Graduation Year

2019

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Philosophy

Reader 1

Yuval Avnur

Reader 2

Dion Scott-Kakures

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Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

Francesca Beach

Abstract

David Rosenthal, in his Higher-Order Thought (HOT) theory of consciousness, argues that it is a higher-order thought to the effect that the subject is in a conscious state that makes one conscious of his or her own mental states. In this paper, I argue that since phenomenal consciousness can be vague and Rosenthal’s HOT cannot, HOT is not a necessary condition of phenomenal consciousness. I use primarily Ned Blocks’ refrigerator hum case and Sartre’s example of non-positional awareness to argue that the threshold which determines the degree of first-person awareness necessary for a mental state to be conscious is vague itself, therefore consciousness is a vague concept. HOT cannot accommodate for borderline cases of phenomenal consciousness, therefore it cannot be a necessary condition of all conscious mental states. This is especially relevant in the discussion of non-human animal consciousness, as HOT theories such as Carruthers have been used to deny non-human animal consciousness on the basis of the on/off feature of such representational theories.

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