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Summary

Introspection is the process through which people (and possibly some animals) become aware of their own current mental states like thoughts and sensory experiences. Statements like ‘I have a red afterimage’, ‘I am thinking about which route to take’, ‘I feel a pain in my toe’, are taken to be introspective reports that are the products of introspection. Disagreement still looms large about whether introspective awareness is a quasi-perceptual process or merely a conceptual affair, i.e. can we attend to or even sense our mental states, or merely think about them. Given that introspection often leads to knowledge about one’s mental states, many scholars are also interested in the epistemic properties, e.g. incorrigibility, certainty, reliability, of introspective reports. This category also hosts articles on introspectionism, a doctrine which was popular in the late 19th and early 20th century, and which considers introspection to be the primary scientific method for investigating mental states and processes.

Key works

The topic of introspection has a long tradition in philosophy: Locke 2008 and Kant 2007 are considered important forerunners of the inner-sense account of introspection which has been argued for in greater detail by Armstrong 1968 and Lycan 1996. Shoemaker 1994 has criticized the inner-sense account in a series of articles, whereas Dretske 1995 and Tye 2000 have proposed influential transparency-based accounts of introspection of sensory states, highlighting the importance of drawing an appearance-reality distinction in introspective reports. Other important views include self-monitoring accounts by Goldman 2006 and Nichols & Stich 2003, and self-fulfillment theories, e.g. Burge 1988.

Introductions Schwitzgebel 2010 and Gertler 2008 provide highly accessible introductions to the topic. Gertler 2003 and Smithies & Stoljar 2012 are useful collections of articles on introspection and self-knowledge.
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  1. William Y. Adams, Introspectionism Reconsidered.
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  2. Timothy Allen & Joshua May (2014). Does Opacity Undermine Privileged Access? International Journal of Philosophical Studies 22 (4):617-629.
    Carruthers argues that knowledge of our own propositional attitudes is achieved by the same mechanism used to attain knowledge of other people?s minds. This seems incompatible with ?privileged access? ? the idea that we have more reliable beliefs about our own mental states, regardless of the mechanism. At one point Carruthers seems to suggest he may be able to maintain privileged access, because we have additional sensory information in our own case. We raise a number of worries for this suggestion, (...)
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  3. I. An (2001). Introspective Misidentification. In Andrew Brook & R. DeVidi (eds.), Self-Reference and Self-Awareness. John Benjamins 30--205.
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  4. Daniel E. Anderson (1965). Introspection. Southern Journal of Philosophy 3 (3):115-121.
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  5. David M. Armstrong (1963). Is Introspective Knowledge Incorrigible? Philosophical Review 62 (4):417-32.
  6. Denis G. Arnold (1997). Introspection and its Objects. Journal of Philosophical Research 22 (April):87-94.
    Traditionally conceived, introspection is a form of nonsensuous perception that allows the mind to scrutinize at least some of its own states while it is experiencing them. The traditional account of introspection has been in disrepute ever since Ryle argued that the very idea of introspection is a logical muddle. Recent critics such as William Lyons, John Searle, and Sydney Shoemaker argue that this disrepute is well-deserved. Three distinct objections to the traditional account of introspection are considered and rejected. It (...)
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  7. Bruce Aune (1963). Feelings, Moods, and Introspection. Mind 72 (April):187-208.
  8. Murat Aydede, Is the Experience of Pain Transparent? Introspecting Phenomenal Qualities.
    I distinguish between two claims of transparency of experiences. One claim is weaker and supported by phenomenological evidence. This I call the Transparency Datum (TD). Pain experiences are consistent with TD. I formulate a stronger transparency thesis (ST) that is entailed by (strong) representationalism about phenomenology. I argue that pain experiences (as well as some other similar experiences) are not transparent in this strong sense. Hence I argue that representationalism is false. Then, I outline a framework about how the introspection (...)
