The empirical case against introspection
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This paper assesses five main empirical scientific arguments against the reliability of belief formation on the basis of introspecting phenomenal states. After defining ‘reliability’ and ‘introspection’, I discuss five arguments to the effect that phenomenal states are more elusive than we usually think: (1) the argument on the basis of differences in introspective reports from differences in introspective measurements; (2) the argument from differences in reports about whether or not dreams come in colours; (3) the argument from the absence of a correlation between visual imagery ability and the performance on certain cognitive tasks; (4) the argument from our unawareness of our capacity of echolocation; (5) the argument from inattentional blindness and change blindness. I argue that the experiments on which these arguments are based do not concern belief formation on the basis of introspection in the first place or fail to show that it is unreliable, even when limited to introspection of phenomenal states.
KeywordsBelief formation Introspection Phenomenal states Reliability
For their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper, I would like to thank Lieke Asma, Leon de Bruin, Jeroen de Ridder, Geertjan Holtrop, Naomi Kloosterboer, Kelvin McQueen, Emanuel Rutten, Eric Schwitzgebel, Robin Scott, Hans van Eyghen, and René van Woudenberg. Publication of this article was made possible through the support of a grant from Templeton World Charity Foundation. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Templeton World Charity Foundation.
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