• T Clark
    4.2k
    ...another ironic thing about the act of introspection is, once one decides to embark on the self-discovery process, something completely novel can be uncovered. And that sort of begs the question(s) of whether that new knowledge always existed; it just required you to uncover it. And then in turn that could lead to other questions about, say, the Will and its function in our consciousness.3017amen

    It is very common for me to become aware of something about myself that was always there but which I was not previously aware of. Example - I practice Tai Chi at a beginner level. Every time I go through the movements, I become more aware of my body. The movements draw my attention to what's going on inside me. Sometimes something my instructor says will do the same thing. Another example - I normally have pretty even moods. I'm very high energy and rarely depressed. Recently I found myself being really down for a couple of weeks. Then, it happened again a month later. Looking at the episodes, I realized that in both cases I had been very angry at someone I cared about. That connection - depression and anger - was a new one for me. It opens up a lot of possibilities that I'll need to explore.

    That much of our mental processing takes place below the level of consciousness awareness is not news. William James, Freud, and others were realizing that in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Some of that unconscious processing can be brought into our awareness. It seems likely to me that a lot, probably most, cannot.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    Cool. Then I think our main disagreement is just in our characterization of introspection. I don't really think of it as a method for gaining knowledge because knowledge is a social phenomena -- it's something we produce together. Whereas introspection is looking in at the self, so it necessarily could not be knowledge (if my characterization of knowledge is held to, at least -- obviously there's other ways of parsing knowledge).Moliere

    I don't think knowledge is necessarily a social phenomenon. Also, what I know from introspection can be social. This thread is good evidence for that.

    All in all, I don't think you and I are far apart.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    Gonna have to object to that; I can safely say I’ve never seen myself think. I can imagine myself sitting on a rock, appearing to ponder this or that, but nothing concerning the this or that can arise from it, that isn’t actually me doing it.Mww

    I don't know why you would object. I've tried to make it clear that I am describing my own experiences, although I do know that those experiences aren't unique to me. Apparently you have different experiences. Why is that a problem?

    Truth be told, I don’t know how to respond to the idea that observation has something to do with that which is not of the senses,Mww

    I assume you have been aware of your own mental life. I don't see how that is different from being aware of the dog sitting on my lawn. They both have come to your attention by way of mental processes.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    Which seems to say you think we can reason from observation independent of a mode of observation. Which is a perfect example of why I insist (to myself, to be sure) on assigning observation to the empirical domain alone.Mww

    Introspection is one mode of observation. Another is paying attention to what is happening in the world using your sense of sight. Introspection exists in the empirical domain as much as observation using the sense of touch or smell does.

    maybe it’s just me exercising overly-critical thinking. I do that a lot, I must say.Mww

    It seems your experience is different than mine. I don't see why that is a problem. It doesn't bother me. You now know that some people experience introspection as a form of observation even though you don't. That seems like an interesting thing for you to know.
  • Mww
    994


    It is interesting, and I appreciate exposure to it.

    The objections are strictly from a epistemological philosophy, not a psychological character evaluation.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    Self-knowledge is real knowledge, though it is knowledge that only the subject person can possess in detail, and introspection is the essential process of gaining it.Bitter Crank

    I think I may disagree with this. Let's see. This thread is a very good example of me trying to communicate my mental life to others. Others are doing the same thing. Of course it's easier for external experience because others can participate in the observation directly. Then again, how is that different from me communicating my experiences during my trip to the Netherlands, a place you've never been. Unless you have been to the Netherlands, in which case the trip was to Zimbabwe. Or was it Zambia. Tell me why the only two countries in Africa that start with a "Z" are next to each other. By the way, the Netherlands is a wonderful place. I don't know about Zambia or Zimbabwe.

