Gennaro on Higher-Order Theories

I was asked to review the Bloomsbury Companion to the Philosophy of Consciousness and had some things to say about the chapter on higher-order theories of consciousness by Rocco Gennaro that I could not fit into a paragraph or two so I am extending them here.


In the fourth paper of this second section Rocco Gennaro gives us his interpretation of “Higher-Order Theories of Consciousness”. Higher-order theories of consciousness claim that consciousness as we ordinarily experience it requires a kind of inner awareness, an awareness of our own mental life. To consciously experience the red of a tomato is to be aware of oneself as seeing a red object. Gennaro offers a survey of the traditional higher-order accounts but anyone reading this chapter who was new to the area would get a very biased account of the lay of the land. Specifically there are three things that are misleading about Gennaro’s overview.  The first is how he presents the theory itself. The second is how he responds to the classic misrepresentation objection to higher-order thought theories of consciousness. And the third is in presenting the case for whether or not the prefrontal cortex is a possible neural realizer of the relevant higher-order thoughts.

Gennaro interprets the higher-order theory as what I have called the ‘relational view’. As he says on page 156,

Conscious mental states arise when two unconscious mental states are related in a certain specific way, namely that one of them (the [higher-order representation]) is directed at the other ([mental state]).

This makes it clear that on his way of doing things it is necessary that there be two states, with one directed at the other and that these two states together ‘give rise’ to a (phenomenally) conscious mental state. Rosenthal and those who follow him interpret the higher-order thought theory as what I have called the ‘non-relation view’. On the non-relational view consciousness consists in having the relevant higher-order state. There is some discussion of this distinction in Pete Mandik’s chapter at the end of the book (under heading of ‘cognitive approaches to phenomenal consciousness’) but if one just read Gennaro’s chapter on higher-order theory one would be misled about the other approach.

This comes out clearly in Gennaro’s discussion of the ‘mismatch’ objection. A familiar objection to higher-order theories is that they allow the possibility of differing contents in higher-order and lower-order states. If one sees a red object but has a higher-order thought of the right kind that represents that one as seeing a green object, what is it like for the subject? The non-relational view answers that it is like seeing green even though one will behave as though one is seeing red. Gennaro disagrees and says that there must be a partial or complete match between the concepts in the HOT and the first-order state (or the concepts in the higher-order state must be more fine-grained than in the lower-order state or vice versa) or there is no conscious experience at all. He considers cases like associative agnosia, where someone can see a whistle and consciously see the silver color of it and its shape, can draw it really well, etc, but doesn’t know that it is a whistle. They just can’t identify what it is based on how it looks (though they can identify a whistle by its sound). Gennaro holds that the right way to interpret this is that the subject has a higher-order thought that represents the first-order representation of the whistle incompletely. It represents that one is seeing a silver object that has such and such a shape. But it does not represent that one is seeing a whistle (p 156). He argues that in a case of associative agnosia there is a partial match between the HO and FO state and that results in a conscious experience that lacks meaning.

First it is strange to be talking in terms of ‘matching’ between contents. What determines whether there is a match? Gennaro talks of the ‘faculty of the understanding,’ and it ‘operating on the data of the sensibility’ by ‘applying higher-order thoughts’, and of the higher-order state ‘registering’ the content of the first-order state but it is not clear what these things really mean. Second he makes the assumption that one consciously experiences the whistle as a whistle, or that high level concepts figure in the phenomenology of a subject. This is a controversial claim and even if it is true (or one thinks that it is) one should recognize that this is not a required part of the higher-order view. On the way Rosenthal has set the theory up one has higher-order thought of the appropriate kind about sensory qualities and their relations to each other but one does not have concepts like ‘whistle’ in the consciousness-making higher-order thoughts. One will then come to judge/make an inference that one is seeing a whistle which will result in a belief that one is seeing that whistle, but this belief will be a first-order belief (that is, a belief which is not about something mental, in this case it is about the whistle).

Gennaro says that these kinds of cases e support the claim that there must be some kind of match between first-order and higher-order states but it is not clear that it really does. What he has argued for is the claim that the content of the higher-order state determines what it is like for the subject. What reason do we have to think that the match between first-order and higher-order state is playing a role? In other words, what reason do we have to think that the same would not be case when the first-order state represented red and the higher-order state that one was seeing green, as the non-relational view holds?

