Pooh’s Think

… with comments

A Philosophy Blog

Professors don’t need to have blogs; if they contribute to the published literature of their field, act the part of a good colleague, and fulfill teaching responsibilities, there is not much more the world will be nagging at them about. I think it is pretty cool, then, when a professor starts his or her own blog anyway. Eric Schwitzgebel offers “reflections in philosophy of psychology, broadly construed” at his new blog “The Splintered Mind.”

He has co-authored a book with an experimental psychologist, Russell T. Hurlburt, playing the role as a skeptic of scientific approaches to consciousness, i.e. systematic approaches to introspection and descriptive reports. This is a very accessible read for the non-philosopher—for the typical reader of my blog! I’m not yet sure Schwitzgebel’s skepticism about a science of consciousness fully matches my words to the experimental psychologist: of course I can’t tell you precisely what it is like to be me! As William James and C.S. Lewis both observed, as soon as you try to grasp your own experience it vanishes, like “turning up the gas” quickly enough to get a good look at the darkness. Yet, I do actually find the method of Hurlburt to be promising; Hurlburt does not demand introspection and description as much as he allows for non-intrusive, random, and private cues to the individual to recall in any way possible what it was just like to be that individual. I believe this is called retrospection; on my view, the trained and gifted retrospectionist just learns the poetic task at communicating—whether via hints, similes, or metaphors—the recollection of what it was like to be. Schwitzgebel likened this to the craft of the wine connoisseur who must develop greater attunement and a richer vocabulary. Such recollection is a creative and constructive task (theory and story laden), but it is just about all we’ve got.

January 17, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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