    A question: How much of our self-knowledge can a benign interrogator (not the water-boarding type) gain through long-term discussion (such as that with a psychoanalyst)? Can one unpack somebody else's mind, with their cooperation? (Not now. if there is no willingness to share.).Bitter Crank

    I have no trouble learning things about other people - how they think or feel, their attitudes and motivations, through listening to what they say and observing their behavior. Of course it should be easier for them than it is for me. On the other hand, I have often found that I can be aware of something going on in the mind of another that they are not aware of themselves. You're a perceptive, empathetic person. I'm sure you have experienced that too.

    There is a paradox in "the unexamined life is not worth living" and that is that most of us can not do mature self-examination until much of our life has been lived.Bitter Crank

    That's true, as we both know well, but old guys know a lot of things that other people don't. Self-knowledge is a gift given to us now as compensation for what is being taken away. Or some bullshit like that.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    The objections are strictly from a epistemological philosophy, not a psychological character evaluation.Mww

    Yes, I understand that. Although we are talking about psychological phenomena, we are talking about them from a philosophical, as you say, epistemological, point of view. For me, that's the whole point of this thread, which, by the way, I'm finding very satisfying.
  • Coben
    832
    And if this be the case, then, regarding the OP, introspection is not a valid type of knowledge,Mww
    I did say earlier I don't think saying introspection in the category knowledge makes sense. Can introspection as a process lead to knowledge? that makes sense to me. Is using introspection as a source of information epistemologically justified? that makes sense to me. Introspection is a process.
  • 3017amen
    166


    A lot of good stuff to unpack there for sure. Just some quick comments.

    Ironically enough, my best friend who is an engineer , we have yearly mantra's and one of them was Awareness. We learned so much from the concept of awareness that we extended it another year. We would get together and 'pontificate ' our experiences from both our personal and professional activities. It was very revelatory. We made a joke and asked each other from time to time, any 'awareness ' today ?

    My other comment relates to the information age and the virtues of drawing from many sources of information. As a generalization, I believe post-modernism was partly a movement that looked to go beyond analytic philosophy, almost in a psychological way... . Part of it sought to uncover human motivation(s) and how important that was in seeking objective truth about a concept.

    Case in point when we study all the domains of philosophy a common theme seems to rear its head. And that usually has something to do with the existence or non-existence of a Deity. It seems to have something to do with of our sense of wonder about the mystery over causation, the nature of things, and our intrinsic needs to ask why.

    Anyway my point there is, it's important to have awareness and practice awareness. And my intuition tells me to draw from, in this case, classical philosophy, post modern Philosophy, Psychology, Religion, science, etc. etc. This is the twenty-first century, we need to allow ourselves to use the appropriate tools that are now and have been available.

    I would propose that the modern-day philosopher should allow themselves to become ' a hybrid' much like the moderate independent in politics who draws good from both sides of the aisle.


    As you were
  • Galuchat
    662
    In a previous post, @TheMadFool pointed out that, as you say, introspection is not a type of knowledge. I agreed that it made more sense to say it is a good way of gaining knowledge.T Clark
    Empirical knowledge, yes. Observation is another good way of gaining empirical knowledge. Both introspection (self-report) and observation have been used by Psychologists as a way of gaining empirical knowledge of the human mind.

    I do use reason, but people here don't usually doubt the value of it, while it seems to me that introspection is often distrusted.T Clark
    I agree.
    Observation can be verified by others. Introspection cannot. Each tool has its proper use. Other problem-solving tools (besides introspection, observation, and reason) include:
    Heuristics
    Analysis
    Creative Thinking
    Mind Wandering
    Empathy

    Sources of information have credibility. You believe some more than others.T Clark
    Mental events are sources of information (the result of intrinsic mental communication, or communication within a mind), hence; a type of organism function. So, I think assigning a property of credibility (believable or trustworthy condition) to a mental event is a category error.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.2k
    This thread is a very good example of me trying to communicate my mental life to others.T Clark

    Which is, of course, what we are all trying to do. Can we do it?

