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K-State Today

April 29, 2013

Philosophy professor presents 'Theater, Dance, Performance and Time' in London

Submitted by Heather Sanders

James Hamilton, professor of philosophy, presented a paper titled "Theater, Dance, Performance and Time" today to the department of dance at the University of Roehampton, London, U.K.

The paper explores the temporal dimensions of audience understandings of performances using Bayesian learning theory to model audience perceptions.

A central feature of any artistic performance — and most non-artistic performances as well — is that they have duration, they occur in time. This import of this simple fact for the study of the reception of the content of a theater or dance performance has not been well understood by philosophers or performance theorists, and, in many cases, not even acknowledged. In his presentation, Hamilton suggested a way of taking the temporal dimensions of these forms into account in a plausible story about the acquisition of the contents of performances.

The key thing is to see that spectators do not only experience a performance in time, but also reason about it in time. To account not only for spectators' experiences but also their reasoning, Hamilton makes two suggestions: The first is simply to treat spectators at these kinds of events as learners who are attempting to discern the causal structure that leads them to the experiences they have. The second is to think of the mechanism by which that discernment is exercised, in time, as adequately modeled using Bayesian learning theory.