BookStructuring Mind: The Nature of Attention and How it Shapes Consciousness
Oxford University Press (in press)
- Is Attention an Object-Directed Attitude?
Forthcoming in: Non-Propositional Intentionality, eds. M. Montague and A. Grzankowski, Oxford University PressI argue first that attention is a (maybe the) paradigmatic case of an object-directed, non-propositional intentional mental episode. In addition attention cannot be reduced to any other (propositional or non-propositional) mental episodes. Yet, second, attention is not a non-propositional mental attitude. It might appear puzzling how one could hold both of these claims. I show how to combine them, and how that combination shows how propositionality and non-propositionality can co-exist in a mental life. The crucial move is one away from an atomistic, building block picture to a more holistic, structural picture.
- Can Intentionalism Explain how Attention Affects Appearances?
Forthcoming. In: Themes from Block, eds. A. Pautz and D. Stoljar, The MIT PressRecent work in psychology shows that attention affects not just perceptual processing, but the way the world appears to a subject in perceptual experience. For example, a Gabor patch appears to have a higher contrast with attention than without attention. Yet, while differences in appearances are naturally thought to imply differences in the representational content of perception, Ned Block has argued that some of these effects cannot be understood in this way. He argues that intentionalism, according to which the phenomenal character of perception is determined by its representational content, cannot explain how attention affects appearances. The first goal of this paper is to show that Block’s argument can be viewed as an instance of an argument type I call Arguments from Arbitrary Phenomenal Variation (AAPV). Block’s argument thus has the same structure as the argument against intentionalism based on the conceivability of spectral inversion. The second goal of the paper is to consider responses to AAPV systematically. I show that many of the responses to the spectrum inversion argument look much weaker for the attention based argument. On the other hand, some forms of intentionalism remain untouched by Block’s argument. The most plausibly form, I suggest, is one on which phenomenal content is mostly illusory.
- Perceptual Guidance
2014, Ratio, 27(4): 369–505Proponents of an intentional theory of perceptual experience have taken for granted that perceptual experience is an informing form of intentionality. Hence they often speak of the way an experience represents the environment to be, or what there is. In this respect perceptual experience is thus assumed to resemble a speech act like assertion or a mental state like belief. There is another important form of intentionality though that concerns not what there is, but what to do. I call this a guiding form of intentionality. In speech, there are – for example – imperatives and among intentional mental states there are desires and intentions. In this paper I argue that perceptual experience is at least sometimes characterized by such a guiding form of intentionality. Perception does not just inform, it is sometimes intrinsically action-guiding. I call this the perceptual guidance claim. I distinguish the perceptual guidance claim from related, but importantly distinct claims (such as claims concerning the perception of affordances or concerning whether perception is normative), and argue that perceptual action guidance occurs not just in an unconscious vision-for-action system, but also within conscious perceptual experience.
- Attentional Organization and the Unity of Consciousness
2014, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 21(7-8): 56-87Could the organization of consciousness be the key to understanding its unity? This paper considers how the attentional organization of consciousness into centre and periphery bears on the phenomenal unity of consciousness. Two ideas are discussed: according to the first, the attentional organization of consciousness shows that phenomenal holism is true. I argue that the argument from attentional organization to phenomenal holism remains inconclusive. According to the second idea, attentional organization provides a principle of unity for conscious experience, i.e. it is a relationship between the phenomenal parts that occurs in the real definition or essence of consciousness. Conscious experience provides subjects with a subjective perspective, or point of view, because its various parts are structured by attention into what is more central and what is more peripheral.
- Silencing the Experience of Change
2013. Philosophical Studies 165(3): 1009-1032Perceptual illusions have often served as an important tool in the study of perceptual experience. In this paper I argue that a recently discovered set of visual illusions sheds new light on the nature of time consciousness. I suggest the study of these silencing illusions as a tool kit for any philosopher interested in the experience of time and show how to better understand time consciousness by combining detailed empirical investigations with a detailed philosophical analysis. In addition, I argue specifically against an initially plausible range of views that assume a close match between the temporal content of visual experience and the temporal layout of experience itself. Against such a widely held structural matching thesis I argue that which temporal changes we are experiencing bears no close relation to how our experience itself is changing over time. Explanations of the silencing illusions that are compatible with the structural matching thesis fail.