His sole criticism of the non-relational view comes when he says,

but the problem with this view is that somehow the [higher-order thought] alone is what matters. Doesn’t this defeat the purpose of [higher-order thought] theory which is supposed to explain state consciousness in terms of a relation between two states? Moreover, according to the theory the [lower-order] state is supposed to be conscious when one has an unconscious HOT,” (p 155; italics in the original).

This is a really bad objection to the non-relational version of the higher-order thought theory. The first part merely asserts that there is no non-relational version of the higher-order thought theory. The second part is something that Rosenthal accepts. The lower-order state is conscious when one has an appropriate higher-order state because that is what that property consists in. What it is for a first-order state to have the property of being conscious, for Rosenthal, is for one to have an appropriate higher-order thought which attributes that first-order state to .

In addition, Gennaro goes on to criticize the recent speculation by higher-order theorists that the prefrontal cortex is crucially involved in producing conscious experience. It is of course an open empirical question as to whether the prefrontal cortex is required for conscious experience and, if so, whether it is because it instantiates the relevant kind of higher-order awareness. However, Gennaro’s arguments are extremely weak and do nothing to cast doubt on this empirical hypothesis. He first appeals to work by Rafi Malach that there is decreased PFC activity when subjects are absorbed by watching a film. However, he does not note that Rosenthal and Lau responded to this. He then appeals to the fact that PFC activation is seen only when there is a required report. This has also been recently addressed (by Lau). Finally, he appeals to lesion studies suggesting that there is no change in conscious experience when the PFC is lesioned. However, there is considerable controversy over the correct interpretation of these results and Gennaro merely appeals to second and third hand literature reviews (see the recent debate in the Journal of Neuroscience between Lau and colleagues and Koch and colleagues).

15 thoughts on “Gennaro on Higher-Order Theories

  1. Richard — This is the first I’ve seen of these remarks as well as your characterization of my Bloomsbury book chapter.

    (1) First, surely “standard” (Rosenthal) HOT theory has it that the HOT is a distinct representational state from its target M, i.e. it is extrinsic to, as opposed to intrinsic to, M. There is a figure on p. 148 in my book chapter that I’ve been using for a very long time. There are dozens of quotes to this effect in David’s work. (I’m not sure if you are somehow making a distinction between a “relational” view and an “extrinsic” view.) Surely it is the above standard structure of HOT theory which is what leads to the misrepresentation objection in the first place, i.e. the question of how such theories can explain cases where the HO state might misrepresent the LO mental state (e.g. from Neander 1998, Levine 2001). Rosenthal thinks that the HOT determines the qualitative properties, even in cases when there is no LO state at all (in ‘targetless’ or ‘empty’ HOT cases). And so, yes, I have argued that it would be better to hold that no conscious experience results in these cases (with various important qualifications). On the other hand, as he has said in various places with respect to targetless HOTs, the resulting conscious state might just be “subjectively indistinguishable” from one in which both occur. This is one reason that I fail to see, for example, how a sole (unconscious) HOT could result in a conscious state at all. We were, I thought, trying to explain just how unconscious and conscious first-order states differ.

    It actually seems to me that your view is a non-standard alternative HOT theory; actually, that’s pretty much what you say in your HOROR Phil Stud ’15 paper. E.g. You argue for an “alternative interpretation” of HOT theory. To quote you: “Higher-order theories are often interpreted as relying on a special relation between the first-order state that is represented and the higher-order state that does the representing. This interpretation of higher-order theories is explicitly endorsed by many fans and critics of the theory alike (Balog 2000; Lycan 2004; Gennaro 2004; Carruthers 2008; Mandik 2009; Matey 2011; Block 2011a; Kriegel 2011; Kidd 2011). The interesting thing about this way of thinking about higher-order theories is that it has the tendency to downplay the fact that higher-order theories are representational theories. This is so even though most of the above-cited authors begin their discussion of higher-order theories by emphasizing that it is indeed a kind of representational theory. However there is another way to interpret higher-order theories (Brown 2012a; Lau and Brown forthcoming). One can emphasize the fact that it is a representational view and insist that phenomenal consciousness consists in having suitable higher-order representations. On this alternative way of thinking about the higher-order theory there is no explanatory role for a relation between first and higher-order states. Rather the explanatory power lies in the nature of the higher-order representation in question. I have introduced the acronym ‘HOROR’ to distinguish this version from the relational version of higher-order theory as defined by the above authors (Brown 2012b).” (p. 1785) Seems like your view is the non-standard one given the long list of authors you cite above. Again from that same paper of yours: “there is a sense in which HOROR theory does back off of the transitivity principle with respect to phenomenal consciousness. This is because HOROR theory does allow that there are phenomenally conscious states that the subject is in no way aware of being in.” (p. 1788)

