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Summary Higher-order theories of consciousness seek to explain the difference between conscious mental states and unconscious mental states. We have both common sense as well as scientific reasons to think that mental functioning can occur both consciously and unconsciously. Higher-order theories explain this difference in terms of our having some kind of (unconscious) higher-order awareness which makes it the case that I am aware of myself as being in some mental state. The claim that a conscious mental state is one which I am in some suitable way aware of myself as being in is commonly referred to as the Transitivity Principle.
Key works For an overview and comparison of various higher-order approaches see: Rosenthal 2004.  For a collection of important papers by David Rosenthal see: Rosenthal 2005. A recent challenge comes from Ned Block here: Block 2011. See here for Rosenthal's reply: Rosenthal 2011.  For a defense of higher-order perception see: Lycan 2004. Balog 2000 discusses an objection from the possibility of HOT-zombies -creatures with all of my HOTs and none of my first-order states. Hardcastle 2004 criticizes what she takes to be 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 Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Carruthers 2008; Scholarpedia: Rosenthal & Weisberg 2008; Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Droege 2005
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  1. Fred Adams & Charlotte Shreve (2016). What Can Synesthesia Teach Us About Higher Order Theories of Consciousness? Symposion. Theoretical and Applied Inquiries in Philosophy and Social Sciences 3 (3):251-257.
    In this article, we will describe higher order thought theories of consciousness. Then we will describe some examples from synesthesia. Finally, we will explain why the latter may be relevant to the former.
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  2. Edgar Ascher (1968). Higher-Order Magneto-Electric Effects. Philosophical Magazine 17 (145):149-157.
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  3. Peter Carruthers (2005). Consciousness. Oxford University Press UK.
    Peter Carruthers's essays on consciousness and related issues have had a substantial impact on the field, and many of his best are now collected here in revised form. The first half of the volume is devoted to developing, elaborating, and defending against competitors one particular sort of reductive explanation of phenomenal consciousness, which Carruthers now refers to as 'dual-content theory'. Phenomenal consciousness - the feel of experience - is supposed to constitute the 'hard problem' for a scientific world view, and (...)
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  4. Louis H. Feldman (1950). Ḥiwi Al-Balkhi: A Comparative StudyJudah Rosenthal. Speculum 25 (2):294-295.
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  5. Thomas Forster (1989). A Consistent Higher-Order Theory Without a Model. Zeitschrift fur mathematische Logik und Grundlagen der Mathematik 35 (5):385-386.
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  6. B. P. Garvey, Simon Browne and the Paradox of 'Being in Denial'.
    It is often taken to be intuitively obvious that if one is in a given conscious state, then one knows that one is in that state. This alleged obvious truth lies at the heart of two very different philosophical doctrines fithe Cartesian doctrine that one has incorrigible knowledge about one?s own conscious states, and the view that one can explain all conscious states in terms of higher-order awareness of mental states. The present paper begins with a description of the real-life (...)
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  7. William Hirstein (2015). Consciousness Despite Network Underconnectivity in Autism: Another Case of Consciousness Without Prefrontal Activity? In Rocco Gennaro (ed.), Disturbed Consciousness: New Essays on Psychopathology and Theories of Consciousness. The M. I. T, Press. pp. 249-263.
    Recent evidence points to widespread underconnectivity in autistic brains owing to deviant white matter, the fibers that make long connections between areas of the cortex. Subjects with autism show measurably fewer long-range connections between the parietal and prefrontal cortices. These findings may help shed light on the current debate in the consciousness literature about whether conscious states require both prefrontal and parietal/temporal components. If it can be shown that people with autism have conscious states despite such underconnectivity, this would constitute (...)
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  8. Pierre Jacob, State Consciousness Revisited.
    I try to reconcile Dretske's representational theory of conscious mental states with Rosenthal's higher-order thought theory of conscious mental states by arguing that Rosenthal's HOT can make room for the notion of a state of consciousness whereby an invidual may be conscious of an object or property without thereby being conscious of being in such a state.
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  9. Shirin Kaboli (2016). On Wholeness and Implicate Order in Crystals and its Implications for Consciousness Studies. Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy 12 (2):137-149.
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  10. R. Loader (2003). Higher Order Matching is Undecidable. Logic Journal of the IGPL 11 (1):51-68.
