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Socratic Introspection and the Abundance of Experience

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Abstract:

I examine the prospects of using Hurlburt's DES method to justify his very 'thin'view of experience, on which visual experience is so infrequent as to be typically absent when reading and speaking. Such justification would seem to be based on the claim that, in DES 'beeper' samples, subjects often deny they just had any visual experi-ence. But if the question of 'visual experience' is properly construed, then (judging by the example of Melanie) it is doubtful they are deny-ing this. And even if they were, that would not generally warrant over-turning belief in the abundance of one's own visual experience. I defend use of non-DES introspective judgments in reaching this conclusion. These are no more dubious overall than the near-term ret-rospective judgments in response to open-ended prompts employed in DES. Moreover, DES itself needs to presuppose subjects enjoy an introspective competence not confined to their beeper reports. The true power of DES to revise introspection thus lies in its interview por-tion. This view is further supported by considering Hurlburt's and Schwitzgebel's discussion of detail in visual imagery. Introspectively based conceptions of experience should be improved and corrected, not by means of a supposedly privileged class of reports, but by questioning that clarifies distinctions and makes explicit the implications of what one says in making introspective judgments. My advocacy of this sort of 'Socratic introspection' leads me to broad agreement with many of Schwitzgebel's conclusions. But it also makes me regard myself as a 'proponent' of -- not a 'sceptic' about -- the use of introspection to study experience.

Keywords: Descriptive Experience Sampling; Introspection; visual experience; visual imager

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Rice University Philosophy Department MS 14, PO Box 1892, Houston, TX 77251, USA, Email: siewert@rice.edu

Publication date: January 1, 2011

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