Consciousness is arguably the most important area within contemporary philosophy of mind and perhaps the most puzzling aspect of the world. Despite an explosion of research from philosophers, psychologists, and scientists, attempts to explain consciousness in neurophysiological, or even cognitive, terms are often met with great resistance. In The Consciousness Paradox, Rocco Gennaro aims to solve an underlying paradox, namely, how it is possible to hold a number of seemingly inconsistent views, including higher-order thought (HOT) theory, conceptualism, infant and (...) animal consciousness, concept acquisition, and what he calls the HOT-brain thesis. He defends and further develops a metapsychological reductive representational theory of consciousness and applies it to several importantly related problems. Gennaro proposes a version of the HOT theory of consciousness that he calls the "wide intrinsicality view" and shows why it is superior to various alternatives, such as self-representationalism and first-order representationalism. HOT theory says that what makes a mental state conscious is that a suitable higher-order thought is directed at that mental state. -/- Thus Gennaro argues for an overall philosophical theory of consciousness while applying it to other significant issues not usually addressed in the philosophical literature on consciousness. Most cognitive science and empirical works on such topics as concepts and animal consciousness do not address central philosophical theories of consciousness. Gennaro’s integration of empirical and philosophical concerns will make his argument of interest to both philosophers and nonphilosophers. (shrink)
An overview of higher-order representational theories of consciousness. Representational theories of consciousness attempt to reduce consciousness to “mental representations” rather than directly to neural or other physical states. This approach has been fairly popular over the past few decades. Examples include first-order representationalism (FOR) which attempts to explain conscious experience primarily in terms of world-directed (or first-order) intentional states (Tye 2005) as well as several versions of higher-order representationalism (HOR) which holds that what makes a mental state M conscious is (...) that it is the object of some kind of higher-order mental state directed at M. The primary focus of this entry is on HOR and especially higher-order thought (HOT) theory. The key question that should be answered by any theory of consciousness is: What makes a mental state a conscious mental state? Section 1 introduces the overall representationalist approach to consciousness and briefly discuss Tye’s FOR. Section 2 presents three major versions of HOR: higher-order thought theory, dispositional higher-order thought theory, and higher-order perception theory. In section 3, a number of common and important objections and replies are presented. Section 4 briefly outlines a close connection between HOT theory and conceptualism, that is, the claim that the representational content of a perceptual experience is entirely determined by the conceptual capacities the perceiver brings to bear in her experience. Section 5 examines several hybrid higher-order and “self-representational” theories of consciousness which all hold that conscious states are self-directed in some way. Section 6 addresses the potentially damaging claim that HOT theory requires neural activity in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) in order for one to have conscious states. (shrink)
Consciousness is arguably the most important interdisciplinary area in contemporary philosophy of mind, with an explosion of research over the past thirty years from philosophers, psychologists, and scientists. It is also perhaps the most puzzling aspect of the world despite the fact that it is familiar to each of us. Consciousness also seems resistant to any straightforward physical explanation. This book introduces readers to the contemporary problem of consciousness, providing a clear introduction to the overall landscape and a fair-minded critical (...) survey of various theories of consciousness. Beginning with essential historical background to the problem of consciousness, Rocco Gennaro explores the following key topics and debates: the metaphysical problem of consciousness, including varieties of dualism and materialism; consciousness and neuroscience, particularly the question of whether consciousness can be reduced to brain activity or attentional mechanisms; representational and cognitive theories of consciousness; consciousness and psychopathology; animals, machines, and consciousness. Extensive use is made of interesting phenomena throughout the book, ranging from blindsight, synaesthesia, and change blindness to phantom limb syndrome, split-brain cases, and dissociative identity disorder. The inclusion of chapter summaries, annotated further reading, and a glossary make this book essential reading for anyone seeking a clear and informative overview of the problem of consciousness, not only in philosophy but related fields such as psychology and cognitive science. (shrink)
