The given and our attention
Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on March 18, 2006
I want you to notice now the distinction of what we attend to, and what is the result of the attention.
Or to give examples – attention is attention to size, color, position, movement in
general, or focus is focus on size, color, position, movement, etc. in
general. We don’t focus on the things bigness, redness, nearness and so on. We ask people to focus on the size of the thing, by saying “notice its size”, or “look at its size”.
This is important, as it makes it clear (I hope) that there are two separate things in the whole of attention. One thing is the part of attention as act, which can be controlled by us, so we can focus on things size, color, position, and so on…
The other is the thing which is left in our attention, to our focus. It can be the redness when we focus on the color, or some form of circular movement when we focus on the movement, and so on.
We can now more closely relate attention with the abstraction. As I noticed when talking about abstraction, the same word is used both for the act of abstracting, and the result of the abstraction. Now we see both of those things in the process of attention. The act of focusing is the abstraction as act of abstracting, and what is given to he focus, is abstraction as result of abstracting.
Or put it in other way, you can try, and it is up to you to focus on the apple size, color, number, or anything else on this picture. But if you do you will find yourself attending to something which doesn’t come from you. The result will be given to you, to your attention.
We can thus say that the act of focusing is subjective act of abstraction, but that it doesn’t determine what will be abstracted. What is abstracted (if anything) is given to our attention.
Note 1:I mentioned in previous post about attention, that the attention can be drawn to something. But that doesn’t mean this makes the act of attending not-subjective. What is rather more possible explanation, is that this points that attention like some other acts can be done by reflex.
Note 2:The result as given, is not given AS abstract, it is given and concrete. So as a result of our attention to color, number or shape, we don’t end up with focused on abstract red-ness, two-ness or circular-ness. This issue will be discussed later.
Note 3:Though it might be possible, for one to require from us to focus to redness, for example when talking of qualia, that wouldn’t be attention which would be abstraction of the object, it would be asking for one to become aware of the fact that it is somehow to observe red object, when one abstracts from the abstraction. So to say… asking to become aware that there is more to the perceptual situation then the mere abstractions by which we may describe it. It is talking about the distinction that was already brought forward in the previous note.
Note 4:The terminology of “given” abstraction (result), is not best way to describe how we experience the whole thing. Phenomenologically, what is rather given is the whole world situation in which we are, or to which we got through our lives. And through our focusing, we are attending on the specific parts of that given. But phenomenological description, and analysis of its meaning, will have to wait some other post.