First-Order Representational theories of consciousness â€” FORs â€” are most directly concerned to explain qualia AKA phenomenal properties (and explain phenomena such as state consciousness only indirectly). Tye (1995, 2000) and Dretske (1995) embrace the wide-spread view that phenomenal properties are those properties in virtue of which there is something it is like to have conscious states. Central to FORs is their further embrace of the transparency thesis.
(TRANSPARENCY): When one has a conscious experience all one is conscious of is what the experience is an experience of.
Tye and Dretske interpret â€œconscious ofâ€ as indicative of representation: being conscious of something involves mentally representing something. Thus, according to FOR, the properties determinative of what it is like to be in an experiential state are the properties represented by the state. When experiences are veridical, the properties determinative of what itâ€™s like just are the properties of the objects as they are correctly perceptually represented (Tye 2000 pp 46-47, 51; Dretske 1995, pp 73, 83-84). So, for example, as Dretske puts it:
[Q]ualia are supposed to be the way things seem or appear in the sense modality in question. So, for example, if a tomato looks red and round to S, then redness and roundness are the qualia of Sâ€™s visual experience of the tomato. If this is so, then â€¦ if things ever are the way they seem, it follows that qualia, the properties that define what it is like to have that experience, are exactly the properties the object being perceived has when the perception is veridical. pp. 83-84
Thus are qualia a certain kind of â€œrepresented properties,â€ (Dretske 1995, p. 73) that is, qualia are defined as â€œphenomenal propertiesâ€”those properties thatâ€¦an object is sensually representedâ€¦as havingâ€ (Dretske 1995, p. 73) and as properties not of the experience itself.
Regarding this latter point, that phenomenal properties are not properties of experiences, Tye writes:
Visual phenomenal qualities or visual qualia are supposedly qualities of which the subjects of visual experiences are directly aware via introspection. Tradition has it that these qualities are qualities of the experiences. Tradition is wrong. There are no such qualities of experiences. (2005, p. 49. Emphasis in original.)
What FORs are a theories of, then, is the second-order property of being phenomenal. What distinguishes phenomenal properties from non-phenomenal properties is that only phenomenal properties are represented in a certain way. A ripe tomato has lots of properties, but when one of them gets represented in a certain way, it goes from being a mere property to being a phenomenal property. When I correctly represent in experience the redness of a red tomato, the property determining what it is like to have this experience is a property of the tomatoâ€”the rednessâ€”and it (the redness) takes on the second-order property of being phenomenal by being represented in a certain way. More precisely, for FORs, being phenomenal just is the property of being represented in a certain way.
Dretske, F. 1995. Naturalizing the Mind, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
Tye, M. 1995. Ten Problems of Consciousness: A Representational Theory of the Phenomenal Mind, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
Tye, M. 2000. Consciousness, Color, and Content, Cambridge MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.