About this topic
Summary Representationalism about consciousness is (roughly) the view that phenomenal consciousness is a species of mental representation.  Reductive representationalism identifies consciousness with a kind of representational state specified in a functional/physical vocabulary.  Non-reductive representationalism simply states that consciousness is representation of a special kind, perhaps of a conscious kind.  Representation is often glossed in terms of "aboutness" or "accuracy conditions". Representationalist views can also be more or less pure. The purest form of representationalism holds that phenomenal character is identical to or supervenes on representational content. Less pure forms of representationalism hold that phenomenal character supervenes on representational content and other factors, for example, sensory modalities, or, more generally, "manners of representation".  
Key works Precursors to representationalism include the intentionalist accounts of perception in Bergmann 1960Anscombe 1965Hintikka 1969, and Harman 1990, as well as the view of perception as belief defended in Armstrong 1968 and Pitcher 1971.  The key modern works include Dretske 1995Lycan 1996, and Tye 1995 for reductive representationalism. Byrne 2001, Chalmers 2004, and Crane 2003 are important defences of non-reductive representationalism. Block 1996 and follow-up papers have been influential as a criticism of the view. 
Introductions Bourget & Mendelovici 2014, Lycan 2000, and Seager & Bourget 2007 are broad introductions to representationalism covering many key issues. Chalmers 2004 also makes for a good introduction. 
Related categories

392 found
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  1. added 2018-09-23
    Neural Synchrony and the Causal Efficacy of Consciousness.David Yates - forthcoming - Topoi:1-16.
    The purpose of this paper is to address a well-known dilemma for physicalism. If mental properties are type identical to physical properties, then their causal efficacy is secure, but at the cost of ruling out mentality in creatures very different to ourselves. On the other hand, if mental properties are multiply realizable, then all kinds of creatures can instantiate them, but then they seem to be causally redundant. The causal exclusion problem depends on the widely held principle that realized properties (...)
  2. added 2018-09-22
    Higher-Order Theories of Consciousness.Rocco J. Gennaro - 2018 - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    An overview of higher-order representational theories of consciousness. Representational theories of consciousness attempt to reduce consciousness to “mental representations” rather than directly to neural or other physical states. This approach has been fairly popular over the past few decades. Examples include first-order representationalism (FOR) which attempts to explain conscious experience primarily in terms of world-directed (or first-order) intentional states (Tye 2005) as well as several versions of higher-order representationalism (HOR) which holds that what makes a mental state M conscious is (...)
  3. added 2018-09-14
    Intentionalism.Tim Crane - 2009 - In Brian McLaughlin & Ansgar Beckermann (eds.), The Oxford Handbook to the Philosophy of Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 474-93.
    The central and defining characteristic of thoughts is that they have objects. The object of a thought is what the thought concerns, or what it is about. Since there cannot be thoughts which are not about anything, or which do not concern anything, there cannot be thoughts without objects. Mental states or events or processes which have objects in this sense are traditionally called ‘intentional,’ and ‘intentionality’ is for this reason the general term for this defining characteristic of thought. Under (...)
  4. added 2018-07-23
    Michael Madary's Visual Phenomenology.Neil Mehta - forthcoming - Philosophical Review.
  5. added 2018-04-13
    Perfect Pitch and the Content of Experience.Fiona Macpherson - 1999 - Anthropology and Philosophy 3 (2):89-101.
    This paper examines the representationalist view of experiences in the light of the phenomena of perfect and relative pitch. Two main kinds of representationalism are identified - environment-based and cognitive role-based. It is argued that to explain the relationship between the two theories a distinction should be drawn between various types of implicit and explicit content. When investigated, this distinction sheds some light on the difference between the phenomenology of perfect and relative pitch experiences and may be usefully applied to (...)
  6. added 2018-04-04
    Consciousness and the Limits of Memory.Joseph Gottlieb - 2018 - Synthese 195 (12):5217-5243.
