The rational role of experience

Authors
David Bourget
University of Western Ontario
Abstract
If there is content that we reason on, cognitive content, it is in the head and accessible to reasoning mechanisms. This paper discusses the phenomenal theory of cognitive content, according to which cognitive contents are the contents of phenomenal consciousness. I begin by distinguishing cognitive content from the closely associated notion of narrow content. I then argue, drawing on prior work, that the phenomenal theory can plausibly account for the cognitive contents of many relatively simple mental states. My main focus in this paper is the question whether the phenomenal theory can account for the apparently abstract and complex cognitive contents of "high-level" thoughts. It might seem dubious that the theory can account for such cognitive contents, because cognitive phenomenology is too scarce and too thin. However, I argue there are in fact few abstract or complex cognitive contents, so the phenomenal theory's predictions are correct. This position explains some apparently irrational behavior that is otherwise hard to explain, and it makes sense of the central role of inner speech and other forms of consciousness in reasoning.
Keywords narrow content  cognitive content  reasoning  rationality  consciousness  cognitive phenomenology  grasping  understanding
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Reprint years 2017, 2018
DOI 10.1080/0020174X.2017.1385529
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The Meaning of 'Meaning'.Hillary Putnam - 1975 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 7:131-193.

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