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Watzl "How Attention Structures Consciousness" (April 2013
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Watzl "How Attention Structures Consciousness" (April 2013

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  • NotesDoes not assume a reductive account of the relevant appearances (might call them ”attentive”) Includes indeterminate appearances of something determinate

Watzl "How Attention Structures Consciousness" (April 2013 Watzl "How Attention Structures Consciousness" (April 2013 Presentation Transcript

  • + How Attention Structures Consciousness Sebastian Watzl
  • 1. Posner Cuing+ 2. Visual Search 3. Dichotic Listening
  • Garden ofAppearances
  • [E]xperience is supposed to be of something simply given. Attention, implying a degree of reactive spontaneity, would seem to break through the circle of pure receptivity which constitutes „experience,‟ and hence must not be spoken of under penalty of interfering with the smoothness of the tale. But themoment one thinks of the matter, one sees how false a notion of experience that is which would make it tantamount to the mere presence to the senses of an outward order. […] Without selective interest, experience is utter chaos. Interest alone gives accent and emphasis, light and shade, background andforeground – intelligible perspective, in a word. (James 1890/1981, p. 402)
  • First Part+ Argue that a central aspect of consciousness is missing in the garden of appearances
  • + The Counterpart Argument  Attention episodes have counterparts that present the same appearances without attention.  These counterparts are phenomenally different from the attention episodes.  So, the phenomenal character of attention episodes is not exhausted by how the world appears to the subject.
  • Second Part+ Provide an account of what is missing the in garden of appearances
  • + Phenomenal Structure  Aside from phenomenal qualities(which are given by appearances) there is phenomenal structure.  Phenomenal structure concerns how complex experiences are built from their parts. It concerns what is central in a complex experience and what is peripheral.
  • + What is the appearance view?
  • + The view that phenomenal character (at least of perceptual experience) is exhausted by appearances
  • + The Appearance View The world appears some way to S. The way the world is present(ed) to S. The way things look (in vision).
  • + The Appearance View  For the case of attention “[The] changes in the phenomenology of perception [due to attention and observed by Carrasco et al.] manifest themselves in experience as differences in apparent contrast, apparent color saturation, apparent size, apparent speed, apparent time of occurrence and other appearances.” (Block 2010, p. 23). All phenomenaleffectsofattentionare like that!
  • + The Appearance View  Appearance Properties = those properties of an experience that contribute to the way the world appears to the subject of that experience.  Phenomenal properties = those properties of an experience that contribute to what it is like for the subject of that experience. The Phenomenal Properties supervene on the Appearance Properties.
  • + The Appearance View and Intentionalism  Shared between intentionalists and many non-intentionalists about perceptual experience* *suchas the theory of appearing, direct realism, Johnston‟s “awareness view”, Peacocke‟s sensationalism, or Block‟s mental paint view.  Appearance Intentionalism 1. The Appearance View 2. Appearance Properties = (or supervene on) Intentional Properties (the bearing of intentional attitudes towards contents)  Opponents of intentionalism tend to reject 2., but tend to accept 1.
  • + The Appearance View and Attention  A phenomenal contribution of attention in experience e = a phenomenal property P of e whose instantiation is explained by the subject‟s distribution of attention (in e). The phenomenal contributions of attention supervene on the appearance properties
  • + The Appearance View and Attention  No assumption(of my argument) that attention would have to make the same phenomenal contribution in all cases.  No assumption(of my argument) that attention (sometimes) does not affect appearances (unlike in Nickel 2007, Speaks 2010). It does:  Increasesapparentcontrast(Carrasco, Ling and Read 2004), increases apparent size (Tsal and Shalev 1997; Gobell and Carrasco 2005; Anton-Erxleben, Heinrich and Treue 2007), increases color saturation (Fuller and Carrasco 2006), increased apparentbrightness(Tse 2005), has complex effects on apparentspatial relations (Liverence and Scholl 2011), decreases spatial distance (Rubin 1915/2001, Driver and Baylis 1996, Matsuura and Ichikawa 2003), complex effects on apparent scene segmentation/edge assignment (Driver and Baylis 1996; Vecera 2000, Vecera, Flevaris and Filapek 2004, Wagatsuma, Shimizu and Sakai 2008, Kimchi 2009), enhances spatial resolution (Yeshurun and Carrasco 1998), degrades temporal resolution (Yeshurun and Levy 2003)  No assumption(of my argument) that the focus of attention is not sometimes required to become aware of certain objects, properties or events at all (as in the “Gorilla” experiment, and other inattentional blindness results)  It is not always required (evidenced by the literature just cited).
  • + The Appearance View and Attention Look to have the same contrast Unattended higher contrast Attended lower contrastmarisacarrasco From Carrasco, Ling and Read 2004
  • + Why is the appearance view false?
