Inner Awareness: Past and Present

November 30, 2021 - December 2, 2021
University of Liège

Place du 20-Août, 7
Liège 4000

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  • F.R.S.-FNRS
  • Network for Phenomenological Research


University of Salzburg
Université de Genève
University of Essex
Rice University
Cambridge University
Universität Leipzig


Université de Fribourg
University of Liège
University of Liège
University of Liège

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Famously, Brentano argued that consciousness constitutively requires some (special) form of self-consciousness—let us call it ‘inner awareness.’ How to account for inner awareness has been a matter of huge debate, not only among early phenomenologists (Brentano, Stumpf, Husserl, Scheler, Hildebrand, etc.) and early analytic philosophers (G.E. Moore, the early Russell, C.D. Broad, etc.), but also among contemporary philosophers of mind. Indeed, a very lively discussion is currently going on about the very existence of inner awareness, its nature, and its epistemic value. In recent analytic philosophy of mind, meta-representationalist approaches that construe inner awareness as a representation relation of some sort have been dominant. But they are not without difficulties and are far from being the only option available.

The primary goal of this conference is to explore alternatives to meta-representationalism. We welcome contributions that connect past and present conceptions of inner awareness, as well as new and original accounts of inner awareness. 

Here are some of the issues we would like to cover:

1. Existence: Many extant arguments for inner awareness have been challenged in recent literature. How can we effectively defend the idea that inner awareness is real and that it is a fundamental aspect of conscious experience?

2. Distinctiveness: Since the inception of the phenomenological research program, inner awareness has often been described as a distinctive kind of awareness, one that is importantly and perhaps even fundamentally different from ‘outer’ awareness. Is it so? If inner awareness is distinctive, how and in what respects is it so?

3. Nature: How to account for the nature of inner awareness? Meta-representationalist theories have been deeply dug into. Alternative theories may be equally or even more promising, and at least worth exploring. Among these are acquaintance accounts and non-standard versions of representationalism, as well as other kinds of account which might have been held by early phenomenologists and analytic philosophers. We also encourage contributions that explore new or underrepresented proposals.

4. Naturalization: One of the primary motivations for meta-representationalism about inner awareness is its potential for naturalization. Can alternative accounts compete with meta-representationalism in this respect? For example, are there any prospects for naturalizing acquaintance?

5. Epistemic value: It has been maintained that inner awareness is crucial to explain the first-person privileged access and self-knowledge more generally. But is that true? What is the relation between inner awareness and reflective knowledge of our own conscious states? And how should we construe inner awareness to have it play the epistemic role it is supposed to play? For example, is a representationalist construal of inner awareness required or satisfying?

We aim for an in-person event. However, given the still ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, we might be forced to move the conference partly or totally online. Participants will be informed in due time.


Guillaume Fréchette (Salzburg)

Marie Guillot (Essex)

Uriah Kriegel (Rice)

Tom McClelland (Cambridge)

Kristina Musholt (Leipzig)

Donnchadh O’Conaill (Fribourg)


All inquiries should be addressed to: [email protected] 

This conference is one of the events organized within the broader framework of the research project ‘The Phenomenology of Mental States.’

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3 people are attending:

Faculty of Philosophy, Novi Sad
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