, Volume 69, Issue 2, pp 243–259 | Cite as

Is There a Simple Argument for Higher-Order Representation Theories of Awareness Consciousness?

Original Article


William Lycan has articulated “a simple argument” for higher-order representation (HOR) theories of a variety of consciousness sometimes labeled ‘awareness consciousness’ (Lycan, Analysis 61.1, January 3–4, 2001). The purpose of this article is to critically assess the influential argument-strategy of the simple argument. I argue that, as stated, the simple argument fails since it is invalid. Moreover, I argue that an obvious “quick fix” would beg the question against competing same-order representation (SOR) theories of awareness consciousness. I then provide a reconstruction of the argument and argue that although the reconstructed argument deserves consideration, it is also too simple as stated. In particular, it raises several controversial questions about the nature of mental representation. These questions must be addressed before a verdict as to the cogency of the HOR argument-strategy can be reached. But since the questions are controversial, a cogent argument for HOR theories of awareness consciousness is unlikely to be simple.


Mental State Mental Representation Representation Theory Conscious State Simple Argument 



Thanks to Tyler Burge, Thomas Geisnæs, Oliver Kauffman, Uriah Kriegel, Robert Lurz, audiences at the PHIS Graduate Conference in 2003 and the UCLA Albritton Society in 2007. Thanks also to referees for Erkenntnis and The Monist. Special thanks to Julie Brummer. Dedicated to Ben Chan, Erica Gielow, Jen Nery and Collin O’Neil to whom the paper was presented in a hot-tub in Las Vegas in 2003. (Note-to-self for future hot-tub presentations: Laminate handouts!) The completion of the paper was supported by a Reichenbach Graduate Student Research Fellowship at UCLA (for which I am grateful to David Kaplan) and by The Danish Research Council for the Humanities.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagen SDenmark

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