It is evident from recent political campaigns, such as that of Donald Trump, that the deployment of attention is crucial for political outcomes. Indeed, Trump’s presidency came about in part due to realities that were produced by the media themselves, which required in turn the engagement of public attention. The implication is that the instability and capriciousness that is often associated with attention can be an important influence on the outcomes that are so produced. Drawing on the thought of Martin Heidegger, Lawrence Berger puts forward a new conception of attention as human presence, showing how its state determines the efficacy of public spaces in articulating and achieving visions of the common good. As politicians seek to amass power by capturing attention, citizens can engage in disciplines of attention such as mindfulness in producing a public power that is more appropriately oriented to the welfare of all. Berger argues that the practice of mindfulness can enable enhanced ontological bonds to form between individuals, which can be the basis for more stable and effective political realities. Such bonds are not given structures, but are rather contingent upon the state of attention, which comes about holistically by way of a hermeneutical circle of attention, language, and bodily understanding. This book is a valuable resource for scholars and students of philosophy of mind, political philosophy, phenomenology, and cognitive science.
Lawrence Berger is a former professor at the Wharton School and currently teaches philosophy at Marist College. His 2015 article “Being There: Heidegger on Why Our Presence Matters” in the New York Times philosophy blog The Stone elicited over 500 comments and was the most shared article on the day of its publication.
Part I. The Metaphysics of Attention
1. Attention as Extended Presence
2. The Hermeneutical Circle
3. The Ontological Status of Attention
Part II. Attention and the Self
4. Attention as the Manifestation of the Self
5. The Primacy of Attention
6. Attention as The Minimal Self
Part III. Attention and the Political
7. Attention, Language, and World Constitution
8. The Power of Attention
9. Attention as the Way to Being
About the Author
Lawrence Berger’s ground-breaking study of attention provides a remarkably wide-ranging investigation of a phenomenon central to human presence. Berger’s is the first work to treat attention in a way that critically engages with both the contemporary scientific and philosophical literature. Grounded in phenomenological and hermeneutic thinking, it provides a comprehensive exploration of the ontology of attention as well as the centrality of attention to political life.
Lawrence Berger offers us a deeply learned and imaginative account of attention and human flourishing. Synthesizing a dazzling array of thinkers and theories that span centuries and subject areas, Berger articulates an idealistic and attractive vision of mindfulness that, widely practiced, might elevate our communal and political lives.
In The Politics of Attention and the Promise of Mindfulness, Lawrence Berger makes a significant contribution to the phenomenology of attention. His claim that attention is an extended form of human presence in the world is comprehensive in scope, rigorously argued, and creative.
In a time when the media are mercilessly clamoring for our constant attention, nothing perhaps could be more urgent than a book helping us to understand and work with our ability to exercise attention with due awareness. Larry Berger’s comprehensive, well-researched and insightful study, critically examining the contributions of the empirical sciences while also drawing on the resources of experiential phenomenology and practices of mindfulness, argues in a reader-friendly style for the importance of disciplines of attention in facilitating the kind of mutually satisfying communication necessary for a flourishing democracy.
Lawrence Berger's new book provides an important account of the phenomenology of attention and its social implications. This is the kind of scholarship that advances the relevance of Heidegger's thought for urgent questions we face today, especially in understanding the complexities of a political community.
Lawrence Berger calls for the recognition of attention as indispensable for reshaping our traditional views of the body, self, and politics. Rigorous yet accessible, this book offers readers interested in hermeneutics, phenomenology, and political philosophy valuable new insights into the gathering power of attention for individual and community formation.
Attention is a central phenomenon in everyday existence, but it is front and center in very few philosophies. Lawrence Berger seeks to address this by focusing on attention as human presence in the course of worldly engagement. He shows how presence involves a hermeneutical circle of attention, language, and understanding, which together form a comprehensive framework for conceiving our existence. He also highlights how disciplines of attention, such as mindfulness, are essential, in that they enable us to fulfill our potential and establish the communal bonds that are needed for effective political engagement. Berger’s careful study—and his message—are important for our times.