2009 Colloquium Abstracts

Noël Carroll

Noël Carroll is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at CUNY Graduate School. Authored books include The Philosophy of Motion Pictures (2008), Comedy Incarnate: Buster Keaton, Physical Humor and Bodily Coping (2007), Engaging The Moving Image (2003), Beyond Aesthetics (2001), A Philosophy of Mass Art (1999), Interpreting the Moving Image (1998), Theorizing the Moving Image (1996), The Philosophy of Horror or Paradoxes of the Heart(1990), and Mystifying Movies (1991).

Visual Humor, Cognition and Emotion
Taking single panel cartoons with captions (e.g., New Yorker cartoons) as my focus, I examine how this kind of visual humor engages cognition in the process of engendering comic amusement (where comic amusement is taken to be an emotional or emotion-like state.

Amy Coplan

Amy Coplan is Assistant Professor of Philosophy, California State University at Fullerton. Author of articles in philosophy, aesthetics, and film journals on empathy and emotional engagement with characters in film.

Mood and Movies
How do movies evoke mood responses in viewers? What role do mood responses play in a viewer's overall experience of a film? My paper will address these questions and will compare mood responses to narrative fiction film to mood responses in ordinary life. I will suggest that the case of "movie mood" can help us to understand features of emotional experience in general that have gone underappreciated by philosophers and psychologists.

Gregory Currie

Gregory Currie is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Nottingham, UK, and editor of Mind and Language. Authored books include Arts and Minds (2004), Recreative Minds (with Ian Ravenscroft) (2002), Image and Mind: Philosophy, Film, and Cognitive Science (1995), and The Nature of Fiction (1990), as well as numerous articles and chapters in professional philosophy, aesthetic, and art criticism journals and volumes.

The Irony In Pictures
Are there ironic pictures? Yes, but they are uncommon. Many things people call ironic pictures don't deserve the title. Why are we confused? I suggest a reason that depends on peculiarities of the depictive form of representation. I develop this answer within the context of a pretence theory of irony, and examine several cases of pictures, which might be said to be ironic, only some of which are.

Cynthia Freeland

Cynthia Freeland is Chair and Professor of Philosophy, University of Houston. Authored books include But is it Art?(2001) and The Naked and the Undead: Evil and the Appeal of Horror (1999), as well as numerous articles. She is currently writing a book for Oxford University Press entitled Portraits: A Philosophical Inquiry.

Emotional Expression and the Science of the Face
This talk examines the history of "sciences of the face", or approaches to classifying and explaining how inner emotional states get expressed in outward, visible form. It covers the period from Descartes' The Passions of the Soul (1649) on up to the present, considering various physiognomists, portrait artists, anatomists, photographers, and psychologists, ranging from the French painter Charles le Brun, to Johann Lavater, Charles Darwin, and others, on up to the contemporary psychologist Paul Ekman and video artist Bill Viola. The talk shows there have been surprisingly complex interactions between science and art during this time period.

John Kulvicki

John Kulvicki is Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Dartmouth College. Author of On Images (2006) and articles in professional philosophy journals on perceptible qualities, perceptual representations, and perceptual content.

Twofoldness and Bistability
Ernst Gombrich insisted that our experiences of pictures were twofold, but in a way that assimilated twofoldness to bistable phenomena, such as the Necker cube or Jastrow's duck-rabbit. Multi-stable phenomena are important for a number of reasons within psychology, and Gombrich was deeply influenced by Arnheim and other psychologists of the time. A long tradition within philosophy, starting with Wollheim, suggests that experiences of pictures do not fit such a model. Experiences of pictures, according to Wollheim and many others, are twofold in that one is simultaneously visually aware of both the picture's surface and its content. Researchers are generally unaware of this philosophical proposal, and much research on picture perception still assumes that it is something that should be modelled on bistable phenomena. I suggest some other models for the phenomenon, if one wants to remain true to Wollheim's views about what pictorial experience is like.

Bence Nanay

Bence Nanay is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Biology, Syracuse University, and Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of British Colombia (Spring 2009). Author of many articles in philosophy of mind and philosophy of biology, including several on pictures and picture perception.

Picture Perception and the Two Visual Subsystems
I aim to give a new account of picture perception: of the way our visual system functions when we see something in a picture. My argument relies on the functional distinction between the ventral and dorsal visual subsystems. I propose that it is constitutive of picture perception that our ventral subsystem attributes properties to the scene, whereas our dorsal subsystem attributes properties to the surface. This duality may also be helpful in elucidating Richard Wollheim's concept of the 'twofoldness' of our experience of pictures: the "visual awareness not only of what is represented but also of the surface qualities of the representation". I argue for the following four claims: (a) The depicted object is represented by ventral perception, (b) The depicted object is not represented by dorsal perception, (c) The surface is represented by dorsal perception, (d) The surface is not necessarily represented by ventral perception.

Jesse Prinz

Jesse Prinz is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at CUNY Graduate School. Authored books include The Emotional Construction of Morals (2007), Gut Reactions: A Perceptual Theory of Emotion (2004), and Furnishing the Mind: Concepts and Their Perceptual Basis (2002). Professor Prinz has recently turned his attention to issues in Aesthetics with papers on "The Role of Emotion in Aesthetic Judgment," "Emotion and Aesthetic Value," and "When is Film art?"

Seeing with Feeling
Much recent empirical evidence supports the hypothesis that aesthetic appraisal involves emotional response to art works. On one simple model for thinking about this, we have visual experiences of artworks, and these cause emotional reactions, which, in turn, constitute our assessment of the works as good or bad. This model implies that the visual features are, in some sense, neutral. On another model, aesthetic appraisal is a response to visual features that are infused with affect. We respond to felt features, rather than appraising neutrally experienced works. l argue that there is truth to both models. Aesthetic appraisal implicates emotions at two stages, and the emotions involved in the first stage contribute in a fundamental way to how works of art are seen. I relate this combined model to discussions of thick and thin concepts in ethics, and argue that both are crucially components of aesthetic evaluation and experience.

Mark Rollins

Mark Rollins is Chair and Professor of Philosophy, Washington University in St. Louis. Authored books include Mental Imagery: On the Limits of Cognitive Science. He is co-editor of Begetting Images: Studies in the Art and Science of Symbol Production and is currently writing a book on perception and pictorial art.

Neurology and the New Riddle of Pictorial Style
I consider some recent claims by cognitive scientists and art historians that neuroscience can shed light on the history of artistic styles. I will argue that cognitive neuroscience can shed light on art history, but not in the way that most contemporary thinkers have claimed. It is has been suggested that styles are manners of representing the world that constitute artistic categories, which have been tested and adopted, much as the concepts that are applied to the world through them have been. I suggest instead that cognitive neuroscience shows that the development (and subsequent recognition) of a style, as distinct from the content to which it gives form, depends on the interactive deployment of cognitive and perceptual resources of a more basic sort.