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Author & Title: Giorgio Marchetti, The importance of non-attentional operations for Attentional Semantics (Giorgio Marchetti Copyright 2005).


Abstract: Attentional semantics aims at finding the attentional instruction conveyed by the meanings of words, that is, the sequence of attentional operations that one has to perform if one wants to consciously experience what the meanings of words express. To achieve this goal, attentional semantics tries: firstly, to identify the sequence of the essential, elementary conscious experiences that invariably accompany, characterize, and are prompted by, the use of the word being analyzed; secondly, to describe these conscious experiences in terms of the attentional operations that are responsible for their production.

   However, attentional semantics cannot rely only on these two levels of analysis. It has to take into account also those unconscious or non-conscious operations that, directly or indirectly, serve either as the support that makes it possible for the attentional operations to take place, be completed, and occur in a certain way, or as the necessary complement that makes it possible to execute and implement the activities determined and triggered by the conscious experiences.

   A taxonomy of such unconscious operations is here proposed, based on the kind of conscious experience that the specific relationship existing between the organ of attention and the other organs makes possible. Four kinds of conscious experience have been identified: 1) conscious experiences that are determined by the direct application of attention to the other organs; 2) conscious experiences that are determined by the direct or indirect influence on the organ of attention of some other organs, independently of whether or not attention is applied to them; 3) conscious experiences resulting from the operations, performed by the other organs, on the products of the activity of the organ of attention; 4) conscious experiences resulting from activities that are triggered, organized and controlled by previous conscious mental acts. The unconscious operations involved in, or related to, each of the four specific kinds of conscious experience are then analyzed. The impact of such unconscious operations on the analyses of the meanings of words in attentional terms is described in general; some specific considerations are made about the analysis of the meanings of the words “time”, “thought” and of some modal auxiliary verbs.


Keywords: conscious experience, attention, meaning, Attentional Semantics, unconscious operations, time, thought, modal auxiliary verbs

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