I have been working on my paper ‘Consciousness, Higher-Order Thoughts, and What It’s Like’ which I will present as a poster at the SPP and as a talk at the ASSC in June. This paper is basically the first half of a longer paper of mine Consciousness on my Mind: Implementing the Higher-Order Strategy for Explaining What It’s Like, which I wrote in my spare time and while trying to avoid working on my dissertation 🙂 parts of this paper are adapted in various posts around here…e.g. Explaining What It’s Like, Two Concepts of Transitive Consciousness, Kripke, Consciousness, and the ‘Corn, and As ‘Corny as I Want to Be. At any rate, I thought it might be helpful/interesting to post the basics of the paper.
The paper has two parts. In the first part I give the argument that all higher-order theories of consciousness are committed to the claim that there is something that it is like for an organism to have conscious propositional attitudes (like beliefs, desires, etc). In the second part of the paper I suggest a model of the propositional attitudes that treats them as qualitative states and show that it actually fits nicely with Rosenthal’s homomorphism theory of sensory qualities.
Given that the transitivity principle says that a conscious mental state is a mental state that I am conscious of myself as being in the argument for the commiotment to the qualitative nature of conscious beliefs is pretty simple and straight-forward.
- The transitivity principle commits you to the claim that any mental state can occur unconsciously and so to the claim that pains can occur unconsciously
- An unconscious pain is a pain that is in no way painful for the creature that has it (the transitivity principle commits you to this as well, on pain of failing to be able to give an account, as promised, of the nature of conscious qualitative states)
- It is the higher-order state, and solely the higher-order state, that is responsible for there being something that it is like to have a conscious pain.
- So, when a higher-order state of the appropriate kind is directed at a beleif it should make it the case that there is something that it is like for the creature that has the belief, otherwise there is more to conscious mental states than just higher-order representation.
I will post on the second part of the paper a little later.