A conscious state is a higher-order thought
A conscious state occurs when a thought is directed at a lower-level mental state. Self-consciousness occurs when a third-level thought is directed at the second-level thought.
For example, a state of happiness is a first level mental state, the thought "I am happy" is a second-level conscious mental state, and the thought "I'm thinking about being happy" is a third level conscious state.

David Rosenthal (1986).
Artificial Intelligence »Artificial Intelligence
Can computers think? [1] »Can computers think? [1]
No: computers can't be conscious [6] »No: computers can't be conscious [6]
Higher-order representational structures »Higher-order representational structures
A conscious state is a higher-order thought
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