Phenomenology of Distraction, or Attention in the Fissuring of Time and Space

In: Research in Phenomenology
Michael Marder Ikerbasque / University of the Basque Country Vitoria-Gasteiz

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The goal of “Phenomenology of Distraction” is to explore the imbrication of attention and distraction within existential spatiality and temporality. First, I juxtapose the Heideggerian dispersion of concern (which includes, among other things, the attentive comportment) in everyday life, conceived as a way to get distracted from one’s impending mortality, to Fernando Pessoa’s embracing of the inauthentic, superficial, and restless existence, where attention necessarily reverts into distraction. Second, I consider the philosophical confessions of St. Augustine and Jean-Jacques Rousseau as evidence for the proto-phenomenological temporal synthesis that hinges upon distraction and dispersion, despite the confessors’ best efforts to pay attention to their inner life and to concentrate it in the eternal present. The paper concludes with an assessment of the ethical effects of mutual distraction, outlining a model of “distracted intersubjectivity.”

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