The ins and outs of conscious belief

Philosophical Studies 179 (2):517-548 (2022)
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What should advocates of phenomenal intentionality say about unconscious intentional states? I approach this question by focusing on a recent debate between Tim Crane and David Pitt, about the nature of belief. Crane argues that beliefs are never conscious. Pitt, concerned that the phenomenal intentionality thesis coupled with a commitment to beliefs as essentially unconscious embroils Crane in positing unconscious phenomenology, counter-argues that beliefs are essentially conscious. I examine and rebut Crane’s arguments for the essential unconsciousness of beliefs, some of which are widely endorsed. On the way I sketch a model of how belief states could participate in the stream of consciousness. I then consider Pitt’s position, arguing in reply, along Freudian lines, that we should posit not just dispositional but occurrent unconscious beliefs. This result, I argue, indeed requires advocates of phenomenal intentionality to posit unconscious qualia to fix these unconscious occurrent thoughts, and I defend the coherence of the notion of unconscious qualia against some common attacks. Ultimately, I claim, the combination of taking seriously the occurrent unconscious, and a commitment to phenomenal intentionality, should lead us to expand William James’s conception of the stream of consciousness to encompass, additionally, a stream of unconscious mental life—or, perhaps better, to posit a single partly conscious partly unconscious qualia-stream of mental goings-on.



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Sam Coleman
University of Hertfordshire

Citations of this work

An Acquaintance alternative to Self-Representationalism.Anna Giustina - 2022 - Philosophical Studies 179 (12):3831-3863.
Are Phenomenal Theories of Thought Chauvinistic?Preston Lennon - 2024 - American Philosophical Quarterly 61 (3):199-213.

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The Rediscovery of the Mind.John Searle - 1992 - MIT Press. Edited by Ned Block & Hilary Putnam.
Consciousness and Experience.William G. Lycan - 1996 - Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40).David Hume - 1969 - Mineola, N.Y.: Oxford University Press. Edited by Ernest Campbell Mossner.

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