Fore- and Background in Conscious Non-Demonstrative Inference

In Anders Nes & Timothy Chan (eds.), Inference and Consciousness. London: Routledge. pp. 199-228 (2020)
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It is often supposed one can draw a distinction, among the assumptions on which an inference rests, between certain background assumptions and certain more salient, or foregrounded, assumptions. Yet what may such a fore-v-background structure, or such structures, consist it? In particular, how do they relate to consciousness? According to a ‘Boring View’, such structures can be captured by specifying, for the various assumptions of the inference, whether they are phenomenally conscious, or access conscious, or else how easily available they are to such consciousness. According to an ‘Interesting View’, there are fore-v-background structures over and above such classifications. The chapter gestures at reasons for thinking that an Interesting View at least merits exploration. The paper discusses some recent contributions to such a view in analytical philosophy; some remarks in Husserl on what he dubbed the horizonal dimension of acts of consciousness; and psychological work on the role of gist or schema representations in perception and memory. It is proposed that background assumptions can figure in consciousness by being as it were condensed into a consciously, though inattentively, entertained notion of their overall thematic gist, where this thematic gist gives the drift of a possible elucidation of how or why such-and-such salient grounds mean that so-and-so conclusion holds.
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