The empirical case against introspection
- 491 Downloads
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.
- Bode, B. H. (1913). The method of introspection. Journal of Philosophy, 10(4), 85–91.Google Scholar
- Chalmers, D. J. (2003). The content and epistemology of phenomenal belief. In Q. Smith & A. Jokic (Eds.), Consciousness: New philosophical perspectives (pp. 220–272). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Dennett, D. C. (1969). Content and consciousness. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Dennett, D. C. (1991). Consciousness explained. London: The Penguin Press.Google Scholar
- Ericsson, K. A. (2003). Valid and non-reactive verbalization of thoughts during performance of tasks: Towards a solution to the central problems of introspection as a source of scientific data. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 10(9–10), 1–18.Google Scholar
- Gallagher, S. (2003). Phenomenology and experimental design: Toward a phenomenologically enlightened experimental science. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 10(9–10), 85–99.Google Scholar
- Grimes, J. (1996). On the failure to detect changes in scenes across saccades. In E. Akins (Ed.), Perception (pp. 89–110). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Jack, A. I., & Roepstorff, A. (2003). “Editorial introduction: Why trust the subject?”, Trusting the subject: The use of introspective evidence in cognitive science, Vol. 1, Journal of Consciousness Studies 10.9-10, v-xx.Google Scholar
- Lutz, A., & Thompson, E. (2003). Neurophenomenology: Integrating subjective experience and brain dynamics in the neuroscience of consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 10(9-10), 31–52.Google Scholar
- Marcel, A. J. (1993). Slippage in the unity of consciousness. In G. R. Block & J. Marsh (Eds.), Experimental and theoretical studies of consciousness (pp. 168–186). Chichester: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Marcel, A. J. (2003). Introspective report: Trust, self-knowledge and science. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 11(7-8), 167–186.Google Scholar
- McKelvie, S. J. (1995). The VVIQ and beyond: Vividness and its measurement. Journal of Mental Imagery, 19(3), 197–252.Google Scholar
- Noë, A. (2004). Action in perception. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Peels, R. (2016). A conceptual map of scientism. In J. Rik Peels & R. van Woudenberg (Eds.), Scientism: A philosophical exposition and evaluation. New York: Oxford University Press (Forthcoming).Google Scholar
- Price, H. H. (1954). Perception. London: Methuen.Google Scholar
- Rosenberg, A. (2011). The atheist's guide to reality: Enjoying life without illusions. New York: W.W. Norton. Google Scholar
- Schwitzgebel, E. (2010). “Introspection”, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/introspection/, first published February 2nd 2010; substantive revision September 4th 2010, last visited November 24th 2015.
- Schwitzgebel, E. (2011). Perplexities of consciousness. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar