About this topic

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 1700 and Kant 1991 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 Alvin 2006 and Nichols & Stich 2003, and self-fulfillment theories, e.g. Burge 1988.

Introductions Schwitzgebel 2010 and Gertler 2015 provide highly accessible introductions to the topic. Gertler 2003 and Smithies & Stoljar 2012 are useful collections of articles on introspection and self-knowledge.
Related categories

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  1. Wundt and the Americans.From Flirtation To Abandonment - 2001 - In Robert W. Rieber & David K. Robinson (eds.), Wilhelm Wundt in History: The Making of a Scientific Psychology. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.
  2. Introspectionism Reconsidered.William Y. Adams - manuscript
  3. Does Opacity Undermine Privileged Access?Timothy Allen & Joshua May - 2014 - 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, concluding that (...)
  4. Introspective Misidentification.I. An - 2001 - In Andrew Brook & R. DeVidi (eds.), Self-Reference and Self-Awareness. John Benjamins. pp. 30--205.
  5. Is Objectivity Possible?: Can Introspection Help?Rudi Anders - 2016 - Australian Humanist, The 120:17.
    Anders, Rudi Mathematics is objective and unambiguous, but as soon as mathematics is applied to anything in the human world, human values complicate the issues. Two apples for two people equals one apple for each person, but compassion for a starving person, or other human values, can alter the outcome.
  6. Introspection.Daniel E. Anderson - 1965 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 3 (3):115-121.
  7. Impact of Christianity on the Aos of Nagaland: Introspection and Refection.A. B. Ao - 2001 - Journal of Dharma 26 (3):358-377.
  8. Metacognitive Feelings, Self-Ascriptions and Metal Actions.Santiago Arango-Muñoz - 2014 - Philosophical Inquiries 2 (1):145-162.
    The main aim of this paper is to clarify the relation between epistemic feel- ings, mental action, and self-ascription. Acting mentally and/or thinking about one’s mental states are two possible outcomes of epistemic or metacognitive feelings. Our men- tal actions are often guided by our E-feelings, such as when we check what we just saw based on a feeling of visual uncertainty; but thought about our own perceptual states and capacities can also be triggered by the same E-feelings. The first (...)
  9. Is Introspective Knowledge Incorrigible?D. M. Armstrong - 1963 - Philosophical Review 72 (4):417.
  10. Introspection and its Objects.Denis G. Arnold - 1997 - 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 (...)
  11. Introspective Analysis of Certain Tactual Phenomena.George F. Arps - 1912 - Psychological Review 19 (5):337-351.
  12. Feelings, Moods, and Introspection.Bruce Aune - 1963 - Mind 72 (April):187-208.
  13. Replication and Pedagogy in the History of Psychology V: The Metronome and Wilhelm Wundt's Search for the Components of Consciousness.Christopher Ayala, Steven Borawski & Jonathon Miller - 2008 - Science and Education 17 (5):525-535.
  14. Is the Experience of Pain Transparent? Introspecting Phenomenal Qualities.Murat Aydede - manuscript
    I distinguish between two claims of transparency of experiences. One claim is weaker and supported by phenomenological evidence. This I call the Transparency Datum. Introspection of standard perceptual experiences as well as bodily sensations is consistent with, indeed supported by, the Transparency Datum. I formulate a stronger transparency thesis that is entailed by (strong) representationalism about experiential phenomenology. I point out some empirical consequences of strong transparency in the context of representationalism. I argue that pain experiences, as well as some (...)
  15. Pain: New Essays on its Nature and the Methodology of its Study.Murat Aydede (ed.) - 2005 - MIT Press.
    What does feeling a sharp pain in one's hand have in common with seeing a red apple on the table? Some say not much, apart from the fact that they are both conscious experiences. To see an object is to perceive an extramental reality -- in this case, a red apple. To feel a pain, by contrast, is to undergo a conscious experience that doesn't necessarily relate the subject to an objective reality. Perceptualists, however, dispute this. They say that both (...)
  16. Is Introspection Inferential?Murat Aydede - 2003 - 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.
  17. Naturalism, Introspection, and Direct Realism About Pain.Murat Aydede - 2001 - 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 (...)
  18. Concepts, Introspection, and Phenomenal Consciousness: An Information-Theoretical Approach.Murat Aydede & Guven Guzeldere - 2005 - 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 structure that closely (...)
