rent/stream them from Netflix, or (c) buy/stream them at Amazon


Overview and objectives:

The classic period of Film Noir is generally taken to range from The Maltese Falcon (1941) to Touch of Evil (1958), in a cycle of films notable for their unusual lighting, disorienting photography, mysterious characters, sinister plots, and a “dark” (noir) atmosphere that mirrored concerns about corruption, crime, and social decadence.  This course is aimed at examining the philosophical roots, and ramifications, of these films.  We will also consider some films from the “neo-noir” catalogue, and examine how the noir legacy was translated to the small screen, with an eye towards their philosophical dimensions.  Some of the issues involved this semester include: the question of genre, existential themes, values and nihilism, moral ambiguity, reasoning and detection.  We will simultaneously be using film to understand philosophy and philosophy to enhance our appreciation of the films.



This is a one-credit class.  We will meet once a week to discuss the films and the readings, and you will write an 8-10 page paper on a topic to be determined later by mutual agreement, which is due April 23.  In our final meeting, April 30, we will discuss the papers.

Required film viewings:

Classic noir – You should watch these as soon as possible, but not later than January 29:

The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, Kiss of Death, Laura, Detour, The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Big Clock, Double Indemnity, Touch of Evil

Neo-noir – you should watch these as soon as possible, but not later than Feb 20:

Chinatown, Blade Runner, Body Heat, No Way Out, A Simple Plan, Reservoir Dogs

TV Noir – selected episodes (TBA) of Dragnet, Secret Agent, The Fugitive, Miami Vice


General Outline: 

Jan 22 – intro to topic; opening discussion of classic film noir

Jan 29

Feb 5

Feb 12

Feb 19 (class meets WED 2/21)

Feb 26

Mar 5 – spring break week

Mar 12 – begin discussion of neo-noir

Mar 19

Mar 26

Apr 2

Apr 9 - Noir television; the legacy and future of film noir

Apr 16 – no class; state holiday

Apr 23 -- Papers due; final discussion of readings

Apr 30 -discussion of student papers