Consciousness and false HOTs

Philosophical Psychology 23 (5):617-638 (2010)
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In this paper I aim to defend David Rosenthal's higher-order thought theory of consciousness against a prominent objection. The central claim of HOT theory is that a mental state is conscious only if one has the HOT that one is in that state. In broad outline, the objection is that HOT theory is unable to account for cases where the relevant HOTs are false. I consider two variants of the objection, corresponding to two kinds of false HOT: those that merely misrepresent their targets, and those which lack targets altogether. I argue that a satisfactory response to the objection involving the latter, targetless, kind of HOTs, is to deny that one is in any conscious state in virtue of such HOTs. I show how this response is superior to Rosenthal's own response, and defend it against objections. I also argue that my account of targetless HOT cases may be generalized to cover cases of misrepresenting HOTs



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Jonah Wilberg
University of Essex

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.

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