Title: Theories of consciousness: beyond the first/higher-order distinction
Speaker: Jonathan Birch
London School of Economics
Theories of consciousness are commonly grouped into "first-order" and "higher-order" families. As conventional wisdom has it, many more animals are likely to be conscious if a first-order theory is correct. But two recent developments have put pressure on the first/higher-order distinction. One is the argument (from Shea and Frith) that an effective global workspace mechanism must involve a form of metacognition. The second is Lau's "perceptual reality monitoring" (PRM) theory, a member of the "higher-order" family in which conscious sensory content is not re-represented, only tagged with a temporal index and marked as reliable. I argue that the first/higher-order distinction has become so blurred that it is no longer particularly useful. Moreover, the conventional wisdom about animals should not be trusted. It could be, for example, that the distribution of PRM in the animal kingdom is wider than the distribution of global broadcasting.