One Degree wrote:Despite it's flaws, do you not believe introspection, especially directed by a professional, allows us to better understand ourselves? Does not honest introspection improve upon our understanding of self with time and effort? I find those who have not walked this path to be shallow people, dependent upon outside sources for their identity. I will apologize in advance if I am confusing a discussion of research with clinical practice, but I was curious as to your views on this.
I certainly think introspection is useful, but to what extent we can learn something true about ourselves would have to be investigated in greater detail and debated. I don't have a clear opinion on where the limits might be having never really pondered it at length and being unfamiliar with the literature on anything in relation to the subject.
But as an example, I find that I am prone to self delusions, that I often block out things and neglect the reality of them entirely. When someone confronted me with the precedent and pattern of my own actions recently, I was compelled to confront and contrast the sense I had of myself with the reality of my actions. Realizing that I speak a lot of bullshit much to the detriment of others and myself because I merely seek to satisfy my emotional state through delusion.
So I think introspection that considers external/observable actions can pose a nice contrast for figuring ourselves out. Being aware of course doesn't necessarily mean that one acts differently either though, behavioral change takes a lot of work. It's sort of an immanent critique
of the self where one might hold certain ideas about themselves but can be criticized as they don't actually adhere to those professed ideals.
A more difficult area is trying to investigate our unconscious, which is arguably the more significant part of ourselves.http://rickroderick.org/108-philosophy-and-post-modern-culture-1990/
Freud compares the conscious mind, in the book I have – I am talking about now – he compares the conscious mind to a garrison. A captured, tiny garrison in an immense city, the city of Rome; with all its layers of history, all its archaic barbarisms, all its hidden avenues, covered over by civilization after civilization. That’s our mind, that whole thing. But the conscious part of it is that one garrison that’s clear, that holds out in this captured city. A magnificent metaphor for all the surrounding motives, motivations, motifs, desires, that drive us… that are not philosophical… that cannot, even if we talk to our therapist a long time, all be brought up at once.
Now, it is true that Freud’s goal, was that the “it“; the unconscious, the “id” – translated by Americans as the “id” – in German, the “it”; kind of a more normal word. The “it” – the “id” – was to become conscious. Ego, the English word again being less spectacular: “I”, the “I”. I don’t know why translators do that, it’s to make the person sound like they are a scientist, you know. Freud says “it” and “I”, and we go “id” and “ego”; all of a sudden it sounds like science. It’s not; it’s just a myth, but a very interesting and fascinating one.
So the goal of analytic treatment would be for those unreflected massive areas – again to go back to that metaphor of the city – to become part of the garrison as it spreads out to things we are clear about. In other words, it’s not a bad metaphor saying we shouldn’t be clear about who we are, and have an “I”, or a self, or a subject.
Basically Freud's emphasis on having patients simply talk
things out, seems to be that it is an avenue into our unconscious and that we can bring our unconscious into the conscious. So like my example above that I likened to an immanent critique, the unconscious part would be that one doesn't realize that they aren't actually adhering to their own beliefs about themselves in their action.
This seems to be a limited route in understanding ourselves, though still incredibly useful. And there is no doubt that by bringing things into our awareness that it can help us understand something true about ourselves and use that knowledge to our advantage ie behavioural change. This is quite important since our understanding of things need to be true or truer than not for us to have the freedom to make informed decisions and navigate the world effectively. False knowledge can survive and be maintained in spite of the pain of being wrong and being confronted with a discrepant reality, but it can be quite painful to hold onto things rather than endure the pain of cutting things lose and growing beyond it.
An example of something more difficult to discern and understand is asking the question ofwhat do you want/desire? And why do you want and desire it?
This is a very interesting thing in regards to propaganda/marketing, which with the rise of mass production became more complex by instilling want/desire in people instead of a blunt "this product is good, buy it!".
(See p. 54 of Edward Bernays' Propaganda
for further detail. That our desires or wants are manipulated and still have lots of people saying that they're unaffected by the most superficial aspects of marketing (explicit ads) because they aren't diagnosed as shopaholics and in great amounts of debt from frivolous spending. Because we don't have a good grasp on how we come to desire things other than through inferences from feelings, it's a vulnerability. Not saying that even if we did understand how desire originates and works we'd necessarily be masters of it and be able to control it for ourselves as knowledge of such things doesn't necessarily mean we overcome it.
