Wednesday, November 07, 2007

My First Book Is Out!

I'm hoping that the book rises above its current sales rank of #5,939,601! Barnes & Noble seems to be offering a 20% discount on it ($27.20 + free delivery). [Update, Nov. 13: Amazon now seems to be offering it for $26.66 + free delivery.]

Russ Hurlburt and I gave a subject a random beeper while she went about her normal day. When the beep sounded, she was to reflect on her "last undisturbed moment of inner experience immediately before the beep". Then we interviewed her about her sampled experiences. We did this for six days. At the core of the book are edited transcripts of the interviews, supplemented with sideboxes where we connect with existing and historical literature in philosophy and psychology. Russ and I have written separate introductory and concluding chapters -- he from the perspective of a proponent of this method for learning about consciousness, I as a skeptic.

Here are three unique things about the book:

(1.) It explores in unprecedented detail randomly sampled moments of an ordinary subject's stream of experience.

(2.) Rather than being a debate between opposing partisans regarding the accuracy of subjective reports about experience, it is a collaboration between opposing partisans, where we really try to get each other's views straight and find common ground, over many conversational turns.

(3.) It takes the question of the accuracy of introspective reports about experience, and the conditions of accuracy and failure, as seriously as has ever been done -- not just regarding beeper methodologies, but (in the extended opening and concluding chapters) regarding introspective reports about consciousness in general.

Russ and I have tried to write so the book would be accessible to non-specialists. I suspect parts of it will be drier than ideal for a broad audience, but if you enjoy the consciousness posts on this blog, I think -- or at least I hope! -- that you'll enjoy the book.


Brad C said...

Congratulations, Eric!

Somehow I missed the fact that the book is set up as a debate -- I am really looking forward to reading it.


Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Thanks, Brad! This book is definitely not the usual thing. I hope it makes a unique and valuable contribution, but I also worry that people won't be quite sure what to make of it!

dan haybron said...

Hey Eric,
Congratulations!! I look forward to reading it. BTW, re. your question on the relative morals of utilitarians, kantians and virtue ethicists, here's a thought (a bit off-topic in either threadt, hope you don't mind it being here).

I don't know much about emotional intelligence surveys, but I suspect that EI, if it's really a valid measure of anything, would track an important dimension of moral judgment. Psychopaths aside, higher EI should yield better moral judgment and behavior. If so, then it may be interesting to test philosophers for EI and look for correlations with views in ethics.

I suspect, eg, that virtue ethicists would rate highest, with utilitarians (but maybe kantians) might be last. It would at least be provocative to publish a study showing that utilitarians have low EI!

Has anyone done peer studies of moral behavior? Ie, ask a subject's friends to rate her? I suspect this would yield reasonably informative results--perhaps giving a way to calibrate EI results--even adjusting for positivity biases and tendencies of like to seek out like. Anyway, it would be really interesting to do this with philosophers....

Congrats again!

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Virtue ethicists higher EI than utilitarians -- interesting thought, Dan! That would be fun to test, and certainly cool and controversial if it came out as you predict!

There is a body of research in social psychology -- mostly in adolescents and children from what I've seen so far -- showing correlations (messy and inconsistent, of course!) between peer ratings of things like aggressiveness and generosity and objectively measured moral/prosocial or immoral/antisocial behaviors. I haven't seen this tied with EI in particular, but I wouldn't be surprised if someone has done that!

Erik said...

Sales Rank: 231,570. What a leap from a week ago!


Eric Schwitzgebel said...