Term paper for Philosophy Of Mind

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Four items are attached to this assignment: (i) Natalja Deng’s critique of Prosser, (ii) Geoffrey Lee’s critique of Prosser, (iii) Prosser’s response to Deng and Lee (and Skow), and (iv) Akiko Frischhut’s paper. Answer one of the following questions:

(1) Defend Deng’s critique from Prosser’s reply to her.

(2) Defend Lee’s critique from Prosser’s reply to him.

(3) Compare Prosser’s views and Frischhut’s views, point out their similarities and differences, and judge their relative merits.

In answering the question of your choice, do not forget to bear in mind what you learned from the papers by Armstrong and by Kim, and also from our class discussion throughout the semester.

Write at least 2,000 words (approximately 6 pages, but go with the word count, not the page count) and at most 3,000 words.

Your paper should be written and submitted properly as specified in General Instructions for Writing and Submitting the Term Paper(see below).

-Preferably question 1 or 2.

-I will attach the following articles to this.

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Contribution to book symposium on Experiencing Time, to be published in Inquiry Replies to Deng, Lee, and Skow Simon Prosser ABSTRACT: This paper is a contribution to a book symposium on my book Experiencing Time. I reply to comments on the book by Natalja Deng, Geoffrey Lee and Bradford Skow. Although several chapters of the book are discussed, the main focus of my reply is on chapters 2 and 6. In chapter 2 I argue that the putative mind-independent passage of time could not be experienced, and from this I develop an argument against the A-theory of time. In chapter 6 I offer one part of an explanation of why we are disposed to think that time passes, relating to the supposedly ‘dynamic’ quality of experienced change. Deng, Lee, and Skow’s comments help me to clarify several issues, add some new thoughts, and make a new distinction that was needed, and I acknowledge, as I did in the book, that certain arguments in chapter 6 are not conclusive; but I otherwise concede very little regarding the main claims and arguments defended in the book. Introduction I am enormously grateful to Natalja, Geoff and Brad (hereafter Deng, Lee and Skow) for taking the time to engage with the book in such detail. Between them they raise many interesting issues; more than I can fully address here, if this piece is to be kept to a reasonable length. So I shall try to shed some further light on the issues that strike me as most central, and resist the temptation to address every single point. First, some general comments. Experiencing Time is an attempt to both provoke and encourage further discussion of a set of issues in the philosophy of mind, and also at the intersection of philosophy of mind and metaphysics that, until the last few years, have been rather neglected. The book does not argue for a single overall thesis. But, although most of the issues that have featured in the recent philosophical literature on temporal experience are discussed in the book, there is a story running through much of the book concerning the relation between experience and the passage of time (where this is construed as the phenomenon over whose existence the A-theory and B-theory disagree). These parts of the book are the focus of the bulk of the commentators’ more critical comments, so they will also be the focus of the bulk of my replies, though I shall address one or two other issues along the way. One thing that I hope does come across from the book is that there is a set of interesting and important issues here with which we can make real progress, especially given adequate awareness of relevant empirical findings in the sciences of the mind. Much good work is being done in this field at the moment by a fastexpanding group of philosophers, and I’m certain that the next few years will bring much improvement in our understanding of the distinctions that must be made, the positions that can be held, and the arguments for or against them. Chapter 2: The argument against the A-theory The argument of chapter 2 builds upon similar arguments given in Prosser 2000, 2007, and (especially) 2013, concerning the claim that experience tells us that time passes. Since I’ve been going on about this for some time I’m happy to see the issue starting to receive more attention in the recent literature. I continue to believe that there is big trouble here for any version of the A-theory, and it is an issue that those interested in the metaphysics of time cannot afford to neglect (though many still do). In very brief, the main argument of chapter 2 is this: a common reason that is given for accepting the A-theory is that experience tells us that time passes, or that the world has ‘dynamic’ features incompatible with the B-theory. But, according to the argument, regardless of what subjective features experience may or may not have, we cannot be veridically experiencing time passing. In order to have a veridical experience of x (as opposed to, say, a non-veridical experience as of x, a veridical hallucination as of x, or an experience of something else that is mistaken for an experience of x) one must stand in a certain kind of relation to x, a relation that involves one’s experiential state being sensitive to the occurrence of x. But since the putative dynamic features would be part