Friday, October 27, 2017

685: Is Introspection the Method...?

An influential answer to the question of what makes self-knowledge so special is found in the philosophical tradition that originates from the work of Rene Descartes (1596-1650). 
According to this tradition, we must see self-knowledge as a way of introspection, a kind of 'inner' perception. 
Just as there are things in the world that we can see by looking outside, there are things in our consciousness that we can see when we look inside.
Literally translated, this is exactly what introspection means: the Latin word ‘intra ‘means 'inward', and ‘spectare’ means ‘to watch / look’. 
The first question that arises here is of course this meaning: do we really LOOK INWARD? It is absurd to assume that we have eyes inside our skull.
And if we had, we wouldn’t see a thing because it must be dark inside, I guess. But I also can elaborate on this metaphor
You can imagine introspection as a flashlight shedding light in a dark treasure room, your consciousness, on all sorts of shiny objects, such as your convictions, desires, feelings and intentions. 
This approach of self-knowledge is also known as the introspection theory. 
In Cartesian tradition, self-knowledge is often associated with the following two characteristics: infallibility and omniscience. 
Infallibility means that you can not be mistaken when it comes to what mental state you have now.
If you think you are in pain, or you're in love, then that's actually the case. However, other people have no infallible knowledge of your thoughts.
If they think you are in pain, they may be wrong. Maybe you just try to fool them. 
Omniscience means that you have knowledge of all your mental states. It is impossible to not be aware of your thoughts, desires, intentions or beliefs. There is nothing that can escape your inner eye. 
These two features make sure that a significant difference arises between self-knowledge and the knowledge we have about the mental world of others. 
Today, most philosophers agree that infallibility and omniscience are too high a standard, when it comes to self-knowledge. 
Nevertheless this belief, that using  your inner eye, this method of introspection, is a reliable method of acquiring knowledge has been very influential.
Of course there is a main role for Descartes here in the history of philosophy, but there still exists also neo-cartesianism.
Edmund Husserl (1859 – 1938) was a German  philosopher who established the school of phenomenology.
“Cartesian Meditations: An Introduction to Phenomenology”  is a book (1931) by him, based on four lectures he gave at the Sorbonne, in the Amphithéatre Descartes on February 23 and 25, 1929. Typical….!
His whole philosophy was based on this looking inward at mental phenomena to  examine the essence of a mental object, be it a simple mental act, 
or the unity of consciousness itself, with the intention of drawing out the absolutely necessary and invariable components that make the mental object what it is.
And don’t forget his contemporary Sigmund Freud (1856 - 1939), Nowadays his name is sometimes spelled as Sigmund Fraud.
His whole theory of psycho-analysis is based on introspection. And he discovered all kinds of interesting things with his “flashlight shedding light in a dark treasure room”.
I do not deny the existence of introspection, but the “inner eye” metaphor is misleading. It suggests that we can see “things” in our mind and that we can see everything.
However, introspection is not a reliable method to acquire reliable knowledge about the self. 
The best description of what introspection really is, would be for me: it is thinking about your thoughts, feelings, emotions, intentions, that is: thinking about what goes on in your mind.
And by doing so you won’t find anything that looks like a Self, but yet you can learn a lot about yourself.
Thank you again for your attention…. ^_^

Main Sources:
MacMillan The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition
Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1995
John Searle: The Mystery of Consciousness (1997)
Antonio Damasio: Self comes to Mind (2010) Bruin/F. Jongepier/ Maargt: IK, Filosofie van het Zelf (2017)

