This chapter argues that attention is a distinctive mode of consciousness, which plays an essential functional role in making information accessible for use in the rational control of thought and action. The main line of argument can be stated quite simply. Attention is what makes information fully accessible for use in the rational control of thought and action. But what makes information fully accessible for use in the rational control of thought and action is a distinctive mode of (...) consciousness. Therefore, attention is a distinctive mode of consciousness. In a slogan: attention is rational-access consciousness. (shrink)
This paper defends and develops the structuring account of conscious attention: attention is the conscious mental process of structuring one’s stream of consciousness so that some parts of it are more central than others. In the first part of the paper, I motivate the structuring account. Drawing on a variety of resources I argue that the phenomenology of attention cannot be fully captured in terms of how the world appears to the subject, as well as against an (...) atomistic conception of attention. In the second part of the paper, I show how the structuring account can be made precise: attention causes and causally sustains phenomenal relations to hold between the parts of the stream of consciousness; most importantly the relation of one part being peripheral to another. I end by pointing out consequences for both the scientific study of attention as well as for several areas of central philosophical interest. (shrink)
Sometime around their first birthday most infants begin to engage in relatively sustained bouts of attending together with their caretakers to objects in their environment. By the age of 18 months, on most accounts, they are engaging in full-blown episodes of joint attention. As developmental psychologists (usually) use the term, for such joint attention to be in play, it is not sufficient that the infant and the adult are in fact attending to the same object, nor that the (...) one’s attention cause the other’s. The latter can and does happen much earlier, whenever the adult follows the baby’s gaze and homes in on the same object as the baby is attending to; or, from the age of six months, when babies begin to follow the gaze of an adult. We have the relevant sense of joint attention in play only when the fact that both child and adult are attending to the same object is, to use Sperber and Wilson’s (1986) phrase, ‘mutually manifest’. Psychologists sometimes speak of such jointness as a case of attention being ‘shared’ by infant and adult, or of a ‘meeting of minds’ between infant and adult, all phrases intended to capture the idea that when joint attention occurs everything about the fact that both subjects are attending to the same object is out in the open, manifest to both participants. (shrink)
Often when there is no attention to an object, there is no conscious perception of it either, leading some to conclude that conscious perception is an attentional phenomenon. There is a well-known perceptual phenomenon—visuo-spatial crowding, in which objects are too closely packed for attention to single out one of them. This article argues that there is a variant of crowding—what I call ‘‘identity-crowding’’—in which one can consciously see a thing despite failure of attention to it. This conclusion, (...) together with new evidence that attention to an object occurs in unconscious perception, suggests there may be a double dissociation between conscious perception of an object and attention to that object, constraining the extent to which consciousness can be constitutively attentional. The argument appeals to a comparison between the minimal resolution (or ‘‘grain’’) of object-attention and object-seeing. (shrink)
The openness of joint awareness between two or more subjects is a perceptual phenomenon. It involves a certain mutual awareness between the subjects, an awareness that makes reference to that very awareness itself. Properly characterized, such awareness can generate iterated awareness ‘x is aware that y is aware that x is aware...’ to whatever level the subjects can sustain. The openness should not be characterized in terms of Lewis–Schiffer common knowledge, the conditions for which are not met in many basic (...) cases of joint attention. A range of phenomena, including linguistic communication and other interpersonal relations, that have previously been described in terms of common knowledge should rather be seen as involving open joint awareness. An Appendix to this chapter discusses the relations of this approach to Barwise's discussions, and disputes the claim that these mental phenomena require the postulation of self-involving situations. (shrink)
Attention only "recently"--i.e. in the eighteenth century--achieved chapter status in psychology textbooks in which psychology is conceived as a natural science. This report first sets this entrance, by sketching the historical contexts in which psychology has been considered to be a natural science. It then traces the construction of phenomenological descriptions of attention from antiquity to the seventeenth century, noting various aspects of attention that were marked for discussion by Aristotle, Lucretius, Augustine, and Descartes. The chapter goes (...) on to compare selected theoretical and empirical developments in the study of attention over three time slices: mid eighteenth century (C. Wolff, C. Bonnet, J. F. Abel), turn of the twentieth century (E. B. Titchener), and late twentieth century. Significant descriptive, theoretical, and empirical continuity emerges when these developments are considered in the large. This continuity is open to several interpretations, including the view that attention research shows long-term convergence because it is conditioned by the basic structure of attention as a natural phenomenon, and the less optimistic view that theory making in at least this area of psychology has been remarkably conservative when considered under large grain resolution, consisting in the reshuffling of a few core ideas. (shrink)
In this Introduction, I identify seven discrete aspects of attention brought to the fore by by considering the phenomenon of effortless attention: effort, decision-making, action syntax, agency, automaticity, expertise, and mental training. For each, I provide an overview of recent research, identify challenges to or gaps in current attention theory with respect to it, consider how attention theory can be advanced by including current research, and explain how relevant chapters of this volume offer such advances.
