Consciousness and Mental Quotation: An intrinsic higher-order approach
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The guiding thought of this dissertation is that phenomenally conscious mental states consist in an appropriate pair of first-order and higher-order representations that are uniquely bound together by mental quotation. In slogan form: to be conscious is to be mentally quoted. Others before me have entertained the idea of mental quotation, but they have done so with the aim of putting mental quotation to work as part of the "phenomenal concept strategy" (Papineau, 2000; Balog, Block, 2006; Balog 2012). Their purpose was importantly different from mine. According to those theorists, mental quotation is entirely introspective. On their views, a mental quotation is supposed to be a unique concept that we sometimes use to think about our own conscious states. Conscious states are assumed to be already conscious in virtue of some independent factor, or factors. Mental quotations are not supposed to be that in virtue of which conscious states are conscious. In contrast, this dissertation proposes that mentally quoting an appropriate first-order state is what makes a conscious state conscious in the first-place. Treating consciousness as existing in a higher-order thought that mentally quotes first-order sensory contents has immediate explanatory dividends. It explains several of the classic puzzles of consciousness as well as solving a set of puzzles to which existing higher-order theorists fail to respond. This includes what many see as an insurmountable problem for existing views: the problem of higher-order misrepresentation. If the higher-order component of a conscious state is quotation-like, the gap is filled between the state represented and the higher-order state that makes the state conscious. Rather than targeting a numerically distinct state from afar, as an extrinsic higher-order representation does, a mental quotation latches onto the very target state itself. The target state is enveloped and thereby becomes a component of the higher-order state, and it is the complex, the quotational state as a whole, that is the conscious state. What emerges from the guiding thought is a novel self-representational (or intrinsic higher-order) model of consciousness, described at the intentional level, which is immune to challenges facing existing views.