Attention is a central aspect of the mind. Like for other aspects of the mind, philosophers disagree on how to precisely characterize that aspect. Very generally speaking, attention concerns the current selective direction of the mind. Philosophy studies, for example: (a) The nature of attention. What exactly is attention? How are the various theories of attention in psychology and the neurosciences related to metaphysical nature of attention? (b) The explanatory role of attention. What is metaphysical or explanatory relationship between attention and other philosophically interesting aspects of our lives, such as consciousness, demonstrative reference, salience, agency and intentional action, mindfulness, or emotion, (c) The epistemological, aesthetic, ethical and political role of attention. What is the role of attention in the acquisition and exchange of knowledge, for rationality, or epistemic justification? Are certain forms of attention important for aesthetic appreciation? Does ethical virtue require a certain distribution of attention? Is there something problematic about the contemporary ‘attention economy’?
The treatment of attention in James 1890 is widely considered the classic in psychology. One of the most cited neuroscience works is Posner & Petersen 1990. Monograph length treatments of attention in contemporary philosophy include Mole 2010, Watzl 2017 and Jennings 2020. For a specific focus on attention and consciousness, consider e.g. Block 2007, Prinz 2012, and Watzl 2017. For connections to demonstrative reference see Campbell 2002, Smithies 2011, and Dickie 2015. The role of attention for aesthetic experience is the topic of Nanay 2014. For attention and ethics see especially Murdoch 1970. For a popular treatment connecting attention with political issues see Williams 2018. Collections of works in the philosophy of attention and related issues are Mole et al 2011 and Archer 2022.
|Introductions||Wu 2014 for a book length introduction. For a shorter overview see the updated version of Mole 2010 and the somewhat older articles Watzl 2011a and Watzl 2011b.|
Attention and Consciousness
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David Bourget (Western Ontario)
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