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  9. Murat Aydede (ed.) (2005). Pain: New Essays on its Nature and the Methodology of its Study. MIT Press.
  10. Murat Aydede (2003). Is Introspection Inferential? In Brie Gertler (ed.), Privileged Access: Philosophical Accounts of Self-Knowledge. Ashgate
    I introduce the Displaced Perception Model of Introspection developed by Dretske which treats introspection of phenomenal states as inferential and criticize it.
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  11. Murat Aydede (2001). Naturalism, Introspection, and Direct Realism About Pain. Consciousness and Emotion 2 (1):29-73.
    This paper examines pain states (and other intransitive bodily sensations) from the perspective of the problems they pose for pure informational/representational approaches to naturalizing qualia. I start with a comprehensive critical and quasi-historical discussion of so-called Perceptual Theories of Pain (e.g., Armstrong, Pitcher), as these were the natural predecessors of the more modern direct realist views. I describe the theoretical backdrop (indirect realism, sense-data theories) against which the perceptual theories were developed. The conclusion drawn is that pure representationalism about pain (...)
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  12. Murat Aydede & Guven Guzeldere (2005). Concepts, Introspection, and Phenomenal Consciousness: An Information-Theoretical Approach. Noûs 39 (2):197-255.
    This essay is a sustained attempt to bring new light to some of the perennial problems in philosophy of mind surrounding phenomenal consciousness and introspection through developing an account of sensory and phenomenal concepts. Building on the information-theoretic framework of Dretske (1981), we present an informational psychosemantics as it applies to what we call sensory concepts, concepts that apply, roughly, to so-called secondary qualities of objects. We show that these concepts have a special informational character and semantic struc-ture that closely (...)
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  13. Murat Aydede & D. Price (2005). The Experimental Use of Introspection in the Scientific Study of Pain and its Integration with Third-Person Methodologies: The Experiential-Phenomenological Approach. In Pain: New Essays on its Nature and the Methodology of its Study. MIT Press 243--273.
    Understanding the nature of pain depends, at least partly, on recognizing its subjectivity (thus, its first-person epistemology). This in turn requires using a first-person experiential method in addition to third-person experimental approaches to study it. This paper is an attempt to spell out what the former approach is and how it can be integrated with the latter. We start our discussion by examining some foundational issues raised by the use of introspection. We argue that such a first-person method in the (...)
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  14. Murat Aydede & Donald D. Price (2005). Introspection and Unrevisability: Reply to Commentaries. In Pain: New Essays on its Nature and the Methodology of its Study. Cambridge Ma: Bradford Book/MIT Press
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  15. Alexander Bain (1893). The Respective Spheres and Mutual Helps of Introspection and Psychophysical Experiment in Psychology. Mind 2 (5):42-53.
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  16. Hiranmoy Banerjee (2003). Introspectible Consciousness: What Philosophers Can Do About It. In Perspectives on Consciousness. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal
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  17. Wolfgang Barz (2014). Introspection as a Game of Make‐Believe. Theoria 80 (4):350-367.
    The aim of this article is to provide an account of introspective knowledge concerning visual experiences that is in accordance with the idea of transparent introspection. According to transparent introspection, a person gains knowledge of her own current mental state M solely by paying attention to those aspects of the external world which M is about. In my view, transparent introspection is a promising alternative to inner sense theories. However, it raises the fundamental question why a person who pays attention (...)
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  18. Tim Bayne & Maja Spener (2010). Introspective Humility. Philosophical Issues 20 (1):1-22.
    Viewed from a certain perspective, nothing can seem more secure than introspection. Consider an ordinary conscious episode—say, your current visual experience of the colour of this page. You can judge, when reflecting on this experience, that you have a visual experience as of something white with black marks before you. Does it seem reasonable to doubt this introspective judgement? Surely not—such doubt would seem utterly fanciful. The trustworthiness of introspection is not only assumed by commonsense, it is also taken for (...)
