In general, the idea is that what makes a mental state conscious is that it is the object of some kind of higher-order representation (HOR). A mental state M becomes conscious when there is a HOR of M. A HOR is a “meta-psychological” state, i.e. a mental state directed at another mental state. So, for example, my desire to do a good powerpoint presentation becomes conscious when I am (non-inferentially) “aware” of the desire. Intuitively, it seems that conscious states, as (...) opposed to unconscious ones, are mental states that I am “aware of” in some sense. (shrink)
In The Consciousness Paradox, Rocco Gennaro aims to solve an underlying paradox, namely, how it is possible to hold a number of seemingly inconsistent views, including higher-order thought (HOT) theory, conceptualism, infant and animal ...
I argue that recent developments in animal cognition support the conclusion that HOT theory is consistent with animal consciousness. There seems to be growing evidence that many animals are indeed capable of having I-thoughts, including episodic memory, as well as have the ability to understand the mental states of others.
There has been much discussion about the nature and even existence of so-called “pure conscious events” (PCEs). PCEs are often described as mental events which are non-conceptual and lacking all experiential content (Forman 1990). For a variety of reasons, a number of authors have questioned both the accuracy of such a characterization and even the very existence of PCEs (Katz 1978, Bagger 1999). In this chapter, I take a somewhat different, but also critical, approach to the nature and possibility of (...) PCEs. I focus on several overlapping views found in recent analytic philosophy of mind and examine PCEs in light of them. After introducing terminology and some preliminary matters, I examine whether or not the “higher-order thought (HOT) theory of consciousness” rules out the possibility of PCEs, and conversely, whether or not PCEs show that the HOT theory cannot apply to all conscious states. The HOT theory says that what makes a mental state conscious is that it is accompanied by a higher-order thought to the effect that “I am in mental state M now.” A related theme will be to assess PCEs in light of the recent debate between so-called “conceptualists” and those who believe that there are “non-conceptual contents of experience.” Conceptualism, to which I am very sympathetic, is basically the view that all conscious experience is structured by concepts possessed by the subject. I argue that PCEs are indeed conceptual and so no threat to conceptualism. For example, standard criticisms of conceptualism do not apply to PCEs. Finally, I examine the possibility that PCEs are not conscious at all. In the end, my overall conclusion is that we should hold that PCEs are indeed compatible with both HOT theory and conceptualism or seriously question the idea that PCEs are conscious at all. (shrink)
It is often said that some kind of peripheral (or inattentional) conscious awareness accompanies our focal (attentional) consciousness. I agree that this is often the case, but clarity is needed on several fronts. In this paper, I lay out four distinct theses on peripheral awareness and show that three of them are true. However, I then argue that a fourth thesis, commonly associated with the so-called "self-representational approach to consciousness," is false. The claim here is that we have outer focal (...) consciousness accompanied often (or even always) by inner peripheral (self-)awareness. My criticisms stem from both methodological and phenomenological considerations. In doing so, I offer a diagnosis as to why the fourth thesis has seemed true to so many and also show how the so-called "transparency of experience," frequently invoked by representationalists, is importantly relevant to my diagnosis. Finally, I respond to several objections and to further attempts to show that thesis four is true. What emerges is that if one wishes to hold that some form of self-awareness accompanies all outer-directed conscious states, one is better off holding that such self-awareness is itself unconscious, as is held for example by standard higher-order theories of consciousness. (shrink)
This is a special double issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies (vol. 14, Sept/Oct) which I guest edited. It is also sold separately as a book and published by Imprint Academic. The essays are authored by both philosophers and psychologists (including Jose Bermudez, Georges Rey, Art Markman, Jesse Prinz, and Simon Baron-Cohen) and include topics such as conceptualism, phenomenal concepts, infant consciousness, and synesthesia.
The so-called 'higher-order thought' (HOT) theory of consciousness says that what makes a mental state conscious is the presence of a suitable higher-order thought directed at it (Rosenthal, 1986; 1990; 1993; 2002; 2004; Gennaro, 1996; 2004). The HOT theory has been or could be attacked from two apparently opposite directions. On the one hand, there is what Stubenberg (1998) has called 'the problem of the rock' which, if successful, would show that the HOT theory proves too much. On the other (...) hand, it might also be alleged that the HOT theory does not or cannot address the so-called 'hard problem' of phenomenal consciousness. If so, then the HOT theory would prove too little. We might say, then, that the HOT theory is arguably between a rock and a hard place. In this paper, I critically examine these objections and defend the HOT theory against them. In doing so, I hope to show that the HOT theory, or at least some version of it, neither proves too little nor too much, but is just right. I also show that these two objections are really just two sides of the same coin, and that the HOT theory is immune from David Chalmers' (1995; 1996) criticisms of other attempted reductionist accounts of consciousness. (shrink)
In Thinking About Consciousness , David Papineau  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). (shrink)
[Final version in Philosophical Papers, 2000] Much has been made over the past few decades of two related problems in aesthetics. First, the "feeling fiction problem," as I will call it, asks: is it rational to be moved by what happens to fictional characters? How can we care about what happens to people who we know are not real?[i] Second, the so-called "paradox of tragedy" is embodied in the question: Why or how is it that we take pleasure in artworks (...) (e.g. tragedies) which are clearly designed to cause in us such feelings as sadness and fear?[ii] Various solutions to these puzzles have been proposed, but my primary aim is neither to offer a novel solution nor to summarize and critique most of the alternatives.[iii] My focus instead will be on the issue of consciousness and, more specifically, to view these problems from the point of the view of the so-called "higher-order thought theory of consciousness" (the HOT theory). Although some work on these puzzles have raised important questions about the nature of consciousness and "aesthetic experience," no attempt has yet been made to examine them in light of a specific theory. (shrink)
In the absence of any plausible reductionist account of consciousness in nonmentalistic terms, the HOT theory says that the best explanation for what makes a mental state conscious is that it is accompanied by a thought (or awareness) that one is in that state.[i] The sense of.
This collection presents some of the most vital and original recent writings on Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz, the three greatest rationalists of the early modern period. Their work offered brilliant and distinct integrations of science, morals, metaphysics, and religion, which today remain at the center of philosophical discussion. The essays written especially for this volume explore how these three philosophical systems treated matter, substance, human freedom, natural necessity, knowledge, mind, and consciousness. The contributors include some of the most prominent writers (...) in the field, including Jonathan Bennett, Michael Della Rocca, Jan A. Cover, Catherine Wilson, Stephen Voss, Edwin Curley, Don Garrett, and Margaret D. Wilson. (shrink)
My aim in this paper is to show that consciousness entails self-consciousness by focusing on the relationship between consciousness and memory. More specifically, I addreess the following questions: (1) does consciousness require episodic memory?; and (2) does episodic memory require self-consciousness? With the aid of some Kantian considerations and recent empirical data, it is argued that consciousness does require episodic memory. This is done after defining episodic memory and distinguishing it from other types of memory. An affirmative answer to (2) (...) is also warranted especially in the light of the issues raised in answering (1). I claim that 'consciousness entails self-consciousness' is thereby shown via the route through episodic memory, i.e. via affirmative answers to (1) and (2). My aim is to revive this Kantian thesis and to bring together current psychological research on amnesia with traditional philosophical perspectives on consciousness and memory. (shrink)