The Origin of the Phenomenology of Attention

Research in Phenomenology 52 (3):425-441 (2022)
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This paper accomplishes two tasks. First, I unpack Husserl’s analysis of interest from his 1893 manuscript, “Notes Towards a Theory of Attention and Interest” to demonstrate that it comprises his first rigorous genetic analysis of attention. Specifically, I explore Husserl’s observations about how attentive interest is passively guided by affections, moods, habits, and cognitive tensions. In doing so, I reveal that the early Husserl described attention as always pulled forward to new discoveries via the rhythmic recurrence of tension and pleasure. Second, I demonstrate that “Notes” is the germ of Husserl’s mature genetic phenomenology of attention. The 1893 analysis provides Husserl with all of the philosophical reasons and tools for the construction of his genetic account of attention in his late works. I then discuss how the disclosure of this novel subterranean link can prompt a rethinking of the development of phenomenology.

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Thomas Byrne
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign


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