Introspective disputes deflated: the case for phenomenal variation



Sceptics vis-à-vis introspection often base their scepticism on ‘phenomenological disputes’, ‘introspective disagreement’, or ‘introspective disputes’ (ID) (see Kriegel in Phenomenol Cogn Sci 6(1):115–136, 2007; Bayne and Spener in Philos Issues 20(1):1–22, 2010; Schwitzgebel in Perplexities of consciousness, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2011): introspectors massively diverge in their opinions about experiences, and there seems to be no method to resolve these issues. Sceptics take this to show that introspection lacks any epistemic merit. Here, I provide a list of paradigmatic examples, distill necessary and sufficient conditions for IDs, present the sceptical argument encouraged by IDs, and review the two main strategies (resolution and containment) to reject such a scepticism. However, both types of strategies are unsatisfactory. In order to save introspection from the looming sceptical threat, I advocate a deflationary strategy, based on either an ‘Argument from Perceptual Kinship’ or an ‘Argument from Ownership’. In the end, there cannot be any genuine IDs, for nothing can fulfil the reasonable conditions for IDs. What looks like IDs may instead be indicators of phenomenal variation. Debates that look like IDs may then arise even if introspection were a perfect method to know one’s mind. Thus, scepticism vis-à-vis introspection based on IDs rests on shaky grounds.


Introspection Disagreement Phenomenal consciousness First-person methods Introspective scepticism 



This research was funded by a Georg-Lichtenberg-Scholarship. I am grateful to Thor Grünbaum, Michael Madary, Uwe Meyer, Eric Schwitzgebel, Sven Walter and several anonymous reviewers for their input. I also thank the participants of the Intensive Paper Writing Workshop at Villa Palazzola in Rome, organized by the University of Copenhagen, and Inga Gittermann for feedback.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute III: PhilosophieOtto-von-Guericke UniversitätMagdeburgGermany

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