In Section I, I explain some key Sartrean terminology and in Section II, I introduce the HOT theory. Section III is where I argue for the close connection between Sartre’s theory and a somewhat modified version of the HOT theory. That section of the paper is divided into four subsections in which I also address the relevance of Sartre’s rejection of the Freudian unconscious and the threat of an infinite regress in his theory of consciousness. In Section IV, I critically (...) examine what I call ‘the unity problem,’ which has mainly been raised by Kathleen Wider against Sartre. In light of Section III, I attempt to relieve some of Sartre’s difficulties. In Section V, I critically examine a passage from Being and Nothingness containing one of Sartre’s main arguments for his belief that consciousness entails self-consciousness. In Section VI, I show how Sartre and the HOT theory can accommodate so-called ‘I-thoughts’ into the structure of conscious mental states with the help of Wider’s view. Finally, in Section VII, I offer some concluding remarks. (shrink)
The so-called 'higher-order thought' theory of consciousness says that what makes a mental state conscious is the presence of a suitable higher-order thought directed at it . The HOT theory has been or could be attacked from two apparently opposite directions. On the one hand, there is what Stubenberg has called 'the problem of the rock' which, if successful, would show that the HOT theory proves too much. On the other hand, it might also be alleged that the HOT theory (...) does not or cannot address the so-called 'hard problem' of phenomenal consciousness. If so, then the HOT theory would prove too little. We might say, then, that the HOT theory is arguably between a rock and a hard place. In this paper, I critically examine these objections and defend the HOT theory against them. In doing so, I hope to show that the HOT theory, or at least some version of it, neither proves too little nor too much, but is just right. I also show that these two objections are really just two sides of the same coin, and that the HOT theory is immune from David Chalmers' criticisms of other attempted reductionist accounts of consciousness. (shrink)
It is often said that some kind of peripheral (or inattentional) conscious awareness accompanies our focal (attentional) consciousness. I agree that this is often the case, but clarity is needed on several fronts. In this paper, I lay out four distinct theses on peripheral awareness and show that three of them are true. However, I then argue that a fourth thesis, commonly associated with the so-called "self-representational approach to consciousness," is false. The claim here is that we have outer focal (...) consciousness accompanied often (or even always) by inner peripheral (self-)awareness. My criticisms stem from both methodological and phenomenological considerations. In doing so, I offer a diagnosis as to why the fourth thesis has seemed true to so many and also show how the so-called "transparency of experience," frequently invoked by representationalists, is importantly relevant to my diagnosis. Finally, I respond to several objections and to further attempts to show that thesis four is true. What emerges is that if one wishes to hold that some form of self-awareness accompanies all outer-directed conscious states, one is better off holding that such self-awareness is itself unconscious, as is held for example by standard higher-order theories of consciousness. (shrink)
There has been an explosion of work on consciousness in the last 30–40 years from philosophers, psychologists, and neurologists. Thus, there is a need for an interdisciplinary, comprehensive volume in the field that brings together contributions from a wide range of experts on fundamental and cutting-edge topics. The Routledge Handbook of Consciousness fills this need and makes each chapter’s importance understandable to students and researchers from a variety of backgrounds. Designed to complement and better explain primary sources, this volume is (...) a valuable "first-stop" publication for undergraduate or graduate students enrolled in any course on "Consciousness," "Philosophy of Mind," or "Philosophy of Psychology," as well as a valuable handbook for researchers in these fields who want a useful reference to have close at hand. The 34 chapters, all published here for the first time, are divided into three parts: Part I covers the "History and Background Metaphysics" of consciousness, such as dualism, materialism, free will, and personal identity, and includes a chapter on Indian philosophy. Part II is on specific "Contemporary Theories of Consciousness," with chapters on representational, information integration, global workspace, attention-based, and quantum theories. Part III is entitled "Major Topics in Consciousness Research," with chapters on psychopathologies, dreaming, meditation, time, action, emotion, multisensory experience, animal and robot consciousness, and the unity of consciousness. -/- Each chapter begins with a brief introduction and concludes with a list of "Related Topics," as well as a list of "References," making the volume indispensable for the newcomer and experienced researcher alike. (shrink)
I argue that recent developments in animal cognition support the conclusion that HOT theory is consistent with animal consciousness. There seems to be growing evidence that many animals are indeed capable of having I-thoughts, including episodic memory, as well as have the ability to understand the mental states of others.
