Part VIII: Gabriel H., a college senior interested in philosophy including discussions of philosophical issues
A few months ago, Gabriel H., a senior interested in philosophy at my university whom I had never met, volunteered as a Descriptive Experience Sampling (DES) participant because of his interest in the intersection of DES and philosophy. I agreed if we could make his sampling part of the DES training of a graduate student.
The interviews were conducted by Russ Hurlburt (the originator of DES), Amber Goto, the graduate student, and Cody Kaneshiro (another more advanced graduate student). Because of Gabriel's analytical interests, over the course of sampling there is discussion of many philosophical issues related to DES.
Below are links to the interviews as they occurred.
In general—sampling day 1: All DES interviews are some combination of iterative training (so that future sampling days can be more skillful) and description of experience. The aim of the first sampling interview (or the first several sampling interviews) is almost entirely iterative training. First-day sampling interviews appear to be inquiries into experience, but their fundamental aim is to facilitate discussions of how to do DES more skillfully. DES recognizes that participants on their first sampling day are not skillful, so DES routinely discards first-day descriptions.
Sample 1.1 [3:57]: [Gabriel was watching a conspiracy theory video about Elon Musk while cooking.] At the moment of the beep, Gabriel heard "he's probably some kind of cyborg" (from the speaker on the video) [the beep occurred at or after "cyborg.". This hearing might involve attending to the speaker's southern accent, but we did not clarify this with fidelity in the interview]. At the same time, he felt wackiness/slight annoyance (because of the absurdity of the video), which possibly involved a physical tenseness in his stomach.
Sample 1.2 [22:52]: [Gabriel was playing chess on his phone. Gabriel was contemplating what would happen if his opponent's queen captured a pawn.] At the moment of the beep, Gabriel saw the possible paths of the queen—he saw the squares [of the queen's various paths if his pawn was taken)in 3D that shimmered (such that the 3D depth-ness was not stable and changed depending on his focus). [The 3D-ness stopped when getting to a square with a piece on it. The 3Dness of the squares was a product of Gabriel's own creation and not present in reality, but at the moment of the beep he was seeing shimmering squares.] The 3D squares were clearly seen; all other squares were blurry [CK doubts whether the other square were blurrily seen or were actually not in experience at all].
Sample 1.3 [36:05]: [Gabriel was playing chess on his phone. He was aware that, by moving his queen, he would be able to check his opponent's king.] At the moment of the beep, Gabriel felt tension (as a manifestation of the check)—this tension was possibly mental, [but we were unable to determine that with confidence in the interview. Gabriel was anticipating a check which comes with the tension he was feeling]. At the same time, he saw the possible paths of his queen: he did not see his queen on the square, but instead saw the squares (that would be in his control if he placed his queen there) in a 3D-ish contrast that shimmered [the 3D depth-ness grew in contrast the more he looked at it, identical to the 3D squares in 1.2, while all other squares got blurrier].
Sample 1.4 [47:41]: [Gabriel was not confident about his experience at the moment of the beep. As a result, this beep was skipped.]
Sample 1.5 [48:16]: [Gabriel was playing chess on his phone.] At the moment of the beep, Gabriel was feeling release of stress, a physical releasing-of-tension on the surface of his sternum/chest. At the same time, Gabriel saw the path of his knight to (his opponent's) queen: he saw his knight and L-shaped path of squares that led to the queen; he did not see the rest of the board. [Gabriel had a factual knowledge of safety that presented itself as the stress relief, feeling of tension release. Gabriel said he saw his phone screen as it was at the moment of the beep, minimally. Considering this is a first day of sampling, this should be considered with some skepticism.]
Sample 1.5 [56:25]: [Gabriel was whispering out loud "okay, if you say so" while looking at a shelf] At the moment of the beep, Gabriel innerly saw Jane (his girlfriend) and heard himself whispering to her "okay, if you say so." [This was an inner seeing/hearing of a situation that had occurred earlier in the day]: Gabriel saw Jane, seen as a humanish-lump sitting across from him; he saw her straight-on from the first-person perspective. The entire seeing was blurry, dim, and had a bluish-gray light over the whole scene. The whispered "okay, if you say so" was heard to be part of the innerly seen scene, despite the fact that he was in reality whispering it at the moment of the beep. (That is, at the moment of the beep Gabriel did not experience himself as actually whispering the sentence.) At the same time, Gabriel saw the blackness of his shelf.
Gabriel collected 6 samples, but we had time to discuss only 3. ...
In general—sampling day 2: All DES interviews are some combination of iterative training (so that future sampling days can be more skillful) and description of experience. The aim of the second sampling interview is a combination of experience description and iterative training.