    In some other ways (but certainly not all), your view sounds closer to my own, such as when you talk about a “joint determination view” and “partial conscious experiences” (e.g. in your recent paper with Hakwan). A quote from that paper: “What we find relatively more intriguing is the possibility that, under this “Partial” Conscious Experience Interpretation, one can take an intermediate view that captures some of the favor of both the first-order and higher-order view. The basic idea behind this option is that conscious experience perhaps jointly depends on both higher-order as well as first-order representations. On this view, we cannot tell what it is like for a subject just by looking at the first-order representations, nor can we tell what it is like for the subject just by looking at the higher-order representations. It is the combination of them that jointly determines the qualitative character of conscious experiences.”

    Still, there is no misleading or false advertising in my book chapter, e.g. I include in sec. 5 (“Hybrid higher-order and self-representational accounts”) my own intrinsic HOT theory along with those of Van Gulick and Kriegel. The first sentence of that section reads: “Some related representationalist views hold that the HOR in question should be understood as intrinsic to (or part of) an overall complex conscious state. This stands in contrast to the standard view that the HOT is extrinsic to (that is, entirely distinct from) its target mental state.” (p. 158) And partly due to lack of space, I briefly mention other versions of HOT theory in footnote #4.

    (2) Re: conceptualism. As you know, I offer a very lengthy defense of conceptualism in my 2012 book (The Consciousness Paradox, MIT) but I make it clear in the Bloomsbury chapter that I had offered a new argument for a stronger connection between HOT theory and conceptualism (“I have argued that there is a very close and natural connection between HOT theory and conceptualism (Gennaro 2012, Chapter 7; 2013)”, p. 157). I don’t say that David is a conceptualist or that conceptualism is a necessary feature of HOT theory. Rather, I present a lengthy account of how conceptualism can amplify and, I think, help to fill out a more detailed HOT theory with a somewhat Kantian way of thinking about concept application in HOTs. As you know, David (and all of us) agree that acquiring concepts can affect one’s very conscious experiences, i.e. wine-tasting example, etc., which I also mention in the book chapter. But surely these concepts can also find their way into HOTs. Here’s a ’09 quote from David: “The way we are conscious of a qualitative state, on the HOT hypothesis, is a matter of how the accompanying HOT conceptualizes that state’s mental properties. The way we are conscious of our qualitative experiences varies with the fineness of grain with which our HOTs represent those experiences….Coming to have command of new words for experiences means coming to have command of concepts for those experiences. But that can help only if those concepts figure in the way we are conscious of our qualitative experiences, which can happen only by way of intentional states about those experiences. The effect that learning new words for qualitative states sometimes has on the way we are conscious of those states is evidence that we are conscious of those states in virtue of intentional states in which those concepts figure, that is, by way of HOTs.” (Rosenthal ’09 OUP Handbook) I couldn’t agree more.

    My “whistle” example is just one among many exploring the potential relationships between HOTs and their target first-order states, in part, to try to account for various unusual cases (such as visual agnosia). But if wine tasting concepts can figure into HOTs (in addition to first-order intentional states), I don’t see why “whistle” cannot.

    (3) Regarding the PFC etc.: My main target there was Kriegel and Block who have supposed (“assumed”?) in some places that HOTs would occur in the PFC. I do mention Lau and Rosenthal’s initial 2011 piece parenthetically since they do seem to point to the PFC (or at least other frontal areas as crucial neural areas for HOTs). In that paper, they are admittedly tentative and so also mention other areas. Thus, in the book chapter, I say: “I disagree with Kriegel (2007; 2009 Chapter 7) and Block (2007) that, according to the higher-order and self-representational view, the PFC is required for most conscious states (see also Lau and Passingham 2006, Del Cul et al. 2007; Lau and Rosenthal 2011). However, it may very well be true that the PFC is required for the more sophisticated introspective states but this isn’t a problem for HOT theory as such because it does not require introspection for first-order conscious states.” (p. 160)