This chapter makes the case for a relational version of an experientialist view of joint attention. On an experientialist view of joint attention, shifting from solitary attention to joint attention involves a shift in the nature of your perceptual experience of the object attended to. A relational analysis of such a view explains the latter shift in terms of the idea that, in joint attention, it is a constituent of your experience that the other person (...) is, with you, jointly attending to the object. We need such an analysis of joint attention to explain the possibility of success in tasks such as coordinated attack. (shrink)
Because psychological studies of attention and cognition are most commonly performed within the strict confines of the laboratory or take cognitively impaired patients as subjects, it is difficult to be sure that resultant models of attention adequately account for the phenomenon of effortless attention. The problem is not only that effortless attention is resistant to laboratory study. A further issue is that because the laboratory is the most common way to approach attention, models resulting from (...) such studies are naturally the most widely propagated, these models naturally tend to be biased toward features of attention most amenable to laboratory study, and these models by their implications set the agenda for future study that leads back to the laboratory. In this self-reinforcing system, features of attention not amenable to laboratory study are naturally neglected by researchers. In this chapter, I suggest an alternative model of attention as a heuristic for opening paths to further profitable research. The features of attention emphasized in this model are not new, but the synthesis is novel and sheds some light on issues relevant to the topic of effortless attention. I begin with the five following observations: -/- 1. One naturally pays attention to a task of current interest. 2. There are (at least) two distinct modes of attention—selective and diffuse. 3. Attention is a constantly shifting avenue for the assimilation of information. 4. Information is not forced in from outside but is captured through internal sensitization. 5. Human information processing is fundamentally syntactic. -/- Combining these five observations yields an explanatory model of attention that is not only consistent with the data from the many studies on attention in recent decades but also allows us to investigate the neglected phenomenon of effortless attention. The model relies on the notions of apertures, draw, and syntax and is explicated by addressing each of the above observations in turn. In the final part of the chapter, I explore how the model expands our understanding of effortless attention. (shrink)
The question of what it means to be aware of others as subjects of mental states is often construed as the question of how we are epistemically justified in attributing mental states to others. The dominant answer to this latter question is that we are so justified in virtue of grasping the role of mental states in explaining observed behaviour. This chapter challenges this picture and formulates an alternative by reflecting on the interpretation of early joint attention interactions. It (...) argues that the standard picture is committed to an implausible account of children's awareness of the co-attender's focus of attention. On a more natural interpretation, children engaged in joint attention perceptually recognize the co-attender's attitude to some object, as something like the (correct) answer to the question of what the object is like. The developmentally basic case is not that of attributing mental states as the causes of observed behaviour but of understanding perceived attitudes and actions as appropriate responses to the shared world. The chapter concludes by exploring how this developmental claim bears on mature adult knowledge of other minds. (shrink)
This chapter argues that a central division among accounts of joint attention, both in philosophy and developmental psychology, turns on how they address two questions: What, if any, is the connection between the capacity to engage in joint attention triangles and the capacity to grasp the idea of objective truth? How do we explain the kind of openness or sharing of minds that occurs in joint attention? The chapter explores the connections between answers to both questions, and (...) argues that theories can be divided into two distinct types according to how these connections are developed. (shrink)
