The Problem of the Rock and the Grammar of Consciousness

Open access

Abstract

The “Problem of the Rock” (PoR) is a famous objection to Higher-Order (HO) theories of consciousness. According to PoR, the HO theorists’ claim that a mental state is conscious iff there is a higher-order mental state about it implies that a rock is also conscious iff there is a higher-order mental state about it. In this paper I show that this argument confuses two grammatically distinct attributions of consciousness, and that if the consequent equivocation fallacy is avoided, PoR is either a straw man argument or has an unproblematic conclusion.

Byrne, Alex. 1997. Some like it HOT: consciousness and higher-order thoughts. Philosophical Studies 86(2): 103–29.

Gennaro, Rocco. 2005. The HOT theory of consciousness: between a rock and a hard place? Journal of Consciousness Studies 12(2): 3–21.

Goldman, Alvin. 1993. Consciousness, folk psychology, and cognitive science. Consciousness and Cognition 2: 364–82.

Rosenthal, David. 1997. A theory of consciousness. In The Nature of Consciousness: Philosophical Debates. Edited by Ned Block, Owen Flanagan and Güven Güzeldere. Cambridge: Bradford. 729–53.

Stubenberg, Leopold. 1998. Consciousness and Qualia. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Van Gulick, Robert. 2000. Inward and upward: reflection, introspection, and self-awareness. Philosophical Topics 28: 275–305.