Two HOTS to handle: The concept of state consciousness in the higher-order thought theory of consciousness

Philosophical Psychology 19 (2):151-175 (2006)
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David Rosenthal's higher-order thought theory is one of the most widely argued for of the higher-order accounts of consciousness. I argue that Rosenthal vacillates between two models of the HOT theory. First, I argue that these models employ different concepts of 'state consciousness'; the two concepts each refer to mental state tokens, but in virtue of different properties. In one model, the concept of 'state consciousness' is more consistent with how the term is typically used, both by philosophers and scientists, and in commonsense usage. This model, however, also has its problems. In the second part of the paper, I develop a modified version of Rosenthal's transitivity principle, thereby avoiding some complications that stem from the original transitivity principle. I suggest that Rosenthal occasionally employs this modified model himself, and that the inconsistency identified in the first section of this paper might really reflect Rosenthal's vacillation between these two versions of the transitivity principle. I offer one explanation for how this equivocation may have occurred. These two versions would result if articulations of the transitivity principle employed the term 'mental state' inconsistently, to refer on some occasions merely to mental state types, and on others, to tokened mental states. I conclude by arguing, contrary to Rosenthal and others, that the theory is not incompatible with view that conscious states are uniquely casual efficacious



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Jennifer Matey
Southern Methodist University

References found in this work

On a confusion about a function of consciousness.Ned Block - 1995 - Brain and Behavioral Sciences 18 (2):227-–247.
Consciousness and Experience.William G. Lycan - 1996 - Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Naturalizing the Mind.Fred Dretske - 1995 - Philosophy 72 (279):150-154.
Two concepts of consciousness.David M. Rosenthal - 1986 - Philosophical Studies 49 (May):329-59.

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