CONSCIOUSNESS: ESSAYS FROM A HIGHER-ORDER PERSPECTIVE
Peter Carruthers’s essays on consciousness and related issues have had a substantial impact on the field, and many of his best are now collected here in revised form. The first half of the volume is devoted to developing, elaborating, and defending against competitors one particular sort of reductive explanation of phenomenal consciousness, which Carruthers now refers to as ‘dual-content theory’. Phenomenal consciousness – the feel of experience – is supposed to constitute the ‘hard problem’ for a scientific world view, and many have claimed that it is an irredeemable mystery. But Carruthers here claims to have explained it. He argues that phenomenally conscious states are ones that possess both an ‘analog’ (fine-grained) intentional content and a corresponding higher-order analog content, representing the first-order content of the experience. It is the higher-order analog content that enables our phenomenally conscious experiences to present themselves to us, and that constitutes their distinctive subjective aspect, or feel.
The next two chapters explore some of the differences between conscious experience and conscious thought, and argue for the plausibility of some kind of eliminativism about conscious thinking (while retaining realism about phenomenal consciousness). Then the final four chapters focus on the minds of non-human animals. Carruthers argues that even if the experiences of animals aren’t phenomenally conscious (as his account probably implies), this needn’t prevent the frustrations and sufferings of animals from being appropriate objects of sympathy and concern. Nor need it mean that there is any sort of radical ‘Cartesian divide’ between our minds and theirs of deep significance for comparative psychology. In the final chapter, he argues provocatively that even insects have minds that include a belief / desire / perception psychology much like our own. So mindedness and phenomenal consciousness couldn’t be further apart.
Carruthers’ writing throughout is distinctively clear and direct. The collection will be of great interest to anyone working in philosophy of mind or cognitive science.
Peter Carruthers is
Professor of Philosophy at the
EXCERPTS FROM REVIEWS
“[The essays in this collection] are carefully worked out, clearly written, subtle, formidably well informed, and rich in interesting arguments and speculations. Their philosophical interest is enhanced by the impressive system of defenses that Carruthers has evolved against objections to his often counter-intuitive views. ... it is clear that these radically revisionary essays make a very significant contribution to the philosophy of mind.”
Robert Kirk, review in Mind
“This is a fine and important collection” … “this is a very important volume that is rich in interdisciplinary discussion and packed with thought provoking arguments. It is a must-read for anyone interested in philosophy of mind and consciousness research. Even when one disagrees with Carruthers, there is much to learn from his writings.”
Rocco Gennaro, review in Psyche
“The book is written in a clear and rigorous manner...it is worth reading for anyone who wishes to understand current philosophical debates on the nature of consciousness; in particular, to see Carruthers' own theory laid out on the map of theories of consciousness.”
Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
List of figures
2 Reductive explanation and the ‘explanatory gap’.
3 Natural theories of consciousness.
4 HOP over FOR, HOT theory.
5 Phenomenal concepts and higher-order experiences.
6 Dual-content theory: the explanatory advantages.
7 Conscious thinking: language or elimination?
8 Conscious experience versus conscious thought.
9 Sympathy and subjectivity.
10 Suffering without subjectivity.
11 Why the question of animal consciousness might not matter very much.
12 On being simple minded.