In the absence of any plausible reductionist account of consciousness in nonmentalistic terms, the HOT theory says that the best explanation for what makes a mental state conscious is that it is accompanied by a thought (or awareness) that one is in that state. I discuss HOT theory with special attention to how Leibnizian theses can help support it and how it can shed light on Leibniz's theory of perception, apperception, and consciousness. It will become clear how treating Leibniz as (...) a HOT theorist can solve some of the problems he faced and some of the puzzles posed by commentators, e.g. animal mentality and the role of reason and memory in self-consciousness. (shrink)
This collection presents some of the most vital and original recent writings on Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz, the three greatest rationalists of the early modern period. Their work offered brilliant and distinct integrations of science, morals, metaphysics, and religion, which today remain at the center of philosophical discussion. The essays written especially for this volume explore how these three philosophical systems treated matter, substance, human freedom, natural necessity, knowledge, mind, and consciousness. The contributors include some of the most prominent writers (...) in the field, including Jonathan Bennett, Michael Della Rocca, Jan A. Cover, Catherine Wilson, Stephen Voss, Edwin Curley, Don Garrett, and Margaret D. Wilson. (shrink)
Somatoparaphrenia is a pathology of self characterized by the sense of alienaton from parts of one’s body. It is usually construed as a kind of delusional disorder caused by extensive right hemisphere lesions. Lesions in the temporoparietal junction are common in somatoparaphrenia but deep cortical regions (for example, the posterior insula) and subcortical regions (for example, the basal ganglia) are also sometimes implicated (Valler and Ronschi 2009). Patients are often described as feeling that a limb belongs to another person and (...) thus attribute ownership of the limb and bodily sensation to someone else. There is also some question as to whether or not the higher-order thought (HOT) theory of consciousness can plausibly account for the depersonalization psychopathology of somatoparaphrenia (Liang and Lane 2009, Rosenthal 2010, Lane and Liang 2010). Liang and Lane argue that it cannot. The HOT theory of consciousness says that what makes a mental state a conscious mental state is that it is the target of a HOT to the effect that “I am in mental state M” (Rosenthal 2005, Gennaro 2012). When the HOT is itself is unconscious, the conscious state is still outer-directed. When the HOT is conscious, we have introspection and so the conscious thought is directed at the mental state. In section I, I briefly review the previous exchange between Lane and Liang and David Rosenthal. In section II, I further explore somatoparaphrenia and the nature of delusion while offering a number of additional replies to Lane and Liang. In section III, I examine the central notions of “mental state ownership” and “self-concepts” in an effort to account especially for the depersonalization aspect of somatoparaphrenia against the background of HOT theory. In section IV, I argue that to the extent that somatoparaphrenia casts doubt on the notion that some thoughts are “immune to error through misidentification” (IEM), the most fundamental aspect of IEM is still consistent with HOT theory. Overall, I argue that HOT theory is left unscathed by the pheneomenon of somatoparaphrenia and can even help to explain what happens in these cases. (shrink)
Many actors mobilize the cognitive, legal and technical tool-box of data protection when they discuss and address controversial issues such as digital mass surveillance. Yet, critical approaches to the digital only barely explore the politics of data protection in relation to data-driven governance. Building on governmentality studies and Actor-Network-Theory, this article analyses the potential and limits of using data protection to critique the ‘digital age’. Using the conceptual tool of dispositifs, it sketches an analytics of data protection and the emergence (...) of its configuration as ‘data protection by design and by default’. This exploration reminds us that governing through data implies, first and foremost, governing digital data. (shrink)
Synesthesia is the “union of the senses” whereby two or more of the five senses that are normally experienced separately are involuntarily and automatically joined together in experience. For example, some synesthetes experience a color when they hear a sound or see a letter. In this paper, I examine two cases of synesthesia in light of the notions of “experiential parts” and “conscious unity.” I first provide some background on the unity of consciousness and the question of experiential parts. I (...) then describe two very different cases of synesthesia. Finally, I critically examine the cases in light of two central notions of “unity.” I argue that there is good reason to think that the neural “vehicles” of conscious states are distributed widely and can include multiple modalities. I also argue that some synesthetic experiences do not really enjoy the same “object unity” associated with normal vision. (shrink)
It has long been known that brain damage has important negative effects on one’s mental life and even eliminates one’s ability to have certain conscious experiences. It thus stands to reason that when all of one’s brain activity ceases upon death, consciousness is no longer possible and so neither is an afterlife. It seems clear that human consciousness is dependent upon functioning brains. This essay reviews some of the overall neurological evidence from brain damage studies and concludes that our argument (...) from brain damage has been vindicated by such overwhelming evidence. It also puts forth a more mature philosophical rationale against an afterlife and counters several replies to the argument. -/- 1. Philosophical Background -- 2. The Dependence of Consciousness on the Brain: Some Preliminary Evidence -- 3. Brain Damage, Lesion Studies, and the Localization of Mental Function - 3.1 Perception - 3.2 Awareness, Comprehension, and Recognition - 3.3 Memory - 3.4 Personality - 3.5 Language - 3.6 Emotion - 3.7 Decision-Making - 3.8 Social Cognition and Theory of Mind - 3.9 Moral Judgment and Empathy - 3.10 Neurological Disorders and Disease - 3.11 The Unity of Consciousness -- 4. Objections and Replies - 4.1 Souls, Minds, and Energy Fields - 4.2 The Instrument Theory - 4.3 The Embodied Soul Alone is Affected -- 5. Conclusion. (shrink)
In response to Fred Adams and Charlotte Shreve’s (2016) paper entitled “What Can Synesthesia Teach Us about Higher Order Theories of Consciousness?”, previously published in Symposion, I argue that H.O.T. theory does have the resources to account for synesthesia and the specific worries that they advance in their paper, such as the relationship between concepts and experience and the ability to handle instances of ‘pop-out’ experiences.
