Searching for the Source of Executive Attention

Psyche 15 (1):137-154 (2009)
William James presaged, and Alan Allport voiced criticisms of cause theories of executive attention for involving a homunculus who directs attention. I review discussions of this problem, and argue that existing philosophical denials of the problem depend on equivocations between different senses of “Cartesian error”. Another sort of denial tries to get around the problem by offering empirical evidence that such an executive attention director exists in prefrontal cortex. I argue that the evidence does not warrant the conclusion that an executive director can be localized in prefrontal cortex unless dubious assumptions are made, and that computational models purporting to support these assumptions either beg the question, or fail to model executive attention in terms of cause theories.
Keywords attention  cognitive control  neuroscience  reduction
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