    One of the great limitation in sharing our minds, mental life, inner being... with others is the enormous volume of content that amounts to even brief experiences. For a good deal of experience we have no words. There are odors, for instance that we find attractive, disgusting, appetizing, and so forth which we would be very hard-pressed to describe beyond saying "Mint smells like mint". How does one describe the odor of a ripe pear? Or a spoiled tomato? Or a quite dead squirrel? Or rain on a warm concrete road? Or the sensation of swallowing a spoonful of haddock chowder? The feel of a very dry, cold wind? A twitching muscle? The sensation of suddenly remembering something important you forgot?

    Then there is the connectedness of memories. When I see ground cherries at the farmers market (never see them anywhere else) I remember seeing ground cherries growing in our neighbor's garden; that memory is at least 60+ years old. There is the memory of offering ground cherries to people who have never seen them before, and being puzzled at their suspicions -- you'd think I was offering them a mushroom that was quite possibly poisonous. (Ground cherries belong in the nightshade family of potatoes, tomatoes, tobacco, eggplant (aubergines) and peppers. The leaves of these plants are poisonous.).

    Something as simple as a husked tomato has a lot of baggage. How much more baggage does the topic of God have. Or thoughts about your wife and children? Or... 250,000 other topics.

    Then there are all sorts of ambiguous thoughts. I officially do not believe in God, but there is nothing else that I do not believe in that is so much in my thoughts. Some of our brave convictions do not hold up well on close (self) examination and we are probably loath to expose these convictions to the unfriendly examination of others.

    Some of our actions are just too embarrassing to talk about, and I wasn't even thinking about sexual misadventures.

    So, to make a long story short, we may over-estimate just how much of our selves we can or will actually reveal.
  • Mww
    994
    Apparently you have different experiences. Why is that a problem?T Clark

    Rest assured it is not. Better not be; different experiences are all that’s available to us as different humans.
    —————-

    I assume you have been aware of your own mental life. I don't see how that is different from being aware of the dog sitting on my lawn. They both have come to your attention by way of mental processes.T Clark

    All that’s true, there’s no difference in the being of aware per se, as ends, but the being of aware is not what we talking about. We’re talking about the examination of what we are aware of. Whether we’re examining the contents of our own minds via introspection or examining the content of our knowledge by reason, whatever those contents are that we are aware of, are already presupposed as given. The negation of which is impossible, or at least absurd, for otherwise we’d be attempting the examination of something that isn’t there.

    The difference in the mode of being aware of these respective contents, as the means by which we arrive at them, is quite marked. The dog on your lawn comes to your attention by sensibility; the contents of your mind come to your attention by reason alone, no matter that they were put there beforehand by sensibility, or by sheer imagination.
    —————-

    It seems your experience is different than mine.T Clark

    Again, that is true, but it isn’t the issue at hand; our philosophies are different, which we use to explain the relative differences in experience. Or, more accurately, the affects of them on our relative mentalities.

    It’s all good. Philosophy never was about being more right than the other guy.
  • Mww
    994
    Can introspection as a process lead to knowledge? that makes sense to me.Coben

    Ok. I would say introspection as a process leads to understanding of some knowledge we already have.
    —————-

    Is using introspection as a source of information epistemologically justified?Coben

    Sure, I would go along with that. Because it is introspection, the information being sourced is already present in the mind, or in consciousness, or in experience, however you want to look at it. As such, it belongs to the subject, justifies any of those as a source, and information extant in any of those is knowledge, thus justifies the source epistemologically.

    Which supports the position that introspection is not knowledge, just as rationality is not knowledge. If introspection or rationality is a process, but knowledge is the ends of either process, or the justification for either process, then knowledge cannot be either process itself.
  • Janus
    8.2k
    I like terms exteroception and interoception as between them they encompass everything of which we can be aware.

