Skip to main content Accessibility help

A Seeming Problem for Higher-Order Theories of Consciousness

  • JESSE M. MULDER (a1)


Higher-order theories account for intransitive consciousness by using the transitive notion ‘awareness-of.’ I argue that this notion implies a form of ‘seeming’ that the higher-order approach requires, yet cannot account for. I show that, if the relevant kind of seeming is declared to be present in all representational states, the seeming in question is objectionably trivialized; while using the higher-order strategy to capture not only intransitive consciousness but also the relevant kind of seeming results in an infinite regress. Finally, highlighting distinctive features of representations that explain why they display seeming amounts to abandoning the higher-order approach altogether.

Les théories d’ordre supérieur expliquent la conscience intransitive en utilisant la notion transitive de «conscience-de». Je soutiens que cette notion implique une forme d’«apparent» que l’approche d’ordre supérieur exige, mais ne peut expliquer. Je montre que si le type pertinent d’«apparent» est présent dans toutes les représentations, l’«apparent» en question est banalisé d’une façon inacceptable. En revanche, utiliser la stratégie d’ordre supérieur pour expliquer non seulement la conscience intransitive, mais aussi l’«apparent» pertinent résulte en une régression infinie. Enfin, souligner les caractéristiques distinctives des représentations qui expliquent pourquoi elles manifestent de l’«apparent» revient à abandonner totalement l’approche d’ordre supérieur.


Corresponding author


Hide All
Anscombe, G.E.M. 1975 “The First Person,” in Guttenplan, Samuel (ed.), Mind and Language: Wolfson College Lectures 1974. Oxford: Clarendon Press, pp. 4564.
Armstrong, David M. 1968 A Materialist Theory of Mind. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Armstrong, David M. 1980 The Nature of Mind and Other Essays. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Baars, Bernard 1988 A Cognitive Theory of Consciousness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Berger, Jacob 2014 “Consciousness is not a property of states: A reply to Wilberg,” Philosophical Psychology 27 (6): 829842.
Carruthers, Peter 2005 Consciousness: Essays from a Higher-Order Perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Dennett, Daniel 1991 Consciousness Explained. Boston: Little, Brown & Co.
Horgan, Terry and Kriegel, Uriah 2007 “Phenomenal Epistemology: What is Consciousness that we may Know it so Well?,” Philosophical Issues 17 (1): 123144.
Lycan, William G. 1987 Consciousness. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Lycan, William G. 1996 Consciousness and Experience. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Lycan, William G. 2001 “A simple argument for a higher-order representation theory of consciousness,” Analysis 61 (1): 34.
Rödl, Sebastian 2007 Self-Consciousness. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Rödl, Sebastian 2014 “Intentional Transaction,” Philosophical Explorations 17 (3): 304316.
Rosenthal, David M. 1986 “Two Concepts of Consciousness,” Philosophical Studies 49 (3): 329359.
Rosenthal, David M. 1997 “A Theory of Consciousness,” in Block, Ned, Flanagan, Owen, and Güzeldere, Güven (eds.), The Nature of Consciousness: Philosophical Debates. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, pp. 729753.
Rosenthal, David M. 2002 “Explaining Consciousness,” in Chalmers, David J. (ed.), Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 109131.
Rosenthal, David M. 2005 Consciousness and Mind. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Rosenthal, David M. 2005a “Unity of Consciousness and the Self,” in Rosenthal, David M. (ed.), Consciousness and Mind. Oxford: Clarendon Press, pp. 339363.
Rosenthal, David M. 2011 “Exaggerated Reports: Reply to Block,” Analysis 71 (3): 431437.
Van Gulick, Robert 2004 “Higher-Order Global States (HOGS): An Alternative Higher-Order Model of Consciousness,” in Gennaro, Rocco J. (ed.), Higher-Order Theories of Consciousness: An Anthology. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 6792.
Weisberg, Josh 2011 “Misrepresenting Consciousness,” Philosophical Studies 154 (3): 409433.
Weisberg, Josh 2014 Consciousness. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Wilberg, Jonah 2010 “Consciousness and false HOTs,” Philosophical Psychology 23 (5): 617638.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

A Seeming Problem for Higher-Order Theories of Consciousness

  • JESSE M. MULDER (a1)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.