    My reason for citing Malach’s work was simply to provide some evidence for the claim that some conscious experiences do not seem to activate the PFC much at all. I do of course again agree with Lau and Rosenthal’s reply to Malach to some extent. For example, as I say, “…we must also keep in mind the distinction between unconscious HOTs and conscious HOTs (= introspection). Perhaps the latter require PFC activity given the more sophisticated executive functions associated with introspection but having first-order conscious states does not require introspection.” (p. 162) Indeed, this is a point I make repeatedly and one which we should all agree on. However, I go further and present some evidence in favor of other possible entirely “non-frontal” brain regions where HOTs might occur, “such as the medial and inferior parietal cortices, the temporoparietal cortex, the posterior cingulate cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC).” (p. 161) In their reply to Malach, there is still significant reference to frontal areas as where HOTs might occur. I also mention the paper by Kozuch (2014) and, given his critique of HOT theory in that context, point out why it is even that much more important for HOT theorists to avoid a commitment to the PFC as the neural basis of HOTs. Also: Of course damage to the PFC can “alter” and “damage” conscious experience but the claim is rather that even very severe damage to the PFC and frontal lobes generally do not “eliminate” first-order conscious states. All of this is also important with respect to fending off the animals/infants objection which is one reason that I have pressed the issue.

    All of the above is greatly expanded upon in my 2012 book and in a few other recent papers. Readers might wish to look for themselves since they might, in turn, be misled by your post. Also, in the Bloomsbury chapter, I do first present about 10 pages before I even raise the misrepresentation objection and, in that same section, I also explain how one might respond to the “animals objection.” The same goes for HOT theory’s ability to respond to other familiar objections, e.g. alleged circularity, the problem of the rock, etc. Then I make it clear what “my own view” is, when a specific objection is my own alone, and where it differs from or expands upon “standard” HOT theory as well. Surely this is not misleading anyone.

    • Hi Rocco, thanks for responding, I appreciate the feedback. My claim was that your chapter would be misleading to someone who was not familiar with the literature on higher-order theories and that anyone new to the area would have a biased view of the lay of the land after reading your introduction and I don’t see how what you say here helps in showing that I was wrong about that.

      Here is what I thought was misleading about your chapter (remember the aim of the book was to present a comprehensive overview to someone who was new to the area):

      Gennaro offers a survey of the traditional higher-order accounts but anyone reading this chapter who was new to the area would get a very biased account of the lay of the land. Specifically there are three things that are misleading about Gennaro’s overview. The first is how he presents the theory itself. The second is how he responds to the classic misrepresentation objection to higher-order thought theories of consciousness. And the third is in presenting the case for whether or not the prefrontal cortex is a possible neural realizer of the relevant higher-order thoughts.

      Regarding my first point, about the way you present the theory itself, you make the exact same mistake in this comment. According to Rosenthalian HOT they having a conscious state consists in having the appropriate HO state. That is all there is to having a conscious state. So, when one has the HOT one has a conscious state (because that it was that property is according to the theory). So the theory is explaining the difference between conscious states and unconscious states. Conscious states are the ones which appear to us as part of our mental life and they do that by being (conceptually) represented by the HOT.

      It is important to note that I am not making the extrinsic/intrinsic distinction here. Frankly I don’t really care whether you count the states as one or two (because a lot of that will hinge on whether we are talking about neurological states or mental states and things get complicated quickly). My distinction is between theories that think of the first-order state as coming to be ‘transformed’ into a conscious state via being suitably related (by the ‘awareness of ‘ relation or something) to a HO state. Relational views claim that the first-order content itself is somehow a part of the conscious state. Non-relation views do not make that claim. Non-relational versions of the theory claim that the first-order content makes it into consciousness in virtue of being the content of a higher-order state (or that it is just the HO content all by itself that accounts for what it is like if one is an intrinsicalist). So the issue is not intrinsic vs. extrinsic. It is relational v. non-relation in the way I have defined it. So, yes in fact it is very misleading to suggest that higher-order theories generically require that there be two states and that they be related such that one is directed at the other. Rosenthalian HOT denies that we need two states and that one be directed at the other (unless you are really careful about what you mean by ‘directed at’). He is the main proponent of HO theories so casting it as you do in the beginning of the article is highly misleading.

