Descartes, introspection and perception

  • Božidar Kante


The starting point of the article is Sydney Shoemaker's thesis that it is standardly assumed that the fact »we are not presented with ourselves in introspection as bodily entities« is obvious. But contrary to this, they still conceive introspection to be based on the model of sense perception. In the central part of the article we consider the conditions which must be fulfilled if introspection is to be meant as a stereotype of sense perception. We agree, with Shoemaker, that introspection does not fulfil all the conditions of the sense perception stereotype. The last part of the article deals with a detailed analysis of Descartes's concept of introspection. Our conclusion is that Descartes did not conceive introspection according to the model of the sense perception. We argue in favor of the fact that a distinction has to be made between the concept of conscientia (consciosness) and the concept of sensus internus (inner sense). The genuine candidate for the concept of introspection is only the concept of conscientia. The concept of introspection which is standardly attributed to Descartes, is in fact a myth. A detailed analysis of Descartes's texts shows that we cannot attribute neither the property of epistemological transparency or the property of infallibility (our conclusions are similar to G. Baker's and K. J. Morris's conclusions) to Descartes's concept of introspection.


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How to Cite
Kante B. Descartes, introspection and perception. FV [Internet]. 2016Jan.24 [cited 2020Aug.15];17(3). Available from: