Describing Inner Experience? explores in unprecedented detail the inner experience of one person (Melanie) as she goes about her ordinary day, using a random beeper to 'sample' moments of her experience. Psychologist Russ Hurlburt has decades of experience in sampling and interviewing people about the details of their experience. In this book, he teams up with philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel, a prominent skeptic about the accuracy of people's reports about their experience. Together, Hurlburt and Schwitzgebel examine the believability of Melanie's reports.
Hurlburt and Schwitzgebel interview Melanie at length about 17 moments of her experience, each asking questions in his own way. The book centers around the transcripts of their conversations with Melanie, so that readers can see for themselves exactly what Melanie says about her experience, how her reports develop and change as Hurlburt and Schwitzgebel question her, and where and why Hurlburt and Schwitzgebel agree and disagree with each other about whether to believe Melanie's reports. In over 80 sideboxes, Hurlburt and Schwitzgebel continue their disagreements, connecting their remarks to the current and historical literature in psychology and philosophy.
The interdisciplinary approach, the out-in-the-open discussion of concrete characteristics, the candor and transparency of the discussions, and the commentary by these two experts bring the reader a powerful, informative, and discipline-altering clarification of one of the most important questions of all time.
One plea: It may be possible for you to figure out who "Melanie" actually is -- perhaps you will recognize her voice, for example. If so, we urge you to keep that to yourself. Melanie was quite gracious in allowing us to interview her in the first place and to transform what she said into the book and this site. It seems only fair to respect her privacy as much as possible.
Table of Contents
Click here to see the Describing Inner Experience? table of contents in .pdf format.
Click here to see the Describing Inner Experience? Preface in .pdf format.
We said in Describing Inner Experience? that we would make the complete, unaltered interview sound files and their transcripts available for those who wish to compare the original to our (slightly) edited versions in the book. In the original interviews, we occasionally meandered, repeated ourselves, misunderstood each other, assumed shared knowledge unavailable to an outsider, phrased things poorly. In making these interviews available to the reader, therefore, we cut such portions of the transcripts; these cuts were never made unless we both agreed the remaining interview material stayed faithful to the original whole. We also slightly eased the remainder, removing some of the vocalized pauses and false starts, for example, again only where we jointly agreed to the fidelity of the alterations. Our aim in editing was to remove unnecessary distractions, thus focusing the remainder more sharply on what we took to be the issues of greatest general interest.
The transcripts, as you will see, are in three colors. Text printed in black appears word for word in both the interviews and in the book. Text printed in gray occurred in the interviews, but was deleted from the book for the reasons cited above. Text printed in green did not appear in the original interviews but was added for intelligibility.
The audio of the interviews is unedited except that we removed references to Melanie's real name and identifying information for privacy purposes. We encourage those interested to check our transcribing work. If you listen to the audio and read along, reading both the black and the gray (but not the green), you will be hearing and reading the same material. On the other hand, if you read both the black and the green (but not the gray), you will be reading the transcripts as they appear in the book.
The audio and the transcripts are therefore an open window into these interchanges as they actually took place. They include the mistakes, exaggerations, intemperances, misunderstandings, and so on, that characterize living interchanges. Remember that these conversations were not originally intended for an audience beyond Eric, Russ, and Melanie. In the book, we have tried to edit those so as not to distract the reader; here they are simply displayed as they occurred. Certainly there are things in this transcript that Russ and/or Eric would prefer not to have said. We trust that the reader/listener will accept these audio files and transcripts in the spirit they are offered: as a forthright documentation of what actually happened so that interested parties may explore the manner in which we edited the transcripts for the book, explore the details that were merely summarized in the book, and so on.