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The Limitations of Introspection workshop

St. Catherine's College, January 16, 2010

Organized by Tim Bayne ( and Maja Spener (


JCR Lecture Theatre, St Catherine's College, Oxford


9:45-10:00   Welcome
10:00-11:15 Zoltan Dienes (Sussex): The role of conscious experience in unconscious learning
11:30-12:45 Ian Phillips (Oxford, All Souls): Time and Inner Sense
12:45-13:45 Lunch
13:45-15:00 Eric Schwitzgebel (UC Riverside): Introspection, What?
15:15-16:30 Jakob Hohwy (Monash): Introspective Dissonance



Ian Phillips 'Time and Inner Sense' 

Many are tempted by the thought that the kinds of sceptical scenarios which are conceivable with respect to perception or memory are not conceivable with respect to one’s own present conscious experience. Such theorists reject ‘perceptual models’ of introspection, and insist that there is an essential connection between undergoing conscious experience of some kind and being in a position to know that one is. Here I develop a line of criticism of this picture due to Armstrong which focuses on the fact that our experience is a process which unfolds in time. I argue that anyone wishing to reject an Armstrongian, perceptual model of introspection, and defend the existence of a special epistemic condition on undergoing conscious experience, incurs substantial commitments with respect to the metaphysics of the stream of consciousness. To illustrate the substance of these commitments I show how a quite different metaphysics is routinely presupposed by theorists thinking about short-time scale psychophysical findings.

Eric Schwitzgebel 'Introspection What?

Self-knowledge -- knowledge of one's own mind, in particular -- arises in six completely different ways, none of which neatly deserve the label "introspection" I'll argue that the six methods work together, in different proportions and combinations in different cases, and that there is no distinctive faculty of introspection. Nonetheless, there's a commonality among the class of cognitive activities properly regarded as introspective: All involve a particular type of attention to conscious experience.

Jakob Hohwy 'Introspective Dissonance'

Introspection seems to be experienced simultaneously as both stable and elusive, as both certain and uncertain. This introspective dissonance is present in introspection of our phenomenal states, it intensifies for introspection of higher level thought as well for attentive inspection of phenomenal states. I suggest an account of introspection could do well by focusing on introspective dissonance. I align introspection with a framework for unconscious perceptual inference and suggest ways in which introspective dissonance can arise on this framework. The framework appeals to Bayesian mechanisms for unimodal and multimodal sensory integration, certain views about the cortical hierarchy and an intriguing but quirky notion of attention. Finally, I briefly review, and lament, the current state of the neuroscience of introspection.

The workshop is supported by grants from the Aristotelian Society, the Mind Association and Mind & Language.

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