Moravcsik and the contents of consciousness

There is a doctrine in the theory of consciousness known as representationalism, or intentionalism. According to this doctrine, what it feels like to be in a particular state of consciousness — the qualitative character of that state — is identical to the content of some mental representation(s) For instance, the state of consciousness I am enjoying just now as I see a pattern of sunlight and shadow falling on my wall is, in part, a state of consciousness that presents to me a patch of light grey shadow just there, straight ahead of me and just above eye-level. According to representationalism, what it is like to be in this very specific state of consciousness is for it to seem to me that there is a patch of light grey shadow there, straight ahead of me and just above eye-level. And for it to seem so to me is just for that to be the content of one of my mental representations.2 Representationalism gives a central role to content when explaining consciousness. What content is, though, is contested. For every theory of content on offer, there can be generated a corresponding representationalist theory of consciousness. In a series of publications, Julius Moravcsik has defended a novel theory of meaning that a representationalist can take as a theory of the content of consciousness.3 In this paper, I investigate the possibility of the representationalist doing just this. Is this a hostile co-optation of Moravcsik’s theory of meaning? Is it a friendly extension of Moravcsik’s theory to a new domain? Or something more equivocal? This particular question I leave to one side. But there are a number of interesting consequences of investigating the intersection of representationalism and his theory of meaning in any case, as I hope to show in what follows.
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