Some HOT Family Disputes: A Critical Review of The Consciousness Paradox by Rocco Gennaro

Publication Title

Philosophical Psychology

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consciousness, higher-order thoughts, misrepresentation


Other Philosophy | Philosophy


Gennaro (2012) presents a version of the higher-order thought theory of consciousness that differs from the version defended by Rosenthal (2005). I explore several key differences between Gennaro's and Rosenthal's views, with an eye toward establishing that Rosenthal's Extrinsic Higher-Order Thought theory (EHOT) is preferable to Gennaro's Wide Intrinsicality View (WIV). Gennaro's attempts to demonstrate the superiority of the WIV rest on an unargued and implausible assumption to the effect that the higher-order intentional contents of self-representing conscious states are necessarily accurate. Gennaro relies on this assumption in avoiding what he sees as problematic consequences of Rosenthal's EHOT theory, which countenances the possibility that higher-order thoughts sometimes misrepresent lower-order states. I argue that these consequences, far from being problematic, actually constitute a strength of the EHOT theory, allowing it to explain phenomena such as dental fear, perceptual learning, and rare cases of Charles Bonnet syndrome. Finally, I argue that the WIV faces difficulties when combined with plausible assumptions about the relation between consciousness and speech, yielding false predictions about the properties of the speech acts that we use to express and report our conscious states.