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Title: Can phenomenology determine the content of thought?
Author: Forrest, Peter V.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5359 1924
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis is about consciousness and representation. More specifically, the big picture issue in the background throughout is the relationship between consciousness (or "phenomenology") and representation (or "intentionality") in the life of the mind. Phenomenology and intentionality are inarguably the two central topics in philosophy of mind of the last half-century. The question of phenomenology is, "how can there be something it feels like, from a subjective viewpoint, for a physical being to experience the world?" The question of intentionality is, "how can something physical, such as a brain state, be about, or represent, some other thing out in the world?" Not too long ago, the majority opinion was that these two questions addressed two essentially independent domains. However, in recent years the views of many philosophers have swung dramatically in the opposite direction. An important theme of analytic philosophy of mind in the last decade or two has been the exploration of the groundbreaking idea that these two domains might be fundamentally linked in previously unrecognized ways. Perhaps phenomenal properties are reducible to certain kinds of intentional properties. Perhaps the mind's non-derivative intentionality is grounded in phenomenology. Perhaps we should think of phenomenology and intentionality as "intertwined, all the way down to the ground" (Chalmers 2004, 32). This thesis addresses one crucial question within this larger framework: whether, and how, thoughts are phenomenally conscious. Thoughts are an important test case for theories about the relationship between phenomenology and intentionality, because they have long been considered paradigmatic intentional states, in contrast to perceptual and sensory experiences, which are paradigmatic phenomenal states. While there is something it is like, from the inside, for an individual to undergo a perceptual experience such as an olfactory experience of roasted coffee beans, by contrast entertaining a thought might seem to lack such a distinctive qualitative "feel". The thought is clearly intentional: it involves carrying informational content about objects and properties in the world. But is there also something it is like for a subject to experience thinking itself? To answer this question in the affirmative is to accept the existence of a phenomenology of thought, so-called "cognitive phenomenology" (CP). The literature on this topic so far has focused primarily on the question of whether CP exists. Here I will focus on the subtly different, and largely neglected, question of whether a kind of CP exists that is able to determine thought's intentional content. Many proponents of CP seem to be motivated by the hope that it can, since they believe that in the case of other conscious states, the phenomenology accounts for the intentionality. However, in what follows I argue that this ambitious project is doomed to fail, because CP is not suited to determine the intentional content of thought.
Supervisor: Child, William; Bayne, Tim Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Philosophy of mind ; Consciousness ; Cognition ; Phenomenology ; Intentionality ; Thought