It is plausible to think, as many developmental psychologists do, that joint attention is important in the development of getting a full grasp on psychological notions. This chapter argues that this role of joint attention is best understood in the context of the simulation theory about the nature of psychological understanding rather than in the context of the theory. Episodes of joint attention can then be seen not as good occasions for learning a theory of mind but (...) rather as good occasions for developing skills of expressing and sharing thoughts. This approach suggests seeing language acquisition as learning how to focus and fine-tune joint attention already present in the normal basic relation of carer and infant. Philosophers in thinking about other minds have concentrated too much on the contrast of first and third person, I vs he/she, and forgotten the centrality of the contrast of first and second person, I vs you, and the related centrality of we. (shrink)
I propose a new argument showing that conscious vision sometimes depends constitutively on conscious attention. I criticise traditional arguments for this constitutive connection, on the basis that they fail adequately to dissociate evidence about visual consciousness from evidence about attention. On the same basis, I criticise Ned Block's recent counterargument that conscious vision is independent of one sort of attention (‘cognitive access'). Block appears to achieve the dissociation only because he underestimates the indeterminacy of visual consciousness. I (...) then appeal to empirical work on the interaction between visual indeterminacy and attention, to argue for the constitutive connection. (shrink)
Much of recent philosophy of perception is oriented towards accounting for the phenomenal character of perception—what it is like to perceive—in a non-mentalistic way—that is, without appealing to mental objects or mental qualities. In opposition to such views, I claim that the phenomenal character of perception of a red round object cannot be explained by or reduced to direct awareness of the object, its redness and roundness—or representation of such objects and qualities. Qualities of perception that are not captured by (...) what one is directly aware of or by representational content are instances of what Gilbert Harman has called “mental paint” (Block, 1990; Harman, 1990). The claim of this paper is that empirical facts about attention point in the direction of mental paint. The argument starts with the claim (later modified) that when one moves one's attention around a scene while keeping one's eyes fixed, the phenomenology of perception can change in ways that do not reflect which qualities of objects one is directly aware of or the way the world is represented to be. These changes in the phenomenology of perception cannot be accounted for in terms of awareness of or representation of the focus of attention because they manifest themselves in experience as differences in apparent contrast, apparent color saturation, apparent size, apparent speed, apparent time of occurrence and other appearances. There is a way of coping with these phenomena in terms of vague contents, but vague contents cannot save direct realism or representationism because the kind of vagueness required clashes wth the phenomenology itself. (shrink)
I argue that when perception plays a guiding role in intentional bodily action, it is a necessary part of that action. The argument begins with a challenge that necessarily arises for embodied agents, what I call the Many-Many Problem. The Problem is named after its most common case where agents face too many perceptual inputs and too many possible behavioral outputs. Action requires a solution to the Many-Many Problem by selection of a specific linkage between input and output. In bodily (...) action the agent perceptually selects, and in this way perceptually attends to, relevant information so as to guide the execution of specific movements. Since perceptual attention is a necessary part of solving the Many-Many Problem, it is a necessary part of bodily action. Indeed, the process of implementing a solution to the Many-Many Problem, as constrained by the agent's motivational state, just is the agent's performing an intentional bodily action in the relevant way. (shrink)
I argue that perceptual content is always affected by the allocation of one’s attention. Perception attributes determinable and determinate properties to the perceived scene. Attention makes (or tries to make) our perceptual attribution of properties more determinate. Hence, a change in our attention changes the determinacy of the properties attributed to the perceived scene.
We offer a framework for assessing what the structure of episodic memory might be, if one accepts the Buddhist denial of persisting selves. This paper is a response to Jonardon Ganeri's paper "Mental time travel and attention", which explores Buddhaghosa's ideas about memory. (It will eventually be published with a reply by Ganeri).
In this paper, I argue that visual attention is cognitively penetrated by intention. I present a detailed account of attention and its neural basis, drawing on a recent computational model of neural modulation during attention: divisive normalization. I argue that intention shifts computations during divisive normalization. The epistemic consequences of attentional bias are discussed.
