Higher Order Thoughts

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Higher Order Thoughts. David Rosenthal. Zolt án Dienes, Conscious and unconscious mental processes, 2006. Creature consciousness Awake, alert vs asleep, unconscious etc “Bill is conscious”. Creature consciousness Awake, alert vs asleep, unconscious etc “Bill is conscious” - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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  • Higher Order Thoughts

    Zoltn Dienes, Conscious and unconscious mental processes, 2006David Rosenthal

  • Creature consciousnessAwake, alert vs asleep, unconscious etcBill is conscious

  • Creature consciousnessAwake, alert vs asleep, unconscious etcBill is consciousTransitive consciousnessHas an object: Bill is conscious of the noise (or aware of)You could be asleep creature unconscious and conscious of a noise.

  • Creature consciousnessAwake, alert vs asleep, unconscious etcBill is consciousTransitive consciousnessHas an object: Bill is conscious of the noise (or aware of)You could be asleep creature unconscious and conscious of a noise.(Mental) State consciousnessA property of a mental state: A desire could be conscious or unconscious.You could be asleep and have conscious mental states in your dreams.A blindsight patient can be, in a sense, conscious of an object moving up, but the visual state is unconscious.

  • HIGHER-ORDER THOUGHT THEORY (Rosenthal, 1986, 2002) (see also Carruthers, 1992, 2000)What makes a mental state a conscious mental state?

    Central claim:A conscious mental state is a mental state of which one is conscious.i.e. state consciousness = transitive consciousness of the state

    Seems hard to deny:A blindsight patient honestly claims not be of conscious of seeing at allThats why it is natural to say their seeing is unconscious seeing

  • 0) There can be unconscious mental states (thinking etc).1) To be conscious of X, one must either perceive X or think about X. (I can see you being there, or I can close my eyes and think of you being there.)2) To be conscious of being in a mental state, one must think that one is in that mental state(i.e. have a second order thought: A thought about a thought).

    (We can think of mental states; can we perceive them?)

  • 3) A conscious mental state is a mental state of which one is conscious of being in. (The central claim.)Therefore,the necessary and sufficient condition for having a conscious mental state is to have a second order thought that you are in that mental state.A thought with the content "there is an apple in front of me" is not a conscious mental state. (It is just a first order thought)It is in virtue of the thought "I see that there is an apple in front of me" that the first order thought is a conscious thought.

  • A thought with the content it is moving up" makes you conscious of the object moving upbut not consciously aware of it moving up(cf blindsight)

    Being consciously aware of the object moving up requires you are conscious of the object moving up with a conscious mental state

    the thought "I see that it is moving up" makes one consciously aware of the object moving up(what a blindsight patient lacks)

  • First order mental state: A mental state about the worldMakes us conscious of the worldThe worldRefers toFirst order mental stateThe tree is green

  • Second order thought makes us conscious of having the first order thought;Makes us consciously aware of the tree being greenThe tree is green

    The worldRefers toFirst-order mental stateI see the tree is greenSecond-order mental state (higher order thought)Refers to

  • Note, logically, the second order thought itselfI see that the tree is green is not a conscious thought until one becomes conscious of it by a third order thought e.g. I am aware that I am seeing that the tree is green

    It is the third order thought that makes one consciously aware (introspectively aware) that it is *me seeing*.

  • First order mental statesecond order mental statethird order mental stateUnconscious mental stateConscious mental stateConscious ofOr aware ofConsciously aware ofIntrospectivelyaware of

  • Counter arguments to Rosenthals theory

    Does the theory rule out animals and young children being conscious?

    Critic:To think about being in mental states one needs to have concepts referring to mental states (not just referring to states of the world).Childrens understanding of mental states develops dramaticallye.g. prior to age 3-4 they do not fully understand belief because they fail to understand false belief (Sally Anne task )They do not understand mental states are representational.Does that mean they cannot have higher order thoughts? Surely young children can be consciously aware??

