On ambitious higher-order theories of consciousness

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Ambitious Higher-order theories of consciousness–Higher-order theories that purport to give an account of phenomenal consciousness–face a well-known objection from the possibility of radical misrepresentation. Jonathan Farrell has recently added a new twist to an old worry: while higher-order theorists have the resources to respond to the misrepresentation objection, they do so at the expense of their ambitions. At best, they only account for phenomenal consciousness in the technical higher-order sense, not in the standard Nagelian sense. Building on the work of Berger and Brown, I contend that Farrell’s argument fails. The upshot is not only that radical misrepresentation presents no threat to the ambitiousness of higher-order theories, but also a deeper insight both into higher-order theories themselves, and what the standard Nagelian construal of phenomenal consciousness does, and does not, commit us to.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-441
Number of pages21
JournalPhilosophical Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2 2020


  • Higher-order theories of consciousness
  • misrepresentation
  • the transitivity principle
  • what it is like


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