First-Person Science of Consciousness - Methodological Issues and Fields of Application

May 6-8, 2021 in Witten, Germany

There is an increasing consensus in the mind sciences that intentionality, phenomenal states and subjectivity cannot be reduced to brain states without sacrificing consciousness as a field of research altogether. This raises the question of how first-person methods can be integrated more thoroughly into the study of consciousness.

Against this background, the conference will pursue the following core questions:

  • What are the differences and commonalities between first-person methods – in particular those that have been developed in recent decades?
  • In which disciplines and/or fields of research are these methods most fruitfully being applied?
  • How are these first-person forms of inquiry related to second- and third-person methods of studying consciousness?  

The conference seeks to advance the field of a first-person science of consciousness with a particular emphasis on recent developments in method and application. The conference will bring together leading researchers, young scholars, and students in order to open up a future in which first-person research moves from the fringes of the scientific exploration of the human mind to its center.

Organizers: Prof. Ulrich Weger, PhD, Prof. Dr. Christian Tewes, Prof. Dr. Johannes Wagemann, Dr. Terje Sparby and Dr. Anna-Lena Lumma.



With the recent re-appearance of consciousness as a field of research in the cognitive sciences, different methods of first-person enquiry have been developed. In the field of “micro-phenomenology”, for example, various techniques are now available to invoke first-person experiences and to analyze their structural content. The same is true with regard to the “descriptive experience sampling method”, the psychotherapeutic method of “focusing”, or the “protocol analysis” approach – to name only a few. Each of these methods explores subjects’ lived experiences. This does not mean, however, that there are no controversies concerning the structure and justification of the respective methods. A number of important issues remain unresolved. For instance, should a first-person science seek to inquire into pre-reflective or “pristine experiences” of mental processes? Are reflexivity and the application of concepts essential ingredients of first-person descriptions? How do we assess the process of retrospection, i.e. the temporal gap between a former experience and its re-evocation? Finally, in what way do first-person methods have to adapt to specific disciplines as diverse as psychology, psychotherapy, mathematics, or pedagogy?


Call for Submissions

We invite you to submit an abstract for a talk or presentation. While the conference focuses on philosophical and psychological issues, it is open to scientific contributions from other disciplines too. For registration and submissions, please go to the registration page.

We invite students to submit an abstract for an informal question-/answer dialogue format with other students and/or conference attendants in the student section on Friday, May 7th, 17:15-18:00. Presentations in the student section can be in English or German but submissions via the submission website will have to be in English only.

The conference is open to academics, students and the wider public. Talks will be 30 minutes long, plus 15 minutes for discussion (and intermissions). For further details, see the programme page.

For further questions regarding submissions please contact Anna-Lena Lumma and Terje Sparby.


This conference is organized by:

Prof. Ulrich Weger, PhD

Witten/Herdecke University

Prof. Dr. Christian Tewes

Alanus University, Campus Mannheim

Prof. Dr. Johannes Wagemann

Alanus University, Campus Mannheim

Dr. Terje Sparby

Witten/Herdecke University

Dr. Anna-Lena Lumma

Witten/Herdecke University

In cooperation with:

With support from:

Anthroposophical Society in Germany, Research and Research Support