How to Be a Moderate Optimist about Neuroscience in Film Theory and Other Places

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  • 1 University of Southern Maine, USA and University of New Hampshire — Manchester, USA
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Abstract

Research in cognitive science and aesthetics is on the rise. The skeptical position called moderate pessimism grants that neuroscience might play a role in theorizing about the nature of film and other arts, but offers little help with thorny conceptual questions key to understanding the nature of the arts. Moderate optimists note that the scope of neuroscientific research in the arts cannot be resolved in advance. I evaluate the debate between these positions, introduce a diagnostic recognition framework for neuroscience of film and, drawing on research from the neurophysiology of attention, explore the role the framework can play in discussions of narrative understanding and character engagement at the movies. I conclude that moderate optimism is a more promising methodological fit to collaborative research in neuroscience of film.

Contributor Notes

William P. Seeley is a Part-Time Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern Maine and an Adjunct Lecturer at the University of New Hampshire—Manchester. He holds a PhD in philosophy from CUNY-The Graduate Center, an MFA in sculpture from Columbia University, and a BA in philosophy from Columbia University. His research interests lie at the intersection of philosophy of art, cognitive science, and embodied cognition. His published works include a recent book on neuroscience of the arts, Attentional Engines: A Perceptual Theory of the Arts (Oxford). His welded steel constructions have been exhibited in New York City and at a number of colleges and university galleries, including a solo show of outdoor works at Ezra Stiles College at Yale University. He also worked as Head Assistant to the sculptor Ursula Von Rydinsvaard in New York City.

Projections

The Journal for Movies and Mind

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