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  19. K. Baynes & Michael S. Gazzaniga (2000). Consciousness, Introspection, and the Split-Brain: The Two Minds/One Body Problem. In Michael S. Gazzaniga (ed.), The New Cognitive Neurosciences: 2nd Edition. MIT Press
  20. Michael Beaton (2009). Qualia and Introspection. Journal of Consciousness Studies 16 (5):88-110.
    The claim that behaviourally undetectable inverted spectra are possible has been endorsed by many physicalists. I explain why this starting point rules out standard forms of scientific explanation for qualia. The modern ‘phenomenal concept strategy’ is an updated way of defending problematic intuitions like these, but I show that it cannot help to recover standard scientific explanation. I argue that Chalmers is right: we should accept the falsity of physicalism if we accept this problematic starting point. I further argue that (...)
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  21. H. Beaunis (1909). Comment Fonctionne Mon Cerveau: Essai de Psychologie Introspective. Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 67:29 - 40.
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  22. Christian Beenfeldt (2010). Knowing Oneself? An Essay on Comtean Skepticism About Introspective Self-Observation'. Danish Yearbook of Philosophy 45:51-70.
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  23. Jose Luis Bermudez, Anthony J. Marcel & Naomi M. Eilan (eds.) (1995). The Body and the Self. MIT Press.
  24. Sven Bernecker (2000). Knowing the World by Knowing One's Mind. Synthese 123 (1):1-34.
    This paper addresses the question whetherintrospection plus externalism about mental contentwarrant an a priori refutation of external-worldskepticism and ontological solipsism. The suggestionis that if thought content is partly determined byaffairs in the environment and if we can havenon-empirical knowledge of our current thoughtcontents, we can, just by reflection, know about theworld around us – we can know that our environment ispopulated with content-determining entities. Afterexamining this type of transcendental argument anddiscussing various objections found in the literature,I argue that the notion (...)
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  25. Roger E. Bissell (2008). Mind, Introspection, and "The Objective". Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 10 (1):3 - 84.
    In this sequel to his essay "Ayn Rand and The Objective'" (JARS, Fall 2007), the author warns against "the seduction of 'the basic"' and uses ideas by Efron, Peikoff, and Aristotle to argue that introspection and mental data (including mind) are objective and that causal efficacy of mind and mind-body interaction only make sense if mind is conceived of not as an attribute, but as an entity (viz., the conscious human brain). None of this, however, implies Epiphenomenalism or that consciousness (...)
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  26. M. Bitbol & C. Petitmengin (2013). A Defense of Introspection From Within. Constructivist Foundations 8 (3):269-279.
    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 (...)
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  27. Michel Bitbol & Claire Petitmengin (2013). On the Possibility and Reality of Introspection. Kairos 6:173-198.
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  28. Arthur L. Blumenthal (2001). A Wundt Primer: The Operating Characteristics of Consciousness. In Robert W. Rieber & David K. Robinson (eds.), Wilhelm Wundt in History: The Making of a Scientific Psychology. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers 121-144.
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  29. Boyd H. Bode (1913). The Method of Introspection. Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods 10 (4):85-91.
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  30. J. A. Den Boer, A. A. T. S. Reinders & G. Glas, On Looking Inward; Revisiting the Role of Introspection in Neuroscientific and Psychiatric Research.
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  31. Denis Bonnay & Paul Égré (2009). Inexact Knowledge with Introspection. Journal of Philosophical Logic 38 (2):179 - 227.
    Standard Kripke models are inadequate to model situations of inexact knowledge with introspection, since positive and negative introspection force the relation of epistemic indiscernibility to be transitive and euclidean. Correlatively, Williamson’s margin for error semantics for inexact knowledge invalidates axioms 4 and 5. We present a new semantics for modal logic which is shown to be complete for K45, without constraining the accessibility relation to be transitive or euclidean. The semantics corresponds to a system of modular knowledge, in which iterated (...)
