We Are Not All ‘Self‐Blind’: A Defense of a Modest Introspectionism

Mind and Language 28 (3):259-285 (2013)
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Shoemaker (1996) presenteda prioriarguments against the possibility of ‘self‐blindness’, or the inability of someone, otherwise intelligent and possessed of mental concepts, to introspect any of her concurrent attitude states. Ironically enough, this seems to be a position that Gopnik (1993) and Carruthers (2006, 2008, 2009a,b) have proposed as not only possible, but as the actual human condition generally! According to this ‘Objectivist’ view, supposed introspection of one's attitudes is not ‘direct’, but an ‘inference’ of precisely the sort we make about the attitudes of others, an inference that has the advantage in our own case ofonlyour own sensory data and memories, our behavior, and of the context we are in; i.e. we are all substantially self‐ blind. After sorting out a number of methodological and verbal issues, I argue, first, that thea prioriarguments against Objectivism don't succeed, and that Gopnik and Carruthers are right to regard the issue as an empirical one. On the other hand, I think they seriously underestimate the difficulty of establishing Objectivism. It is unlikely there is an inferential procedure from the data of pure sensation, behavior and context to the relevant self‐attributions that would be as spectacularly reliable as people manifestly seem to be. Moreover, there is a simpler model: the mind very likely consists of a panoply of sub‐routines some of whose outputs are ‘tagged’ for their having been so processed, rather in the way that software ‘documents’ are on standard computers. Introspection plausibly consists in a person's simply attending to distinctive constellations of these tags, even though they may lack phenomenal feels. This draws attention to an important independent fact: that much of phenomenology (or ‘what it's like’ to be in a certain state) may be constituted by facts that are not phenomenal.



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