I am starting to think about my talk in April. The main difference between this this talk and the one that I gave at the ASSC will be that I will consider a couple of objections to the argument and make some replies. In the earlier version I went on to trying to reconcile and incorperate qualitative beliefs into the general framework of the higher-order theory that Rosenthal defends, especially his homomorphism theory of the sensory qualities.
So here is a summary of the original argument
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.
- HOT Implies PAM
- 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.
So I got two objections that I owe to Rocco. The first is that (3) is too quick. There are some (like Rocco) who think that the pain is only painful when the higher-order state and the lower-order state that it targets occur together. So, it is not solely the higher-order state that does the work. It is the higher-order state occuring in conjunction with its target. This is attractive because it rules out the possibility of the higher-order state occuring in the absence of the lower-order state. This is thought by many to be an embarresment for the higher-order theory since one will be forced to say that one seems to be in a conscious state that one is in fact not in. This sounds strange indeed! But though unintuitive there is nothing incoherent or even implausable about this once one becomes familiar with the theory. The transitivity principle says that a conscious state is a state that I am conscious of myself as bein in, so if I am conscious of myself as being in some state, then I am ina consious state (the one that I am conscious of my self as being in). It may turn out that the first order state is not there, in which case I am conscious of myself as being in a state (and so have a conscious mental state) that I am not in fact in…it just seems to me that I am in it when I am not. Now, from the first person point of view these two happening will be indistinguisable. That is, whether or not the lower-order state does in fact occur or not my conscious experience will be the same (given that I have the same higher-order state in each case). But, there are third-person techniques that would allow us to tell when the first-order state was really there or not and so allow us to differentiate the two cases. This turns the problem into an empirical one and we will have to wait until the brain sciences are suffiently sophisticated (on a side not, onwe of the session in Tucson will be on Brain imaging as mind reading, something I am very interested in!!!!). But even if we grant to the objector the premise that the higher and lower-order content must both occur for there to be somethign that it is like for the creature to have the pain, the same question arises. So, this is more an objection to the way that I formulated the argument, rather than to the argument itself.
Another thing that Rocco pointed out was that the argument loses its force if one thinks that all beliefs are dispositions and I grant that. However, I don’t believe that all beliefs are dispositions (though most of them may well be, there have to be some occurent beliefs!). The argument is directed at people who think that the propositional attitudes (belief, fear, desire, love, hate, joy, despair, etc) are, or at least can be, occurent mental states (whether or not these occurent mental states are language like is a seperate question)
The next group of objections come from Rosenthal and I will address those in a seperate post.