Higher-order thoughts and conscious experience

Philosophical Psychology 8 (3):239-254 (1995)
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For nearly a decade, David Rosenthal has proposed that a mental state M of a creature C is conscious just in case C has a suitable higher-order thought directed toward M. While this theory has had its share of criticism in recent years, I believe that the real difficulties have been ignored. In this essay, I show that the presence of a higher order is insufficient for conscious experience, even if we suppose that the thought satisfies the constraints that Rosenthal lists . The only way Rosenthal's view could possibly yield sufficient conditions is by requiring that the higher-order thought be suitably causally related to its object. Yet, as I also show, the only causal constraint strong enough to do the job is not only ill-motivated but probably false



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Robert Francescotti
San Diego State University

References found in this work

Vision.David Marr - 1982 - W. H. Freeman.
A Materialist Theory of the Mind.D. M. Armstrong - 1968 - New York: Routledge. Edited by Ted Honderich.
The Logic Of Perception.Irvin Rock - 1983 - Cambridge: MIT Press.
Two concepts of consciousness.David M. Rosenthal - 1986 - Philosophical Studies 49 (May):329-59.
Conscious experience.Fred Dretske - 1993 - Mind 102 (406):263-283.

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