Longtime Brain Hammer readers, if any are left after the long hiatus, may recall the many past and heated discussions of my “Beware of the Unicorn: Consciousness as Being Represented and Other Things that Don’t Exist”. What was once a blog discussion is now an article. It’s forthcoming in Journal of Consciousness Studies. 16(1). [link to draft file].
Abstract: Higher-Order Representational theories of consciousness — HORs — primarily seek to explain a mental state’s being conscious in terms of the mental state’s being represented by another mental state. First-Order Representational theories of consciousness — FORs — primarily seek to explain a property’s being phenomenal in terms of the property being represented in experience. Despite differences in both explanans and explananda, HORs and FORs share a reliance on there being such a property as being represented. In this paper I develop an argument — the Unicorn Argument — against both HORs and FORs. The core of the Unicorn is that since there are mental representations of things that do not exist, there cannot be any such property as being represented, and thus no such property with which to identify either being conscious or being phenomenal.
Pete Mandik, Sick, 2006