of metaphysics, experience cannot be sensitive to them in the right sort of way; they are just not the kinds of things that experience could be telling us about. Worse still, for the A-theorist, if experience could not be telling us about the supposed dynamic features of the world, then it’s not clear how we could have an adequate grasp of what those features are supposed to be; for we do not seem to have any way of understanding what the A-theorist is claiming except in relation to actual or simulated experience. So the A-theory fails to make a properly intelligible claim, and should be rejected. I’ve found that this kind of argument is frequently met with bafflement. To many, it just seems so obvious that we are experiencing time passing, let alone that we know what we mean when we say that time passes, that it is a struggle to take arguments of this kind seriously. But the only way to reply to an argument is to show what is wrong with it, and to my mind no one has done so. Although a few objections have been raised, so far no two philosophers have said the same thing about where the argument is supposed to go wrong. I take that to be a good sign. Some of the objections are easy to dismiss, though those raised here by Deng, Lee and Skow are certainly more pressing than most. Before addressing them, however, I’d like to warn against one other kind of response. This is the response that accepts that dynamic features cannot be experienced, but holds that this doesn’t matter because experience was never the reason for accepting the A-theory in the first place; instead, it is supposed to be a kind of default position, the common sense view that should be accepted unless there is a good reason to reject it.1 If the arguments of 1 See Phillips 2016 for an example of this kind of response. chapter 2 are sound, however, then one should wonder how common sense could track the truth about the A-theory any better than experience can; after all, the arguments suggest that common sense would tell us the same thing, regardless of the metaphysical truth. But, in any case, there’s an obvious danger that the common sense view relies on an understanding of the A-theory that is problematically linked, implicitly, to the character of experience, perhaps because in conceiving of the world as dynamic one relies on an offline simulation of experience. As I emphasise in the book, this is likely to fall foul of the worries about intelligibility (section 2.9), in which case the A-theory still fails. In light of arguments of this kind, the fact that it seems to one as though one is thinking about a certain kind of phenomenon provides very little reason, on its own, to believe that one has succeeded in doing so, let alone that reality is as one imagines it to be. All three commentators are sympathetic to my conclusion that the putative dynamic features of the world posited by the A-theory could not be experienced, so there is little comfort here for the A-theorist. However each of them raises different doubts about whether my arguments are sufficient to establish that conclusion. In my opinion, all can be answered. To begin with, an issue of formulation. Deng distinguishes two main claims that I make in chapter 2, which she calls claims 1 and 2. Claim 1 is that (in my own words, p. 54) ‘it is impossible to experience the passage of time, and that experience does not even represent A-theoretic features (not even falsely)’. That is indeed what I claim. But she interprets ‘experience’ for these purposes in a narrow phenomenological sense, relating only to perception. That’s not correct. The arguments of chapter 2 are intended to be extremely general. In constructing arguments of this kind one is hampered by the fact that no A-theorist has ever made it adequately clear just what aspects of experience are supposed to tell us that time passes. Now, it’s not for me to tell the A-theorist what their view should be. But fortunately, for the purely negative purposes of chapter 2, I do not have to. I do assume something that I take to be uncontroversial, that if one’s experience tells one that something is the case, this is because of some aspect of ‘what it is like’ for one psychologically, in the broadest possible sense of ‘what it is like’ (though even if this assumption were denied, I doubt that it would really help the A-theorist). One can adopt a correspondingly broad sense of ‘phenomenal character’ in talking about this, much broader than the usual notion employed in the philosophy of perception. So, for example, even if the A-theorist’s claim is that we experience time passing by virtue of comparisons that we make between current and remembered states of the world, this still corresponds to there being ‘something that it is like’, or a phenomenal character in the very broad sense, for the subject. Any potential way to acquire empirical knowledge counts as ‘experience’ in this broad sense; any way of gaining knowledge that is not purely a priori. I emphasise this because no A-theorist should think that they can avoid the objections of chapter 2 just by claiming that I am assuming too narrow a notion of ‘experience’. What Deng calls claim 2 is that the A-theory is not merely false, but unintelligible. This is what takes us from claim 1 to the B-theory. I shall say more about its interaction with claim 1 when I discuss Lee’s comments, below. Deng worries that the broad construal of claim 1 might be in tension