Consciousness, Higher-Order Thoughts, and the Brain

Rocco J. Gennaro

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A theory of consciousness which has garnered attention from both scientists and philosophers in recent years is the “higher-order thought” (HOT) theory of consciousness, which says that what makes a mental state conscious is a suitable higher-order thought directed at the mental state (Rosenthal, 2002, 2005; Gennaro, 2004, 2012).  By this view, higher-order thoughts (HOTs) are meta-psychological or meta-cognitive states, that is, mental states directed at other mental states.  The HOT theory of consciousness is not a reductionist theory, in the sense that conscious states are reduced directly to neurophysiological states, but rather it describes a mentalistic reduction, in the sense that conscious states are explained in terms of unconscious awareness, thoughts, and the like.  Nonetheless, HOT theorists also tend to agree that a second step reduction in neural-level terms is desirable, and some have already made significant gestures in this direction (e.g., Gennaro, 2012)….

Cite this article:

Gennaro, R. (2013). Consciousness, higher-order thoughts and the brain. The Neuropsychotherapist, 2, 126-127. doi: 10.12744/tnpt(2)126-127