28 May 2021

Talk by Odysseus Stone on attention and mindfulness

On the 28th of May 2021 Odysseus Stone gave a DISTRACT seminar talk entitled "What we care about when we care about attention: Insights from phenomenology and recent philosophy of attention"


Attention is something we care about. Two areas of public life where this fact about attention is currently particularly salient are a) the ongoing debates about the attention economy, and b) the explosion of interest in (and backlash against) mindfulness meditation. These debates are replete various normative claims about attention, claims that speak to the important role that attention plays in our lives. Such debates have, however, for the most part been carried out in relative isolation from philosophical reflection on attention. I show how reflections on the nature of attention from phenomenology (e.g., Gurwitsch, Merleau-Ponty), and from recent analytic philosophy (e.g., Watzl) help clarify the issues at stake. These authors share in rejecting various popular ways of thinking about attention—as information-pruning, as spotlight, as limited resource, etc.—and instead think of attention in terms of structuring psychological life. I spell out a few implications for the debates about mindfulness and the attention economy.

Odysseus Stone is a PhD fellow with the Center for Subjectivity research (CFS) at the University of Copenhagen.