The Ethics of Attention: an argument and a framework

In Sophie Alice Archer (ed.), Salience: A Philosophical Inquiry. Routledge (2022)
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This paper argues for the normative significance of attention. Attention plays an important role when describing an individual’s mind and agency, and in explaining many central facts about that individual. In addition, many in the public want answers and guidance with regard to normative questions about attention. Given that attention is both descriptively central and the public cares about normative guidance with regard to it, attention should be central also in normative philosophy. We need an ethics of attention: a field of study of which normative pressures, if any, govern attention. Like the ethics of belief, the ethics of attention will connect those normative questions to issues regarding the nature of attention, i.e. to what is subject to such normative pressures. Philosophers should develop an ethics of attention that helps to provide normative guidance and that is commensurate in its richness to the descriptive significance of attention. The second half of the paper sketches a framework that may help us to get started at developing the ethics of attention.

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Sebastian Watzl
University of Oslo


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