The cognitive phenomenology debate concerns the nature of conscious thought. On one side of the debate are those who deny that thought has a sui generis phenomenal character. This view—which I refer to as ‘conservatism’—holds that to the extent that thoughts are phenomenally conscious, their phenomenal character is purely sensory. On the other side of the debate are those who hold that thought is characterized by sui generis phenomenal states—‘cognitive phenomenology’. My concern in this paper is not with the question of whether cognitive phenomenology exists, but with the very debate about itself: why do philosophers of mind disagree about the nature of conscious thought? I argue for a semantic analysis of this debate: conservatives and liberals lack a shared conception of what cognitive phenomenology would be. I go on to argue that the real lesson of the cognitive phenomenology debate is that there may be no generally shared concept of phenomenal consciousness.

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