    Intermodal representationalism is a popular theory of consciousness. This paper argues that intermodal representationalism is false, or at least likely so. The argument turns on two forms of exceptional episodic memory: hyperthymesia and prodigious visual memory in savant syndrome. Emerging from this argument is a broader lesson about the relationship between memory and perception; that it may be possible to entertain in memory the very same content as in a corresponding perceptual experience, and that the ‘overflow’ interpretation of the classic (...)
  7. added 2018-03-21
    Erratum To: Perception Without Representation.Roberta Locatelli & Keith A. Wilson - 2017 - Topoi 36 (2):213-213.
  8. added 2018-03-20
    The Whence and Whither of Experience.Nick Treanor - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-20.
    Consider a toothache, or a feeling of intense pleasure, or the sensation you would have if you looked impassively at an expanse of colour. In each case, the experience can easily be thought to fill time by being present throughout a period. This way of thinking of conscious experience is natural enough, but it is in deep conflict with the view that physical processes are ultimately responsible for experience. The problem is that physical processes are related to durations in a (...)
  9. added 2018-03-12
    Singularidade fenomênica e conteúdo perceptivo.Marco Aurélio Sousa Alves - 2018 - Manuscrito 41 (1):67-91.
    The most prominent theories of perceptual content are incapable of accounting for the phenomenal particularity of perceptual experience. This difficulty, or so I argue, springs from the absence of a series of distinctions that end up turning the problem apparently unsolvable. After briefly examining the main shortcomings of representationalism and naïve realism, I advance a proposal of my own that aims to make the trivial fact of perceptually experiencing a particular object as such philosophically unproblematic. Though I am well aware (...)
  10. added 2018-02-27
    Sensing, the Senses, and Attention.Casey O'Callaghan - 2017 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 95 (2):485-491.
  11. added 2018-02-17
    A Non Representationalist View of Model Explanation.Ashley Graham Kennedy - 2012 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 43 (2):326-332.
  12. added 2018-02-17
    Reply to Lopes.Fred Dretske - 2000 - Philosophical and Phenomenological Research 60 (2):455-459.
  13. added 2018-02-17
    Intersubjective Science.Max Velmans - 1999 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 6 (2-3):299-306.
    The study of consciousness in modern science is hampered by deeply ingrained, dualist presuppositions about the nature of consciousness. In particular, conscious experiences are thought to be private and subjective, contrasting with physical phenomena which are public and objective. In the present article, I argue that all observed phenomena are, in a sense, private to a given observer, although there are some events to which there is public access. Phenomena can be objective in the sense of intersubjective, investigators can be (...)
  14. added 2018-02-17
    What What its Like is Really Like.Michael Tye - 1995 - Analysis 55 (2):125-126.
  15. added 2018-01-13
    The Phenomenal Basis of Intentionality.Angela Mendelovici - 2018 - New York, USA: Oxford University Press.
    Some mental states seem to be "of" or "about" things, or to "say" something. For example, a thought might represent that grass is green, and a visual experience might represent a blue cup. This is intentionality. The aim of this book is to explain this phenomenon. -/- Once we understand intentionality as a phenomenon to be explained, rather than a posit in a theory explaining something else, we can see that there are glaring empirical and in principle difficulties with currently (...)
  16. added 2017-12-31
    Representation, Consciousness, and Time.Sean Allen-Hermanson - 2018 - Metaphysica 19 (1):137-155.
    I criticize Bourget’s intuitive and empirical arguments for thinking that all possible conscious states are underived if intentional. An underived state is one of which it is not the case that it must be realized, at least in part, by intentional states distinct from itself. The intuitive argument depends upon a thought experiment about a subject who exists for only a split second while undergoing a single conscious experience. This, however, trades on an ambiguity in "split second." Meanwhile, Bourget's empirical (...)