According to commonsense psychology, one is conscious of everything that one pays attention to, but one does not pay attention to all the things that one is conscious of. Recent lines of research purport to show that commonsense is mistaken on both of these points: Mack and Rock (1998) tell us that attention is necessary for consciousness, while Kentridge and Heywood (2001) claim that consciousness is not necessary for attention. If these lines of research were successful (...) they would have important implications regarding the prospects of using attention research to inform us about consciousness. The present essay shows that these lines of research are not successful, and that the commonsense picture of the relationship between attention and consciousness can be. (shrink)
Perceptual attention is essential to both thought and agency, for there is arguably no demonstrative thought or bodily action without it. Psychologists and philosophers since William James have taken attention to be a ubiquitous and distinctive form of consciousness, one that leaves a characteristic mark on perceptual experience. As a process of selecting specific perceptual inputs, attention influences the way things perceptually appear. It may then seem that it is a specific feature of perceptual representation that constitutes (...) what it is like to consciously attend to an object. In fact conscious attention is more complicated. In what follows, I argue that the phenomenology of conscious attention to what is perceived involves not just a way of perceptually locking on to a specific object. It necessarily involves a way of cognitively locking on to it as well. (shrink)
Higher-Order Perception (HOP) theories in the philosophy of mind are offered as explanations of what it is that makes a mental state a conscious state. According to HOP, a mental state is conscious just in case it is itself represented in a quasi-perceptual way by an internal monitor or scanning device. We start with one of the more popular objections to HOP and a seemingly innocuous concession to it: identifying the internal monitor with the faculty of attention. We conclude (...) by showing how this concession undermines HOP. (shrink)
The selection of wanted from unwanted messages requires discriminatory mechanisms of as great a complexity as those in normal perception, as is indicated by behavioral evidence. The results of neurophysiology experiments on selective attention are compatible with this supposition. This presents a difficulty for Filter theory. Another mechanism is proposed, which assumes the existence of a shifting reference standard, which takes up the level of the most important arriving signal. The way such importance is determined in the system is (...) further described. Neurophysiological evidence relative to this postulation is discussed. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to develop and defend an Attentional View of bodily awareness, on which attention is necessary for bodily awareness. The original formulation of the Attentional View is due to Marcel Kinsbourne. First, I will show that the Attentional View of bodily awareness as formulated by Kinsbourne is superior to other accounts in the literature for characterizing the relationship between attention and bodily awareness. Kinsbourne’s account is the only account in the literature so far (...) which can accommodate key neurological diseases such as personal neglect. Second, when I consider Kinsbourne’s view in more detail, I will argue that Kinsbourne’s Attentional View faces problems because it is too reductive. Kinsbourne deviates from the standard taxonomy on which there is a body schema and a body image. Instead he reduces the body image to the neural representation of the body in the somatosensory cortex, the body schema and attentional shifts. I will present two challenges to Kinsbourne’s view which demonstrate that Kinsbourne’s reduction of the body image is unsuccessful. Finally, I will present a revised version of the Attentional View that is both empirically adequate and philosophically satisfactory. (shrink)
Is attention a cognitive process? I reconstruct and critically assess an argument first proposed by Christopher Mole that it cannot be so. Mole’s argument is influential because it creates theoretical space for a unifying analysis of attention at the subject level (though it does not entail it). Prominent philosophers working on attention such as Wayne Wu and Philipp Koralus explicitly endorse it, while Sebastian Watzl endorses a related version, this despite their differing theoretical commitments. I show that (...) Mole’s argument is invalid, amend it to secure its validity, but argue that it still fails. I consider the extent to which the failure of Mole’s argument spreads to the versions offered by Wu, Koralus and Watlz. Mole’s argument fails because it equivocates between the set of conditions that suffice for constituting attention and the subset of those conditions which are salient, but insufficient, for constituting it. Reflection on this distinction has consequences for the individuation not just of attentional processes but all cognitive processes. (shrink)
