The Phenomenal Contribution of Attention

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy (2022)
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Strong or Pure Intentionalism is the view that the phenomenal character of a conscious experience is exhaustively determined by its intentional content. Contrastingly, impure intentionalism holds that there are also non content-based aspects or features which contribute to phenomenal character. Conscious attention is one such feature: arguably its contribution to the phenomenal character of a given conscious experience are not exhaustively captured in terms of what that experience represents, that is in terms of properties of its intentional object. This paper attempts to get clearer on the phenomenal contribution of conscious attention. In doing so it considers and sets aside two prominent impure intentionalist accounts, namely the Phenomenal Structure view of Sebastien Watzl, and the Demonstrative Awareness view of Wayne Wu. As an alternative I outline a Modification view, which draws on ideas in Husserlian phenomenology. On this view, we should think of the phenomenal contribution of conscious attention in terms of attentive modifications of what I call a ‘pre-attentive phenomenal field’. I develop this view and highlight its benefits over alternatives.

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Jonathan Mitchell
Cardiff University


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