RTG 2386/1: Extrospection. External Access to Higher Cognitive Processes.


Higher cognitive processes like emotions, perception, belief formation or mind-reading are of essential importance in philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and psychiatry. It is quite controversial, though, to what extent these processes and particularly their subjective, phenomenal character can be captured adequately by means of extrospection, that is, by way of external access to higher cognitive processes. The reason is that extrospective methods are restricted to indirect external evidence. Introspection, by contrast, has long been treated as privileged, given its direct first-person access to these processes. Skepticism against extrospection persists although the epistemic credentials of introspection have been attacked, e.g., by behaviorists. In their view, introspection violates even the most basic standards of scientific methodology. While introspection and purely behavioral approaches have always been important issues of methodological reflection, extrospection has been widely ignored. That is why the present project aims at a comprehensive epistemological, historical and empirical assessment of extrospection. Given the relevance of extrospection for research in disciplines like philosophy, psychology, neuroscience and psychiatry, an interdisciplinary approach is without alternative. As a working hypothesis, we assume that there is an epistemic symmetry in principle not only between extrospection and introspection, but also between extrospection and standard third-person methods in the natural sciences. While we do not deny the obvious insufficiencies of current extrospective methods, we hypothesize that they can be overcome by future scientific, methodological, and technological developments, at least in principle. The RTG will offer an interdisciplinary doctoral program including a fast track option. A sophisticated admission process with a strong focus on gender equality will select three cohorts of doctoral researchers and two cohorts of fast track students. Doctoral candidates will apply with an interdisciplinary project devoted to the problem of extrospection. Upon admission, each student will be assigned two experts from different disciplines who will act as their primary and secondary advisors. The core of the RTG’s curriculum will consist of specific research seminars devoted to extrospection and a series of workshops and academic retreats. Moreover, we will offer basic and advanced courses tailored to each individual student’s specific needs.


Principal Investigators
Pauen, Michael Prof. Dr. (Details) (Philosophy of Spirit)

Further project members
Dziobek-Ferber, Isabel Prof. Dr. rer. nat. (Details) (Social Cognition)
Kaltwasser, Laura Dr. (Details) (Employees)
Perler, Dominik Prof. Dr. (Details) (Theoretical Philosophy)

participating organizational facilities of the HU

Participating external organizations

Duration of Project
Start date: 10/2018
End date: 03/2023

Research Areas
Clinical Neurosciences II - Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Cognitive Neuroscience, Philosophy, Psychology

Research Areas
Neurowissenschaften, Philosophie, Philosophie, Philosophiegeschichte, Edition

Last updated on 2021-16-06 at 16:54