Philosophical Studies

, Volume 176, Issue 1, pp 1–20 | Cite as

The collapse argument

  • Joseph GottliebEmail author


We can divide philosophical theories of consciousness into two main camps: First-Order theories and Higher-Order theories. Like all Higher-Order theories, many First-Order theories are mentalistic theories of consciousness: they attempt to reduce a mental state’s being consciousness using mental (but non-phenomenal) terms, such as being available to certain cognitive centers. I argue that mentalistic First-Order theories, once fully cashed out, collapse into some form of Higher-Order theory. I contend that not only are there general considerations in favor of this conclusion, but that the four most prominent mentalistic ‘First-Order’ theories are, in fact, Higher-Order theories in disguise. Given a strong assumption in favor of some form of mentalism, if this is right, what emerges is a powerful argument for the Higher-Order theory of consciousness.


Consciousness The transitivity principle Higher-Order theories of consciousness First-Order theories of consciousness Attention Availability Working memory 



Many thanks to an anonymous referee, Jessica Gottlieb, Daniel Moss, Saja Parvizian, and David Rosenthal for helpful comments and discussion.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA

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