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Durham e-Theses
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Consciousness and the Heterogeneity of Attention

TAYLOR, JOHN,HENRY (2015) Consciousness and the Heterogeneity of Attention. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis will primarily consider issues related to attention and its relationship to phenomenal consciousness. The main argument of this thesis is that we cannot hope to make progress in this domain unless we greater appreciate the role that the concept ‘attention’ plays within these debates. I argue that by focussing on this, we can reach new and surprising conclusions about both the nature of attention, and its relationship to other philosophically interesting faculties of the mind.
I begin by offering a summary of the arguments of the thesis, and a brief history of the debates I will be addressing. Then I turn to a detailed examination of the debates over whether attention is necessary for consciousness or sufficient for consciousness, with a particular emphasis on the latter of these. I examine much of Robert Kentridge’s work in this regard. I will argue that this debate has reached an impasse, and that the point of apparent disagreement is conceptual, not empirical. I then go on to investigate the concept which is the point of friction, which is ‘attention’. I investigate various ways of resolving the difficulties in this debate, and argue that none of them work. I then examine some particular accounts of attention that have been offered in the philosophical literature. I argue against all of them, and also argue that the underlying assumptions on which they are based should be rejected.
I then suggest my own positive proposed solution to these problems. I use elements from the material so far covered to build an original argument in favour of pluralism about attention: the view that ‘attention’ is ambiguous between several importantly different concepts, no one of which is privileged or ‘more correct’ than the others, and several of which are worthy of acceptance in our theorising. I defend this view extensively from criticisms, and apply it to the issues that have been raised in the former part of the thesis. I also expand on this position by putting forward an argument for eliminativism about ‘attention’: the view that we should abandon using the term ‘attention’ in certain contexts in psychology and philosophy. In the course of making these arguments, I also consider various issues to do with the natural kinds of psychology, and classification in general. I also include an appendix where I discuss one particular argument in favour of the claim that attention is unnecessary for consciousness.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Attention, Consciousness, Pluralism
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Philosophy, Department of
Thesis Date:2015
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Feb 2015 16:25

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