Cognitive access and cognitive phenomenology: conceptual and empirical issues

Philosophical Explorations 19 (2):188-204 (2016)
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The well-known distinction between access consciousness and phenomenal consciousness has moved away from the conceptual domain into the empirical one, and the debate now is focused on whether the neural mechanisms of cognitive access are constitutive of the neural correlate of phenomenal consciousness. In this paper, I want to analyze the consequences that a negative reply to this question has for the cognitive phenomenology thesis – roughly the claim that there is a “proprietary” phenomenology of thoughts. If the mechanisms responsible for cognitive access can be disentangled from the mechanisms that give rise to phenomenology in the case of perception and emotion, then the same disentanglement is to be expected in the case of thoughts. This, in turn, presents, as I argue, a challenge to the cognitive phenomenology thesis: either there are thoughts with cognitive phenomenology we lack cognitive access to or there are good reasons to doubt that there is such a thing as cognitive phenomenology. I discuss a...
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