I. The Representational Theory of Consciousness

Authors
William Seager
University of Toronto, St. George
Abstract
It would be hard to deny that the experience of emotion is one of the most significant aspects of consciousness. While it is possible to imagine a being who enjoyed some forms of consciousness while lacking any awareness of its emotional states, such a being’s conscious life would be radically different from human consciousness. Yet, I believe that in fact we are surrounded by such beings and, most of the time, we ourselves are such. This is not to say that such beings lack emotions, or that they lack consciousness, or even that they lack a specific sort of emotional consciousness. But to be conscious of one’s own emotional state is much more complex than any of that, and much more rare. The framework within which I want to explore emotional consciousness is that of the representational theory of consciousness (RTC). One of the most exciting and fruitful advances in recent philosophical research in consciousness, there is now a plethora of distinct versions of RTC (see for example Carruthers 2000, Dretske 1995, Gennaro 1999, Lycan 1996, Rosenthal 1985, 1993a, 1993b, Tye 1995). Although I think the ultimate mystery of how or why the brain generates conscious experience remains unresolved by RTC, the theory nonetheless offers many insights into the nature of consciousness, and provides a theoretical viewpoint which addresses many of the philosophical problems of consciousness. In this paper, I want to extend the RTC so as to provide a theory of emotional consciousness and emotional introspection. The RTC postulates that if a cognitive system is conscious then it represents. More, consciousness is a kind of representation. Obviously, not every system that represents is conscious and not every representation generated by a conscious system is a conscious representation. Unfortunately, it is not yet very well understood what are the exact criteria for a representation’s being a conscious representation. Very abstractly, RTC posits that representations which play a certain ‘appropriate’ role within a cognitive system of ‘sufficient’ complexity are conscious representations..
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