Here is how I describe Jerry in the earlier post…
Given that we think that there could be unconscious beliefs, consider the following super-scientist Jerry. Imagine that Jerry has been raised in a special room, much like Mary and Gary, but instead of never seeing red (Mary) or never having a desire (Gary), Jerry has never had a conscious belief. He has had plenty of unconscious beliefs, but none of them have been conscious. Let us imagine that we have finally discovered the difference between conscious and unconscious beliefs and that we have fitted Jerry with a special implant that keeps all of his beliefs unconscious, no matter how much he introspects. Let us also imagine that this device is selective enough so that it wipes out only the beliefs and so Jerry has plenty of other conscious experiences. He consciously sees red, has pain, wants food, fears that he will be let out of his room one day, wonders what the molecular structure of Einsteinium is, etc.
Now imagine that one of Jerry’s occurrent, unconscious, beliefs suddenly becomes a conscious belief. For the first time in Jerry’s life he has a conscious belief.
Now, I can use Jerry as a way of motivating the intuition behind my HOT implies PAM argument. Let’s call ‘T1’ the time just before Jerry’s belief becomes conscious and ‘T2’ the moment when his belief becomes conscious. According to Rosenthal there is no difference in what it is like for Jerry. What it is like for Jerry at T1 is exactly the same as what it is like for him at T2 even though at T2 he has a conscious mental state he did not have before.
Now, in the case of a pain we get a very different story. If the pain is unconscious at T1 then there is, according to Rosenthal, nothing that it is like for Jerry to have that pain but at T2 there is something that it is like for Jerry; it is painful for him. Does this seem right to you?
It doesn’t to me, but this is just an intuition. Luckily, I have an argument which supports the intuition. Rosenthal claims that when we are conscious of ourselves as being in an intentional state (a mental state with intentional properties) there isn’t anything that it is like for us to have that intentional state, but when we are conscious of ourselves as being in a qualitative state (a state with qualitative properties) then there is something that it is like for us to have the qualitative state. But a qualitative property for Rosenthal is just a property that plays a certain functional role for the creature. It is the property in virtue of which the creature is conscious of the physical property that the mental property is homomorphic to. So, the mental qualitative property ‘red’ is the property in virtue of which the creature is conscious of physical red. When we are conscious of ourselves as being in a state with that kind of property it will be like seeing red for us.
So, what then is a belief for Rosenthal? It is a mental state that consists of two parts; a distinctive mental attitude (in this case, an ‘assertive’ one) that is held towards some propositional (a.k.a. intentional) content. So my (occurant) belief that it is Sunday is composed of an assertive mental attitude towards the intentional content ‘today is Sunday’. Mental states are mental because they make us conscious of something, so what does this make me conscious of? It makes me conscious of the fact, proposition, state of affairs, or what ever you want to call it, that the intentional content of the belief represents. So what reason, that flows from the theory as opposed to independent intuitions about what SHOULD be the case, dictates that there should be something that it is like for Jerry in one case (the qualitative one) and nothing that it is like for Jerry in the other (the cognitive one)?
Remember, what drew us to the higher-order theory in the first place was a desire to explain qualitative consciousness in a way that is compatible with physicalism and at the same time is philosophically non-mysterious. The purpoted explanation, viz that we are conscious of ourselves in a subjectively unmediated way as being in those states, now appears to be inadequate. So to retain the explanatory power of the theory we need to say that there being something that it is like for an organism to have a mental state just is that organism being conscious of itself in a subjectively unmediated way as being in that mental state. Why is there something that it is like? Because we are conscious of ourselves as being in that state. This is the only way that the theory can deliver on its promise of explaining consciousness.