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Introspection Distinct From First-Order Experiences

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As is the case with other concepts about mental affairs, the concept of introspection has many different interpretations. Some seem to consider introspecting a perceptive act (Lycan, 1996) and others see it as a thinking activity (Rosenthal, 1990). For the present purpose, we will claim it as a common understanding in all such theories that introspection (sometimes referred to as meta-awareness or second order consciousness) presupposes consciousness (e.g. Jack, 1998). States of consciousness, broadly discussed in the philosophical and empirical literature as first order states of consciousness, are states in which a subject is aware of some or other object, thought, or feeling. Introspective states, however, are states in which a subject directs his or her attention towards their own conscious state. According to this understanding which we claim is a widespread one introspection can exist only in conscious subjects, and, furthermore, it is by way of introspection that a subject can learn about having this or that experience. To avoid misunderstandings, we wish to underline that the claim is not that experiencing as such is dependent upon such acts of introspection. On the contrary, we believe that a subject can have all kinds of intero- and exteroceptive experiences, directing attention towards the represented object (be this an object in the surroundings, an object of thought, memory, etc.). It is only when the subject directs attention not towards the object as such but towards the very state of being conscious of the object that he or she is introspective.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2004


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