Past Conference

First-Person Science of Consciousness: Theories, Methods, Applications

23rd - 25th May 2019 at Witten/Herdecke University, Germany

The idea of directing attention toward one's own mental acts and their contents exemplifies the ancient philosophical principal of "know thyself" in the context of our modern time. For philosophers like Brentano or Husserl, the observation of often unnoticed pre-reflexive mental phenomena opened up a field for investigating the structure and dynamics of the mind "from within". Corresponding theories and methods were suggested to provide a direct access to the most fundamental aspects of reality – the self, the structure of consciousness, the basic categories of reality, and their logical and ontological foundations.

The various attempts in the early 1900s at establishing a systematic form of introspection in psychology – for instance, in the work of Wundt and Titchener – are regarded as having failed. And though the work of Brentano and Husserl has been influential, actual introspective or phenomenological studies are rare today and typically met with skepticism. Similarly, methods such as phenomenological psychology and micro-phenomenology exist within a niche and are not yet widely regarded as reliable first-person approaches. Hence, a first-person science of consciousness is currently not part of the established forms of systematic, scientific procedure. This is striking, given the fact that first-person observation is implicitly involved in all forms of psychological research. Every psychologist makes direct or indirect use of introspection, for instance, when operationalizing psychological phenomena for further research. One can also argue that precise sense-based observation is inherently introspective, in that it involves mental faculties such as attention and memory.

Furthermore, we take for granted that science benefits from developing ever more precise instruments for investigating natural phenomena. Why should we not develop ever more precise methods for studying consciousness and the introspective activity that underlies scientific conduct? Until we have good methods for gathering accurate, reliable and rich descriptions of mental events and processes, psychology and related disciplines will arguably lack a strong foundation.

Keynote Speakers

Dr. Fergus Anderson

Describing the experience of conscious, occurrent thinking: A first and second-person approach.

Prof. Shaun Gallagher, PhD

Why there is no zero-point in the first-person: The phenomenological s

Dr. Christopher Gutland

Some Peculiarities of the First Person Experience of Thinking

Prof. Russell Hurlburt, PhD

Exploring pristine inner experience

Prof. Dr. Stefan Schmidt

Improving the Reliability of the Introspective Approach - Meditation Expertise as Research Method

Prof. Dr. Johannes Wagemann

Exploring Mental Microgestures in Perceptual Reversals - Implications for the Mind-Brain-Problem