Cognitive PhenomenologyA Non-Reductive Account

  1. Jorba Grau, Marta
Supervised by:
  1. Manuel García-Carpintero Director
  2. Francesc Pereña Director

Defence university: Universitat de Barcelona

Fecha de defensa: 11 April 2013

  1. Gianfranco Soldati Chair
  2. Josefa Toribio Mateas Secretary
  3. Tim Bayne Committee member

Type: Thesis

Teseo: 341863 DIALNET lock_openTDX editor


The aim of this dissertation is to provide a non-reductive account of cognitive phenomenology and the experience of thinking. The nature of conscious thought is an issue that has occupied philosophers since ancient times, and still many questions in this domain remain unanswered. One of them is the relation between thought and experience or phenomenal consciousness, in the particular way explored in this thesis: when we undergo a certain cognitive mental episode, should we recognize an experience like our other sensory, perceptual, or emotional experiences or should we rather recognize a very different sort of experience? Experiences are usually characterized by a phenomenal character or what-it-is-likeness for the subject to undergo them, which is usually taken as the mark of phenomenal consciousness and which, for mainstream contemporary philosophy of mind, has been limited to sensory and perceptual experiences, or even to emotional experiences. My general thesis is that conscious thought should be included in the domain of phenomenal consciousness and that there is an experience of thinking or conscious thought with a specific phenomenal character, namely, a phenomenal character that cannot be reduced to other non-cognitive kinds of phenomenologies. The thesis has three main parts, which are divided in several chapters. In the first part, Introduction, I present the basic elements to be able to start the investigation. I firstly clarify the relevant issues involved in the debate (Chapter 1), I justify the terminology chosen and I present the main views and a brief history of the problem. I then propose a way to approach the experience of thinking from a methodological point of view (Chapter 2), through a study of some methodological problems in philosophy and psychology, mainly related to introspection and introspective evidence. In the second part of the thesis, Main Arguments in Cognitive Phenomenology, I defend my non-reductive view with several arguments. I present the obvious argument (Chapter 3) for the conclusion that conscious thoughts have phenomenal properties and I resist some putative cases against the argument. I then present my version of the phenomenal argument (Chapter 4), which shows that there is a phenomenal change between two cognitive experiences contrasted and that this change cannot be explained by appealing to the sensory/emotional elements that by hypothesis remain constant. My presentation of this argument is complemented by a defense against some restrictivist views (Chapter 5). I then present the epistemic argument, which claims that we have introspective immediate knowledge of the kind of mental episode we are in (and of different cognitive atittudes), and that this would not be possible unless cognitive episodes have a specific cognitive phenomenology (Chapter 6). I finally consider another argument, the ontological argument, that might support the reductionist view , but I argue that it does not succeed (Chapter 7). In the third part of the thesis, The Specification of Cognitive Phenomenology, and as a further step in the discussion, I propose a specification of cognitive phenomenology in relation to intentionality and its two main components in conscious thought, cognitive content (Chapter 8) and cognitive attitude (Chapter 9). This proposal provides us with a way of determining similarities and differences in cognitive phenomenology that result in different experiential kinds and different types of conscious thought in virtue of their phenomenology. Moreover, it offers an answer to the question of the relation of determination between both components and their phenomenal character. This dissertation questions well some well-established assumptions in philosophy of mind and consciousness studies: (i) it implies a comprehension of phenomenal consciousness as including cognition, (ii) it rejects the assymetry between sensory/perceptual experience and cognitive one (regarding temporal structure and specification attempts) and (iii) it questions separatist positions between intentionality and phenomenal consciousness. It also opens new research in relation to other philosophical topics and empirical studies and it contributes to the examination of two research fields (consciousness and cognition) that have normally been investigated separately.