Three experiments investigated the relationship between subjective experience and attentional lapses during sustained attention. These experiments employed two measures of subjective experience to examine how differences in awareness correspond to variations in both task performance and psycho-physiological measures . This series of experiments examine these phenomena during the Sustained Attention to Response Task . The results suggest we can dissociate between two components of subjective experience during sustained attention: task unrelated thought which corresponds to an absent minded (...) disengagement from the task and a pre-occupation with one's task performance that seems to be best conceptualised as a strategic attempt to deploy attentional resources in response to a perception of environmental demands which exceed ones ability to perform the task. The implications of these findings for our understanding of how awareness is maintained on task relevant material during periods of sustained attention are discussed. (shrink)
Highlights of a difficult history -- The preliminary identification of our topic -- Approaches -- Bradley's protest -- James's disjunctive theory -- The source of Bradley's dissatisfaction -- Behaviourism and after -- Heirs of Bradley in the twentieth century -- The underlying metaphysical issue -- Explanatory tactics -- The basic distinction -- Metaphysical categories and taxonomies -- Adverbialism, multiple realizability, and natural kinds -- Adverbialism and levels of explanation -- Taxonomies and supervenience relations -- Rejecting the process : first view (...) -- Supervenience-failure -- The modal commitments of the process : first view -- The interference argument : a putative problem for adverbialist accounts -- Cognitive unison -- The problem with attitude based adverbialism -- Gilbert Ryle and Alan White -- White's argument against disposition-based adverbialism -- The cognitive unison theory -- Tasks -- Cognitive processes -- Potential service of a task -- Superordinate tasks -- Some features of the theory -- Divided attention -- Degrees of attention and merely partial attention -- The causal life of attention -- Mental causation -- How to respond to mental causation objections -- The causal role of attention -- Attention as an enabling condition -- Counterfactuals -- The causal relevance of attention per se -- Counterfactuals and causally relevant properties -- Objections to counterfactual analysis of causation and of causal relevance -- The extrinsicness of unison -- The privative character of unison and the problem of absence causation -- Causal exclusion -- Consequences for cognitive psychology -- Psychology and metaphysics -- The metaphysical commitments of the process-identifying project -- The diverse explanatory construals of current psychological results -- Reasons for deflation -- Inductively unreliable properties -- Questions without answers -- The positive payoff -- Philosophical work for the theory of attention -- Putting attention to philosophical work -- Attention and reference -- Attention and consciousness -- Prospects for optimism. (shrink)
Children sometimes lose themselves in make-believe games. Actors sometimes lose themselves in their roles. Readers sometimes lose themselves in their books. From people's introspective self-reports and phenomenological experiences, these immersive experiences appear to differ from ordinary experiences of simply playing a game, simply acting out a role, and simply reading a book. What explains the difference? My answer: attention. -/- [Unpublishable 2007-2017. This paper was referenced in Liao and Doggett (2014).].
Attention has been studied in cognitive psychology for more than half a century, but until recently it was largely neglected in philosophy. Now, however, attention has been recognized by philosophers of mind as having an important role to play in our theories of consciousness and of cognition. At the same time, several recent developments in psychology have led psychologists to foundational questions about the nature of attention and its implementation in the brain. As a result there has (...) been a convergence of interest in fundamental questions about attention. This volume presents the latest thinking from the philosophers and psychologists who are working at the interface between these two disciplines. Its fourteen chapters contain detailed philosophical and scientific arguments about the nature and mechanisms of attention; the relationship between attention and consciousness; the role of attention in explaining reference, rational thought, and the control of action; the fundamental metaphysical status of attention, and the details of its implementation in the brain. These contributions combine ideas from phenomenology, neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and philosophy of mind to further our understanding of this centrally important mental phenomenon, and to bring to light the foundational questions that any satisfactory theory of attention will need to address. (from OUP website). (shrink)
Prominent figures in the philosophical literature on attention hold that the connection between attention and selection is essential (Mole, 2011), necessary (Wu, 2011; 2014), or conceptual (Smithies, 2011). I argue that selection is neither essentially, necessarily, nor conceptually tied to attention. I first isolate the target conception of selection that I deny is so tightly coupled with attention: graded intramodal selection within consciousness. I analyse two visual cases: analysis of the first case shows that there can (...) be attention without a connection to tasks or action; analysis of the second case shows that there can be attention without a phenomenal foreground/background structure. Finally, I extend the argument into the domain of the body by considering a form of meditative absorption in body sensations to recapitulate the conclusions drawn from the two visual cases. (shrink)