For an in-depth (critical) discussion of this paper and a defense of the structural matching thesis see Ian Phillips (forthcoming) "Breaking the silence: motion silencing and experience of change"
- The Philosophical Significance of Attention
2011. Philosophy Compass, 6(11): 722–733What is the philosophical significance of attention? The present article provides an overview of recent debates surrounding the connections between attention and other topics of philosophical interest. In particular it discusses the interplay between attention and consciousness, attention and agency, and the role attention might play for the theory of reference and in epistemology. The article provides an overview of the logical landscape: it clearly distinguishes the various questions concerning – among others – how attention shapes the phenomenal character of experience, whether it is necessary or sufficient for consciousness, or whether it plays a special role in the best philosophical theory of action or conceptual reference. The article points out various interdependencies between particular answers to these questions, as well as how these answers might depend on the metaphysics of attention (like whether attention may come in degrees, or whether it is fundamentally a personal level or sub-personal phenomenon). Together with its companion piece (“The Nature of Attention”) this article, thus, may serve as an introduction to the philosophy of attention.
- The Nature of Attention
2011. Philosophy Compass, 6(11): 842–853What is attention? Attention is often seen as a subject matter for the hard sciences of cognitive and brain processes, and is understood in terms of sub-personal mechanisms and processes. Correspondingly, there still is a stark contrast between the central role attention plays for the empirical investigation of the mind in psychology and the neurosciences, and its relative neglect in philosophy. Yet, over the past years, several philosophers have challenged the standard conception. A number of interesting philosophical questions concerning the nature of attention arise. This article provides an introduction to contemporary debates concerning these questions. In particular, it discusses the question of how the pre-theoretic conception of attention might be reconciled with a scientific conception, arguments that provide support for an anti-reductivist theory of attention, and sketches several recent anti-reductivist theories and their inter-relations.
- Attention as Structuring of the Stream of Consciousness
2011. In: Attention: Philosophical and Psychological Essays , eds. Mole C., Smithies D. and Wu W., Oxford University PressThis paper defends and develops the structuring account of conscious attention: attention is the conscious mental process of structuring one’s stream of consciousness so that some parts of it are more central than others. In the first part of the paper, I motivate the structuring account. Drawing on a variety of resources I argue that the phenomenology of attention cannot be fully captured in terms of how the world appears to the subject, as well as against an atomistic conception of attention. In the second part of the paper, I show how the structuring account can be made precise: attention causes and causally sustains phenomenal relations to hold between the parts of the stream of consciousness; most importantly the relation of one part being peripheral to another. I end by pointing out consequences for both the scientific study of attention as well as for several areas of central philosophical interest.
[Semi-final draft] [the book]
- Spike-Timing Precision Underlies the Coding Efficiency of Auditory Receptor Neurons
2006. Journal of Neurophysiology, 95: 2541-2552
Authors: Rokem A., Watzl, S. Gollisch T., Stemmler M., Herz A.V.M., and Samengo I.Sensory systems must translate incoming signals quickly and reliably so that an animal can act successfully in its environment. Even at the level of receptor neurons, however, functional aspects of the sensory encoding process are not yet fully understood. Speciﬁcally, this concerns the question how stimulus features and neural response characteristics lead to an efﬁcient transmission of sensory information. To address this issue, we have recorded and analyzed spike trains from grasshopper auditory receptors, while systematically varying the stimulus statistics. The stimulus variations profoundly inﬂuenced the efﬁciency of neural encoding. This inﬂuence was largely attributable to the presence of speciﬁc stimulus features that triggered remarkably precise spikes whose trial-to-trial timing variability was as low as 0.15 ms— one order of magnitude shorter than typical stimulus time scales. Precise spikes decreased the noise entropy of the spike trains, thereby increasing the rate of information transmission. In contrast, the total spike train entropy, which quantiﬁes the variety of different spike train patterns, hardly changed when stimulus conditions were altered, as long as the neural ﬁring rate remained the same. This ﬁnding shows that stimulus distributions that were transmitted with high information rates did not invoke additional response patterns, but instead displayed exceptional temporal precision in their neural representation. The acoustic stimuli that led to the highest information rates and smallest spike-time jitter feature pronounced sound-pressure deﬂections lasting for 2–3 ms. These upstrokes are reminiscent of salient structures found in natural grasshopper communication signals, suggesting that precise spikes selectively encode particularly important aspects of the natural stimulus environment.
- “Joint Attention” (ed. A. Seemann)
2012. Notre Dame Philosophical ReviewsReview of a new collection on Joint Attention.
- “Perplexities of Consciousness” (E. Schwitzgebel)
2012. Mind ,Volume 121, Issue 482, pp. 524-529
Co-author: Wayne Wu
- “Attention is Cognitive Unison” (C. Mole)
2011. Notre Dame Philosophical ReviewsA relatively detailed review (~ 4000 words) of Christopher Mole's (2010) book "Attention is Cognitive Unison". I suggest that Mole makes a good case against many types of reductivist accounts of attention, using the right kind of methodology. Yet, I argue that his adverbialist theory is not the best articulation of the crucial anti-reductivist insight. The distinction between adverbial and process-first phenomena he draws remains unclear, anti-reductivist process theories can escapte his arguments, and finally I provide an argument for why no personal level adverbialism can provide a complete and unified theory of attention. Despite my disagreements, I have learned a lot from engaging with Mole's book. It's a central contribution to the new philosophical literature on attention.
