Conscious-state Anti-realism. (in press). In: Munoz-Suarez, C. and De Brigard, F. Content and Consciousness 2.0. Berlin: Springer.
Daniel Dennett's career-spanning work on consciousness culminates in a view that some critics see as denying the very existence of consciousness. While I think it correct to regard Dennett as an anti-realist of sorts about consciousness, his anti-realism is more akin to idealism than a version of consciousness nihilism or eliminativism. Dennett's anti-realism about consciousness is what Dennett calls "first-person operationalism," a thesis that "brusquely denies the possibility in principle of consciousness of a stimulus in the absence of the subject's belief in that consciousness" (Dennett, 1991, p. 132). One of Dennett's most famous arguments toward this conclusion appeals to the alleged empirical underdetermination of theory-choice between "Stalinesque" and "Orwellian" explanations of certain temporal anomalies of conscious experience (pp. 115-126). The explanations conflict over whether the anomalies are due to misrepresentations in memories of experiences (Orwellian) or misrepresentations in the experiences themselves (Stalinesque). David Rosenthal (1995, 2005a, 2005b) has offered that his Higher-order Thought theory of consciousness (hereafter, "HOT theory") can serve as a basis for distinguishing between Orwellian and Stalinesque hypotheses and thus as a basis for resisting first-person operationalism (hereafter, "FPO"). The gist of HOT theory is that one's having a conscious mental state consists in one having a higher-order thought (a HOT) about that mental state. (Such a HOT must also not be apparently arrived at via a conscious inference, but this further constriction on the HOTs that matter for consciousness is of little importance to the present paper.) I'll argue that HOT theory can defend against FPO only on a "relational reading" of HOT theory whereby consciousness consists in a relation between a HOT and an actually-existing mental state. I’ll argue further that this relational reading leaves HOT theory vulnerable to objections such as the Unicorn Argument (Mandik, 2009). To defend against such objections, HOT theory must instead admit of a "nonrelational reading" whereby a HOT alone suffices for a conscious state. Indeed, HOT theorists have been increasingly explicit in emphasizing this nonrelational reading(Rosenthal, 2011)(Weisberg, 2011)(Weisberg, 2010). However, I’ll argue, on this reading HOT theory collapses into a version of FPO.
Mental Colors, Conceptual Overlap, and Discriminating Knowledge of Particulars. (2012). Consciousness and Cognition.21(2), 641–643. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2011.06.007
I respond to the separate commentaries by Jacob Berger, Charlie Pelling, and David Pereplyotchik on my paper, "Color-Consciousness Conceptualism." I resist Berger's suggestion that mental colors ever enter consciousness without accompaniment by deployments of concepts of their extra-mental counterparts. I express concerns about Pelling's proposal that a more uniform conceptualist treatment of phenomenal sorites can be gained by a simple appeal to the partial overlap of the extensions of some concepts. I question the relevance to perceptual consciousness of the arguments for demonstrative concepts that Pereplyotchik attacks.
Color-Consciousness Conceptualism.(2012). Consciousness and Cognition, 21(2), 617–631. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2010.11.010
The goal of the present paper is to defend against a certain line of attack the view that conscious experience of color is no more fine-grained that the repertoire of non- demonstrative concepts that a perceiver is able to bring to bear in perception. The line of attack in question is an alleged empirical argument - the Diachronic Indistinguishability Argument (DIA) - based on pairs of colors so similar that they can be discriminated when simultaneously presented but not when presented across a memory delay. My aim here is to show that this argument fails.
Behaviorism, Philosophical Conceptions of. (in press) Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Social Sciences. In: Kaldis, B. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Social Sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.