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Summary Higher-order thought theories appeal to a thought-like mental state to explain the kind of awareness that results in one having a conscious mental state. 
Key works For a collection of important papers see: Rosenthal 2005.  A recent challenge comes from  Block 2011 (Rosenthal 2011 replies). Balog 2000 discusses an objection from the possibility of HOT-zombies.  Hardcastle 2004 criticizes Rosenhal's reasoning in support of higher-order theories. Matey 2011 offers a defense of the higher-order thought theory in a modified form
Introductions A classic introduction can be found here: Rosenthal 1997
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  1. Richard E. Aquila (1990). Consciousness as Higher-Order Thoughts: Two Objections. American Philosophical Quarterly 27 (1):81-87.
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  2. Katalin Balog (2000). Phenomenal Judgment and the HOT Theory: Comments on David Rosenthal’s “Consciousness, Content, and Metacognitive Judgments”. Consciousness and Cognition 9 (2):215-219.
    In this commentary I criticize David Rosenthal’s higher order thought theory of consciousness (HOT). This is one of the best articulated philosophical accounts of consciousness available. The theory is, roughly, that a mental state is conscious in virtue of there being another mental state, namely, a thought to the effect that one is in the first state. I argue that this account is open to the objection that it makes “HOT-zombies” possible, i.e., creatures that token higher order mental states, but (...)
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  3. John Beeckmans (2007). Can Higher-Order Representation Theories Pass Scientific Muster? Journal of Consciousness Studies 14 (s 9-10):90-111.
    Higher-order representation (HOR) theories posit that the contents of lower-order brain states enter consciousness when tracked by a higher-order brain state. The nature of higher-order monitoring was examined in light of current scientific knowledge, primarily in experimental perceptual psychology. The most plausible candidate for higher-order state was found to be conceptual short-term memory (CSTM), a buffer memory intimately connected with a semantic engine operating in the medium of the language of thought (LOT). This combination meets many of the requirements of (...)
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  4. Jacob Berger (forthcoming). Consciousness is Not a Property of States: A Reply to Wilberg. Philosophical Psychology:1-14.
    According to Rosenthal’s higher-order thought (HOT) theory of consciousness, one is in a conscious mental state if and only if one is aware of oneself as being in that state via a suitable HOT. Several critics have argued that the possibility of so-called targetless HOTs—that is, HOTs that represent one as being in a state that does not exist—undermines the theory. Recently, Wilberg (2010) has argued that HOT theory can offer a straightforward account of such cases: since consciousness is a (...)
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  5. José Luis Bermúdez (2000). Consciousness, Higher-Order Thought, and Stimulus Reinforcement. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 23 (2):194-195.
    Rolls defends a higher-order thought theory of phenomenal consciousness, mapping the distinction between conscious and non-conscious states onto a distinction between two types of action and corresponding neural pathways. Only one type of action involves higher-order thought and consequently consciousness. This account of consciousness has implausible consequences for the nature of stimulus-reinforcement learning.
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  6. Thomas Bittner (2007). Consciousness: Essays From a Higher-Order Perspective - By Peter Carruthers. Philosophical Books 48 (1):84-86.
  7. N. Block (2011). Response to Rosenthal and Weisberg. Analysis 71 (3):443-448.
  8. Ned Block (2011). The Higher Order Approach to Consciousness is Defunct. Analysis 71 (3):419 - 431.
    The higher order approach to consciousness attempts to build a theory of consciousness from the insight that a conscious state is one that the subject is conscious of. There is a well-known objection1 to the higher order approach, a version of which is fatal. Proponents of the higher order approach have realized that the objection is significant. They have dealt with it via what David Rosenthal calls a “retreat” (2005b, p. 179) but that retreat fails to solve the problem.
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  9. Ned Block (2009). Comparing the Major Theories of Consciousness. In Michael Gazzaniga (ed.), The Cognitive Neurosciences IV. 1111-1123.
    This article compares the three frameworks for theories of consciousness that are taken most seriously by neuroscientists, the view that consciousness is a biological state of the brain, the global workspace perspective and an account in terms of higher order states. The comparison features the “explanatory gap” (Nagel, 1974; Levine, 1983) the fact that we have no idea why the neural basis of an experience is the neural basis of that experience rather than another experience or no experience at all. (...)
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  10. Ned Block (2002). Some Concepts of Consciousness. In D. Chalmers (ed.), Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings. 206-219.
    Consciousness is a mongrel concept: there are a number of very different "consciousnesses". Phenomenal consciousness is experience; the phenomenally conscious aspect of a state is what it is like to be in that state.
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  11. Manuel Bremer (2008). Peter Carruthers, Consciousness: Essays From a Higher-Order Perspective. Minds and Machines 18 (3):409-411.
