Reduction and the determination of phenomenal character

Philosophical Psychology 24 (3):291-316 (2011)
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A central task of philosophy of mind in recent decades has been to come up with a comprehensive account of the mind that is consistent with materialism. To this end, philosophers have offered useful reductive accounts of mentality in terms that are ultimately explainable by neurobiology. Although these accounts have been useful for explaining some psychological states, one feature?phenomenality or consciousness?has proven to be particularly intractable. The Higher-Order Thought theory (HOT) has been offered as one reductive theory of consciousness. According to HOT, a mental state is conscious if it becomes the content of a suitable higher-order thought that one is in that mental state. In recent years, critics have lodged a series of challenging objections to the view and several alternative theories have been proposed in response to these objections. This paper offers a defense of the traditional Higher-Order Thought theory. First, two different models of consciousness based on HOT are distinguished. The paper argues that one of the models is better supported by the HOT literature. It is then demonstrated that the better supported model is not vulnerable to the objections most commonly lodged against the HOT theory. Finally, it is shown that alternative self-representational theories do not improve upon the HOT theory in the way that they are proposed to. In fact, each of the alternative self-representational views reviewed here is vulnerable to a unique set of problems. In light of these factors, HOT still offers a viable reductive solution to the hard problem



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Jennifer Matey
Southern Methodist University

References found in this work

What is it like to be a bat?Thomas Nagel - 1974 - Philosophical Review 83 (October):435-50.
On a confusion about a function of consciousness.Ned Block - 1995 - Brain and Behavioral Sciences 18 (2):227-–247.
Consciousness Explained.Daniel C. Dennett - 1993 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (4):905-910.

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