Seminar: Michelle Montague
18 July, 2012
3.30 pm to 5.30 pm
The Life of the Mind
Michelle Montague, University of Bristol
Consciousness takes many forms. There are perceptual experiences, (e.g. seeing the sunset, hearing the gonging of a church bell, smelling freshly baked bread), emotional experiences (e.g. feeling angry about an injustice, joy at a success), but no less importantly there are conscious thoughts. It is typically accepted that perceptual and emotional experiences essentially involve phenomenology, and it is phenomenology that makes these experiences conscious. But what makes a conscious thought conscious? I argue that non-phenomenological accounts of what makes conscious thoughts conscious, such as those that appeal to the notion of access consciousness, or to the idea of ‘cerebral celebrity’, fall fundamentally short. Any adequate account of conscious thought must appeal to phenomenological properties. If this is right, a question arises about what kind of phenomenological features are required. Can conscious thought be accounted for solely in terms of sensory phenomenology, including both verbal and non-verbal imagery? I argue that the answer is ‘no’, and that we must appeal to what is now often called ‘cognitive phenomenology’ to say what a conscious thought consists in.
Location: The Refectory, Main Quadrangle