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  32. Anthony L. Brueckner (2001). Problems for a Recent Account of Introspective Knowledge. Facta Philosophica.
  33. Jesse Butler (2013). Rethinking Introspection: A Pluralist Approach to the First-Person Perspective. Palgrave MacMillan.
    We seem to have private privileged access to our own minds through introspection, but what exactly does this involve? Do we somehow literally perceive our own minds, as the common idea of a 'mind's eye' suggests, or are there other processes at work in our ability to know our own minds? Rethinking Introspection offers a new pluralist framework for understanding the nature, scope, and limits of introspection. The book argues that, contrary to common misconceptions, introspection does not consist of a (...)
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  34. Jesse Butler (2011). Introspective Knowledge of Experience and its Role in Consciousness Studies. Journal of Consciousness Studies 18 (2):128-145.
    In response to Petitmengin and Bitbol's recent account of first-person methodologies in the study of consciousness, I provide a revised model of our introspective knowledge of our own conscious experience. This model, which I call the existential constitution model of phenomenal knowledge, avoids the problems that Petitmengin and Bitbol identify with standard observational models of introspection while also avoiding an underlying metaphorical misconception in their own proximity model, which misconstrues first-person knowledge of consciousness in terms of a dichotomous epistemic relationship. (...)
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  35. Alex Byrne (2015). Skepticism About the Internal World. In Gideon Rosen, Alex Byrne, Joshua Cohen & Seana Valentine Shiffrin (eds.), The Norton Introduction to Philosophy. W. W. Norton
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  36. Alex Byrne (2005). Introspection. Philosophical Topics 33 (1):79-104.
    I know various contingent truths about my environment by perception. For example, by looking, I know that there is a computer before me; by hearing, I know that someone is talking in the corridor; by tasting, I know that the coffee has no sugar. I know these things because I have some built-in mechanisms specialized for detecting the state of my environment. One of these mechanisms, for instance, is presently transducing electromagnetic radiation (in a narrow band of wavelengths) coming from (...)
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  37. Jack C. Carloye (1991). Consciousness and Introspective Knowledge. Methodology and Science 8:8-22.
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  38. Peter Carruthers, Cartesian Epistemology.
    This paper argues that a Cartesian belief in the self-transparency of minds might actually be an innate aspect of our mind-reading faculty. But it acknowledges that some crucial evidence needed to establish this claim hasn’t been looked for or collected. What we require is evidence that a belief in the self-transparency of mind is universal to the human species. The paper closes with a call to anthropologists (and perhaps also developmental psychologists), who are in a position to collect such evidence, (...)
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  39. Peter Carruthers (2010). Introspection: Divided and Partly Eliminated. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 80 (1):76-111.
    This paper will argue that there is no such thing as introspective access to judgments and decisions. It won't challenge the existence of introspective access to perceptual and imagistic states, nor to emotional feelings and bodily sensations. On the contrary, the model presented in Section 2 presumes such access. Hence introspection is here divided into two categories: introspection of propositional attitude events, on the one hand, and introspection of broadly perceptual events, on the other. I shall assume that the latter (...)
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  40. Peter Carruthers (2010). Introspection: Divided and Partly Eliminated. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 80 (1):76-111.
    This paper will argue that there is no such thing as introspective access to judgments and decisions. It won’t challenge the existence of introspective access to perceptual and imagistic states, nor to emotional feelings and bodily sensations. On the contrary, the model presented in Section 2 presumes such access. Hence introspection is here divided into two categories: introspection of propositional attitude events, on the one hand, and introspection of broadly perceptual events, on the other. I shall assume that the latter (...)
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  41. Gregg Caruso (2008). Consciousness and Free Will: A Critique of the Argument From Introspection. Southwest Philosophy Review 24 (1):219-231.
