I begin by considering Ned Block's widely accepted distinction between phenomenal and access consciousness. I argue that on Block's official characterization a mental state's being access conscious is not a way the state's being conscious in any intuitive sense; that if phenomenal consciousness itself corresponds to an intuitive way of a state's being conscious, it literally implies access consciousness; and that Block misconstrues the theoretical significance of the commonsense distinction. These considerations point to the view that mental states' being conscious consists in their being accompanied by occurrent, assertoric thoughts to the effect that one is in the state in question: what I have elsewhere called higher- order thoughts (HOTs). After outlining the model, I sketch theoretical advantages having to do with introspective consciousness, the relationship between consciousness and speech, and the metacognitive phenomenon known as feeling-of-knowing judgments. I conclude by showing that the HOT model does justice to phenomenal consciousness: Sensory states are not all conscious, and HOTS explain why there is something it is like to be in those which are.
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Metacognition and Higher-Order Thoughts.David M. Rosenthal - 2000 - Consciousness and Cognition 9 (2):231-242.
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