  • Reply:One does not need to understand mental states as representational in order to have some concept of a mental stateAdults understanding of mental states continues to develop, but we still at every point have some concept of a mental stateChildren younger than 3-4 clearly have some concept of a mental state because they talk about mental states. They can use those concepts in their higher order thoughts.

    Critic:OK, but what about children younger than one year and animals? I find it hard to believe my dog does not have conscious mental states. At least, I do not want to rule that possibility out.

  • Reply:One can have concepts without language. All that is needed for a higher order thought is some concept or representation of a mental state.Maybe all mammals, for example, have some concept or representation of (some) mental states (Rosenthal).

  • Maybe dogs do not have a full concept of see nor of I, but they may have a representation for I-see-blue and a different one for I-see-yellow etc. They do not realise they are all cases of seeing, nor that when I am seeing blue, I am in the same type of state as you seeing blue. (These dog thoughts could be called non-conceptual.)But still the dog could think it is in a certain state, hence render that state conscious.Ones conscious experience would become more articulate and rich as one became better at conceptualising. (cf learning to taste wines.)

  • There need be no evolutionary magic moment when human-like conscious awareness suddenly appeared from nothing.Maybe conscious experience gradually emerged as representations and concepts of mental states emerged in more and more fine grained ways.

    We cannot rule out babies and many animals having HOTs!

    Contrast:Carruthers: It is ONLY when one understands mental states as representational that the right sort of higher order thoughts can be formed! Babies and animals are not consciously aware!

  • 2. But we dont seem to have HOTs all the time.

    Reply:By HOT theory, second order thoughts will only be conscious if you are conscious of having them (with third order thoughts).Presumably we have third order thoughts a lot more rarely than second order thoughts.Thus it follows from HOT theory that we will not be conscious of having second order thoughts most of the time.

  • 3. Arent so many HOTs wasteful? Why would evolution bother?Reply:True, we dont need to consciously see to act on the world. (cf Milner and Goodale brain damaged people can be very bad at reporting how something looks, but act appropriately.)So we must have acquired our rich repertoire of mental state concepts for reasons other than simple acting on the world.Maybe we acquired so many concepts of mental states in order to explain and predict other peoples behaviour in our richly complex primate social structure? (But why are humans in particular endowed with so rich mental state concepts? Many animals are intricately social.)

  • Maybe humans in particular have an extraordinary number of HOTs because of sexual selection (not because it was useful in any other way).We evolved to be proficient in talking about mental states in order to chat each other up? (Miller, 2000)An indicator of genetic fitness might be how elaborately one can wax lyrical about mental states in an original way! This takes an extravagant amount of resources, so people who can do it must be genetically fit.Or maybe we have such rich mental state concepts because the selective pressure was to have rich concepts (for chatting people up). Richly articulated HOTs were just a by-product of this more general ability.

  • 4.Why doesnt thinking about a rock make it conscious?

    According to HOT theory the higher order thought must be to the effect that you yourself are in a certain mental state.Thinking about rocks does not satisfy the conditions the theory specifies.

    NB: A second order thought makes a first order state conscious, but not by causing it to light up/change its intrinsic properties.A first order mental states being conscious just is there being a relevant second order thought.

  • 5. Are not higher order thoughts just about introspective awareness? What if I am interested in conscious awareness itself, not the more higher level case of introspection?

    Reply:Introspection is being consciously aware of being in a mental state,not being consciously aware of simply the world.A second order thought makes one consciously aware of only the world.Introspection requires a third order thought.Thus, HOT theory is a theory of conscious awareness itself, not just of introspection.

  • 6. But HOTs are conceptual and intellectual and conscious states are often fine-grained and qualitative? How can that be?

    Many experiences, like visual ones, are qualitative, richly detailed in ways we lack concepts for. We can see a shade of red we have no word for and would in any case find hard to remember long enough to acquire a concept for.

  • 6. But HOTs are conceptual and intellectual and conscious states are often fine-grained and qualitative? How can that be?

    Many experiences, like visual ones, are qualitative, richly detailed in ways we lack concepts for. We can see a shade of red we have no word for and would in any case find hard to remember long enough to acquire a concept for.Reply:If you represent yourself as being in a fine g