The topic of this paper is the complex interaction between attention, fixation, and one species of change blindness. The two main interpretations of the target phenomenon are the ‘blindness’ interpretation and the ‘inaccessibility’ interpretation. These correspond to the sparse view (Dennett 1991; Tye, 2007) and the rich view (Dretske 2007; Block, 2007a, 2007b) of visual consciousness respectively. Here I focus on the debate between Fred Dretske and Michael Tye. Section 1 describes the target phenomenon and the dialectics it entails. (...) Section 2 explains how attention and fixation weigh in these debates, and argues that Dretske’s hyper-rich view fails precisely because he overlooks certain effects of attention and fixation. Section 3 explains why Tye’s view is also unsatisfying, mainly because he misconceives the degree of access. Section 4 then puts forward the positive model covariance, which has it that the degree of cognitive access tracks the degree of phenomenology, and contrasts it with Block’s view on the Sperling iconic memory paradigm. The paper ends with a discussion of levels of seeing, which involve crowding, indexing, and other visual phenomena. Change ‘blindness’ is a set of phenomena that was discovered about two decades ago, yet an entirely satisfying understanding is still lacking. To move forward, a more detailed understanding of attention and fixation is called for. (shrink)
Many alleged counter-examples to intentionalism, the thesis that the phenomenology of perceptual experiences of a given sense modality supervenes on the contents of experiences of that modality, can be avoided by adopting a liberal view of the sorts of properties that can be represented in perceptual experience. I argue that there is a class of counter-examples to intentionalism, based on shifts in attention, which avoids this response. A necessary connection between the contents and phenomenal characters of perceptual experiences can (...) be preserved by distinguishing perceptual phenomenology from the phenomenology of attention; but even if this distinction is viable, these cases put pressure on the thesis that phenomenal character can, in general, be explained in terms of mental representation. (shrink)
The perceptual model of emotions maintains that emotions involve, or are at least analogous to, perceptions of value. On this account, emotions purport to tell us about the evaluative realm, in much the same way that sensory perceptions inform us about the sensible world. An important development of this position, prominent in recent work by Peter Goldie amongst others, concerns the essential role that virtuous habits of attention play in enabling us to gain perceptual and evaluative knowledge. I think (...) that there are good reasons to be sceptical about this picture of virtue. In this essay I set out these reasons, and explain the consequences this scepticism has for our understanding of the relation between virtue, emotion, and attention. In particular, I argue that our primary capacity for recognizing value is in fact a non-emotional capacity. (shrink)
What is attention? How does attention shape consciousness? In an approach that engages with foundational topics in the philosophy of mind, the theory of action, psychology, and the neurosciences this book provides a unified and comprehensive answer to both questions. Sebastian Watzl shows that attention is a central structural feature of the mind. The first half of the book provides an account of the nature of attention. Attention is prioritizing, it consists in regulating priority structures. (...)Attention is not another element of the mind, but constituted by structures that organize, integrate, and coordinate the parts of our mind. Attention thus integrates the perceptual and intellectual, the cognitive and motivational, and the epistemic and practical. The second half of the book concerns the relationship between attention and consciousness. Watzl argues that attentional structure shapes consciousness into what is central and what is peripheral. The center-periphery structure of consciousness cannot be reduced to the structure of how the world appears to the subject. What it is like for us thus goes beyond the way the world appears to us. On this basis, a new view of consciousness is offered. In each conscious experience we actively take a stance on the world we appear to encounter. It is in this sense that our conscious experience is our subjective perspective. (shrink)
In many theories in contemporary philosophy of mind, attention is constitutively linked to phenomenal consciousness. Ned Block has recently argued that ‘identity crowding’ provides an example of subjects consciously seeing something to which they are unable to attend. Here I examine the reasons that Block gives for thinking that this is a case of a consciously perceived item that we are unable to attend to, and I offer a different interpretation.
Learning depends on attention. The processes that cue attention in the moment dynamically integrate learned regularities and immediate contextual cues. This paper reviews the extensive literature on cued attention and attentional learning in the adult literature and proposes that these fundamental processes are likely significant mechanisms of change in cognitive development. The value of this idea is illustrated using phenomena in children's novel word learning.
