William P. Seeley

William P. Seeley



Ph.D., M.Phil., M.A., City University of New York; M.F.A., B.A., Columbia

Bill Seeley works at the intersection of Cognitive Science, Philosophy of Art, and Philosophy of Mind. He is interested in a range of topics that bind these fields together, including debates about the explanatory scope of embodied cognition, questions about high-level perceptual content and affective perception, questions about crossmodal and multisensory perception, questions about the nature of intentionality, questions about the role played by simulation theory in explanations of interpretation and empathy in narrative fiction, picture perception and ordinary contexts, and questions about what accounts for the artistic value we ascribe to artworks.

Bill is interested in understanding how knowledge, motor skill, emotions, and affective states more generally influence the content of perception and perceptual experience. He has chosen to employ artworks as the vehicle for this exploration. Artworks can be treated as attentional engines, as abstract stimuli designed to harness the influence of a broad range of ordinary affective, perceptual, and cognitive processes in order to convey their content. This means that one can employ artworks as tools to illustrate and explore the range of psychological and neurophysiological processes that underwrite our ordinary affective, perceptual, and cognitive engagement with others and the environment we inhabit. This strategy has been most explicitly developed by neuroscientists using expert dancers and novice viewers to study motor expertise effects in perception. We also find it in discussions of attention and event perception in neuroscience of film, as well as in discussions of painting, expressive music, and narrative understanding in literature.

Bill’s current research projects include  a collaboration in visual stylometry with Professor Catherine Buell (Mathematics), Matt Duvall (Director, Imaging Center), Peter Cole (‘15), Devon Brown (’14), Brent Talbot (’14) — the goal of this research project is to develop image analysis algorithms to categorize paintings by artist, school, and genre; a collaboration with Professor Jason Castro (Neuroscience) exploring the content and phenomenology of olfactory experience; the development of a Lego robotics lab curriculum for courses exploring philosophical issues in artificial intelligence and embodied cognition; and the development of a model for affective perception designed to integrate cognitive and embodied appraisals in theories of emotions and to address concerns about the utility of psychology and neuroscience to explanations of appreciative judgments about artworks.


Bill Seeley CV

Bill Seeley’s personal webpage:  http://www.bates.edu/~wseeley