  17. added 2017-12-26
    The Collapse Argument.Joseph Gottlieb - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (1):1-20.
    We can divide philosophical theories of consciousness into two main camps: First-Order theories and Higher-Order theories. Like all Higher-Order theories, many First-Order theories are mentalistic theories of consciousness: they attempt to reduce a mental state’s being consciousness using mental (but non-phenomenal) terms, such as being available to certain cognitive centers. I argue that mentalistic First-Order theories, once fully cashed out, collapse into some form of Higher-Order theory. I contend that not only is there general considerations in favor of this conclusion, (...)
  18. added 2017-12-08
    Implications of Intensional Perceptual Ascriptions for Relationalism, Disjunctivism, and Representationalism About Perceptual Experience.David Bourget - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-28.
    This paper aims to shed new light on certain philosophical theories of perceptual experience by examining the semantics of perceptual ascriptions such as “Jones sees an apple.” I start with the assumption, recently defended elsewhere, that perceptual ascriptions lend themselves to intensional readings. In the first part of the paper, I defend three theses regarding such readings: I) intensional readings of perceptual ascriptions ascribe phenomenal properties, II) perceptual verbs are not ambiguous between intensional and extensional readings, and III) intensional perceptual (...)
  19. added 2017-12-08
    Representationalism and Sensory Modalities: An Argument for Intermodal Representationalism.David Bourget - 2017 - American Philosophical Quarterly 54 (3):251-268.
    Intermodal representationalists hold that the phenomenal characters of experiences are fully determined by their contents. In contrast, intramodal representationalists hold that the phenomenal characters of experiences are determined by their contents together with their intentional modes or manners of representation, which are nonrepresentational features corresponding roughly to the sensory modalities. This paper discusses a kind of experience that provides evidence for an intermodal representationalist view: intermodal experiences, experiences that unify experiences in different modalities. I argue that such experiences are much (...)
  20. added 2017-11-27
    Pleasure, Displeasure, and Representation.Timothy Schroeder - 2001 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 31 (4):507-530.
    The object of the present work is to rectify the neglect that pleasure and displeasure have been suffering from in the philosophy of mind, and to give an account of pleasure and displeasure which reveals a striking degree of unity and theoretical tractabiliy underlying the diverse phenomena: a representationalist account.
  21. added 2017-10-20
    Representationalism and Perceptual Organization.E. J. Green - 2016 - Philosophical Topics 44 (2):121-148.
    Some philosophers have suggested that certain shifts in perceptual organization are counterexamples to representationalism about phenomenal character. Representationalism about phenomenal character is, roughly, the view that there can be no difference in the phenomenal character of experience without a difference in the representational content of experience. In this paper, I examine three of these alleged counterexamples: the dot array, the intersecting lines, and the 3 X 3 grid. I identify the two features of their phenomenology that call for explanation: grouping (...)
  22. added 2017-10-05
    Dualism, Reductionism, and Reflexive Monism.Max Velmans - 2007 - In Max Velmans & Susan Schneider (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness. New York: Blackwell. pp. 346-358.
    (added for 2013 upload): This chapter compares classical dualist and reductionist views of phenomenal consciousness with an alternative, reflexive way of viewing the relations amongst consciousness, brain and the external physical world. It argues that dualism splits the universe in two fundamental ways: in viewing phenomenal consciousness as having neither location nor extension it splits consciousness from the material world, and subject from object. Materialist reductionism views consciousness as a brain state or function (located and extended in the brain) which (...)
  23. added 2017-09-25
    What Makes Up a Mood Experience.Bartek Chomanski - 2017 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 24 (5-6):104-127.
    In this paper I argue that the phenomenal character of a mood experience wholly depends on affective modifications (appropriate for the mood in question) to the phenomenal characters of one's non-mood experiences. I argue that this view accounts for all distinctive aspects of mood phenomenology, in contrast to currently existing accounts of moods, each of which faces trouble accounting for some distinctive aspect of mood experience. I also explain how my view allows for holding both that moods seemingly lack intentional (...)