- Oppmerksomheten velger ut vår verden
2015. Apollon ForskningsmagasinetShort Popular Science article on my work on attention and consciousness (in Norwegian)
- Attention, please! An Interview with Sebastian Watzl
2014. Filosofisk Supplement
Work in Progress
- Mind Perception
first author: Jola Feix, in preparationHow do we know about the mental life of others? It seems natural to say that we sometimes see another’s anger in her face, hear her joy in her laughter, or see her attention in her look. Mind Perception is the view that we indeed perceive some of another’s mental states directly, i.e. without recourse to further cognitive resources like inference or inner simulation. In this paper we provide an argument for mind perception, give an account of how mind perception is possible, and show that there are no convincing objections to mind perception. The common explicit or implicit denial of mind perception is thus without good grounds.
- Can Intentionalism Explain How Attention Structures Consciousness?
now part of a longer paper currently under reviewAccording to intentionalism the phenomenal character of consciousness is determined by the bearing of intentional attitudes toward contents. Can intentionalism account for the phenomenal contribution of perceptual attention? Intentionalism has two components. The content component, and the attitude component. Intentionalists thus can locate the phenomenal contribution of attention either in the content or in the attitude (or in both). After briefly reviewing arguments against the content strategy developed by myself and others elsewhere, I here argue against the attitude strategy (Pautz 2010, Speaks 2010, Wu 2010). I will argue that even if a version of the attitude strategy can explain that perceptual attention operates within and not on top of perceptual experience (a problem pointed out also by James Stazicker), it has no account of the distribution of attention across the field of consciousness and of variations in the objects of attention (which range from objects, to properties and states of affairs). The attitude strategy cannot explain how attention structures consciousness.
- Attention and the Subjective Point of View
under reviewSuppose that in the garden of appearances (see Chalmers 2006) everything is as it appears to you in conscious experience. The garden reveals its nature in consciousness. Yet, there is a price: you don’t get the capacity of attention, and thus you cannot focus attention on anything nor is your attention ever drawn to anything. In this paper I argue that in this garden an important element of subjectivity would be absent: you would be no more than a bundle of appearances. The paper has two goals: first, I show that something is missing in the garden of appearances by appeal to an argument I call “the counterpart argument”. Second, I provide an account of what is missing. Besides phenomenal qualities, there is phenomenal structure that gives shape to our experiences. This structure, I argue, is central to a subject’s point of view on the appearances.
- Phenomenal Qualities are Relations to Particulars
In preparationDoes having a perceptual experience as of a particular object or event, like a tomato or an explosion, imply that there is some particular object or event of which you have an experience or of which you are aware? A negative answer to this question is almost universally accepted. Defenders of that view appeal to the possibility of hallucination and argue that these are the cases where someone might have a perceptual experience as of some particular object or event, without being related to a particular object or event, because there is no such object or event to be aware of or be related to. Against this consensus, this paper presents an extended argument for the positive view and shows how the view might be correct. The upshot of my argument is that there is no convincing reason not to think of all hallucinations as extreme cases of illusion. On the view I will suggest each simple perceptual experience (a phenomenal quality) can be analyzed as a three-place relation between a subject, a particular object or event, and a way that object or event appears to the subject
- Perceptual Guidance
No longer in preparation: became part of "Attention and the Structures of Consciousness"Perceptual experience seems to present us with a certain environment. Our experience tells us what there is. In this respect experience is like belief. In this paper, I argue that perceptual experience also tells us what to do. It doesn’t merely inform us, but also guides us. In this respect experience is like desire or intention. I rest my argument on the case of perceptual saliency. Some experiences are more salient than others and guide our attention to the salient object or event. Perception tell us what to focus on. In this paper I develop an account of experiential saliency, and discuss how the guiding function of experience can be integrated with its informing function. I end with some suggestions for how the guiding function performed by experiential salience may ground the notion saliency that figures in theories of bounded rationality, communication, and linguistic development.
- Mind-wandering: Vice, Virtue, or Both?
With Adrienne Prettyman, in preparationOur mind tends to wander. Given the prevalence of mind-wandering shown in much recent research a variety of questions arise. On the one hand, there is the psychology and neuroscience of mind-wandering: what are the neuronal underpinnings of mind-wandering and what causes specific episodes of mind-wandering? More and more progress is made on both of these questions. On the other hand, there are questions about the significance of mind-wandering. These are our focus here. Does mind-wandering serve any purpose in our mental economy or is it, by contrast, the use-less side-product of other processes with negative effects at best? While recent empirical studies claim to find negative emotional effects of mind-wandering we argue that these effects are probably restricted to specific forms of mind-wandering. Other forms of mind-wandering, we argue, should be viewed in a more favorable light. They contribute to creativity and problem solving, and are closely tied to an important intellectual virtue: open-mindedness.