There has been much discussion about the nature and even existence of so-called “pure conscious events” (PCEs). PCEs are often described as mental events which are non-conceptual and lacking all experiential content (Forman 1990). For a variety of reasons, a number of authors have questioned both the accuracy of such a characterization and even the very existence of PCEs (Katz 1978, Bagger 1999). In this chapter, I take a somewhat different, but also critical, approach to the nature and possibility of (...) PCEs. I focus on several overlapping views found in recent analytic philosophy of mind and examine PCEs in light of them. After introducing terminology and some preliminary matters, I examine whether or not the “higher-order thought (HOT) theory of consciousness” rules out the possibility of PCEs, and conversely, whether or not PCEs show that the HOT theory cannot apply to all conscious states. The HOT theory says that what makes a mental state conscious is that it is accompanied by a higher-order thought to the effect that “I am in mental state M now.” A related theme will be to assess PCEs in light of the recent debate between so-called “conceptualists” and those who believe that there are “non-conceptual contents of experience.” Conceptualism, to which I am very sympathetic, is basically the view that all conscious experience is structured by concepts possessed by the subject. I argue that PCEs are indeed conceptual and so no threat to conceptualism. For example, standard criticisms of conceptualism do not apply to PCEs. Finally, I examine the possibility that PCEs are not conscious at all. In the end, my overall conclusion is that we should hold that PCEs are indeed compatible with both HOT theory and conceptualism or seriously question the idea that PCEs are conscious at all. (shrink)
This is my reply to Josh Weisberg, Robert Van Gulick, and William Seager, published in JCS vol 20, 2013. This symposium grew out of an author-meets-critics session at the Central APA conference in 2013 on my 2012 book THE CONSCIOUSNESS PARADOX (MIT Press). Topics covered include higher-order thought (HOT) theory, my own "wide intrinsicality view," the problem of misrepresentation, targetless HOTs, conceptualism, introspection, and the transitivity principle.
My aim in this paper is to show that consciousness entails self-consciousness by focusing on the relationship between consciousness and memory. More specifically, I addreess the following questions: (1) does consciousness require episodic memory?; and (2) does episodic memory require self-consciousness? With the aid of some Kantian considerations and recent empirical data, it is argued that consciousness does require episodic memory. This is done after defining episodic memory and distinguishing it from other types of memory. An affirmative answer to (2) (...) is also warranted especially in the light of the issues raised in answering (1). I claim that 'consciousness entails self-consciousness' is thereby shown via the route through episodic memory, i.e. via affirmative answers to (1) and (2). My aim is to revive this Kantian thesis and to bring together current psychological research on amnesia with traditional philosophical perspectives on consciousness and memory. (shrink)
This is an introductory essay from The Interplay between Consciousness and Concepts, which I guest edited as a special double issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies (vol. 14, Sept/Oct). It is also sold separately as a book by Imprint Academic. -/- -/- .
My overall goal in The Consciousness Paradox: Consciousness, Concepts, and Higher-Order Thoughts is to solve what I take to be a paradox with regard to holding a series of interrelated theses, including a version of the higher-order thought theory of consciousness which says that what makes a mental state conscious is that there is a suitable higher-order thought directed at the mental state. Higher-order thoughts are metapsychological or meta-cognitive states, that is, mental states directed at other mental states. This theory (...) is primarily concerned with explaining how conscious mental states differ from unconscious mental states. In The Consciousness Paradox I defend and further develop a metapsychological reductive representational theory of consciousness and then apply it to several importantly related problems including concept acquisition and animal consciousness. (shrink)
La tesi che viene avanzata è quella della immanenza assoluta come via per la fondazione di una prassi effettivamente materialistica. Tale via è stata aperta nel pensiero novecentesco grazie ad un ripensamento complessivo dell’empirismo che ha visto come protagonisti filosofi e indirizza di ricerca che, in alcuni casi, si esiterebbe a definire propriamente “materialisti”, ma che sono accomunati da una critica condivisa del “periplo” metafisico dell’idealismo e del dualismo costituito da: 1) affermazione della contingenza dell’ente, 2) tesi della finitezza come (...) fondamento, 3) intenzionalità della coscienza e 4) da una antropologia filosofica basata sulla dimensione della mancanza e del lavoro. L’immanenza assoluta comporta una destituzione della tesi della “eccezione umana” ed una integrale naturalizzazione dell’uomo in un senso, però, non obiettivistico. (shrink)
