Publication 2415

Petranker J. (2003) Inhabiting conscious experience: Engaged objectivity in the first-person study of consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies 10: 3–23. Fulltext at
First-person methodologies have been criticized for their inability to arrive at reliable and verifiable knowledge of the contents of conscious experience. Consciousness, however, is not its contents, but the cognitive capacity that makes those contents available. That capacity is directly and uniquely accessible to first-person inquiry, provided a suitable methodology can be developed. As a framework for such inquiry, this paper distinguishes two structures that give rise to conscious contents: narrative and story. While narratives are told, stories are inhabited. Stories are fundamental to conscious experience: an event is conscious only if it fits the presently unfolding story. While third-person inquiry relies on withdrawing from story into narrative, first-person inquiry can take place within the story. In place of the reductive objectivity of third-person science, first-person inquiry can cultivate an engaged objectivity, immersed in the story but not bound to it, that makes the phenomenon of consciousness available to be known. Communities of inquiry practising such a first-person style of inquiry could develop criteria for assessing advances in knowledge and for research programmes appropriate to furthering such advances.


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