    • In regards to your (2), I am not sure how to respond. Of course concepts in HOTs determine what it is like for one. That is what the theory says. According to Rosenthal the concepts in HOTs are of qualitative properties (whistles are not qualitative properties)…I guess you could make the case that the word ‘whistle’ was a new word for some qualitative states, but that seems odd! ‘whistle’ is a word for a kind of object, not for a property of an experience, but either way that was really besides the point. It was just another way in which your introduction of the material is skewed but my actual point there was that you don’t really have an argument for your claim that there is non conscious experience in a mismatch case. How does what you say here address that?

      Also, how does what you say address the main way I say this is misleading? Your objection to Rosenthal’s view is that it is not in accordance with your way of casting the theory but that is a strange objection! Yes, according to your relational reading of the theory those things are required, but that is not the standard version of the theory (or at least it is not Rosenthal’s version of the theory).

      • “It was just another way in which your introduction of the material is skewed but my actual point there was that you don’t really have an argument for your claim that there is non conscious experience in a mismatch case. How does what you say here address that?”

        What I say under (2) had more to do with your initial point about my conceptualism….etc… i.e. a HO conceptualization of the LO state.

        I address that more in my #1 and I’ll respond further on that point when I get a chance. But the basic idea again is that, as David repeatedly has said over the years, that according to HOT theory, our HOTs are normally unconscious, i.e. when they “accompany” (as David often puts it) a conscious first-order thought (as opposed to introspection). Now if there is a hypothetical targetless HOT case here, then there is presumably only the unconscious HOT. That’s fine and why I don’t think that there is any conscious state in these cases. However, since he also wants to say that the subject’s experience can be “subjectively indistinguishable” from an otherwise conscious state with its target, then it would seem to follow that a lone unconscious HOT can be conscious (which makes no sense to me). This is one reason I disagree with that way of responding to the targetless HOT case. You may again of course suppose that I have mischaracterized the “standard” HOT theory as involving two states etc. but, given David’s own description of HOT theory in numerous places through the years, I find that hard to believe. It’s supposed to be a representational (extrinsic) theory after all and one which explains how unconscious first-order states differ from conscious first-order states. Moreover, merely relying solely on the (unconscious) HOT in such cases would seem to defeat the initial purpose of HOT theory and render the presence of first-order states generally entirely irrelevant to HOT theory. This would be to treat the exception (i.e. a specific way of replying to the targetless HOT object) as the rule for all conscious states. A similar problem is posed by mismatch cases, i.e. if we are only going by the HOT, then the first-order state would seem to be irrelevant.

        More some other time perhaps.

        • But the basic idea again is that, as David repeatedly has said over the years, that according to HOT theory, our HOTs are normally unconscious, i.e. when they “accompany” (as David often puts it) a conscious first-order thought (as opposed to introspection)

          Yes, of course, no one is denying that. HOTs are typically unconscious in the sense that we are not typically conscious of having them. But the point is that, for David, having a conscious mental state=having a HOT with such and such content. That is his hypothesis about what the nature of a conscious state consists in. When you have a conscious mental state it is because you have a higher-order state of the right kind. Full stop.

          Now if there is a hypothetical targetless HOT case here, then there is presumably only the unconscious HOT. That’s fine and why I don’t think that there is any conscious state in these cases

          Yes there would be just the unconscious (in the transitive sense) HOT which is just what it is to have a conscious (in the intransitive sense) mental state. My point in the review was that it is fine to have your own views about how this works but if you are introducing it to a general audience who doesn’t know anything about the issues you should be more open about how you are biasing the discussion from there beginning.

          However, since he also wants to say that the subject’s experience can be “subjectively indistinguishable” from an otherwise conscious state with its target, then it would seem to follow that a lone unconscious HOT can be conscious (which makes no sense to me).

          That doesn’t follow. I have argued in my own work that if we separate state consciousness from phenomenal consciousness then we can make sense of how the HO state is (phenomenally) conscious without being (state) conscious but that is a separate issue. It does not follow, on David’s view, that the HO state is conscious. It follows that the individual is in a conscious mental states (because being on one of those=having a HOT of the right kind). That may not make sense to you but that is actually the version of the theory that the most prominent defender of the theory defends, so you should probably introduce that to people who are new to the area.

