What is art? Why is art important? What does art tell us about the way we do relate — and should relate — to our world? The Camden Philosophical Society’s seventh annual Philosophy at the Edge conference, on Philosophy and Art: Views from the 21st Century, will offer a day of thought-provoking discussion and debate on such issues Saturday, July 27, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 33 Chestnut St.

The perspective is contemporary, and the discussion will be geared toward the general public and practiced philosophers alike. All are welcome to the event, which also is sponsored by Camden Public Library.

The day will start with a talk by University of Maine Professor Kirsten Jacobson on Perceptual Openness and Institutional Closure in Contemporary Artworks, focused particularly on the works of Canadian multi-media artist and writer Luis Jacob and American painter and philosophical thinker Philip Buntin. Jacobson's research interests include the interpersonal significance of space, the nature of home and dwelling and issues of "existential health."

Science will enter the program with Bates College Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy William P. Seeley querying whether art, neuroscience and philosophy are Unlikely Partners or Natural Bedfellows? Seeley argues that neuroscience can be used to model and explain the way artworks across a range of media communicate their content, using examples from painting, sculpture, dance and music.

After a break for lunch, the afternoon session will begin with a look at art in a social context. Art Teaches: The Pedagogy and Praxis of Liberation is the theme to be developed by Ken Krafchek, founding director of the Office of Community Arts Partnerships at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Krafchek suggests that art and the art world can help set us free — as individuals and communities — to engage the world in new empowering ways.

Each speaker will talk for about 50 minutes, followed by 25 minutes of open discussion. More questions and discussion will accompany an hour-long panel in the afternoon that will bring all three speakers together.

A $20 donation is requested. Parking is available at the Wood Street lot next to St. Thomas' church. Those who wish to attend are asked to register in advance via email to info@philosophyedge.com. More details on the topic and speakers are available online at PhilosophyEdge.com.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115 or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.