Sample 2.1 [0:56]:[Gabriel was zipping his backpack.] At the moment of the beep, Gabriel innerly saw Magnus Carlsen, felt a metallic coldness (of the zipper handle), saw his backpack (dimly), and heard the zipper he was closing. (The zipper hearing was least prominent; the others were equally prominent. Gabriel’s inner seeing was of Magnus Carlsen sitting with his head tilted down, wearing a white shirt, but seen more as blotches of color than a clear seeing; there was a white outline around the image [but we did not take the time to elaborate this aspect]. About the cold zipper handle, he felt the handle itself to be cold (that is, he did not experience this as sensations in his fingers). [We had a long philosophical-ish conversation about whether his inner seeing was experienced as seeing Magnus or as seeing blotches; RTH encouraged him to bracket presuppositions about the way experience must work.]
Sample 2.2 [32:03]: [Gabriel was playing chess on his phone and moved his king to E2.] At the moment of the beep, Gabriel (60%) felt frustration (because by moving his king he had forfeited his castle-ing rights). This feeling was mental in the sense that is did not appear to be bodily. This aspect was about the feeling only; he did not experience the loss-of-castle-ing-rights at the moment of the beep).
At the same time, Gabriel (40%) heard a crinkling of a water bottle to his left (his friend sitting next to him had squeezed the bottle, but that was not in his experience. [Gabriel's frustration was a mental feeling. However, he was unsure if that was what he experienced at the moment of the beep.]
Sample 2.3 [41:10]:[Gabriel was writing an essay.] At the moment of the beep, Gabriel innerly said "we know." [Gabriel's inner speaking had no particular vocal characteristics, and in that way was similar to a whisper.
At the same time, he recognized himself as intending to continue the "we know" writing with that this is possible (those specific words were understood without the words being present at the moment of the beep).
Simultaneously he recognized as a mental fact that those words were wrong (that is, that this is possible didn't make sense in the context of the essay).
Simultaneously he felt confusion (over the discrepancy between his intention and his knowledge that it wasn't right) original words he was going to write.) Gabriel was unsure how to describe how the confusion presented itself to him at the moment of the beep.]
Prior to beginning today's sampling, Gabriel raised some questions about the quality of visual imagery, and there ensued a longish discussion about it. The interview transcript includes substantial discussion of those issues as well as the iterative procedure in general. We discussed two of Gabriel's samples (he collected six)....
In general—sampling day 3: All DES interviews are some combination of iterative training (so that future sampling days can be more skillful) and description of experience. The aim of the third sampling interview is a combination of experience description and iterative training.
Introductory discussion [0:32]: We discuss some philosophical / analytical issues.
Sample 3.1 [11:21]: [Gabriel was on his phone.] At the moment of the beep, Gabriel saw (as one way of apprehending) a picture of a crème brulee (on his phone). As another way of apprehending, he saw a pie-like object and noticed that the brown specks on top of the pie-like object reminded him of pumpkin pie. [We could not determine whether both of these ways of apprehending were simultaneously present, or how they were present.] [This seeing was the most salient portion of Gabriel's experience.]
At the same, Gabriel says aloud (on the phone) "they do have crème brulee." This was a limited portion of Gabriel's experience and he was unsure of any inflection in his speaking at the moment of the beep.]
Gabriel also thinks (without words) that the crème brulee is in the pastry section; another way of apprehending this thinking was that he was pleased.
Sample 3.2 [39:27]:[Gabriel was looking at a cartoon his mom sent him about the fictional Italian Lombardo brothers who built the floor of the Sistine Chapel.] At the moment of the beep, Gabriel innerly spoke "Sistine" and heard it with the same whispery vocal characteristics as 2.3 [but we did not do a good job of exploring this].
At the same time, Gabriel had an idea of overweight and the smell of sweat; another way of apprehending this was that he was thinking of the Italian brothers.
Gabriel also felt slight discomfort/displeasure. Another way of apprehending this was the analytical result that the joke in the cartoon was not a good one because it depended on the fact that no one knows who built the floor of the Sistine chapel when in fact their names were Lombardo as was documented somewhere.] The meaning of the word pristine was also present in Gabriel's experience at the moment of the beep (the word pristine however, was not present in Gabriel's experience at the moment of the beep.)
Because of a recording malfunction, there is no video or transcript from today....
We discussed five samples, and interspersed throughout RTH answered Gabriel's questions about philosophical issues...
The transcript contains further discussion of the philosophical issues. See the comments that are printed in green in the accompanying transcript.
Sample 5.1 [1:06]: Gabriel was listening to a video on his phone]. At the moment of the beep, Gabriel heard "like that?" in a resistance fighter's voice (with sarcastic, righteous, folksy, and shame-on-you characteristics). At the same time, he heard fire from the video and saw some wooden crates on the video. (However, Gabriel and we are not sure about what aspects, if any, of that was present at the moment of the beep.) [We had a long conversation about issues with recollecting what was in his experience at the moment of the beep, the distinction between retrospection and introspection, and so on.]