    One of the main libertarian arguments in support of free will is the argument from introspection. This argument places a great deal of faith in our conscious feeling of freedom and our introspective abilities. People often infer their own freedom from their introspective phenomenology of freedom. It is here argued that from the fact that I feel myself free, it does not necessarily follow that I am free. I maintain that it is our mistaken belief in the transparency and infallibility (...)
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  42. Quassim Cassam (2004). Introspection, Perception, and Epistemic Privilege. The Monist 87 (2):255-274.
  43. Quassim Cassam (1995). Introspection and Bodily Self-Ascription. In Jose Luis Bermudez, Anthony J. Marcel & Naomi M. Eilan (eds.), The Body and the Self. MIT Press 311--336.
  44. Quassim Cassam (ed.) (1994). Self-Knowledge. Oxford University Press.
    This volume brings together some of the most important and influential recent writings on knowledge of oneself and of one's own thoughts, sensations, and experiences. The essays give valuable insights into such fundamental philosophical issues as personal identity, the nature of consciousness, the relation between mind and body, and knowledge of other minds. Contributions include "Introduction" by Gilbert Ryle, "Knowing One's Own Mind" by Donald Davidson, "Individualism and Self-Knowledge" and "Introspection and the Self" by Sydney Shoemaker, "On the Observability of (...)
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  45. Victor Caston (2006). Comment on Amie Thomasson's "Self-Awareness and Self-Knowledge. Psyche 12 (2).
    In this paper, I raise an objection to Thomasson.
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  46. M. Chirimuuta (forthcoming). Psychophysical Methods and the Evasion of Introspection. .
    In this paper I argue that certain methodological conventions within psychophysics reflect a continued uncertainty over the reliability of subjects’ introspective judgements. Firstly, different psychophysical methods do not rely equally on the introspective capabilities of experimental subjects. I contrast “minimally introspective” tasks with “introspection-reliant” ones. It is only in the latter that introspection can be said to have a nontrivial role in the subjects’ performance. Secondly, my distinction maps onto a number of important methodological divisions in vision science. The introspection-reliant (...)
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  47. Paul M. Churchland (1985). Reduction, Qualia and the Direct Introspection of Brain States. Journal of Philosophy 82 (January):8-28.
  48. Andrew Clifton, The Introspection Game - or, Does the Tin Man Have a Heart?
    Eliminative functionalism is the view that mental attributes, of humans and other machines, consist ultimately in behavioural abilities or dispositions. Hence, ‘Strong AI’: if a machine consistently acts as if it were fully conscious, then conscious it is. From these assumptions, optimistic futurists have derived a variety of remarkable visions of our ‘post-human’ future; from widely-recognised ‘robot rights’ to ‘mind uploading’, immortality, ‘apotheosis’ and beyond. It is argued here, however, that eliminative functionalism is false; for at least on our present (...)
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  49. Jonathan Cohen & Shaun Nichols (2010). Colours, Colour Relationalism and the Deliverances of Introspection. Analysis 70 (2):218 - 228.
    An important motivation for relational theories of color is that they resolve apparent conflicts about color: x can, without contradiction, be red relative to S1 and not red relative to S2. Alas, many philosophers claim that the view is incompatible with naive, phenomenally grounded introspection. However, when we presented normal adults with apparent conflicts about color (among other properties), we found that many were open to the relationalist's claim that apparently competing variants can simultaneously be correct. This suggests that, philosophers' (...)
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  50. Alan Costall (2006). 'Introspectionism' and the Mythical Origins of Scientific Psychology. Consciousness and Cognition 15 (4):634-654.
    According to the majority of the textbooks, the history of modern, scientific psychology can be tidily encapsulated in the following three stages. Scientific psychology began with a commitment to the study of mind, but based on the method of introspection. Watson rejected introspectionism as both unreliable and effete, and redefined psychology, instead, as the science of behaviour. The cognitive revolution, in turn, replaced the mind as the subject of study, and rejected both behaviourism and a reliance on introspection. This paper (...)
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