Introspection, psychology of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-W019-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 13, 2024, from

3. The nature of introspection

There is substantial disagreement about the role of introspection and the kind of process introspection might be. Many disagree, for example, about whether one can be in a conscious mental state without being introspectively aware that one is in that state. The received view (see, for example, Armstrong 1968; Rosenthal 1986; Dretske 1993) is that one can; Shoemaker (1994) has argued to the contrary.

Second, there is disagreement over what ‘order’ of belief or representation is required for introspective awareness. Most philosophers who adopt the ‘higher-order thought’ view opt for a second-order thought as sufficient. Rosenthal, however, suggests that second-order thoughts are simply what makes a state conscious; introspective awareness requires that we be conscious of those second-order thoughts and, hence, that there be a third-order thought that one is having the second-order ones.

Finally, there is considerable discussion over whether introspection is correctly considered to be a form of perception or observation, a view associated with Locke (1689). For example, in perception, there is both object-awareness and fact-awareness. I perceive the tree and perceive that there is a tree. Are there also two forms of awareness in introspection? Do I both perceive my pain and perceive that I am in pain? Shoemaker and Dretske argue that introspection does not involve awareness of any (mental) object such as a ‘pain’. Furthermore, in perception, the relation between the objects perceived and the state of perceiving is causal. Is the same thing true for introspection, or is the relation also conceptual, as Shoemaker has argued? In other words, are there mental states whose introspectibility is essential to their very nature? This would be the case if one adopts Descartes’ view that mental states are self-intimating or Shoemaker’s view that mental states are defined by their functional role, and this role includes producing introspective awareness of the states in question (see Consciousness §10).

Citing this article:
Von Eckhardt, Barbara. The nature of introspection. Introspection, psychology of, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-W019-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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