The Discussion

[13:17] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): thinks of see as a metaphor
[13:18] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): for introspection
[13:18] herman Bergson: Yes....
[13:18] herman Bergson: It puts you on the wrong track, I'd say
[13:19] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): we can access whats in our brain basically like a computer can access its disk drives but unlike the computer there is no way for other people to plug into and "download" what is in your head
[13:19] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): thus mind reading is an impossibility
[13:19] herman Bergson: lovely SF theme....mind reading :-)
[13:20] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): only you can know what you think and feel, the only way for others to know is if you tell them but sometimes, like when you lie this is incorrect information
[13:20] herman Bergson: Would be a disaster for first-person authority :-)
[13:21] herman Bergson: The main issue to me is this THINKING about what goes on in your mind
[13:21] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): yes
[13:21] herman Bergson: Some like to call this thinking 'introspection'
[13:21] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ok
[13:21] herman Bergson: But I prefer to call it interpretation...
[13:22] herman Bergson: you can not look into your mind.....
[13:22] herman Bergson: that is a metaphor...
[13:22] CB Axel: Right. You can't actually look with your eyes into your own head.
[13:23] CB Axel: Even if you could, all you'd see is brain matter, blood vessels, etc.
[13:23] CB Axel: It wouldn't tell you much.
[13:23] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): or a black cat
[13:23] herman Bergson: no....but we use expressions like that.....look inward and search...
[13:23] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): indeed
[13:24] CB Axel: You might discover you have a brain tumor or have had a stroke, but it wouldn't tell you what you're thinking or feeling.
[13:24] herman Bergson: so the interesting thing here is to understand thie THINKING as an act....
[13:24] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): sure is
[13:24] herman Bergson: and brings it knowledge of the Self
[13:24] CB Axel: So, introspection isn't really a good word, I guess.
[13:24] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): especially when trying to meditate!!!
[13:24] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[13:24] herman Bergson: I would drop it indeed CB :-))
[13:25] CB Axel: When I try to think about what I'm thinking, I just start going in mental circles.
[13:25] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): what will we use then
[13:25] herman Bergson: to suggest a relation with "seeing" points you in the wrong direction
[13:25] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): true cb
[13:26] herman Bergson: You can but you don't do that every time CB....
[13:26] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): most of our thoughts seem to be about what is around us.... people... things... etc that affect us
[13:26] herman Bergson: When you think about your actions....oh my, what am I doing....for instance
[13:26] herman Bergson: or your emotions....
[13:26] herman Bergson: I really in love?
[13:27] herman Bergson: dozens of times a day you think about  what goes on in your mind
[13:27] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): true
[13:27] herman Bergson: I understand your circles idea CB....
[13:28] herman Bergson: It is exactly what we are dealing with here.....
[13:28] herman Bergson: When you say ...I am thinking about myself, which means everything that now goes on in you...
[13:28] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): we can say 'hush'to that moneky in our head , but it won't keep still
[13:29] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): yes beertje
[13:29] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): monkey
[13:29] herman Bergson: the interesting question is....WHO or WHAT is that "I" and how do I have to understand this act of thinking....
[13:29] herman Bergson: Here too Beertje...who is this "hush" sayer?
[13:30] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): i call the hush sayer 'me'
[13:30] herman Bergson: so in a way we can double ourselves.....
[13:30] CB Axel: Then who is the monkey?
[13:30] herman Bergson: Ask Beertje CB :-)
[13:30] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): the monkey is the thoughts that keep coming
[13:30] CB Axel: I have to admit that the annoying monkey in my head is also me.
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:31] CB Axel: The Mr. Hyde to my Dr. Jekyl. °͜°
[13:31] herman Bergson: Where is the Self of these two? :-)
[13:31] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): kohoh cb dualism
[13:32] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): interesting idea
[13:32] CB Axel: Freud would have said it's both the id and the superego.
[13:32] CB Axel: Or is the ego the self?
[13:32] herman Bergson: so there is Me and the one who I am thinking about (which happens to be me too:-)
[13:32] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): i think there are no two, just one..the self or the me
[13:33] herman Bergson: the EGO is just a term from psycho analytical theory
[13:34] herman Bergson: There is one brain and one mind indeed.....
[13:34] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): not alowwed in this class :))
[13:34] CB Axel: Yeah. I pretty much gave up on Freud because he thought everything was about sex.
[13:34] herman Bergson: but that mind plays the trick that it can look at itself...
[13:34] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): for Freud it was reality
[13:35] herman Bergson: yes is everything about sex indeed  but not in the sense Freud meant ^_^
