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Metacognitive Feelings

What is a metacognitive feeling? I think it’s a sensation. To illustrate,
contrast two sensory encounters with this wire. In the first you visually experience the wire as having a certain shape. In the second you receive an electric shock from the wire without seeing or touching it.% \footnote{This illustration is borrowed from Campbell (2002: 133–4); I use it to support a claim weaker than his.} The first sensory encounter involves perceptual experience as of a property of the wire whereas, intuitively, the second does not. I take this intuition to be correct.% \footnote{ Notice that the intuition is not that the shock involves no perceptual experience at all, only that the shock does not involve perceptual experience as of any property of the wire. Notice also that the intuition concerns what a perceptual experience is as of, and not directly what is represented in perception. The relation between these two is arguably not straightforward (compare, e.g., \citet[p.~28]{Shoemaker:1994el} or \citet[pp.~50--2]{Chalmers:2006xq} on distinguishing representational from phenomenal content). }
The intuition is potentially revealing because the electric shock involves rich phenomenology, and its particular phenomenal character depends in part on properties of its cause (changes in the strength of the electric current would have resulted in an encounter with different phenomenal character). So there are sensory encounters which, despite having phenomenal characters that depend in part on which properties are encountered, are not perceptual experiences as of those properties.
Let me give you two more illustrations [bushObama and Wynn’s magic mice]. ...
All three examples (the feelings of magic, of electricity and of familiarity) show that:

Metacognitive feelings

There are aspects of the overall phenomenal character of experiences which their subjects take to be informative about things that are only distantly related (if at all) to the things that those experiences intentionally relate the subject to.

To illustrate, having a feeling of familiarity is not a matter of standing in any intentional relation to the property of familiarity, but it is something that we can interpret as informative about famility.
Metacognitive feelings are these aspects of experience.
Why accept this? You cannot perceive familiarity or agency any more than you can perceive electricity. Perceptual processes do not reach far back into your past, nor are they concerned with questions about whether you are the agent of an action. So to think that metacognitive feelings intentionally relate you to facts about familiarity or agency requires postulating a novel kind of sensory process, some kind of inner or bodily sense. While justification for postulating a novel inner sense may ultimately be discovered, I don’t think there is currently anything to justify this.
[EITHER] To see why we are not justified in postulating a novel inner sense, it is worth recalling Reid’s theory of sensations. [OR] But this is right, why do metacognitive feelings invite judgements? Why does the feeling of familiarity even so much as nudge you to judge that the face photographed here is familiar to you? (This is roughly \citet{dokic:2012_seeds}’s question.)
[Key point to stress there is just that metacognitive feelings are not intentional states, they are not representations, they have no content. [Or if they do have content, it’s not related to the things we take them to be associated with, like familiarity or electricity.] They are blank sensations. Compare the sensation associated with an electrical shock. It’s not a perception of electricity.]

Metacognitive feelings

can be thought of as

sensations.

metacognitive feelings can be thought of as sensations in approximately Reid’s sense.% \footnote{ \citet{Reid:1785cj,Reid:1785nz}. Even if you don’t believe that there are sensations in Reid’s sense, thinking of metacognitive feelings as if they were sensations will serve to illustrate their characteristic features. The main points that follow are consistent with several different ways of thinking about metacognitive feelings. For instance, you might take the view that what I am calling metacognitive feelings are perceptual experiences of the body or of bodily reactions, or that they involve some kind of cognitive phenomenology. The essential claim is just that the metacognitive feelings associated with the operations of object indexes are not constituted by states which involve intentional relations to any of the things which are assigned an object index. }

Sensations are

  1. monadic properties of perceptual experiences
  2. individuated by their normal causes
  3. (so they do not involve an intentional relation)
  4. which alter the overall phenomenal character of those experiences
  5. in ways not determined by the experiences’ contents.
Sensations are: \begin{enumerate} \item monadic properties of events, specifically perceptual experiences, \item individuated by their normal causes% %{Tye, 1984 #[email protected]} ---in the case of feelings of familiarity, its normal cause is ease of processing \item which alter the overall phenomenal character of those experiences \item in ways not determined by the experiences’ contents (so two perceptual experiences can have the same content while one has a sensational property which the other lacks). \end{enumerate}
Metacognitive feelings can be thought of as sensations in approximately Reid’s sense: they are monadic properties of events, specifically perceptual experiences, which are individuated by their normal causes and which alter the overall phenomenal character of those experiences in ways not determined by the experiences’ contents (so two perceptual experiences can have the same content but distinct sensational properties). Metacognitive feelings are signs: they can lead to beliefs via associations or further beliefs (\citealp[Essay~II, Chap.~16, p.~228]{Reid:1785cj}; \citealp[Chap.~VI sect.~III, pp.~164–5]{Reid:1785nz}).

Sensations can trigger beliefs via associations.

An important consequence is that metacognitive feelings can lead to beliefs only via associations or further beliefs. They are signs which need to be interpreted by their subjects (\citealp[Essay~II, Chap.~16, p.~228]{Reid:1785cj} \citealp[Chap.~VI sect.~III, pp.~164–5]{Reid:1785nz}). Let me explain.
As a scientist, you can pick out the feeling of familiarity as that metacognitive feeling which is normally caused by the degree to which certain processes are fluent. But as the subject of who has that metacognitive feeling, you do not necessarily know what its typical causes are. This is something you have to work out in whatever ways you work out the causes of any other type of event.
(Contrast metacognitive feelings with perceptual experiences. Having a perceptual experience of, say, a wire’s shape, involves standing in an intentional relation to the wire’s shape; and the phenomenal character of this perceptual experience is specified by this intentional relation.% \footnote{ Compare \citet[p.~380]{Martin:2002yx}: ‘I attend to what it is like for me to inspect the lavender bush through perceptually attending to the bush itself.’ And \citet[p.~211]{byrne:2001_intentionalism} ‘subject can only discover the phenomenal character of her experience by attending to the world ... as her experience represents it.’ } Such perceptual experiences are often held to reveal the wire’s shape to the subject and so lead directly to beliefs.% \footnote{ Compare \citet[p.~222]{Johnston:1992zb}: ‘[j]ustified belief … is available simply on the basis of visual perception’; \citet[p.~143–4]{Tye:1995oa}: ‘Phenomenal character “stands ready … to make a direct impact on beliefs’; and \citet[p.~291]{Smith:2001iz}: ‘[p]erceptual experiences are … intrinsically … belief-inducing.’ })
(By contrast, having a metacognitive feeling concerning familiarity or an physical object’s path does not involve standing in any intentional relation to these things. The metacognitive feeling is individuated by its normal causes, rather than by any intentional relation. And a metacognitive feeling leads to belief, if at all, only indirectly. For learning is required in order for the subject to come to a view on what tends to cause the metacognitive feeling.)
metacognitive feelings have been quite widely neglected in philosophy and developmental psychology. They are a means by which cognitive processes enable perceivers to acquire dispositions to form beliefs about objects’ properties which are reliably true. metacognitive feelings provide a low-cost but efficient bridge between non-conscious cognitive processes and conscious reasoning.
You can choose to interpret the feeling differently. You are not presented with familiarity in the way that you are presented with, say, circularity.

This, anyway, is why I think that

metacognitive feelings

Thereare aspects of the overall phenomenal character of experiences which their subjects take to be informative about things that are only distantly related (if at all) to the things that those experiences intentionally relate the subject to.