Philosophy Word of the Day – Introspection

Le Penseur, Musée Rodin, Paris

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Introspection, as the term is used in contemporary philosophy of mind, is a means of learning about one’s own currently ongoing, or perhaps very recently past, mental states or processes. You can, of course, learn about your own mind in the same way you learn about others’ minds—by reading psychology texts, by observing facial expressions (in a mirror), by examining readouts of brain activity, by noting patterns of past behavior—but it’s generally thought that you can also learn about your mind introspectively, in a way that no one else can. But what exactly is introspection? No simple characterization is widely accepted. Although introspection must be a process that yields knowledge only of one’s own current mental states, more than one type of process fits this characterization.

Introspection is a key concept in epistemology, since introspective knowledge is often thought to be particularly secure, maybe even immune to skeptical doubt. Introspective knowledge is also often held to be more immediate or direct than sensory knowledge. Both of these putative features of introspection have been cited in support of the idea that introspective knowledge can serve as a ground or foundation for other sorts of knowledge.

Introspection is also central to philosophy of mind, both as a process worth study in its own right and as a court of appeal for other claims about the mind. Philosophers of mind offer a variety of theories of the nature of introspection; and philosophical claims about consciousness, emotion, free will, personal identity, thought, belief, imagery, perception, and other mental phenomena are often thought to have introspective consequences or to be susceptible to introspective verification. For similar reasons, empirical psychologists too have discussed the accuracy of introspective judgments and the role of introspection in the science of the mind. (Continue article)

(Via Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

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Philosophy Word of the Day – Epiphenomenalism

In philosophy of mind, epiphenomenalism, also known as ‘Type-E Dualism‘ is a view according to which some or all mental states are mere epiphenomena (side-effects or by-products) of physical states of the world.

Thus, epiphenomenalism denies that the mind (as in its states, not its processing) has any influence on the body or any other part of the physical world: while mental states are caused by physical states, mental states do not have any influence on physical states.

Some versions of epiphenomenalism claim that all mental states are inert, while others claim that only some mental states are inert. The latter version often claims that only those types of mental states that are especially difficult to account for scientifically are epiphenomenal, such as qualitative mental states (e.g., the sensation of pain).

(Via Wikipedia)

Many Christian theists, on the other hand, insist that mental states are grounded in the soul, which stands in a two-way causal relationship with the body:  the soul can influence the body, and the body can influence the soul.  This position is also known as substance dualism.

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René Descartes‘s illustration of dualism. Inputs are passed on by the sensory organs to the epiphysis in the brain and from there to the immaterial spirit.

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