Volume 8 · Number 3 · Pages 269–279

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A Defense of Introspection from Within

Michel Bitbol & Claire Petitmengin

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Context: We are presently witnessing a revival of introspective methods, which implicitly challenges an impressive list of in-principle objections that were addressed to introspection by various philosophers and by behaviorists. Problem: How can one overcome those objections and provide introspection with a secure basis? Results: A renewed definition of introspection as “enlargement of the field of attention and contact with re-enacted experience,” rather than “looking-within,” is formulated. This entails (i) an alternative status of introspective phenomena, which are no longer taken as revelations of some an sich slice of experience, but as full-fledged experiences; and (ii) an alternative view of the validity of first-person reports as “performative coherence” rather than correspondence. A preliminary empirical study of the self-assessed reliability of introspective data using the elicitation interview method is then carried out. It turns out that subjects make use of reproducible processual criteria in order to probe into the authenticity and completeness of their own introspective reports. Implications: Introspective inquiry is likely to have enough resources to “take care of itself.” Constructivist content: It is argued that the failure of the introspectionist wave of the turn of the 19th/20th centuries is mostly due to its unconditional acceptance of the representationalist theory of knowledge, and that alternative non-representationalist criteria of validity give new credibility to introspective knowledge.

Key words: Introspection, first-person, phenomenology, consciousness, awareness, epistemology, non-representationalism, experience, subjectivity


Bitbol M. & Petitmengin C. (2013) A defense of introspection from within. Constructivist Foundations 8(3): 269–279. http://constructivist.info/8/3/269

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