  • + The counterpart argument
  • + The Counterpart Argument The Counterpart Claim There is an attention episodeαsuch that, possibly, there exists a counterpart α* (where either the subject does not have the capacity for attention or where her attention is evenly distributed) such that α and α* are appearance indiscernible. The Difference Claim Some attention episode α is phenomenally discernible from its counterpart α*.
  • + The Counterpart argument Central Idea  Can “mimic” any effect on appearances by changing the world or your non-attentional relation to it (Counterpart Claim)  Can‟t ”mimic” an aspect of the phenomenal contribution of attention in this way (Difference Claim)
  • + Defense of The Counterpart Claim 1. Edenic Worlds Consider an Edenic scenario (without attention) (Chalmers 2004): a world that is exactly how it appears to the subject. In such an Edenic scenario attention plays no role for appearances. Rather, appearances are the result of a pre-established harmony between world and subject. If Edenic scneario are possible, the counterpart claim follows.  Where objects look to have higher contrast with attention, in the Edenic world they have higher contrast.  Where objects looks bigger with attention, in the Edenic world they are bigger.  …  Most known effects of attention on appearances can obviously be mimicked in such ways.
  • + Defense of The Counterpart Claim 2. What about Resolution/Determinacy (Nanay 2010, Stazicker 2011)?  Not even actually specific to attention.  Can be replicated by affecting the (non-attentional) subject-environment relation. Might have to partial includedistortions in theperceptual systems (achieved by filters in partially theperceptual organs) that lead to partiallyindeterminateappearan cesof a determinate world (see Tye onblurryvision)
  • + Defense of The Counterpart Claim 3. What about attended appearances, appearing salient etc. (appearances explicitly defined in terms of attention)?  Can‟t just define appearances that resist the counterpart claim into existence.  Must show that such are properties ways the world appears to the subject(they don‟t, after all, seem to characterize “the way things look”)  Suggestion: must be experienced as “out there” or “in or on the perceived object”*(like a white wall might look yellow-ish in certain lightning conditions, or the air might look rainbow colored (prob. he same for after-images)**)  If they are, attention cannot be essential to them, since attention is not an aspect of the world (as it appears to the subject).  Hence: must think of attention as fixing reference to such appearances (if they exist), not as being essential to them. *Shoemaker 2006 **Philips forthcoming
  • + Defense of the Difference Claim 1. Intuitive Obviousness  Most people (including me) find it intuitively obvious that attention scenarios differ phenomenally from their counterparts.  This intuitive judgment resembles others that philosophers have given weight in their argumentation:  Consider the phenomenal contrast between ”seeing stars” and actually seeing stars; between moving your limbs and having your limbs passively moved  By itself, though, the intuitive judgment is not decisive.
  • + Defense of the Difference Claim 2. Argument to the best epistemic explanation Noticability A subjects is in a position to notice whether she is in α or in α*. Noticability-Phenomenology-Link A subject is in a position to notice whether she is undergoing mental episode e or e* only if e is phenomenally discernible from e*.
  • + The Counterpart Argument The Counterpart Claim There is an attention episodeαsuch that, possibly, there exists a counterpart α* (where either the subject does not have the capacity for attention or where her attention is evenly distributed) such that α and α* are appearance indiscernible. For most appearances letα* be an Edenic scenario exactly how it appears to the subject. For determinacy adjust visual resolution by other means, or create appropriate filters. For saliency (and generally) consider that attention is not part of the experienced world. The Difference Claim Some attention episode α is phenomenally discernible from its counterpart α*. Intuitivelyas obvious as otherphenomenalcontrast cases.  The argument to thebest epistemicexplanation.
  • + What is the appearance view missing?
  • + The structure of experience
  • + Where to start?  Do we need attentional qualia? Or attentional sense-data?  Would make no connection between the phenomenal contributions of attention of attention, and the role it plays for us.  Would leave mysterious why the appearance view is threatened by attention, and what was correct about it.  Better:  Start with the role attention plays for us: it prioritizes some aspects of our mental lives over others.  In doing so, it affects the subject‟s point of view.
  • + Structuralism Attention structures the subject‟s stream of consciousness so that some of its parts are more central than others
  • + Building Experiences E = a complex experience An experience of the songs of the birds. An experience of the waterfall.
  • + Building Experiences + + Mereology E = e1 + e2 + + e3 + …
  • + Building Experiences An experience of the songs of the birds. Conjunction in Content E= experiencing(c 1 & c2 & …) An experience of the waterfall.
