David Rosenthal

David Rosenthal
CUNY Graduate Center | CUNY · Program in Philosophy, Program in Cognitive Neuroscience, Interdisciplinary Concentration in Cognitive Science

Ph.D.

About

84
Publications
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3,489
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November 2017 - November 2025
CUNY Graduate Center
Position
  • Professor

Publications

Publications (84)
Article
I raise concerns about Doerig et al.’s general project, about three of their criteria, and about their treatment of higher-order-thought theory.
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Presentation about Jerry Fodor's representationalist theory of consciousness.
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Scientific research on consciousness is critical to multiple scientific, clinical, and ethical issues. The growth of the field could also be beneficial to several areas including neurology and mental health research. To achieve this goal, we need to set funding priorities carefully and address problems such as job creation and potential media misre...
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There is strong reason to doubt that the intuitions Chalmers' meta-problem focuses on are widespread or independent of proto-theoretical prompting. So it's unlikely that they result from factors connected to the nature of consciousness. In any case, it's only the accuracy of the problem intuitions that matters for evaluating theories of consciousne...
Preprint
How do we explain the seemingly rich nature of visual phenomenology while accounting for impoverished perception in the periphery? This apparent mismatch has led some to posit that rich phenomenological content overflows cognitive access, whereas others hold that phenomenology is in fact sparse and constrained by cognitive access. Here, we review t...
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I defend a version of content holism that relies on inferential dispositions that hold among intentional states, along with relations such states have to perceptions and volitions. I argue that this theory can explain referential content, but an exclusively referential theory cannot explain the content properties that hold among various thoughts. I...
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Dennett's account of consciousness starts from third-person considerations. I argue this is wise, since beginning with first-person access precludes accommodating the third-person access we have to others' mental states. But Dennett's first-person operationalism, which seeks to save the first person in third-person, operationalist terms, denies the...
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It is natural to see conscious perceptions as typically bringing with them a degree of confidence about what is perceived. So one might also expect such confidence not to occur if a perception is not conscious. This has resulted in the use of confidence as a test or measure of consciousness, one that may be more reliable and fine-grained than the t...
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I begin by discussing an objection often lodged against higher-order theories of consciousness. The objection is that those theories do not preclude consciousness from misrepresenting the mental properties of our conscious states. I argue that there are several reasons why this objection cannot succeed. Sam Coleman (2018) agrees that the objection...
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Mary is shown something and told it’s red, and she says, “This is what it’s like to see red.” On Jackson’s (1986) knowledge argument, what she says expresses factual knowledge that the experience is a case of seeing red. In addition, Jackson argues, Mary could not have had that factual knowledge before first seeing something red; though Mary’s book...
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A recent fMRI study by Webb et al. (Cortical networks involved in visual awareness independent of visual attention, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2016;113:13923–28) proposes a new method for finding the neural correlates of awareness by matching atten- tion across awareness conditions. The experimental design, however, seems at odds with known features...
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Mary is shown something and told it's red, and she says, " This is what it's like to see red. " On Jackson's (1986) knowledge argument, what she says expresses factual knowledge that the experience is a case of seeing red. In addition, Jackson argues, Mary could not have had that factual knowledge before first seeing something red; though Mary's bo...
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Fifty years ago, Kornhuber and Deecke first reported their discovery of the Bereitschaftspotential [1], or cortical ‘readiness potential’ (RP) (see Glossary), a slow build-up of scalp electrical potential preceding the onset of subjectively spontaneous voluntary movements (SVMs). The RP was interpreted as ‘the electro-physiological sign of planning...
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The term 'consciousness' is used in several ways: to describe a person or other creature as being awake and sentient, to describe a person or other creature as being 'aware of' something, and to refer to a property of mental states, such as perceiving, feeling, and thinking, that distinguishes those states from unconscious mental states. Distinguis...
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Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman once remarked that engaging the public about economic theories is hard, partly because everybody feels they are entitled to opine about the economy even if they have no formal training in economics (see: http://web.mit.edu/krugman/www/virus.html). Perhaps because we are all conscious, the same sometimes happens in the fi...
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Quality-space theory (QST) explains the nature of the mental qualities distinctive of perceptual states by appeal to their role in perceiving. QST is typically described in terms of the mental qualities that pertain to color. Here we apply QST to the olfactory modalities. Olfaction is in various respects more complex than vision, and so provides a...
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Conscious mental states are states we are in some way aware of. I compare higher-order theories of consciousness, which explain consciousness by appeal to such higher-order awareness (HOA), and first-order theories, which do not, and I argue that higher-order theories have substantial explanatory advantages. The higher-order nature of our awareness...
Article
Guidelines for submitting commentsPolicy: Comments that contribute to the discussion of the article will be posted within approximately three business days. We do not accept anonymous comments. Please include your email address; the address will not be displayed in the posted comment. Cell Press Editors will screen the comments to ensure that they...
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Higher-order theories of consciousness argue that conscious awareness crucially depends on higher-order mental representations that represent oneself as being in particular mental states. These theories have featured prominently in recent debates on conscious awareness. We provide new leverage on these debates by reviewing the empirical evidence in...
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Self-awareness and the self It is a crucial aspect of everyday mental functioning that we are in some way aware of ourselves. But it is far from clear at first sight just what this self-awareness consists in, and indeed just what the self is that we are aware of. It is possible to give an answer to the second question that is mundane and unproblema...
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Remarks such as ‘I am in pain’ and ‘I think that it’s raining’ are puzzling, since they seem to literally describe oneself as being in pain or having a particular thought, but their conditions of use tend to coincide with unequivocal expressions of pain or of that thought. This led Wittgenstein, among others, to treat such remarks as expressing, ra...
