Paying attention to consciousness

Date of Completion

January 2010






Whereas it's widely accepted that attention and consciousness are closely connected, there's little agreement about the nature of that relationship. Within Philosophy, the so-called common sense position on this issue is that whilst we might always be aware of (conscious of) what we are attending to we're not always attending to what we're aware of. In this project, I swim against the current by claiming, instead, that attention and consciousness are coextensive. ^ Part of the reason for the disagreement here is that the uses of the concept of 'attention,' in the philosophical (and psychological) literature, are as multifarious and confused as are those of the concept of 'consciousness.' After clarifying the conceptual confusion, I argue that an amalgamation of two empirically informed models of attention can be employed to show that there are never cases of attention without consciousness and never cases of consciousness without attention. Ultimately, I conclude that attention is necessary and sufficient for consciousness, so we get a "free explanatory trade-up" from the former to the latter. ^