  19. The Experimental Use of Introspection in the Scientific Study of Pain and its Integration with Third-Person Methodologies: The Experiential-Phenomenological Approach.Murat Aydede & D. Price - 2005 - In Pain: New Essays on its Nature and the Methodology of its Study. MIT Press. pp. 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 (...)
  20. Introspection and Unrevisability: Reply to Commentaries.Murat Aydede & Donald D. Price - 2005 - In Pain: New Essays on its Nature and the Methodology of its Study. Cambridge Ma: Bradford Book/Mit Press.
  21. The Respective Spheres and Mutual Helps of Introspection and Psychophysical Experiment in Psychology.Alexander Bain - 1893 - Mind 2 (5):42-53.
  22. Acquaintance and the Mind-Body Problem.Katalin Balog - 2012 - In Simone Gozzano & Christopher S. Hill (eds.), New Perspectives on Type Identity: The Mental and the Physical. Cambridge University Press. pp. 16.
    In this paper I begin to develop an account of the acquaintance that each of us has with our own conscious states and processes. The account is a speculative proposal about human mental architecture and specifically about the nature of the concepts via which we think in first personish ways about our qualia. In a certain sense my account is neutral between physicalist and dualist accounts of consciousness. As will be clear, a dualist could adopt the account I will offer (...)
  23. Introspectible Consciousness: What Philosophers Can Do About It.Hiranmoy Banerjee - 2003 - In Perspectives on Consciousness. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal.
  24. Introspection in Biography: The Biographer's Quest for Self-Awareness.Samuel H. Baron & Carl Pletsch (eds.) - 2016 - Routledge.
  25. Disease and Social Theory: A Problem of Conversation.Zsuzsa Baross - 1985 - Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 6 (2).
    The paper offers a critical examination of introspection and stoicism as two apparently opposing responses to pain, and examines their adequacy as theoretical postures vis-a-vis the life-world. Following Wittgenstein, who suggests that introspection is fundamentally at fault, the paper moves to consider the theoretic stoicism of Durkheim as a possible alternative for inquiry. It comes to the conclusion, however, that stoicism, just as introspection fails to develop a strong theoretical interest in pain when it refuses to make the problem pain (...)
  26. Introspection as a Game of Make‐Believe.Wolfgang Barz - 2014 - 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 (...)
  27. Mind-Reading.Tim Bayne - unknown
    Most animals have mental states of one sort or another, but few species share our capacity for self-awareness. We are aware of our own mental states via introspection, and we are aware of the mental states of our fellow human beings on the basis of what they do and say. This chapter is not concerned with these traditional forms of mind-reading—forms whose origins predate the beginnings of recorded history—but with the prospects of a rather different and significantly more recent form (...)
  28. Introspective Humility.Tim Bayne & Maja Spener - 2010 - 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 (...)
  29. Consciousness, Introspection, and the Split-Brain: The Two Minds/One Body Problem.K. Baynes & Michael S. Gazzaniga - 2000 - In Michael S. Gazzaniga (ed.), The New Cognitive Neurosciences: 2nd Edition. MIT Press.
  30. Qualia and Introspection.Michael Beaton - 2009 - 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 (...)
  31. Comment Fonctionne Mon Cerveau: Essai de Psychologie Introspective.H. Beaunis - 1909 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 67:29 - 40.
  32. On Introspection and Introspectionism.Christian Beenfeldt - 2015 - Think 14 (40):65-72.
    For some time now, the topics of introspection, inner experience and so-called first-person approaches to the mental, have been the subject of attention in philosophy, psychology and consciousness studies. Indeed, some philosophers think that a central task of the latter field is to systematically relate and integrate data about subjective experience and data about behavior and brain processes.
  33. The Philospohical Background and Scientific Legacy of E. B. Titchener's Psychology: Understanding Introspectionism.Christian Beenfeldt - 2013 - Springer.
    ​This volume offers a new understanding of Titchener’s influential system of psychology popularly known as introspectionism, structuralism and as classical introspective psychology. Adopting a new perspective on introspectionism and seeking to assess the reasons behind its famous implosion, this book reopens and rewrites the chapter in the history of early scientific psychology pertaining to the nature of E. B. Titchener’s psychological system. -/- Arguing against the view that Titchener’s system was undone by an overreliance on introspection, the author explains how (...)
  34. Knowing Oneself? An Essay on Comtean Skepticism About Introspective Self-Observation'.Christian Beenfeldt - 2010 - Danish Yearbook of Philosophy 45:51-70.