  12. Bruce Bridgeman (1992). Consciousness and Memory. Psycoloquy.
    Rosenthal makes assertions about what can and cannot happen without being conscious. Although his distinctions are informative, they do not substitute for data. We have little precise information that differentiates the immediate feeling of awareness, such as that possible for Korsakoff patients, from the later episodic memory of conscious experience. Appeals to introspection are useful starting points, but they are clearly are not to be trusted in this context. Rosenthal also asks why conscious thinking would be more efficacious than thinking (...)
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  13. Richard Brown, The Nature of Phenomenal Consciousness.
    One popular approach to theorizing about phenomenal consciousness has been to connect it to representations of a certain kind. Representational theories of consciousness can be further sub-divided into first-order and higher-order theories. Higher-order theories are often interpreted as invoking a special relation between the first-order state and the higher-order state. However there is another way to interpret higher-order theories that rejects this relational requirement. On this alternative view phenomenal consciousness consists in having suitable higher-order representations. I call this ‘HOROR’ (‘Higher-Order (...)
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  14. Richard Brown (2012). The Myth of Phenomenological Overflow. Consciousness and Cognition 21 (2):599-604.
    In this paper I examine the dispute between Hakwan Lau, Ned Block, and David Rosenthal over the extent to which empirical results can help us decide between first-order and higher-order theories of consciousness. What emerges from this is an overall argument to the best explanation against the first-order view of consciousness and the dispelling of the mythological notion of phenomenological overflow that comes with it.
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  15. Richard Brown (2012). Review of 'The Consciousness Paradox: Consciousness, Concepts, and Higher-Order Thoughts' by Rocco J. Gennaro. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
    There is much that is interesting in Gennaro's discussion of concepts and concept acquisition, and in general I am very sympathetic to the goals of his book, even if not with every detail (for another account of these issues that I don't fully agree with see Rosenthal 2005, chapter 7). I agree that we have good reason to think that some version of a higher-order thought theory of consciousness could be true and that this is consistent with animals and infants (...)
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  16. Richard Brown (2012). Editorial: Standing on the Verge: Lessons and Limits From the Empirical Study of Consciousness. Consciousness and Cognition 21 (2):597-599.
    The papers in this special issue are all descended from papers presented at the second Online Consciousness Conference. I founded the Online Consciousness Conference at Consciousness Online (http://consciousnessonline.wordpress.com) in 2008 mostly because no one else would. Being inspired by the Online Philosophy Conference, I mentioned to several people that it would be great if we had something like that in Consciousness Studies. People I talked to were very enthusiastic but no one seemed like they wanted to initiate the process. I (...)
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  17. Richard Brown (2012). The Brain and its States. In Shimon Edelman, Tomer Fekete & Neta Zach (eds.), Being in Time: Dynamical Models of Phenomenal Experience. John Benjamins. 88--211.
    In recent times we have seen an explosion in the amount of attention paid to the conscious brain from scientists and philosophers alike. One message that has emerged loud and clear from scientific work is that the brain is a dynamical system whose operations unfold in time. Any theory of consciousness that is going to be physically realistic must take account of the intrinsic nature of neurons and brain activity. At the same time a long discussion on consciousness among philosophers (...)
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  18. Richard Brown & Pete Mandik (forthcoming). On Whether the Higher-Order Thought Theory of Consciousness Entails Cognitive Phenomenology or What is It Like to Think That One Thinks That P? Philosophical Topics 40 (2).
    Among our conscious states are conscious thoughts. The question at the center of the recent growing literature on cognitive phenomenology is this: In consciously thinking P, is there thereby any phenomenology—is there something it’s like? One way of clarifying the question is to say that it concerns whether there is any proprietary phenomenology associated with conscious thought. Is there any phenomenology due to thinking, as opposed to phenomenology that is due to some co-occurring sensation or mental image? In this paper (...)
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  19. Derek Browne (1999). Carruthers on the Deficits of Animals. Psyche 5 (23).
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  20. Alex Byrne (2004). What Phenomenal Consciousness is Like. In Rocco J. Gennaro (ed.), Higher-Order Theories of Consciousness: An Anthology. John Benjamins.
    The terminology surrounding the dispute between higher-order and first-order theories of consciousness is piled so high that it sometimes obscures the view. When the debris is cleared away, there is a real prospect.
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  21. Alex Byrne (1997). Some Like It HOT: Consciousness and Higher-Order Thoughts. Philosophical Studies 2 (2):103-29.
    Consciousness is the subject of many metaphors, and one of the most hardy perennials compares consciousness to a spotlight, illuminating certain mental goings-on, while leaving others to do their work in the dark. One way of elaborating the spotlight metaphor is this: mental events are loaded on to one end of a conveyer belt by the senses, and move with the belt.