  • + Building Experiences Structure E = e1 < e2 < e3 <… = experiencing 1 more centrally Higher attentional than 2 ... priority
  • + Building Experiences Higher attentional priority (converse: the peripherality relation)
  • + Building Experiences PhenomenalQualities covered by theappearanceview
  • + Building Experiences PhenomenalStructure Missing from theappearanceview
  • + Building Experiences PhenomenalQualities covered by the appearanceview PhenomenalStructure Missing from theappearanceview
  • + Parts of Experience  Experiential Episodes are events (or processes)  As such they have parts. Some parts, for example, occur before others.  In general, events have a multi-dimensional part structure (there are multiple ways an event can be partitioned into parts).  The relevant parts of experience are just those of its aspects such that attentional relations hold between them (no attention- independent partitioning presupposed). E.g.  An “experience” of figure L.  An “experience” of the sound of the violin.  An “experience” of red.  An “experience” of roundness.  Not presupposed that the parts are experiences. They might be mere abstractions from the whole.
  • + Some developments  Let e 1 > e2 and e 1 > e3. Then e3 is more peripheral than e2 just if e 2 > e3.  Can be applied intermodally as well as intramodally.
  • + Some developments an object, event, a part of experience property, process, ..  a is the focus of attention in attention scenario α =Def it is not the case that in α there exists an item x such that x a and ex > ea.  e is at the center of a subject‟s mental life in attention scenario α =Def it is not the case that in α there exists a part ex of α such that ex e and ex>e.  not every experience need to have a center/focus. E.g.:  Attention is equally split between a and b in attention scenario α =Def it is not the case that in α: (ea >ebor eb> ea)and for all items x: (if x a and x b then ex > ea and ex >eb)
  • + Some developments  e is at the fringe of a subject‟s mental life in attention scenario α =Def it is not the case that in α there exists a part ex of α such that ex e and e> ex. (the dual of the center)  prob. every mental life has a fringe.  Center and fringe need not differ in appearances (though in most actual cases they will).  Attentional priority is correlated with a variety of effects on appearances (see above). But it does not consist in those effects.  Being central, peripheral or at the fringe are structural (and hence holistic) features of the field of consciousness. One cannot specify what it is to be at the fringe of consciousness without mentioning how one part of experience is related to all the other parts).
  • + Some developments  Arguably any attention episode is peripherality connected: An attention episodeαisperipherality connected =Def for all ex and ey: if ex is a part of αandeyis a part of α, then there is a peripherality path between ex and ey .  An experiential episode that is peripherality connected will be phenomenally unified. No further co-consciousness relation (or phenomenal mereology) is needed.  That unified experience consists in experiencing some things more centrally than others.  Arguably, a subject has a phenomenally unified total experience only if and because that total experience is peripherality connected.  need the fusion of a subject‟s experiences to be peripherality connected.  in this case each subject just has one conscious episode.  might be argued for in part based on the role of attention in split brain cases and hemineglect.
  • + In conclusion ....
  • + ... some more questions and speculative answers.
  • + Question 1  Question: Why can‟t phenomenal structure (unlike phenomenal qualities) not be reproduced without attention?  Superficial Answer:  Because phenomenal structure does not characterize how the world appears to the subject.  Deeper Question: if attention is a mechanism that causes experience to be structured, then couldn‟t it be structured without that cause?  Deeper Answer:  Attention is not such a mechanism. Attention is the process of structuring. It stands to the structure like the process of holding a pen stands to the state of a pen being held. Attention consists in experiencing some things more centrally than others.
  • + Question 2  Question: how could subject‟s notice whether their experience is structured?  Answer:  Would require a general theory of introspective knowledge. Many such theories are compatible with subjects being in that epistemic position.  One option (which I like):  Subjects are aware of the process of structuring, i.e. aware of experiencing some things more centrally than others.  This awareness is part of what makes her experiencing conscious (in line with HOR or SOR theories).  This awareness is not just postulated. Many Yoga practices for example teach subjects to train this awareness of their attention (and thereby control it).  This awareness is the epistemic basis for introspective knowledge.
  • + Question 3  Question: how does all of this connect to James‟ idea that attention implies “a degree of reactive spontaneity”?  Answer:  Experience, on my conception, has two aspects. Phenomenal qualities and phenomenal structure.  Experience is receptive/reactive insofar as in it the world appears some way to the subject (phenomenal qualities).  Experience is spontaneous/active insofar as the subject is able to control the structure of her experience (by controlling her attention).  These two aspects are two inseparable sides of any (attentive) experience.
  • + Question 4  Question: Is phenomenal structure an essential feature of experience? Could there be experiences without it?  Answer:  I„m not sure.  Maybe we can think of some kind of transcendental argument relating to the role experience plays for objective knowledge, or the idea that experience provides the subject with a point of view?
  • + The End