The mark of the mental

Southwest Philosophy Review 23 (1):117-124 (2007)
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[written in 2005/2006 while I was a graduate student at CUNY. This version was awarded The Southwestern Philosophical Society Presidential Prize for an outstanding paper by a graduate student or recent PhD and was subsequently published in Southwest Philosophy Review] The idea that there is something that it is like to have a thought is gaining acceptance in the philosophical community and has been argued for recently by several philosophers. Now, within this camp there is a debate about which component of the, say, the belief, is qualitative? Is the qualitative component part of the content of the belief, or part of the mental attitude that we take towards the content? Some argue that the qualitative character is had by the content of the thought; others argue that it belongs to the attitude type itself. I examine the two answers and argue that the quality of thought is best understood as taking a qualitative mental attitude towards some representational content. Each propositional attitude is distinguished by a unique quality and it is having that quality with respect to the content that makes it a belief, fear (etc.) that p.
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