Monday, February 5, 2024

Second-order awareness

Here is a plausible Cartesian thesis:

  1. There is a kind of second-order awareness of first-order conscious states that is never mistaken: whenever you have the awareness, then you have the first-order conscious state.

I don’t mean this to be true by packing factiveness into awareness.

But also plausibly:

  1. A veridical awareness of an event is caused by the event it is the awareness of.


  1. Causation always involves a time-delay.

Given (1)–(3), suppose that you are having the second-order awareness, which is being caused byt he first-order conscious states, and then suddenly the first-order conscious state ends. Since causation always involves a time-delay, it follows that the second-order awareness lags after the end of the first-order conscious state—that there is a time at which you have the second-order awareness even though the first-order conscious state has ended. And this contradicts (1).

I am inclined to deny (1).

But there are other paths out. One could deny (2) and say that in some cases, awareness is not caused but partly constituted by the event it is the awareness of. That’s how God’s awareness of the world has to work by divine simplicity. So the argument provides a tiny bit of evidence for that picture of divine awareness.

Or one might deny (3). Apart from some phenomena like collapse of entangled quantum states or a particle’s position causing a field at the precise position of the particle, which phenomena don’t seem relevant to the case at hand, the best way out here would be to deny naturalism, allowing that a non-physical first-order awareness could instantly cause a non-physical second-order awareness.

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