Durand of St.-Pourçain on Reflex Acts and State Consciousness

Vivarium 59 (3):215-240 (2021)
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Some of my mental states are conscious and some of them are not. Sometimes I am so focused on the wine in front of me that I am unaware that I am thinking about it; but sometimes, of course, I take a reflexive step back and become aware of my thinking about the wine in front of me. What marks the difference between a conscious mental state and an unconscious one? In this paper, I focus on Durand of St.-Pourçain’s rejection of the higher-order theory of state consciousness, according to which a mental act is conscious when there is another, suitably related, mental (reflex) act that exists at the same time with it. Durand rejects such higher-order theories on the grounds that they violate the thesis that a given mental power can have or elicit only one mental act at a given time. I first go over some of Durand’s general arguments for this thesis. I then turn to Durand’s application of the thesis to the issue of state consciousnes and reflex acts. I close by considering the objection that Durand’s same-order theory of state consciousness makes consciousness ubiquitous.



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Peter Hartman
Loyola University, Chicago

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