          You may again of course suppose that I have mischaracterized the “standard” HOT theory as involving two states etc

          I don’t just suppose it, I have argued for it!

          but, given David’s own description of HOT theory in numerous places through the years, I find that hard to believe.

          Then you should stop writing introductory material on the theory. Stick to introducing your own ideas because it is not great scholarship to introduce a theory that you, by your own admission, don’t really understand.

          It’s supposed to be a representational (extrinsic) theory after all and one which explains how unconscious first-order states differ from conscious first-order states.

          Right, and it does

          Moreover, merely relying solely on the (unconscious) HOT in such cases would seem to defeat the initial purpose of HOT theory and render the presence of first-order states generally entirely irrelevant to HOT theory.

          It doesn’t (as I already explained, it does only if you assume that the relational version is the only version). The presence of the FO state being relevant to the conscious experience of teh individual is an empirical question, not something that you can decide from the armchair.

          his would be to treat the exception (i.e. a specific way of replying to the targetless HOT object) as the rule for all conscious states. A similar problem is posed by mismatch cases, i.e. if we are only going by the HOT, then the first-order state would seem to be irrelevant.

          It is not to treat the exception as the rule. It is to understand what the role of the higher-state is in the theory.

          More some other time perhaps.

          Sure. You have given no argument for you position other than that you find that you don’t understand it or that it doesn’t make sense to you, so if you do respond how about addressing the actual argument for thinking of the theory in the non-relational way?

        • Richard — Although it is sometimes difficult to interpret tone in these electronic exchanges, I do find yours to be unnecessarily and exceedingly personally hostile. I know you think it is fine that I argue for my own views (that’s good) but I won’t stop presenting the basics of HOT theory in various more introductory venues (pointing out, as I do, that there are alternative versions of HOT theory as well as different approaches to the misrepresentation/empty HOT objection). Indeed, since we agree on so much otherwise and I’ve defended HOT theory in so many other ways, it seems particularly over the top. I really don’t think it is up to you to tell me to stop doing anything, let alone introducing HOT theory.

          Back to the issue: First of all, and again, for most practical purposes (as well as to respond to most standard objections to HOT theory), it doesn’t matter which of the two views we have in mind (‘relational’ vs. ‘non-relational’). It has mainly come out, relatively recently, with respect to the misrepresentation/empty HOT objection arises. To my way of thinking about HOT theory, I view this as a much more recent and an “in the weeds” development which, given that my Bloomsbury chapter is designed to be an introductory overview, I don’t think is misleading. I do of course mention David’s reply to that objection and then my own objection and preferred response to it. More could of course have been said or referenced.

          Once again, you had initially given a very long list of excellent philosophers who have interpreted HOT theory the way I do (at least up through the 2011, right around when my 2012 book was published). This includes e.g. Bill L., Pete M., Uriah, et al. Now if David never really meant it or never framed it that way, it would be news to me. At best, there seemed to be some ambiguity there. (Again, there are many quotes from David which would seem to make it a reasonable interpretation; not to mention the numerous venues/conferences where we were both present and discussed various aspects of the theory.). Of course David is the main proponent of HOT theory (I would never question that) but I’m still not really sure that there is a “standard” HOT theory in some sense. So how best to distinguish it from other theories and how best to present it to the potential novice is still a judgement call. I could be wrong, but it seems fair to say that his thinking has evolved to some extent on this matter over the years. The extent to which you agree with him now (or vice versa), as you note, is a separate issue. You say you have argued for the view “that if we separate state consciousness from phenomenal consciousness then we can make sense of how the HO state is (phenomenally) conscious without being (state) conscious.” I’m quite sure that many HOT (and non-HOT) theorists will find this view not only puzzling and/or terminologically confusing (at best) but also a significant departure from the way that we’ve understood HOT theory for decades (not to mention again adherence to the TP). Maybe I “don’t understand it” in some sense and thus I’m at fault in some way or, as Peter van Inwagen used to say (back in my grad school days), the other possibility is that it really doesn’t make much sense. Hard to tell which it is sometimes. I disagree that I “have given no argument for [my] position other than that you find that you don’t understand it or that it doesn’t make sense to you…” Arguments for and against various positions can also hinge on the comparative explanatory power of each position.

