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date: 13 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Higher-order (HO) theories of consciousness hold that a mental state is conscious when it is appropriately represented by a ‘higher-order’ state, a state about another mental state. The higher-order perception (HOP) theory holds that HO representation is best modeled on perceptual processes, while the higher-order thought (HOT) theory holds that it is best modeled on thought. In addition, some HO theories hold that to be conscious, a state must be actively represented by an HO state, while others maintain that the mere disposition to be represented by an HO state is enough. The HO theory, if successful, offers a reductive explanation of mental state consciousness in terms of nonconscious HO representation. This chapter first spells out the general motivation for the HO view and the differences between HOP and HOT before considering key objections to the approach, as well as possible empirical support. Finally it looks at how the view addresses the explanatory gap and the hard problem of consciousness.

Keywords: Higher-order theory, higher-order perception, higher-order thought, consciousness, theories of consciousness, sensory qualities, phenomenal consciousness, hard problem of consciousness, explanatory gap

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