Sample 5.2 [40:17]: [Gabriel was listening to a video while brushing his teeth.] At the moment of the beep, Gabriel (70%) heard "lectures" (he was confident that it was one word and not the rest of the sentence) and understood its meaning, and felt a drop of wetness on his knuckle. [The drop of wetness was on Gabriel's left knuckle of his middle finger as a fact of the universe.] At the same time, Gabriel (30%) heard water and the smell of mint with some artificial quality.
Comparison of 5.1 and 5.2 [52:18]: Discussion comparing and contrasting Gabriel's experience in samples 5.1 and 5.2
Sample 5.3 [55:40]: [Gabriel was listening to something through headphones.] At the moment of the beep, Gabriel (50%) heard "cars" accompanied with the meaning of the statement known for my cars. ["Cars" was part of a larger statement as a fact of the universe. Gabriel did not have the whole statement "known for my cars" in his experience at the moment of the beep, and yet the existence of the rest of the sentence was somehow present. Contrast this with 5.2, where the word "picture" was present alone without the somehow-presentness of the rest of the sentence.] At the same time, Gabriel (50%) saw a drop (of medicine at the top of a needle). He was focused on the drop, even though the rest of the needle was doubtless present on his retina.
Sample 5.4 [1:01:52]: [Gabriel was typing the word "coffee roll" into Google.] At the moment of the beep, Gabriel (50%) read "coffee roll" and innerly said "coffee roll" in a whispery, transparent, human voice (that was recognized to be Gabriel's voice even though it did not sound like Gabriel's voice). Gabriel's reading (which required effort and intentionality) and inner speaking (which occurred effortlessly and automatically) occur alongside each other. At the same time, Gabriel (50%) thought of (Google's) did you mean coffee roll as something he could press. [Gabriel had misspelled "coffee roll" in the google search prompting the correction link did you mean coffee roll to appear. Gabriel's eyeballs were pointed at the link, but it appeared as a button, something he could press or click on.]
Sample 5.5 [1:13:34]: [Gabriel was solving a chess puzzle which involved advancing his pawn.] At the moment of the beep, Gabriel saw the square (his pawn would move to) and the diagonal that led to his bishop, which would protect the pawn: the two squares downward and to the right, which were the start of the diagonal, were seen as popping out closer to him with additional depth. [The squares popped out as if they were closer to Gabriel than the other squares on the board. In reality, the squares did not have this depth-ness quality. In the moment, Gabriel was not at all confused about the fact that the popping-out was a product of his imagination.]
We discussed four samples, and interspersed throughout RTH answered Gabriel's questions about philosophical issues...
The transcript contains further discussion of the philosophical issues. See the comments that are printed in green in the accompanying transcript.
Sample 6.1 [2:26]: [Gabriel was playing online chess and looking at the formation of his opponent's pieces.] At the moment of the beep, Gabriel (80%) thought without words or symbols if his rook could attack (his opponent's) bishop, whether that move would be successful, about some sort of upward defensive consideration of the bishop. This experience is the same as the wondering experience in 4.1.] At the same, Gabriel (20%) had some sort of sense of weirdness about the visual pattern of the two pawns and the bishop.
Sample 6.2 [13:32]: [Gabriel was playing online chess.] At the moment of the beep Gabriel (70%) innerly heard "Monday niiiiight" in a male, moderately high pitched voice in a deep south southern accent located at the back of the top of Gabriel's head. The words were inflected like an announcement with a fun/lively energy. [The voice was not Gabriel's.] [The words seemed to have no referent—just random words that for whatever reason appeared.] At the same time Gabriel (30%) had a vague, idle intention to find an attack he could mount, sort of a wishful hope, but he wasn't really actively looking or searching.
Sample 6.3 [24:51]: [Gabriel lost track of his experience when trying to respond to this beep.]
Sample 6.4 [25:08]: [Gabriel was watching a video about the coronavirus.] At the moment of the beep, Gabriel (90%) heard (from the video) "stay home," spoken by the newscaster in a serious voice that implied that there was more to the story. As part of that hearing, Gabriel had a sense of documentary intrigue (the shallow expectancy created by the newscaster's implication that something was coming). At the same time, Gabriel saw in the video (10%) the two newscasters sitting at a blue and green desk in front of a background that was green in one corner and blue in the other corner, with the colors fading into each other.
Sample 6.5 [39:06]: [Gabriel was watching a video of someone playing a video game.] At the moment of the beep, Gabriel (90%) heard the woman [in the game] say "trusting him is." [Gabriel is familiar with the game; he knows this woman to be a comforting character.] At the same time, Gabriel (10%) saw triangles on an elevator and wondered what they are. [The elevator was part of the video game in the video that Gabriel was watching. We did not have time to ask additional questions about this portion of Gabriel's experience.]
Discussion during sample 6.5: We had a long conversation about whether Gabriel heard the words "trusting him is" or heard a sentence that included those words and was interrupted by the beep. Gabriel’s impression was that he heard both, but we wondered together whether that was a theory-driven impression.