Other Research Projects
- Organizing Mind. From Experience to Action and Belief
A project on executive attention and executive control, extending my work on the role of attention to cover cross-temporal organizationYou are an organizer of your own mental life. You structure your experience into foreground and background; you select among the various options that present themselves; and you stick to goals and plans in the face of distraction. This research project deals with the question of how the mind is organized (over time), with the question of whether having a mind in part consists in having a certain organization, and with the question of how we ought to organize our minds.
The project lies at the interface of philosophy of mind, theory of action and epistemology, and draws on empirical research in psychology and the neurosciences. Its goal is to articulate and defend, on the one hand, a thesis about the metaphysical structure of the mind that starts with organization and the agent qua organizer. The project will investigate the organization of agency by looking into the way executive attention structures our activities. On the other hand, the project aims at integrating an epistemological framework with that metaphysics. As a central case study the project will consider the role of belief within how agents organize their minds. I suggest that epistemic norms, i.e. the norms for belief, centrally are instances of norms for organizing the mind, and should be discussed in that context.
Most of my research is in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science. From there it reaches into ethics and epistemology, general philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, as well as metaphysics. While it engages central philosophical topics, my approach often involves close dialogue with empirical research in psychology, the neurosciences, and the life sciences more generally. [Research Desription (PDF)]
This project investigates the differences, similarities, interactions, and connections between perception and cognition. Local Team: Anders Nes (Researcher), Kristoffer Sundberg (PhD Candidate), and myself. We organize workshops and conferences, and work with a wide network of national and international collaborators. The project is funded through a FRIPRO grant by the Research Council of Norway (around 8 Mill NOK).
- Philosophy of Biology: Sex, Death, Cooperation, Cancer, and Morality
Spring 2017, BA/MA LevelIn this course, we consider what biology, and especially the theory of evolution, teaches us about some of life’s biggest questions. We are especially focused on - arguably surprising - interrelations of the topics mentioned in the title: sex, death, cooperation, cancer, and morality. While pursuing these questions, we also - on a more theoretical side - consider the structure of evolutionary explanations, their application to human psychology and sociology, the notion of a biological individual, and the nature of species. [course description]
- Epistemic Injustice
Fall 2015, co-organized with Tove Pettersen and Ingvild Torsen, PhD LevelThis is a reading group that doubles as a PhD course. We will read Miranda Fricker's book "Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing" [more information]
- Natural (and other Significant) Kinds
Fall 2015, MA Level (Metaphysics and Philosophy of Mind: FIL 4100)In this course we will discuss the metaphysics of so-called natural kinds. We often – in everyday life as well as in science – classify objects and people into kinds: kinds of objects and kinds of people. Some classifications sound natural. What makes some of these classifications better than others? Are some of them natural? Do natural kinds have essences? Does it all depend on our interests? What is the ideology of ‘naturalness’? We will discuss the issues that arise with respect to the kinds discussed in physics, biology, and the social sciences. ‘Molecules’, ‘Species’, ‘Races’ and ‘Genders’ will be among our topics. [more information]
- PhD Thesis Seminar
Every Semester, PhD LevelThe PhD Thesis Seminar - where PhD candidates discuss their work in progress - meets every other week. All PhD candidates are welcome and encouraged to come. Visiting PhD students are welcome as well. Please contact me, if you have any further questions about the PhD program in philosophy at UiO.
- Philosophy of Psychology
Every Semester, PhD LevelIntroductory lecture for PhD students in the social sciences. The lecture focuses on the relationship between neuroscientific, psychological and social science research, especially with regard to issues of gender.
- EXPHIL (English Option)
Fall 2014, Beginners[more information]
Fall 2014, MA Level (Metaphysics and Philosophy of Mind: FIL 4100)In this course, we have discussed four inter-related topics of current controversy within the philosophy of mind. They are: (a) What is the significance of consciousness: does consciousness matter for decision-making, ethics and belief formation? Is it important at all? (b) What is the place of consciousness in nature: is consciousness physical or non-physical? What would it mean to hold that it is “physical”? Might everything be conscious? (c) What is the structure of consciousness: are all conscious phenomena intentional or representational phenomena? Is it essential to conscious phenomena that subjects are aware of enjoying them? What are center and periphery within subjective perspectives? (d) Is cognition dependent upon consciousness: can cognition be explained as a biological function? Is intentionality dependent on consciousness?
- The Meta-Ethics "Research Group"
Spring 2014 - Spring 2015I am currently supervising five MA-students on a number of topics in metaethics. We get together about once/week to discuss background literature, work in progress, etc.
- The Social Animal: Evolution, Sociality, and Cognition
Fall 2013, co-taught with Katharine Browne, MA LevelIn this course we have considered three different, but closely interconnected, angles on the connection between the human mind, evolution and the social world. First, we looked at issues surrounding the evolution of human sociality. We addressed the following questions: How can we explain the evolution of our social capacities? How do we differ in these respects from other animals? Can evolutionary models (and particularly, evolutionary game theoretic models) help us to better understand the structure and origins of human morality? Second, we considered the significance of evolutionary considerations for the objectivity and normative status of claims about morality, rationality and in epistemology: do facts about human evolution confirm or undermine the objectivity of values, morality or knowledge? What is the function of normative language and how is that function connected to our social lives? Third, we asked about the relevance of social forces for the evolution of cognition. Has intelligence evolved to deal with the complexities of the social world? What is unique about human cognitive capacities and to what extent have they been shaped by cooperative social interaction?
- Classes I have taught: Philosophy of Psychology (Syllabus), Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought (Syllabus)
- Classes I have TAed for: Introduction to Symbolic Logic, Morality, Self, and Society, Elementary Logic, Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought, Phenomenology and Existentialism
- At Harvard, I have supervised a Senior Thesis in Moral Psychology, organized a workshop for Seniors, and led discussions at some others.
- I also was a founding member of the Philosophy Outreach Program at Columbia University, a co-operation of Columbia’s philosophy department and the Philosophy and Education department at Teacher’s college. It is involved in various philosophy classes and clubs at both public and private schools throughout New York City, is organizing conferences in pre-college education in philosophy, and providing resources and information for anyone interested in philosophy with children. (Here the syllabus for a club Deidre Black and I taught at a public highschool in NYC)
Workshops and Conferences
- The Thought and Sense Conference
Fall 2017, CSMN
Co-organizers: Anders Nes and Kristoffer SundbergDetails tba
- Big CSMN Closing Conference
May 2017, CSMN
Organized by CSMNDetails tba
- Temporal Awareness in Thought and Perception
October 2016, CSMN
Co-organizers: Anders Nes and Kristoffer Sundbergwhat differences, if any, are there between how time is presented, or represented, in perception and in thought? See here for more
- First Thought and Sense Miniworkshop
June 9 (2016), CSMN
Co-organizers: Anders Nes and Kristoffer SundbergCan we literally perceive the wrongness of an insult, the anger of another, or her sociability? Or are our quick responses about morality, other minds, and personality traits intuitive forms of cognition? How do we decide this question? Is the phenomenology of perception, for example, more immediate and puts us in touch with the world in a way that no form of cognition could? What difference does the answer to those questions make to the basis of moral and social knowledge? This mini-workshop will address such questions concerning the boundary between thinking and sensing. See here for more
- Third Meeting of Normind
January 14 (2016), CSMNNormind, the Nordic network for philosophy of mind and cognitive science, is holding its third workshop at CSMN at the University of Oslo. Everyone is welcome, especially early career students and scholars. We hope that these meetings can generate a friendly, low-pressure, and inclusive platform for the exchange of ideas. To register, email me, Sebastian Watzl, with the subject line “Normind registration”. Please indicate if you intend to join us for dinner. For more information click here.
- The Thought and Sense Kickoff Workshop
January 12-13 (2016), CSMN
Co-organizers: Anders Nes and Kristoffer Sundberg
- The Social Mind: Origins of Collective Reasoning
August 29-30 (2014), CSMN
Co-organizers: Katharine Browne and Jola FeixStandard decision theory predicts that individuals will (and ought to) defect in Prisoner's Dilemma situations. Yet, individuals often cooperate in such cases, and it sometimes appears rational for them to do so. Recently, a new approach has emerged that attempts to explain these results within a decision theoretic framework. According to proponents of the team reasoning approach, groups of individuals may count as agents. On this view, instead of maximizing their own preferences, individuals will maximize the preferences of a group with which they identify. This raises a number of questions: What is the cognitive machinery that allows for such team reasoning? Does it require meta-representational capacities that go beyond the capacities implicated in individual decision-making? What makes individuals take the perspective of the group?
Recent work on social perspective taking in developmental psychology, and philosophy of mind and cognitive science appears relevant to these questions. Such work has called into question the assumption that we are individuals first and only secondarily members of groups or teams. On an interpretation that is rapidly gaining popularity certain findings from childhood development suggest that at least our explicit sense of self co-develops with our sense of others and the "we" of the group of which we are a part. This raises further questions: Does such work show that the cooperative tendencies modeled by the team reasoning framework are a fairly primitive part of human psychology? Do individuals ever face a *decision* to think as a group? Is team reasoning cognitively "light", at least as light as individual reasoning? Can empirical work on the development of the sense of self and others shed light on the conditions in which we think as a team?