One sceptical rejoinder to those who claim that sensory perception is cognitively penetrable is to appeal to the involvement of attention. So, while a phenomenon might initially look like one where, say, a perceiver’s beliefs are influencing her visual experience, another interpretation is that because the perceiver believes and desires as she does, she consequently shifts her spatial attention so as to change what she senses visually. But, the sceptic will urge, this is an entirely familiar phenomenon, and (...) it hardly involves some special or theoretically important cognitive effect on sensory perception. Even supposing that the sceptic is correct about cases that are accurately described in this way, the rejoinder oversimplifies the possible roles that attention may play in mediating cognition and perception. This paper aims to identify these different roles, and by emphasis on empirical research on feature-based and object-based attention. What emerges is a plausible and well- evidenced mental schema that describes attention -mediated cognitive penetration. At the very least, the burden of proof is shifted to the sceptic, as he then must show that there are no mental phenomena involving attention in the more nuanced ways described here. One additional benefit of this analysis is that it illuminates various features of attention and its relation to both cognition and phenomenal consciousness. Therefore the analysis should be of interest to a broad range of theorists of the mind, and not just those invested in the cognitive penetration debate. (shrink)
The contemporary discussion of modesty has focused on whether or not modest people are accurate about their own good qualities. This essay argues that this way of framing the debate is unhelpful and offers examples to show that neither ignorance nor accuracy about the good qualities related to oneself is necessary for modesty. It then offers an attention-based account, claiming that what is necessary for modesty is to direct one’s attention in certain ways. By analyzing modesty in this (...) way, we can best explain the distinct features of modesty, keep much of what is intuitive in contemporary accounts, and better understand why modesty is a virtue at all. (shrink)
What is involved in the consciousness of a conscious, "occurrent" propositional attitude, such as a thought, a sudden conjecture or a conscious decision? And what is the relation of such consciousness to attention? I hope the intrinsic interest of these questions provides sufficient motivation to allow me to start by addressing them. We will not have a full understanding either of consciousness in general, nor of attention in general, until we have answers to these questions. I think there (...) are constitutive features of these states which can be identified by broadly philosophical investigation, and in the early part of this paper I will try to do some of that identification. -/- Beyond the intrinsic interest of the topic, the nature of such conscious attitudes is highly pertinent to a philosophical account of psychological self-knowledge. So I will also say something about the significance of the constitutive features of these conscious attitudes for a philosophical account of how it can be that a thinker has a distinctive kind of knowledge of some of his mental states. The general challenge in this area is to find anything intermediate between the unexceptionable but uninformative, on the one hand, and the absolutely unbelievable on the other. (shrink)
In the paper I argue that medieval philosophers proposed several notions of the senses’ activity in perception. I illustrate the point using the example of two Franciscan thinkers – Peter Olivi (ca. 1248–1298) and Peter Auriol (ca. 1280–1322). Olivi’s notion of active perception assumes that every perceptual act demands a prior focusing of the mind’s attention. Furthermore, Olivi is partially inspired by the extramissionist theories of vision and reinterprets the notion of a visual ray postulated by them as a (...) useful model for explaining attention and attentional shifts. In Auriol’s view, perception is active because it participates in producing a perceptual content. e senses not only receive information from the environment, they also actively process it and, in Auriol’s words, put the external object into apparent being. e peculiar feature of Auriol’s account is his obvious tendency to conceive perceptual content as both dependent on our perceptual activity and external to the senses. Finally, I consider the two theories in the context of mirror perception – while Olivi focused on the ability of mirrors to switch attention’s direction, Auriol investigated the metaphysical nature of mirror images. (shrink)