[13:35] CB Axel: Since we don't even understand how thought works, what consciousness is, how can we explain being able to think about our thoughts?
[13:35] herman Bergson: That is the question indeed CB
[13:36] herman Bergson: But we we want to understand
[13:36] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): we know but we still dont know
[13:36] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): sort of
[13:36] herman Bergson: That's what philosophers do ^_^
[13:36] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): we know
[13:37] herman Bergson: At least we can say that this staring inward is no use...there is nothing to see ^_^
[13:37] herman Bergson: Better to stare at your bellybutton ^_^
[13:37] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako) whispers:
[13:37] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehe
[13:38] CB Axel: °͜°
[13:38] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): is that usefull Herman?
[13:38] herman Bergson: So in fact it boils down to the question.....
[13:39] herman Bergson: What kind of act or process is this thinking about your personal thoughts, feelings and so on
[13:39] herman Bergson: Some might conclude....
[13:40] herman Bergson: if it is thinking...then there is nothing special about my pricvate thinking and the thinking of others...
[13:40] herman Bergson: so...maybe there is kn knowledge of our Self at all...
[13:41] herman Bergson: But we'll discuss that in the next lectures :-)
[13:41] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): oki
[13:41] herman Bergson: Now I'll offer you a whole week to think about yourself....for no classes next week...I  need a vacation ^_^
[13:41] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): nice
[13:42] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:42] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
[13:42] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
[13:42] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): so do we
[13:42] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): op naar Schier:)
[13:42] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): very nice
[13:42] CB Axel: I'll spend the week thinking about thinking about what I'm thinking.
[13:42] herman Bergson: Yes Gemma...saves me one week of chaos due to wintertime shift
[13:42] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[13:42] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): very very true
[13:42] herman Bergson: I'll think about that too CB :-)
[13:42] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): tho in fall it is only half bad
[13:42] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): a lot of thinking about again
[13:43] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): spring is worse!!!!
[13:43] herman Bergson: Europe is palnning to abolish winter/summertime changes
[13:43] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): maybe this will be the last change of time, they want to quit it
[13:43] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): at least i can sleep for 1 hour LONGER this time and not the other way around
[13:43] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): oh nice
[13:44] CB Axel: I wish the US would. It's so stupid.
[13:44] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): we talk about it every year then go and do it
[13:44] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): doesnt matter much though since im always a zombie when i awake most of the time no matter how long i sleep
[13:44] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): at least im no morning guy
[13:44] herman Bergson: It is proven that it has a lot  of serious negative health consequences...this time shifting
[13:44] CB Axel: Twice a year I have to think hard about what time it is in Europe.
[13:44] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): true
[13:44] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): i love the mornings, the best time of the day
[13:44] CB Axel: And I never know what time it is in Arizona.
[13:44] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
[13:44] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
[13:44] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): yes
[13:44] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): they dont change
[13:45] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:45] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): have a good time
[13:45] CB Axel: The only time I see sunrise is if I've been awake all night. °͜°
[13:45] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): hope the weather is good and not too windy
[13:45] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): indeed this change back and forth is kind of crazy
[13:45] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): it's 22.45 h now CB
[13:45] herman Bergson: Well..then I wish you all a nice week off
[13:45] herman Bergson: Thank you all again
[13:45] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:45] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): have a good time there now Herman
[13:45] Ciska Riverstone: have a nice week off herman
[13:45] Ciska Riverstone: thank you
[13:45] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:45] herman Bergson: Class dismissed..^_^
[13:46] CB Axel: Have a nice holiday. °͜°
[13:46] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): thank you Herman:)
[13:46] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): cu
[13:46] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): bye all for now
[13:46] herman Bergson: Schiermonnikoog is waiting :-)
[13:46] Ciska Riverstone: bye everyone
[13:46] Ciska Riverstone: enjoy
[13:46] bergfrau Apfelbaum: byebye cb:-))
[13:46] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):

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