Is There a Phenomenology of Thought?
In recent years, something of a research project has emerged from the phenomenology of thought thesis, which holds that every type of conscious thought has a phenomenology that is distinct from that of any other kind of conscious state and also from that of any other type of conscious thought. This paper takes a critical look at the phenomenology of thought thesis, ultimately denying that conscious thoughts enjoy the distinctive phenomenology that proponents of the thesis suppose. What is not denied, however, is that there is something that it is like for a subject when she consciously thinks a thought. Nor is it denied that, typically, what it is like for a subject when she enjoys a particular conscious thought is different from what it is like for her to undergo distinct thoughts. It is argued that the phenomenology involved in thought can be exhausted by appeal to a variety of familiar conscious states. The kinds of experiences thought to motivate the phenomenology of thought thesis, it is suggested, can be properly characterized without appealing to a novel phenomenology, as can our ability to have introspective knowledge of thought contents. Finally, the very idea that thoughts themselves could have a phenomenology is called into question, based on considerations about the nature of thought first raised by Peter Geach.
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