The empirical case against introspection

Philosophical Studies 173 (9):2461-2485 (2016)
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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: the argument on the basis of differences in introspective reports from differences in introspective measurements; the argument from differences in reports about whether or not dreams come in colours; the argument from the absence of a correlation between visual imagery ability and the performance on certain cognitive tasks; the argument from our unawareness of our capacity of echolocation; 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.

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Rik Peels
VU University Amsterdam


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