There is a presupposition hardly in need of defending that human experience is, in large part, a sensory affair. We see, we hear, we feel, we smell, we taste (and these are just the more well known sensations). Most people should also be intimately familiar with emotive experiences, such as joy, sadness, anger, fear and so on. Although we might not be able to give a detailed theoretical account of the experiential character of each (or any) of those sensory and emotive states, we can at least appreciate a certain meaningful and unique what-it-is-like-ness about them. To put it simply: every sensory and emotive state can be ascribed a corresponding sensory or emotive experience.
Trying to do the same with cognitive states (such as thinking, believing, remembering…) – that is to ascribe a cognitive experience to a cognitive state – stirs up a degree of controversy. There are numerous authors who claim various versions of there simply not being any such experience as a cognitive experience, and that we are only aware of our own cognitive states by virtue of the sensory experiences they elicit. Yet there are also numerous authors who claim the counterfactual, that there indeed is a unique way of experiencing a cognitive state which cannot be reduced to sensory or emotive experience – and which can therefore be referred to as cognitive experience. This controversy is at the heart of the so-called cognitive phenomenology debate. Continue reading Cognitive phenomenology through the lens of empirical research