In Defense of Cognitive Phenomenology: Meeting the Matching Content Challenge

Erkenntnis 88 (6):2391-2407 (2023)
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Bayne and McClelland (2016) raise the matching content challenge for proponents of cognitive phenomenology: if the phenomenal character of thought is determined by its intentional content, why is it that my conscious thought that there is a blue wall before me and my visual perception of a blue wall before me don’t share any phenomenology, despite their matching content? In this paper, I first show that the matching content challenge is not limited to proponents of cognitive phenomenology but extends to cases of cross-modal perception, threatening representationalism about consciousness in general. I then give two responses to the challenge, both of which appeal to intentional modes. The difference in intentional mode between a thought and a visual perception can either explain why we should not expect any phenomenal overlap between the two experiences, or it can make it clear why the phenomenal overlap is easy to overlook. I show that these responses are available to the representationalist about perceptual consciousness, as well as the proponent of cognitive phenomenology. The upshot is that, when it comes to the matching content challenge, both perceptual representationalism and cognitive representationalism stand on equal dialectical footing.

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Preston Lennon
Rutgers - New Brunswick


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