Seeds of self-knowledge: noetic feelings and metacognition

Jérôme Dokic

in Foundations of Metacognition

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199646739
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745867 | DOI:
Seeds of self-knowledge: noetic feelings and metacognition

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This chapter is about the psychological nature and epistemic value of noetic feelings, such as the feeling of knowing or the feeling of uncertainty. Noetic feelings are ‘seeds’ of self-knowledge, insofar as they seem to tell us something about our own mental and epistemic life. For instance, when one is being asked a question (such as ‘What is the capital of Peru?’), one may feel that one knows its answer even though one fails to retrieve a specific target from memory. On the assumption that one’s epistemic feelings are generally reliable (albeit fallible), three epistemological models (or classes of models) are distinguished. On the Simple Model, epistemic feelings are expressions of metarepresentational beliefs or memories, for instance the memory that one knows what the capital of Peru is. On the Direct Access Model, noetic feelings are cases of introspective awareness of first-order beliefs or memories, where the contents of the latter can be at least partly occluded to the subject. On the Water Diviner Model (in reference to a character in Wittgenstein’s Blue Book), noetic feelings are mere bodily experiences, which have come to be associated with first-order mental states through some learning process. On this model, the intentionality of noetic feelings beyond the body is derived or acquired rather than intrinsic. This chapter argues that the Water Diviner Model is on the right track as far as the epistemic dimension of noetic feelings is concerned. However, many noetic feelings also have a motivational dimension, which the model does not fully explain. The remainder of this chapter addresses the puzzle according to which noetic feelings both precede and follow behaviour. The solution to this puzzle requires a distinction between two kinds of metacognition, which is called ‘procedural’ and ‘deliberate’. Procedural metacognition is largely implicit and does not manipulate metarepresentations. In contrast, deliberate metacognition is a way of using our feelings in explicit, controlled reasoning, and may bring in metarepresentational abilities. However, the chapter puts forward a tentative hypothesis about the derived intentional contents of noetic feelings, according to which they can concern our own mental and epistemic life without being strictly speaking metarepresentational. From this perspective, the feeling of knowing may be the feeling that one can answer specific questions, rather than the feeling that one knows the answer to these questions. So even deliberate metacognition need not be metarepresentational.

Keywords: metacognition; procedural; deliberate; metarepresentation; noetic feelings; self-knowledge; introspective awareness; fluency; motivation; consciousness

Chapter.  12586 words. 

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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