Unity in the Scientific Study of Intellectual Attention

Canadian Journal of Philosophy 50 (4):444-459 (2020)
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I argue that using information from a cognitive representation to guide the performance of a primary task is sufficient for intellectual attention, and that this account of attention is endorsed by scientists working in the refreshing, n-back, and retro-cue paradigms. I build on the work of Wayne Wu, who developed a similarly motivated account, but for perceptual attention rather than intellectual attention. The way that I build on Wu’s account provides a principled way of responding to Watzl’s challenge to Wu, according to which Wu’s style of account is unintuitively broad. The fact that I find unity in the practice of science puts us in a position to resist the claim that scientists studying intellectual attention are frequently failing to study the same thing.

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Mark Fortney
Dalhousie University


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