          Further, you say that “…It follows [instead on David’s view] that the individual is in a conscious mental state (because being on one of those = having a HOT of the right kind”).” Well, this still doesn’t make much very sense to me if the HOT in question is supposed to be unconscious (even if only in the “transitive sense”) without smuggling in a shift to introspective awareness). I also looked quickly at your (admittedly) very rough draft of your Routledge piece where you say the following: “….those who endorse what I will call the Non-Relational Model (NRM). NRM rejects the claim that the first-order state is made conscious by the higher-order state (Rosenthal, Brown). On NRM it is the higher-order state itself that accounts for conscious experience. There is some disagreement among those who endorse this model as to which state is the conscious state. Rosenthal has suggested that it is the notional state that becomes conscious (Rosenthal, Weisberg). Berger has suggested that it is the individual that becomes conscious and not the state at all (Berger). Brown has suggested that it is the higher-order state itself that is phenomenally conscious (Brown).” So there is some disagreement here too on a rather important matter, i.e. which state is conscious. Might I add a similar and maybe even longer paragraph to future intros? Perhaps, but it wouldn’t be misleading or biased not to do so from the start as opposed to a much later part of such a paper.

          You previously said that you really didn’t care much about the intrinsic (one state) vs. extrinsic (two state) distinction – Well, I do and think it is more important and certainly older than the NRM (going back to my 1996 book; David himself critiqued it in his 2004 chapter in my John Benjamins anthology). Of course it gets “complicated quickly” so we choose to focus on different things. You say my view is “ad hoc” but it’s not and I argue for it at length in various places. I also don’t really think of my view as SOM but, again, some of this could be terminological (you also place me in with JM, which is fine, but I also do think that “the higher-order state itself employs conceptual content”). So you introduce the theory and its variants the way you want to and I’ll proceed the way I wish. If some HOT-ish views are developed differently and at greater length over time, then they should be included sooner or later.

          This will likely be my last post in this forum.

        • Sorry you feel that way Rocco but I stand by my comments and I don’t think you have addressed any of the substantive criticisms I have raised against your view or way of presenting the material to beginners…but I guess we’ll have to let posterity decide.

    • Finally, re (3) I am also very puzzled by your response. Of course no one is committed to the claim that the PFC and HOT are linked but there is a ton of evidence that they are and that is the most reasonable thing for a HOT theorist to be currently exploring. What you say here doesn’t address the real issue, which is that the evidence you cited is highly contested (as I link to the debate in the journal of neuroscience as whether the data, which Kozuch had third-or fourth-hand access to, was being accurately represented by the anti-frontal crown (spoiler alert: the answer is no it was not)).

      • “Of course no one is committed to the claim that the PFC and HOT are linked but there is a ton of evidence that they are and that is the most reasonable thing for a HOT theorist to be currently exploring.”
        “Most reasonable …to explore”. Perhaps and that is why I do explore it but argue that it is more reasonable in the end, at least tentatively for now, to suppose that the PFC isn’t required for HOTs (or at least unconscious HOTs). Perhaps the evidence would change my mind at some point; who knows. That the evidence I cite is highly contested — well, that’s par for the course, I’d say. I also disagree that there is a “ton of evidence” once we are clear about the difference between introspection/verbal reporting and mere unconscious HOTs which accompany first-order conscious states. Notice also in some places that I frame the issue as a conditional, e.g. “If HOTs are in the PFC…., e.g., then this could also have implications for animal and infant consciousness….”

        • well, that’s par for the course, I’d say

          Sure but it matters how contested and by who, right? So if you have someone who read second reports of something say X and someone with first hand knowledge say not X then I would tend to trust the person with first-hand knowledge, especially if they are an expert. Maybe have a look at this post of mine?

          also disagree that there is a “ton of evidence” once we are clear about the difference between introspection/verbal reporting and mere unconscious HOTs which accompany first-order conscious states

          I don’t think you yourself are very clear on that (have you read my review of your book in NDPR?)

        • Not sure what more to say on this point, Richard. I still do think that the evidence is rather mixed (as seems confirmed by many of the comments on that post of yours). I’m not sure why you think that I don’t cite those with “first hand knowledge,” e.g. Pollen, etc.. Disagreeing about whether or not evidence shows something is also obviously not the same as what evidence there is in the first place. In any case, I do explore the topic, as I said in my previous post. I also recall once doing so at a TSC meeting with David and Josh W. in the audience — we had a good discussion as I recall. As I said previously, perhaps I’d change my mind some time. Yes — I’ve seen your review of my book but it’s been a while. I can look again but I suspect a similar disagreement would follow.

