Alliance to Advance Liberal Arts Colleges (AALAC) Workshop, 2017

Vision Science and the Liberal Arts
August 5-6, 2017
Rhodes College, Memphis, TN

AALAC Debriefing

Videos of the talks may be found here. Accompanying slides are here.


Vision is our most critical sense, utilizing, by some estimates, 50% of our neural processing. The widespread and intuitive appeal of visual perception has drawn interest from the liberal arts for millennia, from art history, to philosophy, to neuroscience. In the domain of art, our brains have no difficulty interpreting a 3D scene depicted on a 2D canvas. Artists bend the physics of our world to create compelling visual illusions, implicitly providing insight into the inner workings of our brains. In philosophy, phenomenologists reason about the role of vision in conscious experience, and just how much unconscious vision influences our behaviors. During this workshop, we will explore the connections between these disciplines through the common thread of visual experience. Some of the workshop themes will include: How has art revealed to scientists some of the neural architecture of vision, including depth, color, form, and shadow perception? What is the connection between phenomenology and physical reality? How does one best design an advanced or first-year seminar centered on the connections between visual perception and these other disciplines?

The purpose of this workshop is to explore the rich connections vision science has to seemingly disparate disciplines by bringing in scholars from art history, philosophy, neuroscience, and psychology.

Jason Haberman, Rhodes College

Jeremy Wilmer, Wellesley College
Miriam Clinton, Rhodes College
Patrick Cavanagh, Dartmouth College
Rosa Lafe-Sousa, Formerly at Wellesley College
Mariko Moher, Williams College
Michael Cohen, Amherst College
Dan Levin, Vanderbilt University
Rebecca Fowler, FedEx

Background on the AALAC:
The liberal arts colleges that comprise the AALAC vary in size, region, and resources but share common educational goals and institutional challenges. The AALAC strives to advance liberal arts education through collective efforts to support faculty research and teaching so as to enhance the overall experience of students and to develop faculty leadership. By working together, AALAC members seek to develop a broader view of their institutions in the landscape of higher education and thereby to address more effectively the pressing challenges facing American liberal arts colleges. Through assessment of AALAC activities and dissemination of our findings, the organization seeks to share best practices with other liberal arts colleges and to make the case to the larger public for the value of liberal education in the twenty-first century.