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?



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