    So we know thoughts, feelings, sensations, bodily states etc interoceptively, and we know everything external to the body exteroceptively. Of course there are "crossovers" involving touch and taste (at least). Conceptual knowing and affective responses to the world also seem to be "crossovers". We read a book or perceive worldly things in general exteroceptively, and the thoughts and feelings evoked by reading and perception of worldly things are known interoceptively. There are ways in which the distinction could be considered to be artificial or at least not cut and dried, but I think it is more or less useful nonetheless.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    There are ways in which the distinction could be considered to be artificial or at least not cut and dried, but I think it is more or less useful nonetheless.Janus

    I agree and I do think that the distinctions are artificial. I think of babies. At a certain age, maybe 5 months, they start touching parts of their bodies. They get very interested in their feet and love to play with them. There is a yoga position where you lie on your back and reach up and grab your toes. They call the position "happy baby."

    The babies see their feet. Then they touch them and feel the touch. I always think that is when they learn that their feet are part of themselves. I don't know if that is correct in terms of developmental psychology, but it seems plausible, and it gives me pleasure to think it.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.2k
    the contents of your mind come to your attention by reason aloneMww

    I am not sure that "reason" is the right word here. The contents of your mind include the capacity to look at and reflect on the contents of your mind. Maybe "probing" (reasonable or not) is the key. Freud thought that dreams were the royal road into the unconscious mind. Dreams are a road -- these days more like the decertified route 66 than the Queen's Highway. Introspection, rumination, free-association, combing one's memories about specific things, unbidden memories, unbidden thoughts (unbidden by the conscious mind, anyway; who knows what devious purposes some neuronal cluster had in sending that excruciating memory from 7th grade to the Big Screen, just now...).

    In a very narrow sense, we all experience the "locked in" syndrome. There is just so much we can't access and express, even to ourselves, much less to all or any others.
  • Judaka
    395

    I'm not really talking about empathy or ethics but knowing the world by knowing yourself. When I am trying to understand someone's actions, I use introspection. I believe what drives other people is also within myself and when the actions of others baffle me, I usually at least find out why I am not similar. An example, a wise spender may ask himself why he spends wisely or doesn't spend foolishly and within those questions, he can find some clues as to the mentality of the foolish spender.

    Truly understanding others might be impossible but there's usually a no better way to access their minds than through your own. What is true for you is more likely to be true for others than making up potential reasons, though of course, you can use experience with others as well.

    As a philosopher, introspection keeps you grounded, at least you're talking about things which have some validity. If something worked for you or was true for you then it's probably going to work for others or be true for others too. Whereas rationality can explain actions through any number of explanations.
  • Coben
    832
    Which supports the position that introspection is not knowledge, just as rationality is not knowledge. If introspection or rationality is a process, but knowledge is the ends of either process, or the justification for either process, then knowledge cannot be either process itself.Mww
    Yes that would be the implication,which I had a moment of concern over. Since I am reifying knowledge. What if it is, in fact, knowledging, rather than a 'thing' or product? But I think it's more useful to reify it, even if, at some level, it is also another process. And the reason is because we can, more or less, copy the knowledge, or pass it on to others, since we tend to think of knowledge as shared. And even with myself it seems more nouny.

    Ok. I would say introspection as a process leads to understanding of some knowledge we already have.Mww
    Sure.
  • Mww
    994
    I am not sure that "reason" is the right word here.Bitter Crank

    I know, huh? Leave it to a human to confuse himself. It’s not really his fault though; Mother Nature endowed him with reason, and it is reason he must use to reason about himself. The epitome of circularity, and for which he must be careful to avoid as best he can. But ultimately, he won’t be able to remove himself from it entirely.

    The contents of your mind include the capacity to look at and reflect on the contents of your mind.Bitter Crank

    Technically true, yes. A possible mitigation of reason’s intrinsic circularity is to say there is a content of the mind that looks at and reflects on the remaining content of the mind, given from the certainty that normative rationality has but one internal observer. From there.......it’s off to the metaphysical races.
  • Mww
    994


    I can see all that. I understand people think that way. Me...I keep my anthropology and empirical psychology away from my epistemological philosophy. If I don’t know how I know what I know, I have no ground for apodeictic judgements whatsoever with respect to anyone else.

