Attention: a descriptive taxonomy

History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 44 (4):1-27 (2022)
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The term attention has been used to mean so many different things that some have despaired of it being useful at all. This paper is devoted to bringing a modicum of order to the chaos through the time-honored device of categorization. The chief purpose of this paper is to introduce a comprehensive descriptive taxonomy of the nuanced ways the term attention may be employed. It is presented in table form, followed by elucidations and illustrations of each of its items. But first, I offer reasons why a taxonomy of attention is needed and explore some of its possible benefits. After presenting the taxonomy, I sketch by way of example how it might be applied to two interesting questions: is the umbrella term attention still useful?; and, what is it that ties the subdefinitions of attention together yet distinguishes them from other kinds of cognition?

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Antonios Kaldas
Sydney College of Divinity


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