The Subject of Consciousness
© C.O. Evans

Chapter 4

Unprojected Consciousness - 4.1.2
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I. The Structure of Consciousness

[2] The effect attention has on consciousness is to polarize it into an object of attention and an unprojected consciousness. This polarization I described in the last chapter in terms of foreground and background. That description should now be seen as foreshadowing the present description of consciousness as structured into the object of attention and an unprojected consciousness. The distinction should be understood as a logical one. When one object of attention is replaced by another (because of a change of attention) the elements in consciousness change but the structure is still the same. Frequently, a new object of attention will also be a new element of consciousness, but when an existing element of consciousness becomes the new object of attention it is, as it were, detached from unprojected consciousness and set apart from it. The former object of attention will itself either pass into unprojected consciousness, or else simply cease to be an element of consciousness.

Unprojected consciousness must not be thought of as a solid unchanging mass of elements, for, as we have seen, as attention switches, elements may be detached and later returned to unprojected consciousness. But, in addition, the elements that at the time do not engage attention may nevertheless change, vanish, or be replaced by new ones. If we follow Ribot in taking change to be essential to consciousness, we would expect unprojected consciousness to be continually undergoing such change. This does not mean that the changes can be noticed, because if they were they would have obtruded on attention. At most we may be able to tell in retrospect of their occurrence, but our ability to do this is circumscribed by the fact that at no time are these changes etched on our memories as a result of our having paid attention to them. In this

-page 107-

connection I refer the reader to Ryle's sense (e) of conscious. 79 He mentions the case of a person being unconscious of the sensations in his blistered heel, because his mind is fully taken up with a heated dispute. Ryle's point is that in this sense 'to be unconscious of' means 'not to heed'. The point I wish to add is that when eventually the pain in the blistered heel is noticed its presence need not come as a complete surprise. The person may recollect that he had after all been dimly aware of it all along. It is this form of awareness to which I am referring when I claim that the elements of unprojected consciousness are elements of awareness. If they were not, there would be no justification in including them in consciousness - unprojected or otherwise. These considerations give us a sufficient basis for rejecting the view that awareness is always linked with noticing and attending.

In fact the very category 'unprojected consciousness' stands as a refutation of the idea that every state of awareness is ipso facto, a state receiving attention, and so if my arguments in favour of the recognition of an unprojected consciousness are sound, they are at the same time arguments against the view that an awareness is necessarily an object of attention.

I have up to this point attempted to show that the mere existence of unprojected consciousness is a sine qua non of attention. But as far as the nature of the unprojected consciousness is concerned, that has been treated as irrelevant. As a foil, unprojected consciousness need be merely other, with its elements having no particular relationship to the object of attention. I shall now try to show that unprojected consciousness is much more than a mere foil to attention.

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Footnotes

79. See above p. 42.
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