Friday, July 12, 2013

Tutorial M3: Windt

Friday July 12 09:00-12:00

M3: First-person methods: Philosophers' dreams or researchers' nightmares? Perspectives from philosophy and the study of dreaming

Jennifer M. Windt (Dep’t of Philosophy, University of Mainz, DE) & Sascha B. Fink (Institute of Cognitive Science, University of Osnabrück, DE)

The best way to learn about the specific character of conscious experience is to study what people say about it. Fundamental features of consciousness (e.g. holistic integration, phenomenal embodiment, specious presence, etc.) were only established as targets for consciousness research through first-person methods. Most agree that such methods are indispensable for consciousness studies. At the same time, phenomena such as change blindness suggest that first-person access to phenomenality is not perfect. First-person reports can be confabulated, contradictory, or incomplete. This calls the validity of first-person approaches into question. Apparently, we need first-person reports – but how far can we trust them?

Dreams illustrate the problem of first-person reports in a compelling manner. Because dreams are largely decoupled from sensory input and behavioral output, dream researchers rely almost exclusively on dream reports. At the same time, dream reports have often been taken to be particularly unreliable, occasionally leading to outright skepticism regarding the experiential character of dreaming. Despite these theoretical disagreements, however, dream research is a thriving field and can provide a fresh perspective on problems

The tutorial has four goals: (1) Provide an introduction to the basic problems raised by first-person reports using the example of dreaming, (2) suggest specific consequences from the philosophical debate on dream- ing for the use of first-person reports in consciousness research, (3) discuss philosophical positions on the validity of first-person reports and the reliability of introspection, and (4) discuss the role and value of the researcher’s own experience.

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