Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Dennett on Mandik on Dennett and Rosenthal

Out now is Content and Consciousness Revisited: With Replies by Daniel Dennett edited by Carlos Munoz-Suarez and Felipe De Brigard. My chapter in the book is "Conscious-state Anti-realism." Dennett's reply to my chapter is on pp. 218-219, viewable below as well as at this link containing all of his replies.

Here's an excerpt from my chapter:
Dennett’s most famous argument for his first-person operationalism (hereafter, FPO) proceeds by pointing out the alleged empirical underdetermination of theory-choice between “Stalinesque” and “Orwellian” explanations of certain temporal anomalies of conscious experience (Dennett, op. cit., 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 FPO. The gist of HOT theory is that one’s having a conscious mental state consists in one’s having a higher-order thought (a HOT) about that mental state.
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 of HOT theory (Rosenthal, 2011; Weisberg, 2010 and 2011). However, I’ll argue, on this reading HOT theory collapses into a version of FPO.
Here's Dennett's reply (click image for larger image or click here):

Here's a video synopsis from back when my project was a contribution in Consciousness Online 4 (2012):



And as a video bonus, here's my rundown of Dennett's theory of consciousness: