About this topic
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. Consciousness as Higher-Order Thoughts: Two Objections.Richard E. Aquila - 1990 - American Philosophical Quarterly 27 (1):81-87.
  2. A Framework for Higher Order Cognition and Consciousness.Nils A. Baas - 1996 - In S. R. Hameroff, A. W. Kaszniak & A. C. Scott (eds.), Towards a Science of Consciousness. MIT Press. pp. 633--648.
  3. Phenomenal Judgment and the HOT Theory: Comments on David Rosenthal’s “Consciousness, Content, and Metacognitive Judgments”. [REVIEW]Katalin Balog - 2000 - 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 (...)
  4. Can Higher-Order Representation Theories Pass Scientific Muster?John Beeckmans - 2007 - 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 (...)
  5. How Things Seem to Higher-Order Thought Theorists.Jacob Berger - forthcoming - Dialogue:1-24.
    According to David Rosenthal’s higher-order thought (HOT) theory of consciousness, a mental state is conscious just in case one is aware of being in that state via a suitable HOT. Jesse Mulder (2016) recently objects: though HOT theory holds that conscious states are states that it seems to one that one is in, the view seems unable to explain how HOTs engender such seemings. I clarify here how HOT theory can adequately explain the relevant mental appearances, illustrating the explanatory power (...)
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  6. Consciousness is Not a Property of States: A Reply to Wilberg.Jacob Berger - 2014 - 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 (...)
  7. Consciousness, Higher-Order Thought, and Stimulus Reinforcement.José Luis Bermúdez - 2000 - 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.
  8. Consciousness: Essays From a Higher-Order Perspective - By Peter Carruthers.Thomas Bittner - 2007 - Philosophical Books 48 (1):84-86.
  9. Response to Rosenthal and Weisberg.N. Block - 2011 - Analysis 71 (3):443-448.
  10. The Higher Order Approach to Consciousness is Defunct.Ned Block - 2011 - 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.
  11. Comparing the Major Theories of Consciousness.Ned Block - 2009 - 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. (...)
  12. Some Concepts of Consciousness.Ned Block - 2002 - 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.
  13. Peter Carruthers, Consciousness: Essays From a Higher-Order Perspective.Manuel Bremer - 2008 - Minds and Machines 18 (3):409-411.
  14. Consciousness and Memory.Bruce Bridgeman - 1992 - 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 (...)
  15. The HOROR Theory of Phenomenal Consciousness.Richard Brown - 2015 - 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 (...)
  16. Consciousness Doesn't Overflow Cognition.Richard Brown - 2014 - Frontiers in Psychology 5:10.3389/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 (...)
  17. Review of 'The Consciousness Paradox: Consciousness, Concepts, and Higher-Order Thoughts' by Rocco J. Gennaro. [REVIEW]Richard Brown - 2012 - 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 (...)
  18. Editorial: Standing on the Verge: Lessons and Limits From the Empirical Study of Consciousness.Richard Brown - 2012 - 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 (...)
  19. The Brain and its States.Richard Brown - 2012 - In Shimon Edelman, Tomer Fekete & Neta Zach (eds.), Being in Time: Dynamical Models of Phenomenal Experience. John Benjamins. pp. 211-238.
    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 (...)
  20. The Myth of Phenomenological Overflow.Richard Brown - 2012 - 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.
  21. On Whether the Higher-Order Thought Theory of Consciousness Entails Cognitive Phenomenology, Or: What is It Like to Think That One Thinks That P?Richard Brown & Pete Mandik - 2012 - Philosophical Topics 40 (2):1-12.
    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 (...)
  22. Carruthers on the Deficits of Animals.Derek Browne - 1999 - Psyche 5 (23).
    The simple version of the HOT theory of consciousness is easily refuted. Carruthers escapes this refutation because he is actually a closet introspectionist. I agree with Carruthers that the subjective properties of experience are constituted from discriminatory and other cognitive responses, but I disagree that conceptual uptake into a language of thought is the form of uptake that is necessary. Carruthers' neocartesian argument for a divide between 'man and brute' should be rejected.
  23. What Phenomenal Consciousness is Like.Alex Byrne - 2004 - 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.
  24. Some Like It HOT: Consciousness and Higher-Order Thoughts.Alex Byrne - 1997 - 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.
  25. What Does Language Tell Us About Consciousness? First-Person Mental Discourse and Higher-Order Thought Theories of Consciousness.Neil Campbell Manson - 2002 - 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 roles and thus is not a good test for what is (...)
  26. Higher-Order Theories of Consciousness.Peter Carruthers - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  27. Higher-Order Theories of Consciousness.Peter Carruthers - 2007 - In Max Velmans & Susan Schneider (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness. Blackwell.
