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Is Attention Necessary and Sufficient for Phenomenal Consciousness?

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There has recently been a flurry of interest over how attention and phenomenal consciousness interact. Felipe De Brigard and Jesse Prinz have made the bold claim that attention is necessary and sufficient for phenomenal consciousness. If this turns out to be true, then we will have taken significant steps toward naturalizing the mind, which is a particularly exciting prospect. Against this position, several thinkers have presented empirical data which apparently show that consciousness is possible in the absence of attention, and vice versa. In this paper I argue that these results do not harm De Brigard and Prinz's position, but that this is unsurprising because they use a definition of 'attention'which makes their view empirically self-sealing. I shall also argue that the argument in favour of this definition of attention is unsuccessful. I shall close with some comments on what should be done for the debate to progress. I have three main aims in this paper: firstly to give an overview of the debate, secondly to thoroughly analyse De Brigard and Prinz's position, and thirdly (and most importantly) to point out some general and troublesome methodological issues that beset the debate, which have gone largely unacknowledged in the literature. Particularly, I will highlight the cross-purposes which stem from participants using definitions of the key terms in different ways.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, University of Durham, 50 Old Elvet, Durham, DH1 3HN., Email: [email protected]

Publication date: January 1, 2013

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