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)
Consciousness and Mind presents David Rosenthal's influential work on the nature of consciousness. Central to that work is Rosenthal's higher-order-thought theory of consciousness, according to which a sensation, thought, or other mental state is conscious if one has a higher-order thought that one is in that state. The first four essays develop various aspects of that theory. The next three essays present Rosenthal's homomorphism theory of mental qualities and qualitative consciousness, and show how that theory fits with and helps sustain (...) the HOT theory. A crucial feature of homomorphism theory is that it individuates and taxonomizes mental qualities independently of the way we're conscious of them, and indeed independently of our being conscious of them at all. So the theory accommodates the qualitative character not only of conscious sensations and perceptions, but also of those which fall outside our stream of consciousness. Rosenthal argues that, because this account of mental qualities makes no appeal to consciousness, it enables us to dispel such traditional quandaries as the alleged conceivability of undetectable quality inversion, and to disarm various apparent obstacles to explaining qualitative consciousness and understanding its nature. Six further essays build on the HOT theory to explain various important features of consciousness, among them the complex connections that hold in humans between consciousness and speech, the self-interpretative aspect of consciousness, and the compelling sense we have that consciousness is unified. Two of the essays, one an extended treatment of homomorphism theory, appear here for the first time. There is also a substantive introduction, which draws out the connections between the essays and highlights their implications. (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.
It’s often held that undetectable inversion of mental qualities is, if not possible, at least conceivable. It’s thought to be conceivable that the mental quality your visual states exhibit when you see something red in standard conditions is literally of the same type as the mental quality my visual states exhibit when I see something green in such circumstances. It’s thought, moreover, to be conceivable that such inversion of mental qualities could be wholly undetectable by any third-person means. And since (...) first- person access is limited to a single individual, and so could not reveal a disparity in mental quality between us, third-person undetectability means undetectability tout court. (shrink)
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)
A touchstone of much modern theorizing about the mind is the idea, still tac- itly accepted by many, that a state's being mental implies that it's conscious. This view is epitomized in the dictum, put forth by theorists as otherwise di-.
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?
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.
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.
Conscious mental states are states we are in some way aware of. I compare higher-order theories of consciousness, which explain consciousness by appeal to such higher-order awareness (HOA), and first-order theories, which do not, and I argue that higher-order theories have substantial explanatory advantages. The higher-order nature of our awareness of our conscious states suggests an analogy with the metacognition that figures in the regulation of psychological processes and behaviour. I argue that, although both consciousness and metacognition involve higher-order psychological (...) states, they have little more in common. One thing they do share is the possibility of misrepresentation; just as metacognitive processing can misrepresent one’s cognitive states and abilities, so the HOA in virtue of which one’s mental states are conscious can, and sometimes does, misdescribe those states. A striking difference between the two, however, has to do with utility for psychological processing. Metacognition has considerable benefit for psychological processing; in contrast, it is unlikely that there is much, if any, utility to mental states’ being conscious over and above the utility those states have when they are not conscious. (shrink)
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.
All mental states, including thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and sensations, often occur consciously. But they all occur also without being conscious. So the first thing a theory of consciousness must do is explain the difference between thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and sensations that are conscious and those which are not.
Moore’s paradox occurs with sentences, such as (1) It’s raining and I don’t think it’s raining. which are self-defeating in a way that prevents one from making an asser- tion with them.1 But Mark Crimmins has given us a case of a sentence that is syntactically just like (1) but is nonetheless assertible. Suppose I know somebody, and know or have excellent reason to believe that I know that very person under some other guise. I do not know what that (...) other guise is, though I do know that I believe that the person I know under that other guise is an idiot. (shrink)
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)
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)
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)
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.
I argue that the partial-report results Block cites do not establish that phenomenology overflows cognitive accessibility, as Block maintains. So, without additional argument, the mesh he sees between psychology and neuroscience is unsupported. I argue further that there is reason to hold, contra Block, that phenomenology does always involve some cognitive access to the relevant experience.
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)
There are a few things I’d like to say in reply to Adrienne Prettyman’s interesting paper, “Empty Thoughts: An Explanatory Problem for Higher-Order Theories of Consciousness,” in which she discusses the objection to higher-order theories from the possibility those theories leave open that a higher-order awareness represents one as being in a state that one is not actually in.
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.
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)
A recent fMRI study by Webb et al. (Cortical networks involved in visual awareness independent of visual attention, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2016;113:13923–28) proposes a new method for finding the neural correlates of awareness by matching atten- tion across awareness conditions. The experimental design, however, seems at odds with known features of attention. We highlight logical and methodological points that are critical when trying to disentangle attention and awareness.
Quality-space theory (QST) explains the nature of the mental qualities distinctive of perceptual states by appeal to their role in perceiving. QST is typically described in terms of the mental qualities that pertain to color. Here we apply QST to the olfactory modalities. Olfaction is in various respects more complex than vision, and so provides a useful test case for QST. To determine whether QST can deal with the challenges olfaction presents, we show how a quality space (QS) could be (...) constructed relying on olfactory perceptible properties and the olfactory mental qualities then defined by appeal to that QS of olfactory perceptible properties. We also consider how to delimit the olfactory QS from other modalities. We further apply QST to the role that experience plays in refining our olfactory discriminative abilities and the occurrence of olfactory mental qualities in non-conscious olfactory states. QST is shown to be fully applicable to and useful for understanding the complex domain of olfaction. (shrink)
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.