Re: Introspection: The Science of Experience

From: Nicholas Bollons (
Date: Fri Oct 27 1995 - 11:08:15 GMT

Dear All

Here is my response to last weeks Introspection
tutorial . Again , i found the time both informative and interesting
(though sometimes a little bewildering as to the ideology of certain
aspects ie the questioning of nearly all mental process)

> So how do I confirm your psychological observation that when you think
> of heights, it makes you feel nervous? Well, perhaps I could think of
> heights too, and see whether it makes ME nervous. There are a few problems
> with this, though. Supposing it DIDN'T make me nervous to think of
> heights? You might say, ok, it's not always true that thinking of
> heights makes you nervous.

Basic difference between Nomothetic and Ideographic schools of
philosophical and scientific thought.

> there's really no way I can check whether your
> introspection was accurate at all! But how can I ever check whether your
> introspective reading was accurate? The only one who can experience your
> experiences is you. I may or may not be able to find something similar
> in my own experience, but that's beside the point if there's no way I
> can confirm that your OWN report was accurate.

Do you really need to check my introspection ? is'nt the whole idea
of " looking inward " to find out about the self not other people ?
Then it stops becoming introspection .

> and I asked you to introspect about how you chose
> whether to pick the left pencil or the right one, and you replied that
> it was because you felt like it (and you could have done the opposite
> if you wanted to), you had to confess that if you introspected close
> enough, you could not really pinpoint the cause of your choice: In the
> end it was just a spontaneous choice. That's not very helpful.

Maybe it was personal preferece ; i liked the colour of that pencile,
so i chose it . Introspection could easily be verified as it is easy to
ask someone what there favourite colour is.

> Don't reply "I remembered; I had memorised it
> once, and I recalled it now," because I will ask you the same question:
> How did you remember? Can introspection answer that question?

Is'nt the basis for Introspection the analysis of individual
memory and our emotional relationship to them ?

> How about riding a bicycle?
> We can TEACH people how to ride a bicycle, so we must know how it's
> done!
> Ah, you say, it may not give me any clues in these simple cases, but
> once it comes to something complex -- and I mean something REALLY
> complex, psychologically complex -- then introspection, if it cannot
> reveal, can at least CONFIRM what someone else -- a professional
> psychologist, for example -- has revealed.

Confirmation of an individual experience is pretty difficult to
do . Though to a certain degree we all share certain inate
characteristics and it is to these that the Psychologist can base his

> The trouble, in short, is that people are suggestible, so you can talk
> them into the fact that they unconsciously want this, or that they are
> repressing the memory of that, and the conscious "evidence" that they
> then draw on to confirm that you are right is rather unreliable,
> compared to the measurements that are used in other areas to confirm
> that something is really true.

Mankind's drive to explain all things sometimes makes him create a
theory or reasoning just to solve the problem.

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