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There are several phenomena that constitute what we call consciousness, each of which gives rise to special problems and puzzles. One is the condition people and other creatures are in when they are conscious, as against when they are, for example, asleep, knocked out, or anaesthetized. And there is the related question about what distinguishes peo...
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Comments on the article by T. Natsoulas (see record 1994-00496-001) on appendage theory, in which he distinguishes 3 strategies for explaining what it is for mental states (MTSs) to be conscious. It is shown that the differences among those strategies are due to the divergent answers they give to 2 questions concerning what it is for a MTS to be c...
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Thought and speech are intimately connected, in ways that make the study of each shed light on the other. But the nature of that connection, and of the illumination it casts, are vexed issues that are the subject of considerable controversy.
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It is plain that an individual's being conscious and an individual's being conscious of various things are both crucial for successful functioning. But it is far less clear how, if at all, it is also useful for a person's psychological states to occur consciously, as against those states occurring but without being conscious. Restricting attention...
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I argue that the partial-report results Block cites do not establish that phenomenology overflows cognitive accessibility, as Block maintains. So, without additional argument, the mesh he sees between psychology and neuroscience is unsupported. I argue further that there is reason to hold, contra Block, that phenomenology does always involve some c...
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Recent writing on consciousness has increasingly stressed ways in which the terms ‘conscious’ and ‘consciousness’ apply to more than one phenomenon. And it is often urged that failing to observe distinctions between these different phenomena results in fallacious argument and theoretical confusion. Perhaps the most widely discussed current example...
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The higher-order-thought hypothesis is a proposed explanation of what it is for a mental state to be a conscious state and hence of how conscious mental states differ from mental states that are not conscious.
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When one expresses a thought in speech, that thought is always conscious, though a thought may remain unconscious even if it's expressed by one's nonverbal behavior. This has led many to posit a close but unexplained tie between consciousness and speech. I explain the consciousness of verbally expressed thoughts as due not to a tie between consciou...
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The so-called unity of consciousness consists in the compelling sense we have that all our conscious mental states belong to a single conscious subject. Elsewhere I have argued that a mental state's being conscious is a matter of our being conscious of that state by having a higher-order thought (HOT) about it. Contrary to what is sometimes argued,...
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Ned Block's influential distinction between phenomenal and access consciousness has become a staple of current discussions of consciousness. It is not often noted, however, that his distinction tacitly embodies unargued theoretical assumptions that favor some theoretical treatments at the expense of others. This is equally so for his less widely di...
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Striking experimental results by Benjamin Libet and colleagues have had an impor-tant impact on much recent discussion of consciousness. Some investigators havesought to replicate or extend Libet’s results (Haggard, 1999; Haggard & Eimer, 1999;Haggard, Newman, & Magno, 1999; Trevena & Miller, 2002), while others havefocused on how to interpret thos...
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Because metacognition consists in our having mental access to our cognitive states and mental states are conscious only when we are conscious of them in some suitable way, metacognition and consciousness shed important theoretical light on one another. Thus, our having metacognitive access to information carried by states that are not conscious hel...
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Let me begin by expressing my gratitude to Kati Balog, Thomas Nelson, and Georges Rey for their thoughtful comments. It has been a pleasure reading and responding to their careful and provocative challenges, Because there is a fair amount of overlap in the points by Balog and Rey, I will organize this response topically, referring specifically to e...
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When we see a tomato in standard circumstances, we see something red and round. According to common sense, the red, round thing we see is the tomato itself. When we have a hallucinatory vision of a tomato, however, there may be present to us no red and round physical object. Still, we use the words ‘red’ and ‘round’ to describe that situation as we...
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Even if A-consciousness and P-consciousness were conceptually distinct, it is no fallacy for researchers relying on a suitable theory to infer one from the other. But P-consciousness conceptually implies A-consciousness – unless one or the other is mere ersatz consciousness. And we can best explain mental states' being conscious, in any intuit...
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L'A. etablit un lien de parente entre le paradoxe de Moore et le cogito de Descartes, en ce qui concerne non pas leurs conditions de verite, mais leurs conditions d'assertion. De meme que je ne peux pas affirmer Il pleut, mais je ne le pense pas, je ne peux affirmer Je pense que je ne pense pas. Il s'agit donc de savoir si le paradoxe de Moore peut...
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Discusses 3 distinct phenomena referred to when speaking of consciousness: creature consciousness, transitive consciousness, and state consciousness. State consciousness, at least in humans, occurs in 2 distinct forms: introspective and nonintrospective. The familiar Cartesian thesis that mind and consciousness coincide fares quite differently depe...
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David Armstrong’s writings about the mind constitute a corpus of exceptional importance. Best known among these writings is his (1968), in which he articulates and defends a sophisticated version of mind-body materialism. This discussion, along with articles now happily collected in (1980), remains the most ambitious, comprehensive, and detailed tr...
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Few contemporary researchers in psychology, philosophy, and the cognitive sciences have any doubt about whether mental phenomena occur without being conscious. There is extensive and convincing clini-cal and experimental evidence for the existence of thoughts, desires, and related mental states that aren't conscious. We characterize thoughts, desir...

Projects

Projects (2)
Project
The goal is to establish, relying both on empirical and theoretical considerations, that qualitative states can occur without being conscious, and that consciousness is therefore not built into mental qualitative character. A broader goal is to establish that since mental states--qualitative, cognitive, and affective--can and do occur without being conscious, that relying on first-person access to mental states misleads about the mental nature of psychological states, that a consciousness-first approach to their m nature is misguided.
Project
Investigate whether there is any utility for a mental state to be conscious over and above the utility it would have it it occurred without being conscious. If there is little or none, investigate credible explanations of there being so many mental states that are conscious.