Cognitive Science

Overview of the David Rosenthal’s Higher-Order-Theory (HOT Theory)

When the word HOT theory or Higher-Order-Theory is mentioned, the question that comes to the mind of a learner is: What could be the meaning of HOT theory or what does higher-order-theory means in actual sense? For the sake of those who might not have come across this theory, HOT theory or what is also known as Higher-Order-Theory in the perspective of David Rosenthal, is described in various ways as indicated herein: There is no mental condition that is conscious if one is not aware of that condition.
Thus, a mental condition or state is considered conscious only if one is aware of the himself/herself as being in that condition. David also adds that human beings are aware of mental conditions that are conscious just by having ideas that one is in that condition. In the perspective of David, the higher order-thoughts are rare of conscious thoughts; they are different from states they are about. The standard procedure applied to differentiate mental consciousness in daily psychologies involves a differentiation made in the context that an individual is in a position to report his/her mental condition. However, David adds that humans cannot report mental conditions that are not conscious in nature. Another important issue that should be noted in the higher-order-thought is that higher-order-thoughts accompany mental conditions, hence enabling one to make mental condition reports. Humans do not have higher-order knowledge of mental conditions and thus are not conscious, hence cannot report their mental states.

What are the Basic Tenets of David Rosenthal’s Theory?

So what exactly are the tenets or the basic components of David Rosenthal’s Higher-Order-Theory? I am confident that many people, interested in learning various aspects of this theory may want to determine what exactly makes this theory. That is, what are the basic tenets of this theory? To begin with, Rosenthal’s theory is based in three major tenets. These tenets are the first order experience, second/higher-order-thought and the third order-thought. Rosenthal believes that these three tenets are what enable an individual to express his mental conditions or mental state, without necessarily having to report them. These tenets make the Higher-Order-theory a unique aspect of theory owing to the fact that: The conscious mental condition of a person entails that the person has thoughts or sensation about his mental state. In this regard, the conscious state is usually accompanied by series of rough simultaneous higher-order-thoughts concerning a specific mental condition. That is, the consciousness mental condition of a person is introspectively complemented by a second level higher-order-thought. That is, the unconscious state of the mind is complemented by the conscious mental state, which is also complemented by the introspective conscious condition. An example of the unconscious state occurs when is not aware of his state of mind, hence cannot make sense of any information. In relation to the conscious state, or what David refers to second level higher-order-thought, one is a position to determine his state of mind, but cannot make report of this state. The second level higher-order-thought is usually complemented by the introspective state where one is able to analyze and examine data, hence provide a report about it.

Positive Criticism of David’s Higher-Order-Theory

Many philosophers and scholars who support David’s higher-order-theory hold the view that consciousness can be explained by the relationship between two main levels of mental conditions, whereby the higher-order mental condition assumes another mental condition. This aspect may occur through sensation or thought. This may occur in situations such as; a person using a computer acquires the sensation of the black and white color of his/her computer. Such aspects of sensations are usually considered conscious by virtue of higher-order-theories, basically because an individual has a higher order state concerning such sensations.

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Supporters of David’s higher-order-theory have also applied the concept of two distinctions that are important in the differentiation of consciousness among creatures. The first distinction may be made among creatures using conditional consciousness as well as introspective consciousness. The second distinction is usually referred as transitive as it entails a consideration of an object; that is distinction made on the basis of binary relationship between elements for instance such that if a situation applies is i.e. A where A is considered wider than B and B is wider than C, the A is automatically wider than C.

Negative Critics/ Criticism

As learners, it is important that we explore various arguments concerning theories that have been proposed by many researchers. That is, a consideration of both the positive perspectives as well as opposing perspectives. This is a crucial part of learning; it increases our knowledge, by enhancing our understanding of the reasons why people have different perspectives and their impacts on issues. Considering the case of David’s Higher-Order-Theory, there are two main critics that are known by their eloquence and fierceness in relation to expressing their critical views, coupled by application of evidence. The main two critics of this theory are:

Kati Balog: He is known for his fierce expression of ideas, and critical analysis on different issues. Apparently, Kati Balog has also made significant contributions in regard to enhancing the understanding of David Rosenthal’s theory and other crucial issues associated with it. In his view, David-s Higher-Order-Theory was presented in a wrong manner. He emphasizes that David was wrong to claim that his theory is self-evident by linking awareness of the state and consciousness. He also believes that David did not account for how individuals can access certain aspects of mental conditions and report through verbal channels. As such, this theory was characterized by limited explanation, that is, through the failure to define the phenomenal properties being indicated in the statements. In this aspect, Kati Balog believes that David Rosenthal was wrong by terming or calling this theory a theory of access consciousness, as he should have named it phenomenal consciousness theory. Another major weakness exhibited in this theory according to Kati Balog is that it appears to have shown that there is a likelihood of inaccessible mental conditions, despite the fact that there is simultaneous occurrence of awareness and consciousness. On this account, Kati Balog believes that the Higher-Order-Theory does not appear to highlight how the access to consciousness is achieved. Lastly, he believes that the explanation provided by Rosenthal is not satisfactory in nature in a field that is characterized by persuading theorists and metaphysical aspects of argument.

Papineau: He has also provided his views on David’s Higher-Order Theory. He asserts that this theory has propagated a false dilemma among learners, due to the manner through, which it is over-simplified. Papineau also argues that David presented his theory in an ambiguous manner. The false dilemma created by this theory according to Papineau is based on the fact that the status of experience relies on judgments made later or the later higher-level order memory. That is, one mental state depends on the next level mental state to make judgments. Papineau also argues that David’s higher-order-theory is a type of theory that causes a threat to backwards causation of consciousness; that is a consciousness that relies on a later judgment from higher-order-thoughts. He explains that this backwards causation occurs as a result of the denial of phenomenally experienced states/conditions.

What are the Insights/Lessons that we can learn from this theory?

I hope all of us are aware of the fact that theories are meant to improve our insights and widen our scope of reasoning. From David’s theory, there are various lessons that we can learn. To begin with, this theory, through the three main tenets of consciousness, enables us to understand that reasoning process occurs through states. The first state is characterized by unconscious nature of the mind that is usually complemented by a higher-order thought, the conscious state of the mind, which is also ultimately complemented by the introspective state of the mind.

The other lesson that we can learn from this theory is that the nature of state of consciousness between animas and human beings are different. Animals or what David refers as creatures make judgment through conditional consciousness, while reasoning and reporting among humans is made through what is referred as transitive consciousness as it is usually based in an object. In summary, there are various issues that emerge from an analysis of David’s theory on a similar basis like any other theory. The first issue is that this theory is made of three main tenets, the introspective, higher-order thought and the unconscious state. This theory has also been a subject to both positive and negative aspects of criticism, although there are no discussions from David indicating his counter-arguments in relation to negative critics. The theory is also an indication of how scholars have an understanding of various issues ascribed to psychological facets.

We can also learn that some critics have provided proof that there is neural evidence that has led to the realization of higher-order-theory enabling individuals to be aware of their mental conditions. This awareness is deemed necessary for making mental conditions report, however, there are alternatives that provide suggestions which dispute the necessity of metal awareness. These critics have emphasized that there is a significant difference between other theories of the brain and Rosenthal’s theory. This is mainly due to the fact that Rosenthal method does not indicate empirical commitment to the philosophical approaches consciousness theory for instance: It cannot provide explanations how an individual can have dreams and fails to explain the dream a few hours later.