A simple point about an alleged objection to higher-order theories of consciousness

Abstract

For purposes of this paper, a conscious state is a mental state whose subject is directly or at least nonevidentially aware of being in it. (The state does not count as conscious if the subject has only been told about it by a cognitive scientist or psychologist; introspectively would be better, but no one should say that a state is conscious only if its subject actively introspects it.). N.b., this usage is only one among several quite different though of course not competing ones; the phrase has been used in at least two other senses, as by, respectively, Dretske (1993, 1995) and Block (1995).1 My definition is stipulative, but not brutely so; it settles on one thing that is often meant by conscious state cf. a conscious memory, a conscious desire, a conscious intention, a conscious decision. According to higher-order (HO) theories of consciousness in this sense of consciousness, what makes a mental state a conscious one is that it is represented by another of the subject’s mental states, that in virtue of which s/he is aware of it. Some practitioners follow Locke in taking the higher-order state to be quasi-perceptual (Armstrong, 1968, 1980, Lycan 1991, 1996); others say it may be merely a thought about the original state (Rosenthal, 1986, 1990).2 There is an alleged objection to such theories, that originated with Goldman (1993)Error: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMap3 and has since been voiced and discussed by others (Dretske 1995, Stubenberg 1998, Van Gulick 2000, 2005, Gennaro 2005, Kriegel 2009). I say alleged, because.

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William G. Lycan
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

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