  24. added 2017-09-20
    The World as-Perceived, the World as-Described by Physics, and the Thing-Itself: A Reply to Rentoul and Wetherick.Max Velmans - 1992 - Philosophical Psychology 5 (2):167 – 172.
    This paper summarised the main arguments presented in "Consciousness, brain and the physical world" Philosophical Psychology (1990) to introduce a symposium on that paper. This was the first symposium on Velmans' Reflexive Model of Perception (the departure point for Reflexive Monism). This summary of the 1990 paper was followed by three critiques (by Robert Rentoul, Norman Wetherick, and Grant Gillett) followed by two replies. At the time of this upload (25 years later) many of the points in the 1991 paper (...)
  25. added 2017-09-15
    Consciousness, Brain, and the Physical World.Max Velmans - 1990 - Philosophical Psychology 3 (1):77-99.
    Dualist and Reductionist theories of mind disagree about whether or not consciousness can be reduced to a state of or function of the brain. They assume, however, that the contents of consciousness are separate from the external physical world as-perceived. According to the present paper this assumption has no foundation either in everyday experience or in science. Drawing on evidence for perceptual projection in both interoceptive and exteroceptive sense modalities, the case is made that the physical world as-perceived is a (...)
  26. added 2017-09-11
    Content, Object, and Phenomenal Character.Marco Aurelio Sousa Alves - 2012 - Principia, an International Journal of Epistemology 16 (3):417-449.
    The view that perceptual experience has representational content, or the content view, has recently been criticized by the defenders of the so-called object view. Part of the dispute, I claim here, is based on a lack of grasp of the notion of content. There is, however, a core of substantial disagreement. Once the substantial core is revealed, I aim to: (1) reject the arguments raised against the content view by Campbell (2002), Travis (2004), and Brewer (2006); (2) criticize Brewer’s (2006, (...)
  27. added 2017-09-04
    Cognitive linguistics and philosophy of mind.Pavel Baryshnikov - 2016 - Epistemology and Philosophy of Science 50 (4):119-134.
    This paper is aimed to analyze some grounds bridging the explanatory gap in philosophy of mind and linguistic sign theory. It's noted that the etymological ties between the notions of “consciousness", “cognition", “sign" are emphasized in the works on cognitive linguistics. This connection rises from the understanding of the symbolic nature of consciousness and the sign of semiosis as the key cognitive process. On the one hand, it is impossible to realize the communication procedures, knowledge, understanding, decisionmaking, orientation and even (...)
  28. added 2017-07-17
    What Is It Like to See with Your Ears? The Representational Theory of Mind.Dominic M. McIver Lopes - 2000 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 60 (2):439-453.
    Representational theories of mind cannot individuate the sense modalities in a principled manner. According to representationalism, the phenomenal character of experiences is determined by their contents. The usual objection is that inverted qualia are possible, so the phenomenal character of experiences may vary independently of their contents. But the objection is inconclusive. It raises difficult questions about the metaphysics of secondary qualities and it is difficult to see whether or not inverted qualia are possible. This paper proposes an alternative test (...)
  29. added 2017-07-07
    Predictive Processing and the Phenomenology of Time Consciousness: A Hierarchical Extension of Rick Grush’s Trajectory Estimation Model.Wanja Wiese - 2017 - Philosophy and Predictive Processing.
    This chapter explores to what extent some core ideas of predictive processing can be applied to the phenomenology of time consciousness. The focus is on the experienced continuity of consciously perceived, temporally extended phenomena (such as enduring processes and successions of events). The main claim is that the hierarchy of representations posited by hierarchical predictive processing models can contribute to a deepened understanding of the continuity of consciousness. Computationally, such models show that sequences of events can be represented as states (...)
