Alternatives to HOT Theories of Consciousness


Higher-order thought theories (or HOT theories) state that a mental state is conscious only when it is accompanied by a higher-order thought (HOT). The thought that makes a state conscious is not conscious in itself, but having that thought is what make the state of which it is about conscious. If there is no HOT about a mental state, then that state is not a conscious state. On this view, a state can only be a conscious state if we are aware of that state, or, have a HOT about that state. Fred Dretske, on the otherhand, believes that mental states can be conscious without the subject being aware of those states. For Dretske, what makes a mental state conscious is not the subject's awareness of the state, rather, it is the way in which the state makes the subject conscious of something in the world. When we look at an object, we are not conscious of our experience of looking at the object, we are conscious of the object itself. In this paper, I will suggest that HOT theories lead to a cluttered picture of the mind. I will then offer Dretske's account of consciousness as an alternative to the HOT theories. My goal will be to show that Dretske's model of consciousness should be the preferred option.

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Brent Silby
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