We all want to know the truth about the world and about ourselves. We all want to know what is the nature of reality and what is our place in it. Among the many systems of knowledge formation that have tried to answer these important questions, modern science has proven to be quite reliable. Modern science has made much progress in allowing us to understand the world and ourselves and progress continues to be made every day toward these ends. While it may now seem that science is the best way of answering any question one may have about reality, there are some who argue that there are important areas of life that must be partially outside the domain of science because they are known from personal experience and thus cannot be known objectively. The argument is that the nature of consciousness and other personal experiences, such as a sense of morality, can only be fully understood subjectively, but are nonetheless quite real examples of knowledge.
There does seem to be merit to this argument so what is needed is an epistemology that can apply to all aspects of life. This epistemology must include a clear basis for science and also must be able to apply to anything outside the realm of science that genuinely exists and is knowable. If there are aspects of life that are beyond science then this epistemology must be able to apply to these aspects. We can only judge whether an aspect of life is beyond the reach of science on philosophical grounds, not on scientific grounds. The arguments for what is within the domain of science and what is beyond the reach of science are closely related to the philosophical basis for science itself.
The domain of science is limited to methodology that can form objective knowledge. If there is a possibility of having subjective knowledge that cannot be known objectively, then this is beyond the reach of science. Objective knowledge does have benefits over subjective knowledge in that it can be shared amongst many people. Subjective knowledge, on the other hand, by definition can only be known by the one who experiences it. But different people who have similar subjective knowledge can communicate details of their experience through a shared medium and through this create intersubjective knowledge.
The practice of personally interpreting subjective experience and trying to form knowledge from this is called introspection. When introspection is practiced among different people who communicate with each other and find systematic ways of understanding each other’s experiences to create reliable intersubjective knowledge, this is called phenomenology. Science has been successful because there is a detailed methodology for forming reliable knowledge through social structures that encourage independent testing of theories for the purpose of verification or falsification. Phenomenology has been less successful because there is no such methodology associated with it.
It should be possible for a methodology for phenomenology can be developed to allow the formation of reliable intersubjective knowledge, which would then be called modern phenomenology because it is similar in some ways to modern science.
Do you think that introspection a reliable way of understanding how the mind works? Please let your voice be heard in the forum.