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  11. W. G. Lycan (2001). A Simple Argument for a Higher-Order Representation Theory of Consciousness. Analysis 61 (1):3-4.
  12. Tom McClelland, Review of The Varieties of Consciousness by Kriegel, U. [REVIEW]
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  13. Jesse M. Mulder (forthcoming). A Seeming Problem for Higher-Order Theories of Consciousness. Dialogue:1-17.
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  14. Svetlana Nagumanova (2016). The Varieties of Consciousness By U. Kriegel. [REVIEW] Analysis 76 (4):553-556.
  15. Nozomi Nori, Danushka Bollegala & Hisashi Kashima (2015). Simultaneous Higher-Order Relation Prediction Via Collective Incidence Matrix Embedding. Transactions of the Japanese Society for Artificial Intelligence 30 (2):459-465.
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  16. Vincent Picciuto (2015). Keeping It Real: Intentional Inexistents, Fineness‐of‐Grain, and the Dilemma for Extrinsic Higher‐Order Representational Theories. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 97 (2).
    According to the standard argument from targetless higher-order representations, the possibility of such representations presents a dilemma for higher-order theorists. In this article I argue that there are two theoretically well-motivated replies to the standard argument. Consequently, the standard argument against higher-order theories fails. I then go on to argue that while certain versions of higher-order theory can adequately respond to the standard argument, they both, nevertheless, fail to explain the fineness-of-grain that phenomenally conscious experience appears to have.
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  17. Jeffery B. Remmel & Alfred B. Manaster (1980). CO-Simple Higher-Order Indecomposable Isols. Zeitschrift fur mathematische Logik und Grundlagen der Mathematik 26 (14-18):279-288.
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  18. Renate Reschke & Volker Gerhardt (2008). Zum Tod von Maud Levy-Rosenthal. In Renate Reschke & Volker Gerhardt (eds.), Friedrich Nietzsche – Geschichte, Affekte, Medien. Akademie Verlag.
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  19. Douglas A. Roberts & Audrey M. Chastko (1991). A Response to Rosenthal. Science Education 75 (2):253-254.
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  20. Moira Roth (1997). Rachel Rosenthal.
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  21. Nils-Eric Sahlin (1993). On Higher Order Beliefs. In J. Dubucs (ed.), Philosophy of Probability. Kluwer, Dordrecht. pp. 13--34.
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  22. Roger Schnaitter & Stephen Winokur (1973). Some Interactions in a Higher Order Multiple Schedule of Reinforcement. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society 2 (6):410-412.
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  23. Eric Schwitzgebel (2013). Reply to Kriegel, Smithies, and Spener. Philosophical Studies 165 (3):1195-1206.
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  24. Miguel Ángel Sebastián, Consciousness and Theory of Mind: A Common Theory?
    Many philosophers and scientists have argued that the difference between phenomenally conscious states and other kind of states lies in the implicit self-awareness that conscious states have. Higher-Order Representationalist theories, attempt to explain such a self-awareness by means of a higher-order representation. Consciousness relies on our capacity to represent our own mental states, consciousness depends on our Theory of Mind. Such an ability can, at least conceptually, be decomposed into another two: mindreading and metacognition. In this paper I will argue (...)
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  25. Sampooran Singh (1996). Remarks on Higher Consciousness: An Oriental Perspective. World Futures 46 (1):53-56.
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  26. John Smythies (2012). Consciousness and Higher Dimensions of Space. Journal of Consciousness Studies 19 (11-12):11-12.
    This paper reviews the present status of the material dualist theory of brain-consciousness relations. I cover first the history of its development by Priestly, Broad, Price, Carr, Jourdan, and myself. The theory is then described with its basis in higher-dimensional geometry, the phenomenology of consciousness, the neurological concept of the body image, and the application of Leibniz's Law to the current dominant identity theory of brain-consciousness relations. A model based on Flatland is developed to illustrate the theory followed by a (...)
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  27. Teodor Stepien (1993). A Note On Formalisations Of First-Order Theories. Reports on Mathematical Logic:19-28.
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  28. Steve Taylor (2005). The Sources of Higher States of Consciousness. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 24:48-60.
