Maja Spener has written an interesting critique of my 2011 book, Perplexities of Consciousness, for a forthcoming book symposium at Philosophical Studies. My book is an extended argument that people have very poor knowledge of their own conscious experience, even of what one might have thought would be fairly obvious-seeming features of their currently ongoing experience (such as whether it is sparse or full of abundant detail, whether it is visually doubled, whether they have pervasive auditory experience of the silent surfaces around them). Maja argues that we have good introspective knowledge in at least one class of cases: cases in which our skillful negotiation with the world depends on what she calls "introspection-reliant abilities".
Maja provides examples of two such introspection-reliant abilities: choosing the right amount of food to order at a restaurant (which relies on knowledge of how hungry you feel) and adjusting binoculars (which relies on knowing how blurry the target objects look).
Let's consider, then, Maja's binoculars. What, exactly, are you noticing when you adjust your binoculars?
Consider other cases of optical reflection and refraction. I see an oar half-submerged in water. In some sense, maybe, it "looks bent". Is this a judgment about my visual experience of the oar or instead a judgment about the optical structure of my environment? -- or a bit of both? How about when I view myself in the bathroom mirror? Normally during my morning routine, I seem to be reaching judgments primarily about my body and secondarily about the mirror, and hardly at all about my visual experience. (At least, not unless we accept some kind of introspective foundationalism on which all judgments about the outside world are grounded on prior judgments about experience.) Or suppose I'm just out of the shower and the mirror is foggy; in this case my primary judgment seems to concern neither my body nor my visual experience but rather the state of the mirror. Similarly, perhaps, if the mirror is warped -- or if I am looking through a warped window, or a fisheye lens, or using a maladjusted review mirror at night, or looking in a carnival mirror.
If I can reach such judgments directly without antecedent judgments about my visual experience, perhaps analogously in the binoculars case? Or is there maybe instead some interaction among phenomenal judgments about experience and optical or objectual judgments, or some indeterminacy about what sort of judgment it really is? We can create, I'm inclined to think, a garden path between the normal bathroom mirror case (seemingly not an introspective judgment about visual experience) and the blurry binoculars case (seemingly an introspective judgment about visual experience), going either direction, and thus into self-contradiction. (For related cases feeding related worries see my essay in draft The Problem of Known Illusion and the Resemblance of Experience to Reality.)
Another avenue of resistance to the binoculars case might be this. Suppose I'm looking at a picture on a rather dodgy computer monitor and it looks too blue, so I blame the monitor and change the settings. Arguably, I could have done this without introspection: I reach a normal, non-introspective visual judgment that the picture of the baby seal is tinted blue. But I know that baby seals are white. So I blame the monitor and adjust. Or maybe I have a real baby seal in a room with dubious, theatrical lighting. I reach a normal visual assessment of the seal as tinted blue, so I know the lighting much be off and I ask the lighting techs to adjust. Similarly perhaps, then, if I gaze at a real baby seal through blurry binoculars: I reach a normal, non-introspective judgment of the baby seal as blurry-edged. But I know that baby seals have sharp edges. So I blame the binoculars and adjust. Need this be introspective at all, need it concern visual experience at all?
In the same way, maybe, I see spears of light spiking out of streetlamps at night -- an illusion, some imperfection of my eyes or eyewear. When I know I am being betrayed by optics, am I necessarily introspecting, or might I just be correcting my normal non-introspective visual assessments?
This is a nest of issues I am struggling with, making less progress than I would like. Maybe Maja is right, then. But if so, it will take further work to show.