Papineau on the actualist HOT theory of consciousness

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 81 (4):581-586 (2003)
Abstract
In Thinking About Consciousness , David Papineau [2002] presents a criticism of so-called 'actualist HOT theories of consciousness'. The HOT theory, held most notably by David Rosenthal, claims that the best explanation for what makes a mental state conscious is that it is the object of an actual higher-order thought directed at the mental state. Papineau contends that actualist HOT theory faces an awkward problem in relation to higher-order memory judgements; for example, that the theory cannot explain how one could later recall an earlier experience that was not introspected. He argues that, on the HOT theory, we are even left with the absurd conclusion that the consciousness of, say, an earlier visual experience might even depend on the later act of memory. I show that Papineau's criticism of actualist HOT theory not only fails, but also that it seriously mischaracterizes and underestimates the theory. In particular, Papineau badly conflates the crucial difference between an introspective state (i.e., where a conscious HOT is directed at a mental state) and an outer-directed first-order conscious state (i.e., a case where one has a nonconscious HOT).
Keywords Consciousness  Higher-order Thought  Mental States  Metaphysics  Phenomena
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