The Functions of Attention

February 16, 2024 - February 17, 2024
Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas, University of Oslo

Georg Morgenstiernes Hus

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Institut Jean Nicod
University of Miami

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Attention has long been a major research focus in cognitive science. While there is a wealth of empirical research on attention, some foundational questions remain unsettled. Recent philosophical work has made progress by advancing accounts of the nature of attention. Philosophers have also recently been engaged with normative questions about attention, including moral, political, epistemic, and rational norms of attention, in connection with recent concerns about the ‘attention economy’ and manipulation of attention in our digital environments.

The goal of this workshop is to contribute to a better understanding of attention by investigating another set of foundational questions, concerning the functions and natural norms of attention. Attention is involved in the operation of various other mental capacities—but how does attention contribute to the functioning of other capacities, and what is the function of attention itself? Prioritizing questions about attentions function can help in developing accounts of its nature; for to understand what a thing is, we will want to know what it does, or what it is for. In addition, identifying the function(s) of attention will enable us to say what it is for attention to function well or poorly as such, or to provide natural norms for attention. This has the potential to ground explanations of what is ‘disordered’ about attention, if anything is, in conditions such as ADHD and addiction. Moreover, considering the function of attention can contribute to an understanding of its natural origins, by identifying the effects that attentional mechanisms have had in evolutionary history for which attention may have been selected.

This workshop will bring together researchers interested in a variety of areas to discuss the functions of attention. The workshop will have a mix of invited and contribution presentations. We invite submissions of abstracts that speak to some aspect of the workshop themes, broadly understood.

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January 16, 2024, 9:00am CET

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