  30. added 2017-05-16
    Perceptual Consciousness as a Mental Activity.Susanna Schellenberg - 2018 - Noûs:1-50.
    I argue that perceptual consciousness is constituted by a mental activity. The mental activity in question is the activity of employing perceptual capacities, such as discriminatory, selective capacities. This is a radical view, but I hope to make it plausible. In arguing for this mental activist view, I reject orthodox views on which perceptual consciousness is analyzed in terms of peculiar entities, such as, phenomenal properties, external mind-independent properties, propositions, sense-data, qualia, or intentional objects.
  31. added 2017-05-11
    Can Representationism Explain How Attention Affects Appearances?Sebastian Watzl - forthcoming - In Adam Pautz & Daniel Stoljar (eds.), Themes from Block. Boston, USA: The MIT Press.
    Recent psychological research shows that attention affects appearances. An “attended item looks bigger, faster, earlier, more saturated, stripier.” (Block 2010, p. 41). What is the significance of these findings? Ned Block has argued that they undermine representationism, roughly the view that the phenomenal character of perception is determined by its representational content. My first goal in this paper is to show that Block’s argument has the structure of a Problem of Arbitrary Phenomenal Variation and that it improves on other instances (...)
  32. added 2017-03-21
    An Analytic-Hermeneutic History of Consciousness.Benj Hellie - forthcoming - In Kelly Michael Becker & Iain Thompson (eds.), Cambridge Companion to History of Philosophy 1945-2015. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
    The hermeneutic tradition divides /physical/ discourse, which takes an 'exterior' point of view in /describing/ its subject-matter, from /mental/ discourse, which takes an 'interior' point of view in /expressing/ its subject-matter: a 'metapsychological dualist' or 'metadualist' approach. The analytic tradition, in its attachment to truth-logic and consequently the 'unity of science', is 'metamonist', and thinks all discourse takes the 'exterior' viewpoint: the 'bump in the rug' moves to the disunification of mind into the functional and (big-'C') Consciousness. Assuming the hermeneuts (...)
  33. added 2017-03-04
    Higher Order Thought and the Problem of Radical Confabulation.Timothy Lane & Caleb Liang - 2008 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 46 (1):69-98.
    Currently, one of the most influential theories of consciousness is Rosenthal's version of higher-order-thought (HOT). We argue that the HOT theory allows for two distinct interpretations: a one-component and a two-component view. We further argue that the two-component view is more consistent with his effort to promote HOT as an explanatory theory suitable for application to the empirical sciences. Unfortunately, the two-component view seems incapable of handling a group of counterexamples that we refer to as cases of radical confabulation. We (...)
  34. added 2017-02-16
    Representationalism and Realism.Olav Gjelsvik - 2006 - ProtoSociology 23.
  35. added 2017-02-14
    Neural Representationalism, the Hard Problem of Content and Vitiated Verdicts. A Reply to Hutto & Myin.Matteo Colombo - 2014 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 13 (2):257-274.
    Colombo’s (Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 2013) plea for neural representationalism is the focus of a recent contribution to Phenomenology and Cognitive Science by Daniel D. Hutto and Erik Myin. In that paper, Hutto and Myin have tried to show that my arguments fail badly. Here, I want to respond to their critique clarifying the type of neural representationalism put forward in my (Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 2013) piece, and to take the opportunity to make a few remarks of (...)
  36. added 2017-02-14
    3 Experience and Representation.William S. Robinson - 2008 - In Edmond Wright (ed.), The Case for Qualia. MIT Press. pp. 73.
  37. added 2017-02-14
    Transparency and Teaching.G. Allen - 2006 - Theory, Culture and Society 23 (2-3):568-570.
  38. added 2017-02-14
    Transparency and the Particular.Zenon Bankowski - 1999 - Cultural Values 3 (4):427-444.
  39. added 2017-02-14
    On the Transparency of Begin: Some Uses of Semantic Theory.Tommy R. Anderson - 1968 - Foundations of Language 4 (4):394-421.
