What are the Dimensions of the Conscious Field?

Journal of Consciousness Studies 21 (7-8):88-104 (2014)
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Abstract

I analyse the meaning of a popular idiom among consciousness researchers, in which an individual's consciousness is described as a 'field'. I consider some of the contexts where this idea appears, in particular discussions of attention and the unity of consciousness. In neither case, I argue, do authors provide the resources to cash out all the implications of field-talk: in particular, they do not give sense to the idea of conscious elements being arrayed along multiple dimensions. I suggest ways to extend and generalize the attentional construal of 'field-talk' to provide a genuine multiplicity of dimensions, through the notions of attentional proximity and causal proximity: the degree to which two experiential elements are disposed to bring one another into attention when attended, or to interact in other distinctively mental ways. I conclude that if consciousness is a field, it is one organized by attentional and/or causal proximity.

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Luke Roelofs
New York University

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