Philosophical Studies

, Volume 139, Issue 1, pp 39–56

Representationalism, peripheral awareness, and the transparency of experience

Article

Abstract

It is often said that some kind of peripheral (or inattentional) conscious awareness accompanies our focal (attentional) consciousness. I agree that this is often the case, but clarity is needed on several fronts. In this paper, I lay out four distinct theses on peripheral awareness and show that three of them are true. However, I then argue that a fourth thesis, commonly associated with the so-called "self-representational approach to consciousness," is false. The claim here is that we have outer focal consciousness accompanied often (or even always) by inner peripheral (self-)awareness. My criticisms stem from both methodological and phenomenological considerations. In doing so, I offer a diagnosis as to why the fourth thesis has seemed true to so many and also show how the so-called "transparency of experience," frequently invoked by representationalists, is importantly relevant to my diagnosis. Finally, I respond to several objections and to further attempts to show that thesis four is true. What emerges is that if one wishes to hold that some form of self-awareness accompanies all outer-directed conscious states, one is better off holding that such self-awareness is itself unconscious, as is held for example by standard higher-order theories of consciousness.

Keywords

Representationalism Self-representationalism Peripheral awareness Transparency of experience Higher-order thoughts 

References

  1. Armstrong, D. (1968). A materialist theory of mind. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  2. Armstrong, D. (1981). What is consciousness? In The Nature of Mind. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Block, N. (1996). Mental paint and mental latex. In E. Villanueva (Ed.), Perception (pp. 19–49). Atascadero CA: Ridgeview.Google Scholar
  4. Brentano, F. (1874/1973). Psychology from an empirical standpoint. New York: Humanities.Google Scholar
  5. Byrne, A. (2001). Intentionalism defended. Philosophical Review, 110, 199–240.Google Scholar
  6. Chalmers, D. J. (2004). The representational character of experience. In B. Leiter (Ed.), The future for philosophy (pp. 153–181). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Dretske, F. (1995). Naturalizing the mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  8. Ford, J., & Smith, D. W. (2006). Consciousness, self, and attention. In Kriegel and Williford 2006 (pp. 353–377).Google Scholar
  9. Gennaro, R. J. (1996). Consciousness and self-consciousness: A defense of the higher-order thought theory of consciousness. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  10. Gennaro, R. J. (2002). Jean-Paul Sartre and the HOT theory of consciousness. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 32, 293–330.Google Scholar
  11. Gennaro, R. J. (2004). Higher-order thoughts, animal consciousness, and misrepresentation: A reply to Carruthers and Levine.” In Gennaro 2004 (pp. 45–66).Google Scholar
  12. Gennaro, R. J. (Ed). (2004). Higher-order theories of consciousness: An anthology. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  13. Gennaro, R. J. (2005). The HOT theory of consciousness: Between a rock and a hard place? Journal of Consciousness Studies, 12(2), 3–21.Google Scholar
  14. Gennaro, R. J. (2006). “Between pure self-referentialism and the (extrinsic) HOT theory of consciousness.” In Kriegel and Williford 2006 (pp. 221–248).Google Scholar
  15. Harman, G. (1990). The intrinsic quality of experience. In J. Tomberlin (Ed.), Philosophical perspectives 4. Atascadero, CA: Ridgeview Publishing.Google Scholar
  16. Janzen, G. (2005). Self-consciousness and phenomenal character. Dialogue, 44, 707–733.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kant, I. (1781/1965). Critique of pure reason. Translated by N. Kemp Smith, New York: MacMillan.Google Scholar
  18. Kind, A. (2003). What’s so transparent about transparency? Philosophical Studies, 115, 225–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kriegel, U. (2003). Consciousness as intransitive self-consciousness: Two views and an argument. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 33, 103–132.Google Scholar
  20. Kriegel, U. (2004). Consciousness and self-consciousness. The Monist, 87, 182–205.Google Scholar
  21. Kriegel, U. (2004). The functional role of consciousness: A phenomenological approach. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 4, 171–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kriegel, U. (2006). The same order monitoring theory of consciousness. In Kriegel and Williford 2006 (pp. 143–170).Google Scholar
  23. Kriegel U., & Williford, K. (Eds.) (2006). Self-representational approaches to consciousness. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  24. Loar, B. (2003). Transparent experience and the availability of qualia. In Q. Smith, & A. Jokic (Eds.), Consciousness: New philosophical perspectives (pp. 77–96). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Locke, J. (1689/1975). An essay concerning human understanding. P. Nidditch (Ed.), Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  26. Lycan, W. G. (1996). Consciousness and experience. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  27. Lycan, W. G. (2001). A simple argument for a higher-order representation theory of consciousness. Analysis, 61, 3–4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lycan, W. G. (2005). “Representational theories of consciousness”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2005 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (Ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2005/entries/consciousness-representational/>.Google Scholar
  29. Lycan, W. G., & Ryder, Z. (2003). The loneliness of the long-distance truck driver. Analysis, 63, 132–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mack, A., & Rock, I. (1998). Inattentional blindness. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  31. McGinn, C. (1989). Can we solve the mind-body problem? Mind, 98, 349–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McGinn, C. (1995). Consciousness and space. In T. Metzinger (Eds.), Conscious experience (pp. 149–163). Paderbom: Ferdinand Schöningh.Google Scholar
  33. Moore, G. E. (1903). The refutation of idealism. In G. E. Moore (Ed.), Philosophical studies (pp. 1–30). Totowa, NJ: Littlefield, Adams, and Company.Google Scholar
  34. Rosenthal, D. M. (1986). Two concepts of consciousness. Philosophical Studies, 49, 329–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rosenthal, D. M. (1997). A theory of consciousness. In N. Block, O. Flanagan, & G. Guzeldere (Eds.), The nature of consciousness (pp. 729–753). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  36. Rosenthal, D. M. (2004). Varieties of higher-order theory. In Gennaro 2004 (pp. 17–44).Google Scholar
  37. Rosenthal, D. M. (2005). Consciousness and mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Siewart, C. (1998). The Significance of Consciousness. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Smith, D. W. (1986). The structure of (self-)consciousness. Topoi, 5, 149–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Smith, D. W. (1989). The circle of acquaintance. Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  41. Smith, D. W. (2004). Mind world: Essays in phenomenology and ontology. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Stoljar, D. (2004). The argument from diaphanousness. In M. Ezcurdia, R. Stainton & C. Viger (Eds.), New essays in the philosophy of language and mind: Special issue of the canadian journal of philosophy (pp. 341–390).Google Scholar
  43. Tye, M. (1995). Ten problems of consciousness. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  44. Tye, M. (2000). Consciousness, color, and content. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  45. Tye, M. (2002). Representationalism and the transparency of experience. Nous, 36, 137–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Van Gulick, R. (2004). Higher-order global states HOGS: An alternative higher-order model of consciousness. In Gennaro 2004 (pp. 67–92).Google Scholar
  47. Van Gulick, R. (2006). Mirror Mirror – is that all? In Kriegel and Williford 2006 (pp. 11–39).Google Scholar
  48. Wright, W. (2005). Distracted drivers and unattended experience. Synthese, 144, 41–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Zahavi, D. (2004). Back to Brentano? Journal of Consciousness Studies, 11(10–11), 66–87.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyIndiana State UniversityTerre HauteUSA

Personalised recommendations