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Beth Ansell


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PhD thesis

Self-Knowledge, Cognitive Phenomenology, and Phenomenological Research Methods.


Research interests

Philosophy of Mind, Phenomenology, Epistemology.

Research interests

Current research

Self-report of introspective judgements is the means by which we can investigate the lived experiences of a subject. This can include current ongoing phenomenally conscious experience (such as a visual experience, bodily sensation or inner speech), or experience of a particular phenomenon and the meaning the subject attaches to it (such as one’s lived experience with an illness). The latter type is a common target of phenomenological qualitative research, a method prevalent in healthcare studies.

The reliability of self-reports as accurate descriptions of a subject’s experiences is often taken for granted. It is commonly thought that such introspective judgements are infallible. However, philosophical and psychological research on our introspective abilities calls this assumption in to question. It has been argued that our introspective abilities are extremely poor; that we are commonly and demonstrably mistaken in our introspective judgements about out own experience. If this is so, then the previously unchallenged philosophical assumption that we know our own experiences, and the field of phenomenological qualitative research which rests on this assumption, is under threat.

I will defend our introspective abilities by arguing for an acquaintance account of self-knowledge. My proposal is that an acquaintance account of self-knowledge entails irreducible cognitive phenomenology (the view that our thoughts have a distinct phenomenal character). The presence of cognitive phenomenology means that these states can legitimately be the target of introspection. Moreover, our direct acquaintance with them ensures that judgements about them will be infallible. Thus, we are provided with a foundation of mental states (our occurrent, conscious cognitive mental states) which we can know, via introspection, infallibly. Self-reports about such states will therefore be reliable.

I hope for my research to provide a philosophical defence of introspection which can be utilised to inform social scientists on how best to carry out reliable phenomenological qualitative research.

Other information

I completed my BA in Philosophy in 2016, and my MA in Philosophy in 2017, both at The University of Manchester.

My research is funded by The University of Manchester School of Social Sciences, and is linked to one of their six key Research Priorities: Data & Methods.

Outside of philosophy I compete in athletics, and have twice made the BUCS 800m final.


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