No mental phenomenon is more central than consciousness to an adequate understanding of the mind. Nor does any mental phenomenon seem more stubbornly to resist theoretical treatment. Consciousness is so basic to the way we think about the mind that it can be tempting to suppose that no mental states exist that are not conscious states. Indeed, it may even seem mysterious what sort of thing a mental state might be if it is not a conscious state. On this way (...) of looking at things, if any mental states do lack consciousness, they are exceptional cases that call for special explanation or qualification. Perhaps dispositional or cognitive states exist that are not conscious, but nonetheless count as mental states. (shrink)
One phenomenon pertains roughly to being awake. A person or other creature is conscious when it's awake and mentally responsive to sensory input; otherwise it's unconscious. This kind of consciousness figures most often in everyday discourse.
Ned BlockÕs inﬂuential distinction between phenomenal and access consciousness has become a staple of current discussions of consciousness. It is not often noted, however, that his distinction tacitly embodies unargued theoretical assumptions that favor some theoretical treatments at the expense of others. This is equally so for his less widely discussed distinction between phenomenal consciousness and what he calls reﬂexive consciousness. I argue that the distinction between phenomenal and access consciousness, as Block draws it, is untenable. Though mental states that (...) have qualitative character plainly diﬀer from those with no mental qualities, a mental stateÕs being conscious is the same property for both kinds of mental state. For one thing, as Block describes access consciousness, that notion does not pick out any property that we intuitively count as a mental stateÕs being conscious. But the deeper problem is that BlockÕs notion of phenomenal consciousness, or phenomenality, is ambiguous as between two very diﬀerent mental properties. The failure to distinguish these results in the begging of important theoretical questions. Once the two kinds of phenomenality have been distinguished, the way is clear to explain qualitative consciousness by appeal to a model such as the higher-order-thought hypothesis. Ó 2002 Elsevier Science . All rights reserved. (shrink)
This anthology brings together readings mainly from contemporary philosophers, but also from writers of the past two centuries, on the philosophy of mind. Some of the main questions addressed are: is a human being really a mind in relation to a body; if so, what exactly is this mind and how it is related to the body; and are there any grounds for supposing that the mind survives the disintegration of the body?
What is it that we are conscious of when we are conscious of ourselves? Hume famously despaired of finding self, as against simply finding various impressions and ideas, when, as he put it, “I enter most intimately into what I call myself.” “When I turn my reflexion on myself, I never can perceive this self without some one or more perceptions; nor can I ever perceive any thing but the perceptions.”.
Because metacognition consists in our having mental access to our cognitive states and mental states are conscious only when we are conscious of them in some suitable way, metacognition and consciousness shed important theoretical light on one another. Thus, our having metacognitive access to information carried by states that are not conscious helps con?rm the hypothesis that a mental state.
Because there is a fair amount of overlap in the points by Balog and Rey, I will organize this response topically, referring speciﬁcally to each commentator as rele- vant. And, because much of the discussion focuses on my higher-order-thought hypothesis independent of questions about metacognition, I will begin by addressing a cluster of issues that have to do with the status, motivation, and exact formulation of that hypothesis.
red and round. According to common sense, the red, round thing we see is the tomato itself. When we have a hallucinatory vision of a tomato, however, there may be present to us no red and round phys- ical object. Still, we use the words 'red' and 'round' to describe that situation as well, this time applying them to the visual experience itself. We say that we have a red, round visual image, or a visual experience of a red disk, (...) or some such. Because we see physical objects far more often than we hallucinate, we apply terms for color and shape to physical objects far more often than to visual experiences. Moreover, different theories of perception explain in different ways the applications such terms have to physical objects and to visual experiences. But whatever their frequency and explanation, it seems clear that both sorts of application occur. (shrink)
Striking experimental results by Benjamin Libet and colleagues have had an impor- tant impact on much recent discussion of consciousness. Some investigators have sought to replicate or extend Libet’s results (Haggard, 1999; Haggard & Eimer, 1999; Haggard, Newman, & Magno, 1999; Trevena & Miller, 2002), while others have focused on how to interpret those ﬁndings (e.g., Gomes, 1998, 1999, 2002; Pockett, 2002), which many have seen as conﬂicting with our commonsense picture of mental functioning.
The so-called unity of consciousness consists in the compelling sense we have that all our conscious mental states belong to a single conscious subject. Elsewhere I have argued that a mental state's being conscious is a matter of our being conscious of that state by having a higher-order thought (HOT) about it. Contrary to what is sometimes argued, this HOT model affords a natural explanation of our sense that our conscious states all belong to a single conscious subject. HOTs often (...) group states together, so that each HOT is about a cluster of target states; single HOTs represent qualitative states as spatially unified and intentional states as unified inferentially. More important, each HOT makes one conscious of oneself in a seemingly immediate way, encouraging a sense of unity across HOTs. And the same considerations that make us assume that our first-person thoughts all refer to the same self apply also to HOTs; becoming conscious of our HOTs in introspection thus leads to a sense that our conscious states are unified in a single self. I argue that neither essential-indexical reference to oneself nor the alleged immunity to error through misidentification conflicts with this account. I close by discussing the apparent connection of unity with free agency. (shrink)
As G. E. Moore famously observed, sentences such as 'It's raining but I don't think it is', though they aren't contradictory, cannot be used to make coherent assertions.' The trouble with such sentences is not a matter of their truth conditions; such sentences can readily be true. Indeed, it happens often enough with each of us that we think, for example, that it isn't raining even though it is. This shows that such sentences are not literally contradictory. But even though (...) such sentences have unproblematic truth conditions, we cannot say the same about their conditions of assertibility. There are no circumstances in which one can use such sentences to perform coherent assertoric speech acts. Situations exist in which these sentences would be true, but none in which anybody could use them to say so. (shrink)
pain' and ┌I think that p┐ express the pain and the thought that p, themselves. The book is most impressive. It is packed with careful argument, and addresses a remarkable range of important issues about the mind. I have very much enjoyed studying it.