In order to make progress on the questions sketched above, this workshop attempts to bring into contact researchers interested in team reasoning approaches to human decision making with researchers interested in the development of group identification, social perspective taking, and the sense of self and other.
See here for more
- Mind and Attention in Indian and Contemporary Western Philosophy
September 21-22 (2013), Harvard
Co-organizers: Susanna Siegel and Parimal Patil (Harvard)The goal of the workshop is to bring into focus philosophical work in Indian traditions that address the role of attention of all kinds in mental life. The workshop will address some of following questions in the context of Indian philosophy: What factors determine how the stream of consciousness unfolds? By what processes do we bring a subject-matter (an external item, or an idea) into focus? What factors can determine what the mind is focused on? What kinds of things can be attended to? What is the role of attention in mediating between sensation and cognition? How are capacities for attention related to other capacities such as perception or skills? What is the role of considerations about attention or the directing or redirection of the mind in arguments for or against the permanence of inanimate objects? What kinds of methods can be used to redirect attention or mental focus? What are the practical, epistemic, and ethical benefits or drawbacks of redirecting attention? What is the role of attention in mediating between sensation and cognition? Can attention or focusing capacities be trained? If so, how? What are the upshots and the significance of such training? Are subjects necessarily aware of how their attention is directed? Can they become aware of it? If so, what is the nature of this form of awareness? What role does it play in redirecting attention or the development of the capacity for attention?
- Imperative Aspects of Perceptual Experience
August 28-29 (2013), CSMN
Co-organizer: Susanna Siegel (Harvard)Are there imperatival aspects to perceptual experience? Do any experiences have intrinsic motivational powers? If so, is this at odds with their being correct or incorrect? If not, what are they correct or incorrect about? One way to approach them is by comparing perceptual experiences to speech acts. If perceptual experiences were modeled by speech acts, would the best models be assertions, imperatives, or neither? If in some ways, or on some occasions, experiences are more like imperatives than assertions are these imperatival aspects of experience reflected in any way in their accuracy conditions? Are they at odds with their having accuracy conditions at all? Are they at odds with representationalism? In this workshop we explore these and related questions.
Speakers and More
Recent and Upcoming Presentations
- Priority Norms
CCLAM Seminar, Stockholm University, September 2016no details available
- Salience Norms
(based on work with Susanna Siegel), Interdisciplinary Workshop on Cognition and Experience, Umeå University, May 2015no details available
- Attention and Importance
Informal Discussion preceding the NordPhil BA and MA Philosophy Conference, Café Mistral (Majorstuen, Oslo),April 2015no details available
- Social Attention
Centre for Subjectivity Research, University of Copenhagen (Denmark), April 2015no details available
- Is Attention the Form of Consciousness?
Department of Media, Cognition and Communication, University of Copenhagen (Denmark), April 2015no details available
- Is Attention the Form of Consciousness?
Sokratisk Aften (Socratic Evening) - Organized by the philosophy students at the University of Oslo (Fagutvalget for filosofi), March 2015no details available
- Salience Norms
with Susanna Siegel, New York University (New York, USA), Workshop on Norms of Inquiry, February 2015no details available
- Attention: the Form of Consciousness
Department of Philosophy, Umeå (Sweden), February 2015no details available
- What is Attention?
Philosophical Society, Umeå (Sweden), February 2015no details available
- Salience. Dynamics for Consciousness
Bochum (Germany), January 2015Program here
- Consciousness Beyond Appearances: Attentional Organization, Phenomenal Priming, and Reflexive Awareness
Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt University Berlin (Germany), Current Issues Seminar Series, January 2015Recent discussion of how perceptual attention affects conscious experience has focused on effects on how the world appears to the subject: how, if at all, does attention affect perceptual determinacy and apparent detail? How, if at all, does it affect apparent contrast, size or brightness? Do these effects show that experience is systematically misleading? Are they compatible with a representational account of conscious experience? In this talk, I will discuss three effects of attention on consciousness that fall outside the appearance framework. First, there is how attention shapes the organization of conscious experience into center(s) and periphery. Such an organizational effect on consciousness is a more direct phenomenal upshot of the distribution of attentional resources than their effects on appearances. Second, there is there is the kind of phenomenal salience or phenomenal priming that guides shifts of attention. This effect of attention shapes the dynamic evolution of consciousness over time. Third, there is – at least in cases of voluntary attention – the subject’s conscious awareness of the activity of attending itself. Here we find in perceptual experience not just the appearance of worldly objects and properties, but awareness of the subject’s own mental life. I argue that there are good reasons to think that there are these neglected aspects of the phenomenal effects of attention, and that they are important for our understanding of conscious experience along a variety of dimensions. Maybe most importantly: they show that important aspects of conscious experience outstrip appearances. These concern the structure of consciousness rather than the phenomenal qualities that fill that structure. Arguably, though, these structural features - exactly because they do not concern appearances - are harder to investigate with standard psycho-physical tools. Part of my goal is to invite an interdisciplinary audience to think about how such an investigation might be best pursued.