  28. Reply to Seager.Peter Carruthers - 2005 - Anthropology and Philosophy 6 (1/2):74-80.
  29. Consciousness: Essays From a Higher-Order Perspective.Peter Carruthers - 2005 - 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 (...)
  30. Why the Question of Animal Consciousness Might Not Matter Very Much.Peter Carruthers - 2005 - 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 (...)
  31. Hop Over FOR, HOT Theory.Peter Carruthers - 2004 - 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 theory of phenomenal consciousness - inner sense theory versus a dispositionalist kind of higher-order thought 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 theories and actualist forms of HOT theory. First, neither can give an adequate account of the (...)
  32. Phenomenal Concepts and Higher-Order Experiences.Peter Carruthers - 2003 - 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; (...)
  33. Consciousness: Explaining the Phenomena.Peter Carruthers - 2001 - In D. Walsh (ed.), Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement. Cambridge University Press. pp. 61-85.
    Can phenomenal consciousness be given a reductive natural explanation? Many people argue not. They claim that there is an.
  34. Precis of "Phenomenal Consciousness: A Naturalistic Theory".Peter Carruthers - 2001 - SWIF Philosophy of Mind Review 2 (1).
  35. Replies to Critics: Explaining Subjectivity.Peter Carruthers - 2000 - Psyche 6 (3).
    This article replies to the main objections raised by the commentators on Carruthers . It discusses the question of what evidence is relevant to the assessment of dispositional higher-order thought theory; it explains how the actual properties of phenomenal consciousness can be dispositionally constituted; it discusses the case of pains and other bodily sensations in non-human animals and young children; it sketches the case for preferring higher-order to first-order theories of phenomenal consciousness; and it replies to some miscellaneous points and (...)
  36. Phenomenal Consciousness: A Naturalistic Theory.Peter Carruthers - 2000 - 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 terms. Drawing on a variety of interdisciplinary resources, he develops and (...)
  37. Natural Theories of Consciousness.Peter Carruthers - 1998 - European Journal of Philosophy 6 (2):203-22.
    Many people have thought that consciousness.
  38. Fragmentary Versus Reflexive Consciousness.Peter Carruthers - 1997 - Mind and Language 12 (2):181-95.
  39. Language, Thought, and Consciousness.Peter Carruthers - 1996 - 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 (...)
  40. Consciousness and Concepts.Peter Carruthers - 1992 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 66 (66):41-59.
  41. Brute Experience.Peter Carruthers - 1989 - Journal of Philosophy 86 (May):258-269.
  42. Free Will and Consciousness: A Determinist Account of the Illusion of Free Will.Gregg Caruso - 2013 - Lexington Books.
    This book argues two main things: The first is that there is no such thing as free will—at least not in the sense most ordinary folk take to be central or fundamental; the second is that the strong and pervasive belief in free will can be accounted for through a careful analysis of our phenomenology and a proper theoretical understanding of consciousness.
  43. Some Semiotic Constraints on Metarepresentational Accounts of Consciousness.Marc Champagne - 2009 - In John N. Deely & Leonard G. Sbrocchi (eds.), Semiotics. Legas Press. pp. 557-564.
    "Representation" is one of those Janus-faced terms that seems blatantly obvious when used in a casual or pre-theoretic manner, but which reveals itself far more slippery when attentively studied. Any allusion to "metarepresentation", it would then seem, only compounds these difficulties. Taking the metarepresentationalist framework in its roughest outline as our point of departure, we thus articulate four key "structural" features that appear binding for any such theory.
  44. Sense and Sentience.David J. Cole - manuscript
    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 : _It must be confessed, however, that Perception_ [consciousness?]_, and that which depends (...)
  45. Panpsychism and Neutral Monism: How to Make Up One's Mind.Sam Coleman - forthcoming - In Jaskolla Brüntrup (ed.), Panpsychism. Oxford University Press.
  46. Quotational Higher-Order Thought Theory.Sam Coleman - 2015 - 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 (...)
  47. Reid on Consciousness: Hop, Hot or For?Rebecca Copenhaver - 2007 - 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 (...)
  48. Higher-Order Consciousness and Phenomenal Space: Reply to Meehan.Barry F. Dainton - 2004 - 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 (...)
  49. Lovely and Suspect Qualities.Daniel C. Dennett - 1991 - In Enrique Villanueva (ed.), Philosophical Issues. Ridgeview. pp. 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 (...)
  50. Assumptions of Subjective Measures of Unconscious Mental States: Higher Order Thoughts and Bias.Zoltán Dienes - 2004 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 11 (9):25-45.
    This paper considers two subjective measures of the existence of unconscious mental states - the guessing criterion, and the zero correlation criterion - and considers the assumptions underlying their application in experimental paradigms. Using higher order thought theory the impact of different types of biases on the zero correlation and guessing criteria are considered. It is argued that subjective measures of consciousness can be biased in various specified ways, some of which involve the relation between first order states and second (...)
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