I believe a likely difficulty of it is that our rationalism is post hoc to our base emotions. This is why I wrote the sentence that anna bolded in her quoted response of me. Because I can offer a series of rationalizations for anything after the fact and I don't have a clear means of establishing the truth of it. I take this tendency to be correct based on summaries of experiments I've heard where people have their physical responses manipulated and their attribution to what caused their emotions is incorrect (or unlikely as we can always be so skeptical rather than certain).
There's also interesting stuff summarized in pop-sci like where Kaku is discussing the possibility of Robots with emotions. (p. 118 for start of section, p. 119 for quoted section, Michio Kaku's Physics of the Impossible
Emotions are vital in decision making, as well. People who have suffered a certain kind of brain injury lack the ability to experience emotions. Their reasoning ability is intact, but they cannot express any feelings. Neurologist Dr. Antonio Damasio of the University of Iowa College of Medicine, who has studied people with these types of brain injuries, concludes that they seem "to know, but not to feel."
Dr. Damasio finds that such individuals are often paralyzed in making the smallest decisions. Without emotions to guide them, they endlessly debate over this option or that option, leading to crippling indecision. One patient of Dr. Damasio spent half an hour trying to decide the date of his next appointment.
Scientists believe that emotions are processed in the "limbic system" of the brain, which lies deep in the center of our brain. When people suffer from a loss of communication between the neocortex (which governs rational thinking) and the limbic system, their reasoning powers are intact but they have no emotions to guide them in making decisions. Sometimes we have a "hunch" or a "gut reaction" that propels our decision making. People with injuries that effect the communication between the rational and emotional parts of the brain do not have this ability.
For example, when we go shopping we unconsciously make thousands of value judgments about almost everything we see, such as "This is too expensive, too cheap, too colorful, too silly, or just right." For people with this type of brain injury, shopping can be a nightmare because everything seems to have the same value.
As robots become more intelligent and are able to make choices of their own, they could likewise become paralyzed with indecision. (This is reminiscent of the parable of the donkey sitting between two bales of hay that eventually dies of starvation because it cannot decide which to eat.) To aid them, robots of the future may need to have emotions hardwired into their brains. Commenting on the lack of emotions in robots, Dr. Rosalind Picard of the MIT Media Lab says, "They can't feel what's most important. That's one of their biggest failings. Computers just don't get it."
As Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote, "If everything on Earth were rational, nothing would happen."In other words, robots of the future may need emotions to set goals and to give meaning and structure to their "lives," or else they will find themselves paralyzed with infinite possibilities.
So to understand ourselves, we have to go beyond the empirical and even rational because what ever is going on in us is simply beyond empirical investigation or plain logic and reason. That doesn't mean that we can't perhaps theorize about how we function in a way that we might have a theory of ourselves that has explanatory and predictive power perhaps, but that such a thing is beyond what we think of science today. This makes investigating ourselves very confusion because we don't even have any great investigative conceptual tools at our disposal for the greatest inner depths. For all that we've learnt about ourselves, significant lack of understanding remains, which I suppose keeps things interesting
So overall, I think the practical utility of something like talking things out with people and guiding them to understand themselves by making them conscious of things that they're unconscious of. Through contradicting beliefs (ie cogntiive dissoannce) or behaviours in relation to belief is certainly useful in the clinical setting as well as just in our personal lives. I mean, the 'talking cure' that Freud popularized has come to be the foundation of what therapy, counselling and similar variations largely work on. It seems well established to be an incredibly useful tool for many ends for our own well being and function. That being unconscious to ourselves is quite dangerous if we want to improve things, because need to be aware, conscious to make an informed decision about a lot of things, its just that we can never escape that we are primarily unconscious rather than conscious. I say this in the most basic sense with being conscious meaning an active awareness of things, its how we direct attention to certain things whilst neglecting everything else, which is quite useful.
We don't overcome the limitations of introspection in regards to many other things about ourselves which aren't subject to investigation through that sort of immanent critique I spoke about. It seems that we function in a way that maintains self delusion and lack of awareness to most things. Our capacity to function at all relies on tricks of the mind which are useful for our function but not necessarily as much for investigating the truth of ourselves.