    In this paper, it is argued that “higher states of consciousness”–or mystical experiences–have two main sources: they can be caused by a disruption of the normal homeostasis of the human organism and also by an intensification of the “consciousness-energy” that constitutes our being. . The author investigates examples of both types of experience, and compares and contrasts them. It is concluded that the second type of experience is the only one which is truly positive and which can become a fully (...)
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  29. Kevin Timpe (2015). Quotational Higher-Order Thought Theory. Philosophical Studies 172 (10):2705-2733.
    Due to their reliance on constitutive higher-order representing to generate the qualities of which the subject is consciously aware, I argue that the major existing higher-order representational theories of consciousness insulate us from our first-order sensory states. In fact on these views we are never properly conscious of our sensory states at all. In their place I offer a new higher-order theory of consciousness, with a view to making us suitably intimate with our sensory states in experience. This theory relies (...)
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  30. Javier Vidal, De Se Thoughts and Conscious Mind.
    In this paper I develop a modified version of the higher-order thought theory of consciousness. I argue that a mental state is conscious when it is accompanied by an implicit de se thought. This new version is important because it can accomodate the objection that a higher-order thought which is the conclusion of a conscious inference is not able to make a state mental conscious. Also I argue that if introspection consists in one's having an explicit de se thought, the (...)
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  31. Morgan Wallhagen (2004). Attention to Consciousness. Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania
    The notion of consciousness, though central to contemporary philosophy of mind, is not well understood. This fact vitiates many recent attempts to develop a theory of consciousness. I aim to achieve a deeper understanding of consciousness by considering what it is that distinguishes conscious mental phenomena from non-conscious mental phenomena. I argue that, contrary to widespread opinion, consciousness is not a matter of a mental state's possessing phenomenality. Nor is it simply a matter of an organism's developing a mental representation, (...)
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  32. Jün-Tin Wang (1973). On the Representation of Generative Grammars as First-Order Theories. In Radu J. Bogdan & Ilkka Niiniluoto (eds.), Logic, Language, and Probability. Boston: D. Reidel Pub. Co.. pp. 302--316.
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  33. Paul T. P. Wong (1977). Extinction Facilitates Acquisition of the Higher Order Operant. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society 9 (2):131-134.
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Higher-Order Thought Theories of Consciousness
  1. Richard E. Aquila (1990). Consciousness as Higher-Order Thoughts: Two Objections. American Philosophical Quarterly 27 (1):81-87.
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  2. Nils A. Baas (1996). A Framework for Higher Order Cognition and Consciousness. In S. R. Hameroff, A. W. Kaszniak & A. C. Scott (eds.), Towards a Science of Consciousness. MIT Press. pp. 633--648.
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  3. 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 . 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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  4. 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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  5. Jacob Berger (2014). Consciousness is Not a Property of States: A Reply to Wilberg. Philosophical Psychology 27 (6):829-842.
    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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  6. 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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  7. Thomas Bittner (2007). Consciousness: Essays From a Higher-Order Perspective - By Peter Carruthers. Philosophical Books 48 (1):84-86.
  8. N. Block (2011). Response to Rosenthal and Weisberg. Analysis 71 (3):443-448.
  9. 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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  10. Ned Block (2009). Comparing the Major Theories of Consciousness. In Michael Gazzaniga (ed.), The Cognitive Neurosciences IV. pp. 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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  11. Ned Block (2002). Some Concepts of Consciousness. In D. Chalmers (ed.), Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings. pp. 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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  12. Manuel Bremer (2008). Peter Carruthers, Consciousness: Essays From a Higher-Order Perspective. Minds and Machines 18 (3):409-411.
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  13. 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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  14. Richard Brown (2015). The HOROR Theory of Phenomenal Consciousness. Philosophical Studies 172 (7):1783-1794.
    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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  15. Richard Brown (2014). Consciousness Doesn't Overflow Cognition. Frontiers in Psychology 5 (1399):10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01399.
    Theories of consciousness can be separated into those that see it as cognitive in nature, or as an aspect of cognitive functioning, and those that see consciousness as importantly distinct from any kind of cognitive functioning. One version of the former kind of theory is the higher-order-thought theory of consciousness. This family of theories posits a fundamental role for cognitive states, higher-order thought-like intentional states, in the explanation of conscious experience. These states are higher-order in that they represent the subject (...)
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  16. 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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  17. 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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