On Consciousness and Attention, or the making of scientific psychology: Wilhelm Wundt.

Jour Fixe talk by Andrea Lailach-Hennrich on November 29, 2017

Andrea Lailach-Hennrich is a Postdoctoral Fellow of the Zukunftskolleg affiliated with the Department of Philosophy.

Imagine you enter a crowded lecture hall. You are scanning the room for a free seat and do not notice your friend is waving at you. Because your attention is drawn to something else, you fail to notice her call for attention, even though she might be right in front of you. A possible way to understand this scenario would be to claim that the moment we pay attention to something, we become conscious of it; and the moment attention wanes, the object fades from our consciousness. In other words, attending to something is just a mode of being conscious of it. The philosopher and psychologist Wilhelm Wundt known as ‘the father of empirical psychology’ was the first who has defined consciousness in terms of attention processes. In my talk I will give a brief account of Wundt’s theory and show how his understanding of consciousness has made it possible to establish psychology as an empirical and experimental science.