Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 33 (3):425-441 (2002)
Philosophers, especially in recent years, have engaged in reflection upon the nature of experience. Such reflections have led them to draw a distinction between conscious and unconscious mentality in terms of whether or not it is like something to have a mental state. Reflection upon the history of psychology and upon contemporary cognitive science, however, identifies the distinction between conscious and unconscious mental states to be primarily one which is drawn in epistemic terms. Consciousness is an epistemic notion marking the special kind of first-person knowledge we have of our own mental states. Psychologists have found it expedient, for explanatory reasons, to ignore or reject the assumption that we have exhaustive first-person knowledge of our mental states and, in doing so, use the term 'unconscious' to indicate the peculiar epistemic status of certain mental states.It is argued that epistemic consciousness is distinct from the subjective-experiential notion of consciousness, from 'access-consciousness' and from higher-order thought conceptions of mental state consciousness, and that epistemic consciousness has an important role to play in philosophy of mind and in the history of psychology.
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