The Ethics of Attention: an argument and a framework

In Sophie Alice Archer (ed.), Salience: A Philosophical Inquiry. Routledge (2022)
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This paper argues for the normative significance of attention. Attention plays an important role when describing an individual’s mind and agency, and in explaining many central facts about that individual. In addition, many in the public want answers and guidance with regard to normative questions about attention. Given that attention is both descriptively central and the public cares about normative guidance with regard to it, attention should be central also in normative philosophy. We need an ethics of attention: a field of study of which normative pressures, if any, govern attention. Like the ethics of belief, the ethics of attention will connect those normative questions to issues regarding the nature of attention, i.e. to what is subject to such normative pressures. Philosophers should develop an ethics of attention that helps to provide normative guidance and that is commensurate in its richness to the descriptive significance of attention. The second half of the paper sketches a framework that may help us to get started at developing the ethics of attention.



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Sebastian Watzl
University of Oslo

Citations of this work

Harmful Salience Perspectives.Ella Whiteley - 2022 - In Sophie Archer (ed.), Salience: A Philosophical Inquiry. Routledge. pp. Chapter 11.
The Epistemology of Attention.Catharine Saint-Croix - forthcoming - In Kurt Sylvan, Jonathan Dancy, Matthias Steup & Ernest Sosa (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Epistemology, 3rd edition. Wiley Blackwell.
Attentional Discrimination and Victim Testimony.Ella Whiteley - forthcoming - Philosophical Psychology.
Attentional progress by conceptual engineering.Eve Kitsik - 2021 - Metaphilosophy 53 (2-3):254-266.

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Origins of Objectivity.Tyler Burge - 2010 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
The content and epistemology of phenomenal belief.David Chalmers - 2003 - In Quentin Smith & Aleksandar Jokic (eds.), Consciousness: New Philosophical Perspectives. Oxford University Press. pp. 220--72.
Science, truth, and democracy.Philip Kitcher - 2001 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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