The phenomenon of attention fascinated the psychologist and philosopher William James and human experience is unimaginable without it. Yet until recently it has languished in the backwaters of philosophy. Recent years, however, have witnessed a resurgence of interest in attention, driven by recognition that it is closely connected to consciousness, perception, agency and many other problems in philosophy of mind and cognitive science. This is the first book to introduce and assess attention from a philosophical perspective. Wayne (...) Wu discusses the following central topics and problems: • a brief history of theories of attention, including the work of William James and founders of experimental psychology such as Wilhelm Wundt • empirical studies of attention - such as the Spotlight Model, Feature Integration Theory and the Biased Competition model of attention - and whether they answer philosophical questions about attention • philosophical accounts of attention, particularly the ‚cognitive unison‘ account and the relationship between attention and consciousness • is attention necessary for perceptual consciousness? Can attention ever be unconscious? • is attention needed for knowledge of the external world? What role does attention play in introspection and self-knowledge? • what role does attention play in bodily action? Can there be 'joint attention' and is this necessary for cooperative behaviour? A central feature of the book is its skilful analysis of empirical work on attention and how this relates to philosophy. Additional features, including chapter summaries, annotated further reading and a glossary makes this an ideal starting point for anyone studying the philosophy of attention for the first time as well as more advanced students and researchers, in psychology and cognitive science as well as philosophy. (shrink)
As an explicit organizing metaphor, memory aid, and conceptual framework, the prefrontal cortex may be viewed as a five-member ‘Executive Committee,’ as the prefrontal-control extensions of five sub-and-posterior-cortical systems: the ‘Perceiver’ is the frontal extension of the ventral perceptual stream which represents the world and self in object coordinates; the ‘Verbalizer’ is the frontal extension of the language stream which represents the world and self in language coordinates; the ‘Motivator’ is the frontal cortical extension of a subcortical extended-amygdala stream which (...) represents the world and self in motivational/emotional coordinates; the ‘Attender’ is the frontal cortical extension of a subcortical extended-hippocampal stream which represents the world and self in spatiotemporal coordinates and directs attention to internal and external events; and the ‘Coordinator’ is the frontal extension of the dorsal perceptual stream which represents the world and self in body- and eye-coordinates and controls willed action and working memory. This tutorial review examines the interacting roles of these five systems in perception, working memory, attention, long - term memory, motor control, and thinking. (shrink)
Wayne Wu argues that attention is necessary for action: since action requires a solution to the ‘Many–Many Problem’, and since only attention can solve the Many–Many Problem, attention is necessary for action. We question the first of these two steps and argue that it is based on an oversimplified distinction between actions and reflexes. We argue for a more complex typology of behaviours where one important category is action that does not require a solution to the Many–Many (...) Problem, and so does not require attention. (shrink)
We assemble here in this time and place to discuss the thesis that conscious attention can provide knowledge of reference of perceptual demonstratives. I shall focus my commentary on what this claim means, and on the main argument for it found in the first five chapters of "Reference and Consciousness". The middle term of that argument is an account of what attention does: what its job or function is. There is much that is admirable in this account, and (...) I am confident that it will be the foundation, the launching-pad, for much future work on the subject. But in the end I will argue that Campbell's picture makes the mechanisms of attention too smart: smarter than they are, smarter than they could be. If we come to a more realistic appraisal of the skills and capacities of our sub-personal minions, the "knowledge of reference" which they yield will have to be taken down a notch or two. (shrink)
What is the philosophical significance of attention? The present article provides an overview of recent debates surrounding the connections between attention and other topics of philosophical interest. In particular, it discusses the interplay between attention and consciousness, attention and agency, and attention and reference. The article outlines the questions and contemporary positions concerning how attention shapes the phenomenal character of experience, whether it is necessary or sufficient for consciousness, and whether it plays a special (...) role in the best philosophical theories of action or conceptual reference. Various interdependencies between the answers to these questions are indicated, as well as how these answers might depend on the metaphysics of attention. Together with its companion piece this article serves as an introduction to the philosophy of attention. (shrink)
The focus of this paper will be on singular thoughts. In the first section I will present Jeshion’s cognitivism; a view that holds that one should characterize singular thoughts by their cognitive roles. In the second section I will argue that, contrary to Jeshion’s claims, results from studies of object tracking in cognitive psychology do not support cognitivism. In the third section I will discuss Jeshion’s easy transmission of singular thought and argue that it ignores a relevant distinction between general (...) and specific understanding of names. Finally, the last section will argue that conscious attention should replace Jeshion’s significance condition as a necessary condition for one to have a singular thought. The paper will show that we need to take seriously the acquaintance requirement for singular thoughts, as even the easy transmission of singular thoughts with the use of names will be called into question. (shrink)