  40. added 2017-02-13
    The Lightness of a Transparent Surface in Metelli’s Model of Phenomenal Transparency.Sergio Cesare Masin - 1987 - Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society 25 (4):263-265.
  41. added 2017-02-10
    Phenomenal Content, Space, and the Subject of Consciousness.C. Peacocke - 2013 - Analysis 73 (2):320-329.
  42. added 2017-02-09
    Review: Tye on Consciousness: Time to Panic? [REVIEW]William E. Seager - 2003 - Philosophical Studies 113 (3):237 - 247.
  43. added 2017-02-09
    Review: Two Cheers for Representationalism. [REVIEW]Sydney Shoemaker - 1998 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 58 (3):671 - 678.
  44. added 2017-02-08
    Reply to Yu.James Hudson & Michael Tye - 1981 - Analysis 41 (4):176 - 178.
  45. added 2017-02-03
    Why Are Some Phenomenal Experiences 'Vivid' and Others 'Faint'? Representationalism, Imagery, and Cognitive Phenomenology.David Bourget - 2017 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (4):673-687.
    One central brand of representationalism claims that the specific phenomenal character of an experience is fully determined by its content. A challenge for this view is that cognitive and perceptual experiences sometimes seem to have the same representational content while differing in phenomenal character. In particular, it might seem that one can have faint imagery experiences or conscious thoughts with the same contents as vivid perceptual experiences. This paper argues that such cases never arise, and that they are probably metaphysically (...)
  46. added 2017-01-30
    The Phenomenal and the Representational.Jeff Speaks - 2015 - Oxford University Press UK.
    There are two main ways in which things with minds, like us, differ from things without minds, like tables and chairs. First, we are conscious--there is something that it is like to be us. We instantiate phenomenal properties. Second, we represent, in various ways, our world as being certain ways. We instantiate representational properties. Jeff Speaks attempts to make progress on three questions: What are phenomenal properties? What are representational properties? How are the phenomenal and the representational related?
  47. added 2017-01-30
    A Narrow Representationalist Account of Qualitative Experience.Georges Rey - 1998 - Noûs 32 (S12):435-457.
  48. added 2017-01-29
    The Nature of Phenomenal Content.Bradley Jon Thompson - 2003 - Dissertation, The University of Arizona
    There is something it is like to see a bright red cardinal, to touch a stucco wall, or to hear an ambulance pass by. Each of these experiences has a distinctive phenomenal character. But in virtue of what it is like to have a particular experience---in virtue of the experience's phenomenal character---the world is presented to the subject as being a certain way. ;The dissertation is concerned with the nature of this "phenomenal content". In Chapter One I argue that there (...)
  49. added 2017-01-27
    Phenomenal Consciousness, Representational Content and Cognitive Access: A Missing Link Between Two Debates.Hilla Jacobson - 2015 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 14 (4):1021-1035.
    Two debates loom large in current discussions on phenomenal consciousness. One debate concerns the relation between phenomenal character and representational content. Representationalism affirms, whereas “content separatism” denies, that phenomenal character is exhausted by representational content. Another debate concerns the relation between phenomenal consciousness and cognitive access. “Access separatism” affirms, whereas, e.g., the global workspace model denies, that there are phenomenally conscious states that are not cognitively accessed. I will argue that the two separatist views are related. Access separatism supports content (...)
  50. added 2017-01-27
    The Presidential Address: Sensory Experience and Representational Properties.David Papineau - 2014 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 114 (1pt1):1-33.
    This paper is about the nature of conscious sensory properties. My initial thesis is that these properties should not be equated with representational properties. I argue that any such representationalist view is in danger of implying that conscious sensory properties are constituted by relations to propositions or other abstract objects outside space and time; and I add that, even if this implication can be avoided, the broadness of representational properties in any case renders them unsuitable to constitute conscious properties. In (...)
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