    If something worked for you or was true for you then it's probably going to work for others or be true for others too.Judaka

    Then why are we not all the same?

    I have no right to suppose anything of the sort, within the context of internal musings. Subjectivity is private, by definition, hence entirely inaccessible to any other subjectivity. Therefore, it is absolutely impossible to claim manifestations of subjectivity in others, is grounded in, or predicated on, my own, to whit, I have witnessed a guy accidentally hit himself with a hammer, in the course of events under which a hammer would normally be used, and continue on as if it never happened.

    We’ve never communicated before, so just let me say....I work from the point/counterpoint dialectical method. I’m not ever saying you’re wrong, unless sufficient proof should be objectively available for it, but only that from another perspective, things look different.
  • Mww
    994
    Since I am reifying knowledge.Coben

    Yes, I do that as well, after a fashion. I hold that knowledge is a condition of (the intellect), not an abstraction for (something to be gained).

    Reason, too. Reason the verb is the reification of the abstract thing we do; reason the noun is the reification of the abstract thing describing how it is being done.

    Reification is dangerous, nonetheless. Sometimes necessary for communication of ideas, sometimes self-contradictory. But we all do it, sooner or later, in other than the more mundane circumstances.
  • Coben
    832
    Agreed. I think knowledge makes more sense as a thing than introspection.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    Ironically enough, my best friend who is an engineer , we have yearly mantra's and one of them was Awareness. We learned so much from the concept of awareness that we extended it another year. We would get together and 'pontificate ' our experiences from both our personal and professional activities. It was very revelatory. We made a joke and asked each other from time to time, any 'awareness ' today ?3017amen

    Awareness has become more and more important to me as I've gotten older. There are so many things to be aware of - body, emotions, thought processes, skills, perceptions, ideas, others. Maybe the most interesting thing I've found is that the process of becoming aware is the same for all these different types. So, yes, I try to be aware of my awareness too.

    Anyway my point there is, it's important to have awareness and practice awareness. And my intuition tells me to draw from, in this case, classical philosophy, post modern Philosophy, Psychology, Religion, science, etc. etc. This is the twenty-first century, we need to allow ourselves to use the appropriate tools that are now and have been available.3017amen

    In another recent thread, I wrote about what I think of as my body of knowledge. It's everything I know, feel, see, experience, learn, think about - all jammed into one package. I see that as the source of my intuition. I see introspection, awareness as the most important component of that body of knowledge. I guess it's the cement that holds them all together.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    Which is, of course, what we are all trying to do. Can we do it?Bitter Crank

    Yes. Sort of. Sometimes. To a certain extent. Yes dammit!!!

    One of the great limitation in sharing our minds, mental life, inner being... with others is the enormous volume of content that amounts to even brief experiences. For a good deal of experience we have no words. There are odors, for instance that we find attractive, disgusting, appetizing, and so forth which we would be very hard-pressed to describe beyond saying "Mint smells like mint". How does one describe the odor of a ripe pear? Or a spoiled tomato? Or a quite dead squirrel? Or rain on a warm concrete road? Or the sensation of swallowing a spoonful of haddock chowder? The feel of a very dry, cold wind? A twitching muscle? The sensation of suddenly remembering something important you forgot?Bitter Crank

    Sure, but I have had experiences that are the same or similar to those you have described. You don't have to create them for me from scratch. We have great stores of common experience even with people who are very different from us.

    When I see ground cherries at the farmers market (never see them anywhere else) I remember seeing ground cherries growing in our neighbor's garden; that memory is at least 60+ years old.Bitter Crank

    I had never heard of ground cherries before. Now I have. I looked them up on the web. This is what "Smithsonian" says - "..tastes like a cherry tomato injected with mango and pineapple juice, and looks like an orange pearl encased in a miniature paper lantern." That seems like a pretty good sharing of your introspection to me.

