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Consciousness, Attention and Commonsense

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: In a recent paper, Christopher Mole (2008) argued in favour of the view that, according to our commonsense psychology, while consciousness is necessary for attention, attention isn't necessary for consciousness. In this paper I offer an argument against this view. More precisely, I offer an argument against the claim that, according to our commonsense psychology, consciousness is necessary for attention. However, I don't claim it follows from this argument that commonsense has it the other way around, viz. that consciousness isn't necessary for attention. Instead, I want to motivate the claim that there isn't such a thing as the view of commonsense psychology about the relation between attention and consciousness. I argue that people's use of these terms -- and, presumably, of their corresponding concepts -- seems to be context-dependent. I conclude with a discussion of the possible implications of this claim for the empirical study of attention and consciousness.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, Cognitive Neuroscience of Memory Lab, Caldwell Hall, CB #3125, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3125, Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2010


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