In Thinking About Consciousness , David Papineau  presents a criticism of so-called 'actualist HOT theories of consciousness'. The HOT theory, held most notably by David Rosenthal, claims that the best explanation for what makes a mental state conscious is that it is the object of an actual higher-order thought directed at the mental state. Papineau contends that actualist HOT theory faces an awkward problem in relation to higher-order memory judgements; for example, that the theory cannot explain how one could (...) later recall an earlier experience that was not introspected. He argues that, on the HOT theory, we are even left with the absurd conclusion that the consciousness of, say, an earlier visual experience might even depend on the later act of memory. I show that Papineau's criticism of actualist HOT theory not only fails, but also that it seriously mischaracterizes and underestimates the theory. In particular, Papineau badly conflates the crucial difference between an introspective state and an outer-directed first-order conscious state. (shrink)
[Final version in Philosophical Papers, 2000] Much has been made over the past few decades of two related problems in aesthetics. First, the "feeling fiction problem," as I will call it, asks: is it rational to be moved by what happens to fictional characters? How can we care about what happens to people who we know are not real?[i] Second, the so-called "paradox of tragedy" is embodied in the question: Why or how is it that we take pleasure in artworks (...) which are clearly designed to cause in us such feelings as sadness and fear?[ii] Various solutions to these puzzles have been proposed, but my primary aim is neither to offer a novel solution nor to summarize and critique most of the alternatives.[iii] My focus instead will be on the issue of consciousness and, more specifically, to view these problems from the point of the view of the so-called "higher-order thought theory of consciousness" . Although some work on these puzzles have raised important questions about the nature of consciousness and "aesthetic experience," no attempt has yet been made to examine them in light of a specific theory. (shrink)
"[READING ECO is a timely indication] of the fruitfulness of perceiving Eco as the same in his metamorphoses. [It also testifies] to a certain price that Eco and his readers must/may pay for the enormous pleasure and intellectual stimulus of being Eco and being with Eco." —The Comparatist Umberto Eco is, quite simply, a genius. He is a renowned medievalist, philosopher, novelist, a popular journalist, and linguist. He is as warm and witty as he is learned—and quite probably the best-known (...) academic and novelist in the world today. The goal of this anthology is to examine his ideas of literary semiotics and interpretation as evidenced both in his scholarly work and in his fiction. (shrink)
Dr. Johnson famously observed that in lapidary inscriptions a man is not upon oath. This observation applies with equal force to publishers and their advertisements for books. According to the blurb, the present volume “offers essential critical material for both novice and advanced scholars of early modern philosophy.” In fact, it would be a remarkably sophisticated novice who could derive much benefit from this anthology of essays on seventeenth-century Rationalism; not merely do the authors engage with difficult issues of interpretation (...) but they often presuppose a detailed knowledge of the various positions in the exegetical debates. Nonetheless, the volume does live up to the second part of its billing: it offers a great deal for the specialist to get his or her teeth into. Despite the demands they make upon the reader, the contributions are of an almost uniformly high quality. The volume has its origins in a NEH Summer Seminar conducted by Jonathan Bennett, who himself contributes a characteristically elegant and lucid essay on Descartes’s theory of space. Bennett may take a justifiable pride in the accomplishments of the participants in his seminar. (shrink)
Diego Velasquez's Las Meninas (The Maids of Honour) is an intriguing work of representational art. It seems to me that there are two central ways to analyse the painting as involving some kind of 'representation of a representation'.
We argue that analyzing everyday memory failures in terms of the “unity of consciousness” can elucidate the bases of such failures. A perfect unity amongst one’s mental states is rare. In extreme cases the unity of consciousness can breakdown in dramatic fashion , but such breakdowns also occur in less dramatic ways that affect us in everyday life. For example, disruptions in the unity of consciousness can result in everyday memory failures, such as forgetting to put on a tie for (...) an important formal meeting. After providing some philosophical background into the notions of “unity of consciousness” and “functionalism,” we offer preliminary analyses of three examples of everyday memory failure. We then introduce and develop what we call the “unity model” of memory failure and show how it explains the examples. We also describe different ways that unity can break down which, in turn, can lead to memory failure and inappropriate behavior. We then show how slips of action and other kinds of cognitive failures differ from everyday memory failures. Finally, we examine alternative models arguing that the unity model is preferable, and then show how our model is consistent with some experimental results. (shrink)
Antonio Negri, a leading scholar on Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677) and his contemporary legacy, offers a straightforward explanation of the philosopher’s elaborate arguments and a persuasive case for his ongoing utility.