Date: Mon, 01 Sep 2003 20:57:44 -0400
From: "Phil Roberts, Jr." 
Cc: EvPsych 
Subject: [evol-psych] Introspection

Herbert Gintis wrote:

> At 02:01 PM 8/25/2003 -0400, Phil Roberts, Jr. wrote:
>> Why would one need to consult with neuroscientists if one's primary
>> objective were to understand the mind (as opposed to the brain)?
> Because thousands of years of introspection have failed to tease 
> apart human mental phenomena, and perhaps more controlled and 
> quantifiable setting will be able to do so. 

I think you're forgetting about the venerable Hume, Herb.  Some
might even argue that, compared to Hume, the past seventy-five
years of controlled and quantifiable experiments haven't
been all that helpful:

    "Discussions of scientific method have tended to stress
    problems of testability, while neglecting...those
    aspects of the universe which in some sense are most central
    and significant for the area of reality with which the
    science deals." "It has been frequently assumed that only
    those events which in principle can be simultaneously observed
    by multiple observers ... are to be accepted as constituting a
    legitimate observational basis for science." "I am suggesting
    that the more general and, to me, acceptable, objective intended
    by the criterion of interobserver agreement would be...the criterion
    of repeatability....a more general trust in one's own experience"
    ...and the abandonment of "a corresponding uncritical acceptance
    of the significance of verbal reports."  (Karl Zener)

>>   Phenomena of consciousness are "private," in the sense indicated
>>   earlier, namely, that the only consciousness a man can experience
>>   directly is his own.  But, as was also indicated, the inferences
>>   a psychologist makes, on the basis of his introspection,
>>   concerning the nature and functions of consciousness, may be
>>   checked by his fellow workers, who also have recourse to
>>   introspection -- just as one scientist checks on the reported
>>   findings of another by repeating the other's experiment in his
>>   own laboratory.  If psychologists sometimes disagree about what
>>   they perceive, this is true of physical scientists also.  And
>>   the method of resolving such differences is, in principle, the
>>   same: to investigate further to compare data more carefully, to
>>   define terms more precisely, to explore other, possibly relevant
>>   facts, to check their conclusions in the light of the rest of
>>   their knowledge to search for contradictions or non sequiturs
>>   in the their reports. (Nathaniel Branden)
>         I don't see anything wrong with this, except that, in fact, 
> introspection does not give us enough data to agree. This is why there 
> are so many discordant models of human psyche and behavior running 
> around the various behavioral disciplines.

Yep.  Zener and Branden seem to be on the right track all right,
but neither of them have offered us much in the way of an
explanation for why introspectively based psychology has remained
such a basket case -- why there seems to be so much difficulty
in getting data on which we can all agree.  I believe the fly
in the ointment has nothing to do with the study of minds,
but rather with the study of HUMAN BEINGS, arising from the
fact that we are so INDIVIDUALIZED.  But since this would
constitute an ORDER problem as opposed to a privacy problem,
the fix would be entirely different from the one proposed by
the behaviorists.  In the paper URL'd below, if I can actually
call it a paper, I've sketched my own views on how to address
this individualization problem, a methodology that has served
me well over the past several decades:

         Rehabilitating Introspection
  A Procedure for a First Person Psychical Science