Prefrontal lesion evidence against higher-order theories of consciousness

Philosophical Studies 167 (3):721-746 (2014)
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According to higher-order theories of consciousness, a mental state is conscious only when represented by another mental state. Higher-order theories must predict there to be some brain areas (or networks of areas) such that, because they produce (the right kind of) higher-order states, the disabling of them brings about deficits in consciousness. It is commonly thought that the prefrontal cortex produces these kinds of higher-order states. In this paper, I first argue that this is likely correct, meaning that, if some higher-order theory is true, prefrontal lesions should produce dramatic deficits in visual consciousness. I then survey prefrontal lesion data, looking for evidence of such deficits. I argue that no such deficits are to be found, and that this presents a compelling case against higher-order theories
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