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Journal of Philosophical Research

Volume 25, 2000

A. Minh Nguyen
Pages 83-100

On a Searlean Objection to Rosenthal’s Theory of State Consciousness

In a series of closely connected papers, Rosenthal has defended what has come to be known as “the higher-order thought theory of state-consciousness.” According to this theory, a mental state which one instantiates is conscious if and only if one is conscious of being in it in some relevant way, and one’s being conscious of being in the state which is conscious consists in one’s having a contemporaneous thought to the effect that one is in that state. The main aim of this paper is to disarm a Searle-style objection to Rosenthal’s account of state-consciousness, one that takes mentality, in particular intentionality, to presuppose state-consciousness. It is argued that the Searlean attempt to convict Rosenthal’s hypothesis of circularity fails, because the postulation of what Searle called “subjective ontology,” as well as the requirement that there be an uncancelable connection between mode of representation and state-consciousness, is unreasonable. While defending Rosenthal against Searle, this paper also aims to develop a fresh objection to the higher-order thought conception of state-consciousness.

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