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Describing the Experience of Describing? The blindspot of introspection

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My comments on this pioneering book by Russ Hurlburt and Eric Schwitzgebel do not focus on the descriptions of experiences that it includes, but on the very process of description, which seems to me insufficiently highlighted, described and called into question. First I will rely on a few indications given by Melanie herself, the subject interviewed by the authors, to highlight an essential difficulty which the authors only touch upon: the not immediately recognized charac-ter of lived experience. Then I will look for clues about what Melanie does to come into contact with her experience and recognize it. These clues -- completed by elements of description of this act collected through explicitation interviews -- provide criteria enabling a more precise evaluation of what the authors do to guide Melanie in the real-ization of this act, and therefore the accuracy of Melanie's descrip-tions. I will defend the idea that the description of the very process of becoming aware and describing is an essential condition for the understanding, refinement, teaching, and evaluation of introspection methods, as well as for the reproducibility of their results.

Keywords: Description; Descriptive Experience Sampling; awareness; becoming aware; consciousness; experience; explicitation; explicitation interview; introspection

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Centre de Recherche en Épistémologie Appliquée (CREA), École Polytechnique/CNRS, Paris, Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2011


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