The very existence of the cognitive unconscious, a fact fundamental to all conceptions of cognitive science, has important implications for the practice of philosophy. It means that we can have no direct conscious awareness of most of what goes on in our minds. The idea that pure philosophical reflection can plumb the depths of human understanding is an illusion. Traditional methods of philosophical analysis alone, even phenomenological introspection, cannot come close to allowing us to know our own minds.
There is much to be said for traditional philosophical reflection and phenomenological analyses. They can make us aware of many aspects of consciousness and, to a limited extent, can enlarge our capacities for conscious awareness. Phenomenological reflection even allows us to examine many of the background prereflective structures that lie beheath our conscious experience. But neither method can adequately explore the cognitive unconscious-the realm of thought that is completely and irrevocably inaccessible to direct conscious introspection. It is this realm that is the primary focus of cognitive science, which allows us to theorize about the cognitive unconscious on the basis of evidence. Cognitive science, however, does not allow us direct access to what the cognitive unconscious is doing as it is doing it.
-from Philosophy In The Flesh, by George Lakoff
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