        • Pollen is exactly someone who doesn’t have first-hand knowledge. His papers are based on a literature review, not working with actual patients and as I understand his career it was on early visual processing not PFC. People who have actually worked with these kinds of patients say something else. And, as I said, in such a case it is better to weigh the evidence accordingly. Kozuch read Pollen, Pollen read some reports from 1949, but have we learned anything new since then? yes! Besides new empirical results we also have an expert on the PFC questioning the original data from the literature that Pollen read.

          But anyway, the real point of criticism was that you present things as if some critics of HOT have suggested that the PFC is important and then present weak, suspect, and outdated evidence to suggest that (while the issue is not settled) it would be “a mistake, both philosophically and neurophysiologically, to claim that HOT theory should treat first-order conscious states as essentially including PFC activity. If other HO theorists endorse such a view, then so much the worse for them” (p 162 Bloomsbury chapter). That’s a way to make your point but a bad way to write an introductory chapter.

  2. Just a couple of minor remarks. Rocco says above that “Rosenthal thinks that the HOT determines the qualitative properties.” I do not think that. But there may be a terminological difficulty about ‘qualitative properties’ that’s figuring here. I have a theory of qualitative mental properties that’s independent of HOT theory, what I call most recently quality-space theory. On quality-space theory, an individual’s mental qualities are fixed by relative location in a quality space constructed by appeal to the individual’s discriminative ability. And that’s all independent of any perceptual states’ being conscious, since we can discriminate stimuli nonconsciously–sometimes in finer grain than we can consciously. So the mental qualities that are thereby fixed are themselves independent of consciousness.

    What HOTs contribute on my view is making one aware of being in a state with such qualitative mental properties. That needn’t be fancy; being aware of seeing something is being aware of being in a state suitable for distinguishing the stimulus in question from other like it. So on my view HOTs do not, as Rocco suggests, determine qualitative properties, but only determine what qualitative properties appear to one in consciousness.

    One would make that mistake only if one take qualitative properties to have consciousness built in; hence the need to mention my quality-space theory. But it seems arbitrary and unfounded to deny that qualitative mental properties occur in subliminal perceiving, since what occurs there can prime in ways that affect our conscious qualitative properties. Denying that subliminal perception involves qualitative mental properties requires an arbitrary extra step to connect a subliminal prime with the conscious experience it primes, an extra step that’s called for only to save a traditional but otherwise unfounded theory that qualitative mental properties have consciousness built into them.

    • Hello David – “Rocco says above that ‘Rosenthal thinks that the HOT determines the qualitative properties.’ I do not think that. But there may be a terminological difficulty about ‘qualitative properties’ that’s figuring here. I have a theory of qualitative mental properties that’s independent of HOT theory, what I call most recently quality-space theory.”

      I agree that there may be a terminological difficulty here and that using ‘determines’ may also be misleading in that sentence. So sure: on your view, HOTs “only determine what qualitative properties appear to one in consciousness.” Maybe instead of ‘determines’ there I could have more accurately said ‘reveals’ or ‘makes the subject aware of’ or ‘reflects the way the subject conceptually experiences the qualitative properties.” Or maybe ‘qualitative character’ instead of ‘qualitative properties.’ I am of course well aware of your homomorphism/quality-space theory going back at least to your 1991 paper “The Independence of Consciousness and Sensory Quality” Phil. Issues paper. However, when I said that “Rosenthal thinks that the HOT determines the qualitative properties” I was referring in that specific context to the mismatch and empty HOT cases while trying to make sense of and eventually disagreeing with your way of responding to them (i.e. “subjectively indistinguishable” experiences in those cases.). I’m not sure, however, that the only alternative would be to “take qualitative properties to have consciousness built in” since another possibility is that it takes both the LO and HO state (and some conceptual interaction) for there to be a conscious state. But I do think that some of the issue is terminological, e.g. the use of the term ‘qualitative’ and even ‘conscious’ (i.e. transitive vs. intransitive).

      This will likely be my last post in this forum but I hope we get a chance to talk again sometime about the issues. I’ll respond to Richard separately one more time.

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