I. The Representational Theory of Consciousness

William Seager
University of Toronto at Scarborough
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..
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Translate to english
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 48,878
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

What is It Like to Be a Bat?Thomas Nagel - 1974 - Philosophical Review 83 (October):435-50.
The Intrinsic Quality of Experience.Gilbert Harman - 1990 - Philosophical Perspectives 4:31-52.
What is It Like to Be a Bat.Thomas Nagel - 1974 - E-Journal Philosophie der Psychologie 5.

View all 22 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

L'encyclopédisme Hors d'Europe.Christian Godin - 1996 - Philosophiques 23 (2):359-369.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Consciousness and its Discontents.Dan Lloyd - 1997 - Communication and Cognition: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly Journal 30 (3-4):273-284.
Is Self-Representation Necessary for Consciousness?William Seager - 2006 - PSYCHE: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Research On Consciousness 12.
The Representational Base of Consciousness.Andrew Brook & Paul Raymont - 2006 - PSYCHE: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Research On Consciousness 12.
The Representational Theory of Consciousness.David Bourget - 2010 - Dissertation, Australian National University
Two Concepts of Consciousness.David M. Rosenthal - 1986 - Philosophical Studies 49 (May):329-59.
On a Searlean Objection to Rosenthal’s Theory of State Consciousness.A. Minh Nguyen - 2000 - Journal of Philosophical Research 25 (January):83-100.
Representational Theories of Consciousness.William G. Lycan - 2000 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Feeling as Knowing--Part II: Emotion, Consciousness and Brain Activity.Timo Järvilehto - 2001 - Consciousness and Emotion. Special Issue 2 (1):75-102.
Addressing Higher-Order Misrepresentation with Quotational Thought.Vincent Picciuto - 2011 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 18 (3-4):109-136.


Added to PP index

Total views
45 ( #204,031 of 2,309,563 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #758,532 of 2,309,563 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature