In this talk I will present a thesis about the nature of the experience of occurrent conscious thought. The traditional view in philosophy of mind has been that there is a strong separation between the phenomenal and intentional properties of mind. Since the 1990’s various theories have challenged this orthodoxy, and one of these is cognitive phenomenology (Bayne & Montague, 2011; Chudnoff, 2015). Cognitive phenomenologists typically hold that there is a distinct ‘what it’s like’ quality to occurrently entertaining a thought, and further, that this ‘cognitive phenomenology’ is in some way constitutive of what thought essentially is. However, although there is much in the cognitive phenomenology debate that explores the properties that cognitive phenomenology must have if it is to be what it is, there is very little in the way of attending to and describing the actual experience of occurrent thought. In other words, although cognitive phenomenology is a theory about the experience of thought, it lack a descriptive phenomenology of what it’s like to think.
The view I will present in this talk is that something important can be learned about the nature of thinking experiences by actually attending to the experience of thinking. Drawing on the microphenomenology literature for methodological support (Petitmengin, 2006; Bitbol & Petitmengin, 2013), I take what I call a ‘first-person approach’ to investigating the experience of conscious thought occurrences. My thesis – which I call the dynamic phenomenology of thought thesis, or DPT – is that thought occurrences are not static representational states but dynamic and integrated movements that have a distinct four-fold diachronic structure. Each of the four stages of this structure play a distinct role in making conscious thought what it is, and all of them are necessary in order for a genuine instance of thought to occur. I further argue that genuine instances of conscious thought are perhaps much more rare than it might seem.
One of the interesting features of the DPT thesis is that it potentially offers a framework to integrate some of the competing perspectives on the nature of the experience of thinking that one finds in the literature. In the talk I will outlines this possibility and also explore some of the more detailed features and implications of the thesis.
Bayne, T., & Montague, M. (Eds.). (2011). Cognitive Phenomenology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bitbol, M., & Petitmengin, C. (2013). On the Possiblity and Reality of Introspection. Kairos (6), 173-198.
Chudnoff, E. (2015). Cognitive Phenoenology. Oxon: Routledge.
Petitmengin, C. (2006). Describing One's Subjective Experience in the Second Person: An Interview Method for the Science of Consciousness. Phenomenology and Cognitive Science , 5, 229-269.