V. consciousness, interpretation, and higher-order-thought

Few contemporary researchers in psychology, philosophy, and the cognitive sciences have any doubt about whether mental phenomena occur without being conscious. There is extensive and convincing clinical and experimental evidence for the existence of thoughts, desires, and related mental states that aren’t conscious. We characterize thoughts, desires, intentions, expectations, hopes, and many other mental states in terms of the things they are about and, more fully, in terms of their content, as captured by a sentence nominalization, such as a clause beginning with the word ‘that’. The philosophical literature follows Franz Brentano’s adaptation of Thomist terminology in referring to all such states as intentional states. But there is another type of mental phenomena, which lack intentionality and whose mental nature consists instead of some qualitative feature. These states include bodily sensations, such as aches and pains, and perceptual states, such as visual sensations of color and tactile sensations of heat and cold. And these states all exhibit some mental quality or another, such as the mental quality distinctive of pain or the mental quality of red or blue.1 And even theorists who acknowledge that intentional states can and do occur without being conscious have sometimes insisted that qualitative states cannot. There is, according to these theorists, nothing to a state’s being qualitative or exhibiting some mental quality unless that state is conscious – unless it is, as we might metaphorically say, “lighted up”. It’s striking that Freud himself seems to have adopted this double standard toward the two types of mental state. In his metapsychological paper, “The Unconscious”, for example, he writes that “all the categories which we employ to describe conscious mental acts, such as ideas, purposes, resolutions, and so forth, can be applied to [unconscious mental occurrences]” (Freud 1915e, p. 168). But he seems here to have in..
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