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  22. Neil Campbell Manson (2002). What Does Language Tell Us About Consciousness? First-Person Mental Discourse and Higher-Order Thought Theories of Consciousness. Philosophical Psychology 15 (3):221 – 238.
    The fact that we can engage in first-person discourse about our own mental states seems, intuitively, to be bound up with consciousness. David Rosenthal draws upon this intuition in arguing for his higher-order thought theory of consciousness. Rosenthal's argument relies upon the assumption that the truth-conditions for "p" and "I think that p" differ. It is argued here that the truth-conditional schema debars "I think" from playing one of its (expressive) roles and thus is not a good test for (...)
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  23. Peter Carruthers, Higher-Order Theories of Consciousness. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  24. Peter Carruthers (2007). Higher-Order Theories of Consciousness. In Max Velmans & Susan Schneider (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness. Blackwell.
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  25. Peter Carruthers (2005). Why the Question of Animal Consciousness Might Not Matter Very Much. Philosophical Psychology 18 (1):83-102.
    According to higher-order thought accounts of phenomenal consciousness it is unlikely that many non-human animals undergo phenomenally conscious experiences. Many people believe that this result would have deep and far-reaching consequences. More specifically, they believe that the absence of phenomenal consciousness from the rest of the animal kingdom must mark a radical and theoretically significant divide between ourselves and other animals, with important implications for comparative psychology. I shall argue that this belief is mistaken. Since phenomenal consciousness might be almost (...)
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  26. Peter Carruthers (2005). Consciousness: Essays From a Higher-Order Perspective. Oxford University Press.
    The first half of the volume is devoted to developing, elaborating, and defending against competitors one particular sort ofreductive explanation of phenomenal ...
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  27. Peter Carruthers (2004). Hop Over FOR, HOT Theory. In Rocco J. Gennaro (ed.), Higher-Order Theories of Consciousness: An Anthology. John Benjamins.
    Following a short introduction, this chapter begins by contrasting two different forms of higher-order perception (HOP) theory of phenomenal consciousness - inner sense theory versus a dispositionalist kind of higher-order thought (HOT) theory - and by giving a brief statement of the superiority of the latter. Thereafter the chapter considers arguments in support of HOP theories in general. It develops two parallel objections against both first-order representationalist (FOR) theories and actualist forms of HOT theory. First, neither can give an adequate (...)
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  28. Peter Carruthers (2003). Phenomenal Concepts and Higher-Order Experiences. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 68 (2):316-336.
    Relying on a range of now-familiar thought-experiments, it has seemed to many philosophers that phenomenal consciousness is beyond the scope of reductive explanation. (Phenomenal consciousness is a form of state-consciousness, which contrasts with creature-consciousness, or perceptual-consciousness. The different forms of state-consciousness include various kinds of access-consciousness, both first-order and higher-order--see Rosenthal, 1986; Block, 1995; Lycan, 1996; Carruthers, 2000. Phenomenal consciousness is the property that mental states have when it is like something to possess them, or when they have subjectively-accessible feels; (...)
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  29. Peter Carruthers, Precis of Phenomenal Consciousness: A Naturalistic Theory.
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  30. Peter Carruthers (2001). Consciousness: Explaining the Phenomena. In D. Walsh (ed.), Evolution, Naturalism and Mind. Cambridge University Press. 61-85.
    Can phenomenal consciousness be given a reductive natural explanation? Many people argue not. They claim that there is an.
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  31. Peter Carruthers, Reply to Seager.
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  32. Peter Carruthers (2000). Phenomenal Consciousness: A Naturalistic Theory. Cambridge University Press.
    How can phenomenal consciousness exist as an integral part of a physical universe? How can the technicolour phenomenology of our inner lives be created out of the complex neural activities of our brains? Many have despaired of finding answers to these questions; and many have claimed that human consciousness is inherently mysterious. Peter Carruthers argues, on the contrary, that the subjective feel of our experience is fully explicable in naturalistic (scientifically acceptable) terms. Drawing on a variety of interdisciplinary resources, he (...)
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  33. Peter Carruthers (2000). Replies to Critics: Explaining Subjectivity. Psyche 6 (3).
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  34. Peter Carruthers (1998). Natural Theories of Consciousness. European Journal of Philosophy 6 (2):203-22.
    Many people have thought that consciousness.
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  35. Peter Carruthers (1997). Fragmentary Versus Reflexive Consciousness. Mind and Language 12 (2):181-95.
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  36. Peter Carruthers (1996). Language, Thought, and Consciousness. Cambridge University Press.
