Psychology down the Ages - Vol. 1

By C. Spearman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
"ATTENTION"

§ 1. The Modern Babel. § 2. Another Masquerade. § 3. A Saving Grace. § 4. Upshot.


§ 1. The Modern Babel

Not remote from the faculties of the Intellect and Intelligence is that of "Attention". Often this has been extolled as a discovery--indeed, the pre-eminent discovery--of quite recent times. But far from this really being so, it has a long and extraordinary past.

We can hardly call modern even Chr. Wolff, who brought this attention to very widespread notice. He counted it among the fundamental cognitive powers, defining it as

"the faculty of causing one part of a compound percept to be clearer than the others."

And from that time forth, this faculty has risen to a dominant position. But its towering growth would appear to have been achieved at the price of calling down upon its builders the curse of Babel, "to confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech". For the word "attention" quickly came to be associated by them with a diversity of meanings that have the appearance of being more chaotic even than those of the term "intelligence".

Some writers have followed in the footsteps of Wolff, and have used the word to denote the power or process of engendering perceptual clearness. But others

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