With the aim of showing what it takes to see the world and others as they are, this article provides a phenomenological account of what Iris Murdoch has memorably called “the work of attention.” I first show that Aron Gurwitsch’s analyses of attention provide a basis on which to reject a voluntaristic account of attention according to which seeing things as they are is as simple as directing one’s attention to something. Then, in order to elucidate the work that is involved in paying attention, I draw on Edmund Husserl’s descriptions of the activity characteristic of attentive consciousness. I then show how a Husserlian account of the work of attention can help make sense of Murdoch’s pessimistic claim that our consciousness is not “a transparent glass through which it views the world” while also indicating how we, by paying attention, can do better.

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