The Consciousness Paradox

From Representation and Mind series

The Consciousness Paradox

Consciousness, Concepts, and Higher-Order Thoughts

By Rocco J. Gennaro

A defense of a version of the higher-order thought (HOT) theory of consciousness with special attention to such topics as concepts and animal consciousness.

Bradford Books





A defense of a version of the higher-order thought (HOT) theory of consciousness with special attention to such topics as concepts and animal consciousness.

Consciousness is arguably the most important area within contemporary philosophy of mind and perhaps the most puzzling aspect of the world. Despite an explosion of research from philosophers, psychologists, and scientists, attempts to explain consciousness in neurophysiological, or even cognitive, terms are often met with great resistance. In The Consciousness Paradox, Rocco Gennaro aims to solve an underlying paradox, namely, how it is possible to hold a number of seemingly inconsistent views, including higher-order thought (HOT) theory, conceptualism, infant and animal consciousness, concept acquisition, and what he calls the HOT-brain thesis. He defends and further develops a metapsychological reductive representational theory of consciousness and applies it to several importantly related problems. Gennaro proposes a version of the HOT theory of consciousness that he calls the "wide intrinsicality view" and shows why it is superior to various alternatives, such as self-representationalism and first-order representationalism. HOT theory says that what makes a mental state conscious is that a suitable higher-order thought is directed at that mental state.

Thus Gennaro argues for an overall philosophical theory of consciousness while applying it to other significant issues not usually addressed in the philosophical literature on consciousness. Most cognitive science and empirical works on such topics as concepts and animal consciousness do not address central philosophical theories of consciousness. Gennaro's integration of empirical and philosophical concerns will make his argument of interest to both philosophers and nonphilosophers.

Bradford Books imprint


$45.00 X ISBN: 9780262016605 388 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 8 b&w illus.


  • With comprehensive argumentation throughout, this book is an important addition to the literature on higher order theories of consciousness.



  • Simply put,The Consciousness Paradox offers the best contemporary defense of the higher-order thought (HOT) theory of consciousness to date. With his distinctive clear style and rigorous argumentation, Gennaro deftly demonstrates how his own unique HOT theory presents the best hope of solving the apparent paradox of consciousness. Richly argued and empirically well informed on issues ranging from animal and infant metacognition to the most recent findings in neuroscience, The Consciousness Paradox is an absolute most-read for any serious philosopher or researcher interested in the discovering the truth about the nature and distribution of consciousness.

    Robert W. Lurz

    Professor of Philosophy, Brooklyn College, CUNY, and author of Mindreading Animals

  • Rocco Gennaro develops and ramifies his distinctive 'wide intrinsicality view' to excellent effect, defends it against the toughest objections, and rebuts his closest competitors. Further, he provides a novel argument for conceptualism regarding perceptual content and relates it to recent work in cognitive and brain science—on concept acquisition, animal cognition, autism, NCCs, and the binding problem.

    William G. Lycan

    University of North Carolina

  • The Consciousness Paradox is an engaging and provocative book! As is widely recognized, there is a form of consciousness that mental states have when their subjects are directly and non-inferentially aware of them. Rocco Gennaro develops a distinctive and appealing account of this form of consciousness and maintains that all other forms, including the elusive phenomenal consciousness, are reducible to it without remainder. Gennaro's arguments also throw light on a range of important topics, including the grain of conscious experience, the nature of concepts, infant consciousness, and animal consciousness.

    Christopher Hill

    Department of Philosophy, Brown University