Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Can You Introspect Your Judgments?

Here's an issue I find weirdly difficult: Can you introspect your judgments -- that is, your "occurrent", happening-now assessments of (for example) the truth or falsity of some proposition? (I distinguish such judgments from standing, dispositional beliefs.)

Surely we can, often, know what our judgments are. I'm thinking about whether there will be a department meeting next week. I reach the judgment that there won't be, and I can accurately tell myself and others that this is my judgment. But is such knowledge of our judgments generally derived through introspection, exactly?

Well, what is introspection? Here's a narrow definition I find attractive: Introspection is a species of attention to ongoing (or maybe very recently past) conscious experience. If, then, there is a conscious experience of judging that there won't be a department meeting next week, and if I get to know that that's my judgment by attending, in some way, to that conscious experience, then I've learned about my judgment through introspection. But does that happen? Can that happen? If it can happen, is it ordinary or exceptional? (Alvin Goldman and David Pitt seem to think it's ordinary, and indeed the rule in self-knowledge of attitudes.)

A number of philosophers, including Gareth Evans, Robert Gordon, Richard Moran, and Dorit Bar-On, have given non-introspective accounts of self-knowledge in such cases. Roughly speaking, on such views, we think about or attend to the world -- not our own minds -- and self-ascriptive statements like "I think there won't be a department meeting" are simply expressions of such external, world-oriented judgments, but in self-ascriptive language. We do not cast our eyes introspectively inward, as it were, every time we say that we think such-and-such is the case.

It's quite plausible that at least some of our self-ascriptive statements are non-introspective in (roughly) this way -- but are they all? Must they be?

Suppose, turning my mind to the question of whether there will be a department meeting next week, I find myself uttering, silently to myself in inner speech: "No, no department meeting". It seems I can discover this inner-speechy fact about myself though introspection, no? But introspecting inner speech isn't the same as introspecting judgment, is it? For example, if I'm reciting lines from a play silently in my head, or an advertising jingle, I may have inner speech without the corresponding judgment. It also seems that judgment often precedes inner speech.

Similar considerations apply to the visual imagery that may accompany (partly constitute?) a thought.

So is there some distinctive phenomenology specifically of judgment that we often are, or sometimes are, or at least in principle can be, introspectively attuned to, that serves or can serve as a basis for our knowledge about our judgments? I find it slipping my grasp....

4 comments:

Michael Metzler said...

I think this gets at a worry I have with David Pitt’s “The Phenomenology of Cognition Or What Is It Like to Think That P” (PPR 2004). The representational content of any thought just is its proprietary phenomenology. This is an interesting proposal to me, and I think Pitt rightly interprets the negalian ‘what it is like’ to just be conscious experience. But if this is the case, I do not understand the difference between just having an individuated thought and having an “attentive” experience of that thought; if Pitt thinks that having an individuated thought is the same as having an “attentive” experience (see p10), then I would be even more perplexed about his talk of “simple introspection.” If to have a thought at all is have its proprietary phenomenology, then nothing like “introspection” seems necessary. Or perhaps I’m missing something simple?....

Michael

Fido the Yak said...

Yes you can introspect your judgements, but the usual case of noticing judgements that pass by in inner speech is probably not really introspection by your definition. On the other hand, I'm not so sure. What do you make of Hamlet? Is his problem with himself, or with the world?

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Thanks for the comments!

On Hamlet: I think the problem is in him, but it's not a problem of introspection, it's a problem of being confused about the world.

On Pitt: I can't seem to find my copy of Pitt's article right now, but I agree that if Pitt is committed to the series of positions you describe, he's in trouble unless he adopts the dubious view that all cognitive phenomenology is attentively experienced as it occurs. But I hope it's not as bad as that....

michael metzler said...

It looks like Pitt has his essay online at the link you provided...