Visual Agnosia and Higher-Order Thought Theory

Document Type: 
ASSC Conference Item
Article Type: 
Theoretical
Disciplines: 
Philosophy
Topics: 
Theory of Consciousness
Keywords: 
visual agnosia, associative agnosia, HOT theory, misrepresentation, consciousness, mental state
Deposited by: 
ASSC Eprints chair
Date of Issue: 
2007
Authors: 
Rocco J. Gennaro
Event Dates: 
22-25 Jun 2007
Event Location: 
Las Vegas, USA
Event Title: 
11th annual meeting of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness
Event Type: 
ASSC Conference
Presentation Type: 
Speech
Abstract: 
The higher-order thought (HOT) theory of consciousness says that what makes a mental state conscious is the presence of a HOT directed at the mental state. One way to characterize HOT theory is that some kind of higher-order conceptual activity must be directed at passively received sensory input in order to produce a conscious state. The case of visual agnosia seems to be odds with such a characterization. More specifically, HOT theory would seem to have difficulty accounting for 'associative' visual agnosia, i.e. cases where visual perception seems adequate to allow for recognition, and yet no object recognition takes place. Thus, it seems possible to have conscious experience in the absence of higher-order conceptual representation. I will first argue that HOT theory is indeed consistent with associative agnosia. Secondly, I explain a related objection to HOT theory; namely, how (if at all) it can account for the possibility of misrepresentation between the HOT and the lower-order (world-directed) state. I argue that associative agnosia can be seen as an unusual kind of misrepresentation between a HOT and a lower-order state, but in a way that leaves HOT theory undamaged and sheds light on associative agnosia.
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