    Some of our actions are just too embarrassing to talk about, and I wasn't even thinking about sexual misadventures.Bitter Crank

    Have you been talking to my wife?

    So, to make a long story short, we may over-estimate just how much of our selves we can or will actually reveal.Bitter Crank

    I can't say that I don't hide parts of myself from others. As I've said, I hide parts of myself from myself. I've been known to lie to avoid admitting something shameful. On the other hand, with me, what you see is pretty much what you get. I've felt lonely and alone, depressed, but I've never felt cut off, alienated, from other people. I always feel a connection with the people I meet and humanity as a whole. I can see people as they are, at least sometimes, imperfectly. Of course I'm often wrong, but I'm often wrong about everything.
  • Mww
    994


    Absolutely.

    Just try introspecting about something the knowledge of which is impossible. Can’t be done.

    Try introspecting about something the knowledge of which is possible, but you have no experience with it. That can be done, but it is no different than imagining, and imagining has no certain ground anywhere, which makes explicit such introspection has no certain ground, and anything of uncertain ground has no business defining a subjective paradigm, which is what introspection is supposed to do.

    Introspection with meaning can only arise from that which has its ground in either experience or possible experience. Which, coincidentally enough, is exactly the same conditions required for knowledge itself. It’s a short hop from that, to the reality that introspection only attains its meaning from one’s own knowledge.

    Theoretically.......
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    The dog on your lawn comes to your attention by sensibility; the contents of your mind come to your attention by reason alone, no matter that they were put there beforehand by sensibility, or by sheer imagination.Mww

    I don't see it that way. I don't think reason, consciousness, plays any part in my perception of my internal states. I don't know if you agree with my using "consciousness" as a fill-in for "reason" in this case.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    If I don’t know how I know what I know,Mww

    It is possible to know, or at least experience, how you know what you know.

    I have no right to suppose anything of the sort, within the context of internal musings. Subjectivity is private, by definition, hence entirely inaccessible to any other subjectivity. Therefore, it is absolutely impossible to claim manifestations of subjectivity in others, is grounded in, or predicated on, my own, to whit, I have witnessed a guy accidentally hit himself with a hammer, in the course of events under which a hammer would normally be used, and continue on as if it never happened.Mww

    You share your subjectivity with people all the time. You are doing it right here. Don't you ever hear of someone else's experiences and recognize them as similar to experiences you've had - sadness, happiness, pain, the taste of a hotdog? Of course the sharing is imperfect.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    Reason, too. Reason the verb is the reification of the abstract thing we do; reason the noun is the reification of the abstract thing describing how it is being done.

    Reification is dangerous, nonetheless. Sometimes necessary for communication of ideas, sometimes self-contradictory. But we all do it, sooner or later, in other than the more mundane circumstances.
    Mww

    "Reason" is no more a reification of an abstract thing than "digestion" is a reification of the process my digestive system uses to break down food for use in my body.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    Just try introspecting about something the knowledge of which is impossible. Can’t be done.Mww

    Can you give an example of something the knowledge of which is impossible? I can't think of any. Or do you just mean something that doesn't exist - like unicorns or magic.

    Try introspecting about something the knowledge of which is possible, but you have no experience with it. That can be done, but it is no different than imagining, and imagining has no certain ground anywhere,Mww

    Yes, that's exactly what it is. Imagination. I can observe myself imagining something that doesn't exist. That's introspection. What do you mean when you say "imagination has no certain ground anywhere." Maybe things I imagine have no certain ground, but imagination itself does. Imagination is a mental process just like reason, or feeling, or perception, or memory. It can be observed, again, by introspection.
  • Mww
    994


    Doesn’t matter if I agree with your terminology or not. Even so, if you don’t think reason, consciousness, plays any part in the perception of your internal states, first, what part do they play other than that, and second, what does play a part in the perception of your internal states.
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