Program (date and time) here
- Social Attention, Moral Attention
Montreal (Canada), Workshop on "Normativity in Perceptual Experience", November 2014Program here
- Is attention an object-directed attitude?
Fefor (Norway), Workshop on "Perspectives on Intentionality", September 2014In this talk I argue, first, that attention is a paradigmatic case of an object-directed, non-propositional intentional mental episode (indeed, arguably it is the paradigm). In addition attention cannot be reduced to any other mental episodes (whether propositional or non-propositional). I also argue, second, that attention is not a non-propositional mental attitude. It might appear puzzling how one could hold both of these claims. I show how to combine them, and how that combination shows how propositionality and non-propositionality can co-exist in a mental life. The crucial move is one away from an atomistic, building block picture to a more holistic, structural picture.
- Attention and Consciousness: Appearance, Organization, Salience and Agential Awareness
Meeting of the European Society for Philosophy and Psychology (ESPP) Symposium on Attention and Experience September 2014Recent discussion of how perceptual attention affects conscious experience has focused on effects on how the world appears to the subject: how, if at all, does attention affect perceptual determinacy and apparent detail? How, if at all, does it affect apparent contrast, size or brightness? Do these effects show that experience is systematically misleading? Are they compatible with a representational account of conscious experience? In this talk, I will discuss three effects of attention on consciousness that fall outside the appearance framework. First, there is how attention shapes the organization of conscious experience into center(s) and periphery. Such an organizational effect on consciousness is a more direct phenomenal upshot of the distribution of attentional resources than their effects on appearances. Second, there is there is the kind of phenomenal salience or phenomenal priming that guides shifts of attention. This effect of attention shapes the dynamic evolution of consciousness over time. Third, there is – at least in cases of voluntary attention – the subject’s conscious awareness of the activity of attending itself. Here we find in perceptual experience not just the appearance of wordly objects and properties, but awareness of the subject’s own mental life. I argue that there are good reasons to think that there are these neglected aspects of the phenomenal effects of attention, and that they are important for our understanding of conscious experience along a variety of dimensions. Arguably, though, they are harder to investigate with standard psycho-physical tools. Part of my goal is to invite an interdisciplinary audience to think about how such an investigation might be best pursued.
- Subjects and Subjective Character
Manchester, Workshop on the Subjective Structure of Consciousness June 2014Subjectivity or subjective character seems to be essential to conscious experience. There is something it is like for you to enjoy it or be in it. I briefly sketch why a deflationary view about subjectivty would be mistaken, according to which talk of ‘subjectivity’ is nothing more than a rhetorical device to get the audience to understand the topic of ‘consciousness.’ Subjectivity is a substantial fact concerning consciousness. But what kind of fact? A first option is ontologism. It says that the subjective character of a conscious experience most fundamentally consists in the fact that it is had by a subject. A second option is qualitativism. It says that the subjective character of a conscious experience most fundamentally consists in one of its properties or qualities. Subjectivity, on this view, thus is a property of experiences.I will suggest that pure qualitativism fails to take insights in ontologism seriously. Yet pure ontologism is problematic as well. I will explore that a full explanation of subjectivity might need to take seriously the having or bearing relation between subjects and their experiences. The way I have an experience of redness might not be the same as the way a tomato has the property of being red. My exploration will draw on an analogy to the relationship between agents and their acts (indeed, arguably, this is more than an analogy).
- Perceptual Guidance
Warwick May 2014no details available
- Brains and Philosophers. Neuroscience and the Human Mind
Norwegian Academy of Sciences May 2014Work on Attention and Consciousness: an example of fruitful interaction between philosophy, psychology and the neurosciences
- Commentary on ‘The Erotetic Theory of Attention’ by Philipp Koralus
Online Symposium organized by the journal "Mind and Language" and the blog Brains April 2014
- Organizing Mind. Attention, Unity, and Distraction
University of Oslo (Norway), Inaugural Lecture February 2014
- Comments on Watson's “Shifts of Attention, Competition for Attention and the Subject of Attention; Contrasting Indian Perspectives”
Harvard (Boston, USA), workshop on "Mind and Attention in Indian Philosophy" September 2013
- Perceptual Guidance
Oslo (Norway), workshop on "Imperative Aspects of Perceptual Experience" (August 2013)
- The subjectivity and unity of consciousness unified
Bergen (Norway), Workshop on "Unity of Consciousness"(August 2013)What explains that our conscious experiences are phenomenally unified? What explains that our conscious experiences have subjective character, i.e. that there is something it is like for you - the subject - to enjoy those various experiences? It it natural to think that answers to these two questions should be closely connected. Consciousness provides you with a single perspective, and hence is unified and subjective. But recent discussions of these two aspects of consciousness seem to be almost entirely disconnected. Unity gets explained in terms of phenomenal mereology (e.g. in Bayne), subjectivity in terms of self-representation (e.g. in Kriegel). Can we provide a unified account of both? Here I suggest such an account, based on the idea that attention structures consciousness into what is more and what is less central. Subjects most fundamentally enjoy a single conscious experience: they are experiencing some aspects of the world more centrally than others. This is the actively structured single perspective of each subject. Experiences are phenomenally unified insofar as they are part of the structure provided by attention. Since you can be, and maybe often are, aware of attending, and hence experiencing some things more centrally than others, what unifies consciousness also might provide for its subjective character.