  35. Impact of Christianity on the Aos of Nagaland: Introspection and Reflection.A. Bendangyabang - 2001 - Journal of Dharma 26 (3):358-377.
  36. Intuition and Introspection Problems in Henryk Elzenberg's Philosophy.Anita Benisławska - 2009 - Dialogue and Universalism 19 (8-9):83-92.
    Intuition and introspection are very interesting terms in Elzenberg’s thought. The intuition is connected with the earlier phase of Elzenberg’s philosophy. Intuition is a form of world cognition. It is tool of selection of the contents. In Elzenberg’s philosophy introspection is a later term than intuition. It may lead intuition but is not a necessity. Process of cognition can finish with introspection which is a phase of information collection. In this meaning introspection creates circumstances for intuition. Introspection is a form (...)
  37. Why Care Beyond the Square? Classical and Extended Shapes of Oppositions in Their Application to „Introspective Disputes“.Fink S. Benjamin - 2017 - In Jean-Yves Béziau & Gianfranco Basti (eds.), The Square of Opposition: A Cornerstone of Thought (Studies in Universal Logic). Birkhäuser. pp. 325-337.
    So called “shapes of opposition”—like the classical square of opposition and its extensions—can be seen as graphical representations of the ways in which types of statements constrain each other in their possible truth values. As such, they can be used as a novel way of analysing the subject matter of disputes. While there have been great refinements and extensions of this logico-topological tool in the last years, the broad range of shapes of opposition are not widely known outside of a (...)
  38. The Body and the Self.Jose Luis Bermudez, Anthony J. Marcel & Naomi M. Eilan (eds.) - 1995 - MIT Press.
  39. Knowing the World by Knowing One's Mind.Sven Bernecker - 2000 - 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 (...)
  40. Mind, Introspection, and "The Objective".Roger E. Bissell - 2008 - 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 (...)
  41. A Defense of Introspection From Within.M. Bitbol & C. Petitmengin - 2013 - 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 (...)
  42. On the Possibility and Reality of Introspection.Michel Bitbol & Claire Petitmengin - 2013 - Kairos 6:173-198.
  43. A Wundt Primer: The Operating Characteristics of Consciousness.Arthur L. Blumenthal - 2001 - In Robert W. Rieber & David K. Robinson (eds.), Wilhelm Wundt in History: The Making of a Scientific Psychology. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers. pp. 121-144.
  44. The Method of Introspection.Boyd H. Bode - 1913 - Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods 10 (4):85-91.
  45. On Looking Inward; Revisiting the Role of Introspection in Neuroscientific and Psychiatric Research.J. A. Den Boer, A. A. T. S. Reinders & G. Glas - unknown
  46. What Certainty Teaches.Tomas Bogardus - 2011 - Philosophical Psychology 25 (2):227 - 243.
    Most philosophers, including all materialists I know of, believe that I am a complex thing?a thing with parts?and that my mental life is (or is a result of) the interaction of these parts. These philosophers often believe that I am a body or a brain, and my mental life is (or is a product of) brain activity. In this paper, I develop and defend a novel argument against this view. The argument turns on certainty, that highest epistemic status that a (...)
  47. Descartes' Fundamental Mistake: Introspective Singularity.Joseph E. Bogen - 1994 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 17 (1):175.
  48. Inexact Knowledge with Introspection.Denis Bonnay & Paul Égré - 2008 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 38 (2):179-227.
    This paper supersedes an ealier version, entitled "A Non-Standard Semantics for Inexact Knowledge with Introspection", which appeared in the Proceedings of "Rationality and Knowledge". The definition of token semantics, in particular, has been modified, both for the single- and the multi-agent case.
  49. A Non-Standard Semantics for Inexact Knowledge with Introspection.Denis Bonnay & Paul Egré - unknown
    Forthcoming in S. Artemov and R. Parikh, Proceedings of the ESSLLI 2006 Workshop on Rationality and Knowledge.
  50. Is There Introspective Evidence for Phenomenal Intentionality?Davide Bordini - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (5):1105-1126.
    The so-called transparency of experience (TE) is the intuition that, in introspecting one’s own experience, one is only aware of certain properties (like colors, shapes, etc.) as features of (apparently) mind-independent objects. TE is quite popular among philosophers of mind and has traditionally been used to motivate Representationalism, i.e., the view that phenomenal character is in some strong way dependent on intentionality. However, more recently, others have appealed to TE to go the opposite way and support the phenomenal intentionality view (...)
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