Consciousness, Relational Properties, and Higher-Order Theories

Greetings from Kennebunkport!

Jen and I went whale watching yesterday (saw a few Hump-backs and a couple of Fin-backs)…but all I could think about was consciousness! That is, aside from trying not to get sea-sick 🙂

In an earlier post (The Function of Consciousness in Higher-Order Theories) I argued that higher-order theories were committed to saying that consciousness had very little function, but not, as Uriah suggested, to saying that consciousness was epiphenomenal. This was found to be puzzling by some, and today I was thinking about why this is.

Intuitively, what people think that higher-order theories construe a mental state’s being conscious as a relational property of the first-order state. This is not suprising, sunce Rosenthal has said in numerous places that on his view consciousness is a relational property. But this is actually not right.

In Sensory Qualities, Consciousness, and Perception he is very clear that consciousness is not a relational property of the first-order state (I do not have my copy of Consciousness and Mind with me, but the passage is in section 5). This is because, on his view, the higher-order state can occur ibn the absence of the first-order state.

So, a state’s being conscious is not an intrinsic property of the state, nor is it strictly speaking a relational property of the state. It simply isn’t a property that the first-order state has at all. Any given first-order state is conscious when a suitable higher-order state represents the creature as being in that state.

Now, I agree that this is odd sounding, but this is what Rosentyhal’s view is…this is yet another reason to prefer K-HOTs to Q-HOTs. On this view the first-order state does come to have the relational property of being conscious in virtue of causing a K-HOT that represents the creature as being in that state, and since there is no real difference between representing a state that does not exist and misrepresenting a state that does exist (on Rosenthal’s view) then the K-HOT account captures everything that Rosenthal wants to say without the odd sounding results.

OK, so back to the pool for me!

4 thoughts on “Consciousness, Relational Properties, and Higher-Order Theories

  1. […] that is about it. But that is not quite right, as I have spent a lot of time arguing (for instance, Consciousness, Relational Properties, and Higher-Order Theories, Conscioiusness is Not a Relation Property, and The Function of Consciousness in Higher-Order […]

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