First-person Data

The expression “first-person data” has become quite common in the consciousness studied literature, where it is used to refer to data about conscious experience, sometimes with the implication that these data are obtained only through introspection, and sometimes with the further implication that these are private data (as opposed to the usual, public data that other sciences deal with).

Does anyone know the origin of this expression?  I’ve read it (among other places) in Chalmers’s papers, but I don’t remember whether it’s already in his 1996 book, and I don’t know if he made it up or took it from somewhere else.


  1. Great question. I haven’t used that expression since I was an undergrad when, after I used it, the fiesty prof asked me, “Does the statement ‘I drove to the store’, which is first-person, have profound metaphysical implications, or anything to do with consciousness?”

  2. I use the phrase without really stressing it in a few places in the 1996 book (e.g. p. 216). I started using it in a much more central role in talks and papers starting shortly after that. I wasn’t conscious of taking the phrase from some other source, but neither did it feel like a big innovation. It wouldn’t surprise me if e.g. Francisco Varela used it somewhere in print before me. A Google Scholar search and a Google Book Search reveal a handful of scattered instance of the phrase before then, as one might expect. It looks like the first relevant use might have been by Herbert Feigl, in “The ‘Mental’ and the ‘Physical'”, published in 1956.