Last updated June 2016

W. P. Seeley


Research and other interests:

Cognitive Science, Philosophy of Art, Philosophy of Mind. My research in cognitive

science utilizes artworks to explore how memory, attention, sensorimotor processing,

and affective processing are used in ordinary contexts to tune the content of perception

and conscious experience to local task demands, instrumental needs, and the apical

goals of organisms in a dynamic environment. This is methodological strategy within

cognitive science that has been fruitfully deployed by neuroscientists who use expert

dancers and novice viewers to study expertise effects in perception, psychologists who employ elements of film studies to explore the relative influences of memory, attention, and environment on the structure of perceptual experience, and psychologists who study the crossmodal foundations of our capacity to recognize and understand emotionally expressive behavior in social contexts. I argue that the strategy generalizes to other media and can be used to address a range philosophical questions about crossmodal perception, evaluative perception, affective perception and the nature of emotions, the ontology of art, and the normative dimension of artistic appreciation.

My collaborators Dr. Catherine Buell (Mathematics, Fitchburg State University) and Rick Sethi (Computer Science, Fitchburg State University) and I in the Visual Stylometry Research Group recently received an NEH grant to develop digital image analysis software to explore the nature of artistic style. I am also currently working on a book titled Attentional Engines: A Perceptual Theory of Art.

I am also a sculptor. My sculpture has been exhibited in New York City, Tokyo, The Addison Gallery of American Art, and Yale University. More recently I have been experimenting and collaborating with my philosophy of art students, exploring automatic and chance procedures in drawing and dance. I have also collaborated with colleagues in dance, choreography, and computer science to develop an automatic scoring technique for multi-media performances

Once upon a time I was an avid wilderness canoeist. I had hitched a ride 75 kilometers down Lac Mistassini with Tommy Voyageur to the Cree village of Baie du Poste in the picture above. I wanted to check on the location of a forest fire blocking our way up the Wabissinane River. We were five weeks from James Bay and looking for a route around the conflagration.

There are some stories that once upon a time or twice I played guitars with some folks in New York City. None of the muddy porch players have been booked for a garage band hoedown in a while (CBGB's, Brownies, and The Lakeside Lounge are closed - only Arlene Grocery survives). I do, however, currently have aspirations to remember how to play my mandolin and learn how zydeco goes on an accordion.


William P. Seeley

Department of Philosophy

University of New Hampshire

Lecturer in Humanities

Bates College

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