25 November 2018
Introspection, what is it? Well, as defined by Google, Introspection is defined as, “the examination or observations of one’s own mental and emotional processes.” However, according to Stanford University, the philosophical definition of introspection is, “…contemporary
philosophy of the mind, is a means of learning about one’s own currently ongoing, or perhaps recently past, mental states or processes.” I am choosing to define my idea of introspection as close to Stanford University’s definition. But, what do those mean? Let’s break it down.
“…contemporary philosophy of the mind… “, this part of the definition is just stating what sub-topic of philosophy concepts this is in; the concept of introspection is apart of the sub-topic of philosophy of the mind. “…is a means of learning about one’s own currently ongoing, or perhaps recently past, mental states or processes.” This portion of the introspection definition from Stanford University I feel that would mean the acknowledgement and attempted-understanding of why are are the way you are, think the way you think, feel the way you feel, etc.
How might the general definition of introspection versus the philosophical definition of introspection be different? Let’s take the general definition of introspection and break it down.
“…the examination or observation…” so things that you can use your senses to observe. “…of one’s own mental and emotional processes.”, using your senses, to observe your own mental processes, along with your emotional processes. This definition especially separates your mental processes and you emotional processes, as if they need separate acknowledgement and observation.
Why are these definitions so different? Well, right of the bat, the use of the statements “mental states” versus “mental and emotional processes” already oppose different ideas. First, “mental states” immediately acknowledges the idea that they are many mental states: happy, sad, angry, nervous, exedra. Proceeding that, there any many different sub-categories of mental states as well, that I believe are included in that. I also believe that including “mental states” acknowledges that emotional and mental states are one-and-the-same. However, to say “Mental and emotional processes” acknowledges that the mental and emotional processes are, in fact, not the same, but different, separate entities all together. I feel that this is important to acknowledge these as separate definitions because they come from separate contexts. For the sake of this paper, I am coming from the context of unity: I believe that emotional and mental processes are one and the same.
Now that we are on the same page, what is introspection? Introspection can be split up into many different concepts and ideas, but the primary questions that can be connected to the concept of introspection is this: What is my place in this world? Many ponder this in many different mental states. In an empowered manner, some might think to themselves, ‘what is my place in this world?’ followed by thoughts and dreams on how they can motivate themselves for bigger and better things. In a depressive manner, some might think to themselves, ‘what is my place in this world?’ followed by thoughts of self-doubt and confusion. My truth is that your [my] place in this world is both nowhere and infinitely everywhere. You go as far as you let yourself take you. Your [my] place in this world is exactly where you are, where you have been, and where you will be; in the next second, minute, hour, day, week, month, year, so on and so forth. I think this is important to the concept of introspection because of the intensity that we all ponder the idea. I think a lot of philosophy is based off of conversation and ideas between all people.
The concept of introspection is far greater than what your [my] place in this world is. It involves many ideas and concepts that are surrounded by you, including questions like; why am I the way I am? Why do I think the way I think? Why do I act the way I act? Are those ideas wrong? Is there a right and wrong when it comes to your mental state? When it comes to introspection, there are far more questions to be asked and answers to be had. That is why I chose the topic for this paper — it is very open-ended, and allows readers to ponder the concept of their own, while also choose a specific question within introspection to give my input on. I firmly believe that the idea of unity of mental and emotional processes is the right step forward to understand thoroughly, and deeply, the concept of introspection.
1. Schwitzgebel, Eric. “Introspection.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy , Stanford
University, 2 Feb. 2010, plato.stanford.edu/entries/introspection/.
2. Quora. “What Are the Top 10 Philosophical Ideas That Everyone Should Understand?”
The Huffington Post , TheHuffingtonPost.com, 7 Dec. 2017,