Consciousness and the World

By Brian O'Shaughnessy | Go to book overview

8 The Attention and Perception (1)

In the previous chapter 1 advanced a theory of the attention, in which I interpreted this phenomenon as the system of experiences present in the mind at any moment (or across time): 'Experiential Consciousness' as one might call it, 'Consciousness' in one sense of the word, none other than the 'Stream of Consciousness' of literary fame. Now we know at the same time that the attention is intimately linked with perception. In the course of the ensuing discussion I hope to shed light on the essential nature of perception through tracing out some of those links, which is to say through relating perception with Experiential Consciousness. In particular, I hope to make clear how it is that perception exemplifies one of the two major functions of Experiential Consciousness. I aim in this way to reveal its central status in the mind.


1 The Dual Functions of the Attention

Let me first of all review some of the main findings of the previous chapter. I began by noting that the sense of 'perception' in the expression 'sense-perception' is something other than that of insight or 'grasp'. Roughly, it is coming face to face with Reality rather than Truth. After all, sense-perceptual experiences have no truth-value (as we shall see in Chapter 10). Perception is an event in the attention, which is such that some real phenomenal item is the object of that attentive event. As we express it, perceiving is making attentive contact with an actual existent.

At a certain point I asked a question which bears upon an issue of some importance—a question prompted by an awareness of the cognitive power of perception and the closeness of the relation between perception and the attention. Namely, whether in speaking of 'The Attention' we are referring to a particular faculty, viz. the capacity to harbour distinctive idiosyncratic phenomena which link one in some pre-eminent way cognitively with the environment. I suggested that there was reason for doubting whether this was an adequate characterization of either perception or the attention. The remainder of the discussion centred upon giving reasons why it was an inadequate account of the attention. It emerged that the attention has a function in mental life which is quite other than its use in

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Consciousness and the World
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Consciousness and the World iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I Consciousness 35
  • 1: The Experience 37
  • 2: The Anatomy of Consciousness 68
  • 3: Self-Consciousness and Self-Knowledge 102
  • 4: 'Translucence' 164
  • 5: Consciousness and the Mental Will 200
  • 6: Interiority and Thinking 233
  • Part II the Attention and Perception 265
  • 7: The Attention 275
  • 8: The Attention and Perception (1) 291
  • 9: The Attention and Perception (2) 302
  • 10: Perception and Truth 318
  • 11: The Imagination (1) 339
  • 12: The Imagination (2) 362
  • 13: Imagination and Perception 371
  • 14: Active Attending or a Theory of Mental Action 379
  • Part III Seeing 407
  • 15: 'Blindsight' and the Essence of Seeing 415
  • 16: Seeing the Light 439
  • 17: Sense-Data (1) or the Ways of the Attention 465
  • 18: Sense-Data (2) 502
  • 19: Secondary Qualities 515
  • 20: The 'Perceptual Given' and 'Perceptual Mediators' or the Formation of the Visual Experience 538
  • 21: Appearances 570
  • 22: Perceptually Constituting the Material Object 592
  • Part IV Perception and the Body 621
  • 23: Proprioception and the Body Image 628
  • 24: The Sense of Touch 656
  • Conclusion 681
  • Index 697
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