    Do we think in natural language? Or is language only for communication? Much recent work in philosophy and cognitive science assumes the latter. In contrast, Peter Carruthers argues that much of human conscious thinking is conducted in the medium of natural language sentences. However, this does not commit him to any sort of Whorfian linguistic relativism, and the view is developed within a framework that is broadly nativist and modularist. His study will be essential reading for all those interested in (...)
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  37. Peter Carruthers (1992). Consciousness and Concepts. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 66 (66):41-59.
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  38. Peter Carruthers (1989). Brute Experience. Journal of Philosophy 86 (May):258-269.
  39. Gregg Caruso (2012). Free Will and Consciousness: A Determinist Account of the Illusion of Free Will. Lexington Books.
    In recent decades, with advances in the behavioral, cognitive, and neurosciences, the idea that patterns of human behavior may ultimately be due to factors beyond our conscious control has increasingly gained traction and renewed interest in the age-old problem of free will. In this book I examine both the traditional philosophical problems long associated with the question of free will, such as the relationship between determinism and free will, as well as recent experimental and theoretical work directly related to consciousness (...)
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  40. David J. Cole, Sense and Sentience.
    Surely one of the most interesting problems in the study of mind concerns the nature of sentience. How is it that there are sensations, rather than merely sensings? What is it like to be a bat -- or why is it like anything at all? Why aren't we automata or responding but unfeeling Zombies? How does neural activity give rise to subjective experience? As Leibniz put the problem (Monadology section 17):
    _It must be confessed, however, that Perception_ [consciousness?]_, and (...)
    _anything to explain Perception._ [Montgomery trans.]. (shrink)
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  41. Rebecca Copenhaver (2007). Reid on Consciousness: Hop, Hot or For? Philosophical Quarterly 57 (229):613-634.
    Thomas Reid claims to share Locke's view that consciousness is a kind of inner sense. This is puzzling, given the role the inner-sense theory plays in indirect realism and in the theory of ideas generally. I argue that Reid does not in fact hold an inner-sense theory of consciousness and that his view differs importantly from contemporary higher-order theories of consciousness. For Reid, consciousness is a first-order representational process in which a mental state with a particular content suggests the application (...)
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  42. Barry F. Dainton (2004). Higher-Order Consciousness and Phenomenal Space: Reply to Meehan. Psyche 10 (1).
    Meehan finds fault with a number of my arguments, and proposes that better solutions to the problems I was addressing are available if we adopt a higher-order theory of consciousness. I start with some general remarks on theories of this sort. I connect what I had to say about the A-thesis with different forms of higher-order sense theories, and explain why I ignored higher-order thought theories altogether: there are compelling grounds for thinking they cannot provide a viable account of phenomenal (...)
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  43. Daniel C. Dennett (1991). Lovely and Suspect Qualities. In Enrique Villanueva (ed.), [Book Chapter]. Ridgeview. 37-43.
    A family of compelling intuitions work to keep "the problem of consciousness" systematically insoluble, and David Rosenthal, in a series of papers including the one under discussion, has been resolutely driving these intuitions apart, exposing them individually to the light, and proposing alternatives. In this instance the intuition that has seemed sacrosanct, but falls to his analysis, is the intuition that "sensory quality" and consciousness are necessarily united: that, for instance, there could not be unconscious pains, or unconscious subjective shades (...)
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  44. Zoltán Dienes (2004). Assumptions of Subjective Measures of Unconscious Mental States: Higher Order Thoughts and Bias. Journal of Consciousness Studies 11 (9):25-45.
  45. Fred Dretske (1995). Are Experiences Conscious? In , Naturalizing the Mind. Mit Press.
  46. Fred Dretske (1993). Conscious Experience. Mind 102 (406):263-283.
  47. Paula Droege, Higher-Order Theories of Consciousness. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  48. Paula Droege (2003). Caging the Beast: A Theory of Sensory Consciousness. John Benjamins.
    CHAPTER On sensory consciousness Consciousness, like love, is something so intimate and vital to our sense of ourselves as human, that explanation, ...
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  49. Donelson E. Dulany (2004). Higher Order Representation in a Mentalistic Metatheory. In Rocco J. Gennaro (ed.), Higher-Order Theories of Consciousness: An Anthology. John Benjamins.
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  50. Robert Francescotti (1995). Higher-Order Thoughts and Conscious Experience. Philosophical Psychology 8 (3):239-254.
    For nearly a decade, David Rosenthal has proposed that a mental state M of a creature C is conscious just in case C has a suitable higher-order thought directed toward M. While this theory has had its share of criticism in recent years, I believe that the real difficulties have been ignored. In this essay, I show that the presence of a higher order is insufficient for conscious experience, even if we suppose that the thought satisfies the constraints that Rosenthal (...)
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