Affording introspection: an alternative model of inner awareness

Tom Mcclelland, Tom McClelland

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The ubiquity of inner awareness thesis (UIA) states that all conscious states of normal adult humans are characterised by an inner awareness of that very state. UIA-Backers support this thesis while UIA-Skeptics reject it. At the heart of their dispute is a recalcitrant phenomenological disagreement. UIA-Backers claim that phenomenological investigation reveals ‘peripheral inner awareness’ (or ‘pre-reflective self-consciousness’) to be a constant presence in their non-introspective experiences. UIA-Skeptics deny that their non-introspective experiences are characterised by inner awareness, and maintain that inner awareness is only gained when they explicitly introspect. Each camp has put forward a range of arguments designed to resolve this dispute, but I argue that none of these arguments has genuine dialectical purchase. This leads me to develop a compromise position that trades on the contribution that affordances can make to our phenomenology. According to the Affordance Model of inner awareness, all conscious states of normal adult humans are characterised by an affordance of introspectability. In line with the UIA-Skeptic, non-introspective experiences are not characterised by inner awareness. But against the traditional UIASkeptic, non-introspective experiences are characterised by an awareness of the opportunity for introspection. On this view, our capacity to gain inner awareness of our current experience is a ubiquitous feature of our phenomenology. I show how the Affordance Model respects the driving phenomenological intuitions of both the UIA-Backers and the traditional UIA-Skeptics, and suggest that it is able to explain why neither camp achieves an accurate description of how inner awareness �gures in their phenomenology.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2014


  • Consciousness
  • Inner Awareness
  • Introspection
  • Subjectivity
  • Phenomenology
  • Affordances


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