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Professor Carolyn Dicey Jennings Publishes Book: "The Attending Mind"

April 21, 2020

Carolyn Dicey Jennings, UC Merced associate professor of Cognitive and Information Sciences, published her first book this spring, "The Attending Mind," with Cambridge University Press (UC has free access to the contents here: https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/attending-mind/071EA54D9F6BCBC8B1012993E973B55E#fndtn-contents).

Nico Silins, professor of Philosophy at Cornell University, who was one of the CUP reviewers, kindly provided a blurb for the back of the book:

“While centered on attention, the self, and action, the breadth of Carolyn Dicey Jennings’ rich work is extraordinary, with important discussions of a wide range of subfields of philosophy (not to mention Cat Power), informed by an uncommon openness to a diverse range of resources in past and present philosophy and psychology.”

The book makes contributions to a number of significant philosophical debates, including:

  • the nature and existence of the self (Chapter 3);
  • the foundations of perception and knowledge (Chapter 4);
  • the necessary components for conscious experience (Chapter 5);
  • action, responsibility, and control in the absence of attention (Chapter 6); plus
  • a very broad review of philosophical work on attention, from Ancient and Indian philosophy to contemporary debates (Chapter 2).

Professor Carolyn Dicey JenningsThe book is primarily informed by work in contemporary philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience, but it touches base with work in other fields, including legal theory. The primary claims include that attention is evidence of an emergent self with its own causal powers (Chapter 3); that attention supplies meaning for conscious perception and so is necessary for perceptual knowledge (Chapter 4); that attention is not necessary for consciousness, calling for a new conception of consciousness (Chapter 5); and that attention is not necessary for action, forcing us to revise traditional theories of action and responsibility (Chapter 6). Jennings continues to work on these issues with the help of her graduate students, Shadab Tabatabaeian and Alex Dayer.

In Spring 2019 Jennings was awarded a prestigious fellowship at Australian National University where she had a chance to preview and get feedback on all of the main chapters of her book through talks and small group discussions: https://philosophy.cass.anu.edu.au/news/anu-school-philosophy-hosted-recent-work-attention-workshop. In fall 2019, she was interviewed about the book by Richard Brown for his Consciousness Live! podcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISmFU6FNe7A .