More Contents, Vehicles, and Transitive Consciousness




Treehead Series - Inheritance

Originally uploaded by redhousepainter

All representations have contents. Even representations of things that don’t exist are meaningfully described as “representations of something”. But not all representations are representations of themselves. Compare, for instance, the sentences “The cat is on the mat” and “This sentence has seven words in it”. Compare also, the thought that “Cherries grow on trees” and “I like thinking about thinking”.

While there may be a sense in which a representation ‘s content is a property of the representation, representing the content doesn’t suffice for representing the representation. All representations represent their contents, since their contents just are what they represent. But not all representations are representations of themselves. So whatever does suffice for representing a representation, it cannot simply be representing its content. If all properties of representations that aren’t content properties are vehicular properties, then whatever does suffice for representing a representation, it must include representing its vehicular properties.

States in which we are conscious of something bear sufficient similarities to representation to warrant postulating that such states are implemented by mental representations. What’s postulated, then, is that being conscious of something is just a certain kind of mentally representing something –that the content of consciousness just is a kind of representational content. It won’t follow from this implementation story without further argument, though, that all states in which we are conscious of something are automatically states in virtue of which we are conscious of those states. Nor will it follow without further argument that simply by being conscious of the state’s content are we thereby conscious of the state itself.

2 Responses to “More Contents, Vehicles, and Transitive Consciousness”

  1. All representations represent their contents, since their contents just are what they represent. But not all representations are representations of themselves. So whatever does suffice for representing a representation, it cannot simply be representing its content.

    There is an ambiguity here. In one sense the representation represents some object out there in the world. It does so via having some representational (i.e. intentional) content. Does the representation also represent its intentional content? Perhaps we can talk thi way but it does not do so in the way that the state represents the object (say the leafy tree). So Lurz is talking about this way of representing the content, the way in which the content is about the tree. A conscious state occurs (for him) when I am conscious of the content of my first-order state in the way that I am conscious of the tree.

  2. Pete Mandik says:

    I don’t know what it is that you are trying to say here. But Lurz says “It is the intentional-content sense of the phrase, “what one thinks or experiences,” that I use when speaking of a creature being conscious of what it thinks or experiences. ”

    Now, do representations represent their intentional contents? Lurz agrees with me that they do. He writes:

    The phrase, “what the painting represents,” is ambiguous. It could be taken to refer to the actual object (person, place, or thing) the painting is based on or to (what philosophers call) the intentional content of the painting. Three identical-looking paintings by different artists, for example, may each depict a woman seated before an open window, and yet it may be that neither of the paintings is based on the same woman: two of the artists, we may suppose, had different women modeling for them, and one artist simply created his painting from his imagination. So, in one sense of the phrase “what the painting represents,” the intentional-content sense, what these three paintings represent is the same: a woman seated by an open window.

    What the paintings represent is, in the intentional content sense, a woman seated by an open window. The intentional content of the paintings is a woman seated by an open window. Therefore, in the intentional content sense of “represent”, what these painings represent is their intentional contents.