Remarks such as âI am in painâ and âI think that itâs rainingâ are puzzling, since they seem to literally describe oneself as being in pain or having a particular thought, but their conditions of use tend to coincide with unequivocal expressions of pain or of that thought. This led Wittgenstein, among others, to treat such remarks as expressing, rather than as reporting, oneâs mental states. Though such expressivism is widely recognized as untenable, Bar-On has recently advanced a neo-expressivist view, (...) on which such remarks exhibit characteristics of both expressions of mental states and reports of those states. I argue against any attempt to see such remarks as both reporting and expressing the same mental states, and that a correct account rests on distinguishing the truth conditions of such remarks from their conditions of use. (shrink)
The problem of consciousness is to say what it is for some of our thoughts, feelings, and sensations to be conscious, given that others are not. This is different from saying what it is for a person to be conscious or not conscious. Even when people are conscious, many of their thoughts and sensations typically are not. And there's nothing problematic about a person's being conscious; it's just the person's being awake and responsive to sensory input.
Color subjectivism is the view that color properties are mental properties of our visual sensations, perhaps identical with properties of neural states, and that nothing except visual sensations and other mental states exhibits color properties. Color phys- icalism, by contrast, holds that colors are exclusively properties of visible physical objects and processes.
In Descartes's time the issue between materialists and their opponents was framed in terms of substances. Materialists such as Thomas Hobbes and Pierre Gassendi maintained that people are physical systems with abilities that no other physical systems have; people, therefore, are special kinds of physical substance. Descartes's DUALISM, by contrast, claimed that people consist of two distinct substances that interact causally: a physical body and a nonphysical, unextended substance. The traditional.
Dualism is the view that mental phenomena are, in some respect, nonphysical. The best-known version is due to Descartes, and holds that the mind is a nonphysical substance. Descartes argued that, because minds have no spatial properties and physical reality is essentially extended in space, minds are wholly nonphysical. Every human being is accordingly a composite of two objects: a physical body, and a nonphysical object that is that human being's mind. On a weaker version of dualism, which contemporary thinkers (...) find more acceptable, human beings are physical substances but have mental properties, and those properties aren't physical. This view is known as property dualism, or the dual-aspect theory. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
Contemporary discussions typically give somewhat sort shrift to the theory of judgment Descartes advances in the Fourth Meditation.' One reason for this relative neglect is presumably the prima facie implausibility of the theory. It sounds odd to say that, in believing something, one's mental affirmation is an act of free will, on a par with freely deciding what to do. In addition, Descartes advances the theory as a way to explain the possibility of human error, which doubtless strikes many as (...) a rather esoteric undertaking. The need to explain error, moreover, arises because of the divine guarantee, and epistemic theodicy is a project unlikely to interest most contemporary readers. And because the theory of judgment postulates two mental.. (shrink)
Everyone — or almost everyone — was agreed that what is [mental] … has a common quality in which its essence is expressed: namely the quality of being conscious — unique, indescribable, but needing no description. All that is conscious … is [mental], and conversely all that is [mental] is conscious; that is self-evident and to contradict it is nonsense.
Theories of what it is for a mental state to be conscious must answer two questions. We must say how we're conscious of our conscious mental states. And we must explain why we seem to be conscious of them in a way that's immediate. Thomas Natsoulas distinguishes three strategies for explaining what it is for mental states to be conscious. I show that the differences among those strategies are due to the divergent answers they give to the foregoing questions. Natsoulas (...) finds most promising the strategy that amounts to the higher-order-thought hypothesis that I've defended elsewhere. But he raises a difficulty for it, which he thinks probably can be met only by modifying that strategy. I argue that this is unnecessary. The difficulty is a special case of a general question, the answer to which is independent of any issues about consciousness. So it's no part of a theory of consciousness to address the problem, much less solve it. Moreover, the difficulty seems to have intuitive force only given the picture that underlies the other two explanatory strategies, which both Natsoulas and I reject. (shrink)
At the level of our platitudinous background knowledge about things, speech is the expression of thought. And understanding what such expressing involves is central to understanding the relation between thinking and speaking. Part of what it is for a speech act to express a mental state is that the speech act accurately captures the mental state and can convey to others what mental state it is. And for this to occur, the speech act at least must have propositional content that (...) somehow reflects that of the mental state, and perhaps must have other such properties as well. (shrink)
John Perry’s splendid book, Knowledge, Possibility, and Consciousness, sets out to dispel the three main objections currently lodged against mind-body materialism. These are the objection from the alleged possibility of zombies, the knowledge argument made famous by Frank Jackson, and the modal objections due principally to Saul A. Kripke and David Chalmers. The discussion is penetrating throughout, and it develops many points in illuminating detail.
Much of the perplexity that motivates modern discussion of the nature of mind derives indirectly from the striking success of physical explanation. Not only has physics itself advanced at a remarkable pace in the last four centuries; every hope has been held out that, in principle, all science can be understood and ultimately studied in terms of mechanisms proper to physics. Seeing all natural phenomena as explicable in terms appropriate to physics, however, makes the mental seem to be a singularity (...) in nature. Chemistry and biology may well be reducible to physics, but the same seems hardly possible for the mental. The gulf between mind and physics seems too great to bridge, and the success of physics guarantees its standing. The place of mind in nature is thereby rendered problematic. This line of reasoning has tempted thinkers since Descartes to see the mind as not only independent of other natural phenomena, but as even somehow lying outside the natural order itself. (shrink)