Modes of Attention


Modes of Attention

(First Workshop of the 'Aesthetics & Ethics of Attention' Research Project SNSF)

July 27-29, 2020, Mex (VS)

Fabian Goppelsröder, FU Berlin
Elisa Magrì, Boston College

Organisation: Susanne Schmetkamp and Emmanuel Alloa
SNSF-PRIMA Research Project: Aesthetics and Ethics of Attention
Research Group: Aesthetics and Critique

If you wish to participate virtually, please send an email to


A famous quote by William James claims that, everyone knows what attention is. However, even more than 100 years later it still seems unclear what attention really is, and whether there is one unified notion of attention at all. Broadly defined, attention is a necessary capacity of the mind and an integral part of our experiences.

This also means that focusing on some things necessarily includes a withdrawal from others. Or, as Bernard Waldenfels writes: To see everything would mean to see nothing. This needs emphasizing even more in a society which is characterized by its overwhelming informational flood. Beyond the basic notion, though, the question arises in which forms attention appears and how we deal with all the stimuli and affordances which not only demand but enable us to attend to our world. Apart from the standard mode of focused attention we know other forms such as divided attention, hyper attention and a specific form of full attention which is comparable to attentiveness and mindfulness. Furthermore, there is a question whether aesthetic attention and practical attention are fundamentally different or not. From Iris Murdoch we know a form of ethical attention, the "just and loving gaze” towards the real other. Thus, attention has many facets. In this workshop we will take a close look at some of these other forms of attention and their relation to affordances, habits, aesthetic experience, and inattention.