Higher-order thought and pathological self: The case of somatoparaphrenia

Analysis 69 (4):661-668 (2009)
Abstract
According to Rosenthal’s Higher-Order Thought (HOT) theory of consciousness, first-order mental states become conscious only when they are targeted by HOTs that necessarily represent the states as belonging to self. On this view a state represented as belonging to someone distinct from self could not be a conscious state. Rosenthal develops this view in terms of what he calls the ‘thin immunity principle’ (TIP). According to TIP, when I experience a conscious state, I cannot be wrong about whether it is I who I think is in that state. We first suggest that TIP is a direct consequence of the HOT theory. Next we argue that somatoparaphrenia—a pathology in which sensations are sometimes represented as belonging to other people—shows that TIP can be violated. This violation of TIP in turn shows that the HOT theory’s claim that conscious states are necessarily represented as belonging to self is in error. Rosenthal’s attempt to account for pathological cases is found to be inadequate when applied to somatoparaphrenia, and other possible defenses are also shown to be incapable of preserving TIP. We further conclude by suggesting that the HOT theory’s failing in this regard is not a failing that is peculiar to this theory of consciousness.
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    Sydney Shoemaker (1968). Self-Reference and Self-Awareness. Journal of Philosophy 65 (October):555-67.
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