Phenomenal Thought

Charles Siewert

in Cognitive Phenomenology

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199579938
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731112 | DOI:
Phenomenal Thought

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Does phenomenal consciousness include conceptual thought, or is it limited to merely sensory features? The answer can significantly affect theories of consciousness. This article's case for including conceptual thought (“inclusivism”) starts with historical background meant to show that the opposite “exclusivist” position enjoys no default status. The notion of phenomenal consciousness is then clarified by proposing an interpretation of the crucial phrase “there is something that it's like for one.” This allows a relatively precise and unpredjudicial statement of the issue. It is largely decided by whether what it is like for one to have occurrent conceptual thought is entirely derivative from what it is like to have sensory features one could have in its absence. Detailed examination of three situations of occurrent understanding furnishes three arguments that this is not the case, and thus that an inclusivist position is correct. The three involve: (i) what it is like to read a passage with and without following the meaning; (ii) what it is like to have a delayed understanding of what someone said; (iii) what it is like to switch one's interpretation of a phrase. Finally, it is argued that the inclusivism advocated is compatible with certain forms of content externalism; these do not refute it.

Keywords: phenomenal consciousness; phenomenal features; occurrent thought; experience of understanding; thought content; content externalism

Chapter.  17301 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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