- How Attention Structures Consciousness
Trondheim (Norway), workshop on "Perceptual Intentionality: Phenomenology, Representation and Knowledge" (April 2013),
St. Andrews (Scotland), talk at Arché (June 2013),
Umeå (Sweden), talk in mini-symposium on "Perception" (June 2013)the talk varied slightly between these three occasions. This presentation, though, contains most of the material
- Introduction to My Research
Oslo (Norway), Presented for 2nd Year Undergraduates (April 2013)
- Is attention one or many? And why should we care
Austin (Texas), meeting of the SSPP (Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology) (February 2013)Symposium on “Attention”, invited as one of four speakers (together with Marisa Carrasco, Robert Kentridge and Christopher Mole)
- Attention and the Subjective Point of View
Antwerp (Belgium), philosophy conference on “Perceptual Attention” organized by Bence Nanay (September 2012)invited as one of four speakers (with commentaries by Michael Tye and Susanna Siegel)
- Commentary on Carolyn Suchy-Jennings's 'Conscious Immersion'
Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference on Consciousness (Boston University) (April 2012)
- Silencing the Experience of Change
Columbia University (seminar on the Philosophy of Perception) (April 2012)
- Experiential Guidance
Center for the Study of Mind and Nature (CSMN, Oslo) (October 2011)
- (with A. Prettyman) Mind-Wandering and the Good Life
Montreal (Canada), Joint meeting of the Society for Philosphy and Psychology (SPP) and the European Society for Philosophy and Psychology (ESPP) (July 2011)
- Silencing the Experience of Change
Montreal (Canada), Joint meeting of the Society for Philosphy and Psychology (SPP) and the European Society for Philosophy and Psychology (ESPP) (July 2011)
- “Salience. The Dynamics of Attention; (April 2011), Presentation at Harvard's Perception, Prediction and Action Proseminar (led by Sean Kelly and Susanna Siegel) [Slides]
- “Commentary on Adrienne Prettyman's 'Attention and Perceptual Consciousness'” (March 2011), Harvard-MIT Graduate Philosophy Conference
- “Attention in Philosophy, Psychology, and the Neurosciences: Historical Origins and Present Concerns” (March 2011), My introduction to the MBB Undergraduate Workshop I was organizing (with Gary Hatfield, Takeo Watanabe and Jeremy Wolfe as speakers) [Slides]
- “Commentary on Jerome Dokic's 'Perception without representation: The case of spatial relations'” (October 2010), Conference on Philosophical Perspectives on Spatial Perception (Harvard)
- “Attention and the Structures of Consciousness” (September 2010), Center for Integrative Neuroscience, University of Tübingen (Germany)
- “Attention as Structuring of the Stream of Consciousness” (April 2010), Metro-Area Research Group on Awareness and Meditation (NYC)
- “Attention as Structuring of the Stream of Consciousness” (February 2010), Cornell University, Department of Philosophy
- “Awareness of Attention and the Structure of Consciousness” (December 2009), New York University, Consciousness Reading Group (led by David Chalmers und Farid Masrour)
- “Objectivity and Joint Attention: On a Difference between the Senses” (October 2009), Bentley University, Conference on Joint Attention: Developments in Philosophy of Mind, Developmental and Comparative Psychology, and Cognitive Science
- “The experience of attention” (June 2009), Thirteenth annual meeting of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness (ASSC), Berlin, Germany (Poster Presentation)
- “Structuring the Field of Consciousness: our Awareness of Attention” (May 2009) Annual OSU/Maribor/Rijeka Philosophy Conference: The philosophical significance of attention, Dubrovnik, Croatia
- “The experience of attention” (December 2008), MindGrad, Warwick, England
- “Consciousness, Attention, and Demonstrative Thought”, (June 2008), 16th annual meeting of the European Society for Philosophy and Psychology, Utrecht, Netherlands
- “Knowledge in action: behavior executed attentively” (September 2007), SEFA 5, Barcelona, Spain
- Epistemic Injustice
- Phenomenal Qualities are Relations to Particulars