Against Unifying Accounts of Attention

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There have recently been a number of attempts to put forth a philosophical account of the nature of attention. Many such theories aim at giving necessary and sufficient conditions for something to be attention. In this paper I shall argue that any such theory must meet two criteria. Then I shall consider four prominent accounts of attention in some detail, and argue that all of them face problems meeting one or the other of the criteria. I propose an alternative view, which involves taking seriously a pluralistic approach to attention. If the position I advocate is correct, then much of the philosophical work currently carried out on attention is fundamentally misguided, as most of the prominent theories of attention currently available are based on assumptions which should be rejected.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-56
Number of pages18
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2015


  • Cognitive resource
  • Term memory
  • Family resemblance
  • Phenomenal consciousness
  • Empirical psychology


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