with one of the broader projects of the book, which is to explain why experience seems to tell us that time passes, or that we live in an A-theory world rather than a B-theory world. But there is no tension; one can deny that experience represents an A-theoretic world while still holding that there are features of experience that seem incompatible with the B-theory, or that dispose us to conceptualise the world in terms of ‘motion’ through time or other dynamic metaphors. I shall return to this in responding to Deng’s comments on chapter 6. I give two main arguments in chapter 2, prior to the argument about intelligibility: the detector argument and the multi-detector argument. Both are intended to show that our experiences lack a crucial kind of sensitivity to the supposed dynamic features of the world. The detector argument is a relatively blunt instrument that takes us only so far, while the multi-detector argument gets to the heart of the problem. Note that the multi-detector argument does not take the conclusion of the detector argument as a premise; it works independently. The detector argument is a kind of debunking argument. It is intended to establish that experience would be just the same whether the A-theory or B-theory were true. In other words, experience is just as we should expect it to be, given the truth of the B-theory. This undermines the claim that the supposedly ‘dynamic’ character of experience conflicts with the B-theory and thus supports the A-theory. As others have noted, one might resist this conclusion by holding that the A-theory somehow provides a better explanation for the nature of experience. So I’ll acknowledge here, as I do in the book, that (as Deng points out, following Skow) the detector argument does not, on its own, fully establish that experience fails to favour the A-theory. But it comes pretty close, because it is hard to see what resources the A-theorist could draw upon to argue that the A-theory gave a better explanation for experience. For example, perhaps in other contexts one might argue that one was entitled to a default presumption that things are as they appear. But the reasons for such default presumptions – such as evolutionary considerations that appeal to the normal functioning of one’s perceptual apparatus – do not seem to apply in this context. Sticking with the evolutionary case, for example, both the Atheory and B-theory seem required to tell similar stories, on their own terms, about the evolutionary function of temporal experience. This follows from the fact that both theories agree on the whole sequence of physical events (more on which below), including all the events that constitute our evolutionary history. It seems likely that similar difficulties will beset any similar arguments. In presenting the detector and multi-detector arguments I used the analogy of trying to build a physical device that detects the passage of time, in a certain sense of ‘detect’.2 My intention was to make the detector argument, especially, clearer, as I suspect that there are quite a few philosophers who realise that no physical experiment can tell us which of the A- or B-theory is correct, but who have not yet noticed the implication that experience (which supervenes on physical states) can do no better. However, with hindsight, the analogy with a detector does bring a danger 2 For similar arguments expressed without the detector analogies see Prosser 2013. of confusion; people sometimes have their own ideas about what counts as a ‘detector’, and can get side-tracked as a result. Skow’s comments about the detector argument are a case in point. I fully acknowledge that there are some notions of ‘detector’ such that a physical system could be said to be detecting the passage of time, on the assumption that time does indeed pass. I acknowledge this in the book, when I say that, given the truth of the A-theory, there’s a sense in which a clock could be said to be detecting (and indeed measuring) the passage of time. But what we cannot have is a physical device with a light on top such that we can use the illumination, or otherwise, of the light to tell us whether of not time passes. That’s all that I need to claim about the simple detector, and Skow accepts that it is true. His objections here, it seems to me, are directed against a stronger conclusion than the one that I actually draw from this argument. The detector argument rests on the assumption that the A- and B-theories both posit the same series of physical events. While I tried to make it clear what I meant by this, Deng’s comments show that I need to be still clearer. What I say in the book is that if by ‘physical event’ we mean an event as described using the vocabulary of physics, then both theories agree on which physical events occur. They disagree about the metaphysical nature of the events, but not on which events occur, when the events are given a purely physical description. So here are some examples: if an A-theorist holds that two electrons collide in location l at time t, then the B-theorist will agree. If the A-theorist holds that an electric current flows though object o at time t, causing a light to illuminate, then so does the B-theorist. And if the Atheorist holds that a certain pattern of neurons is firing at time t, then so does the Btheorist. These are not the kinds of things about which the theories disagree. So if, according to one theory, a light on the putative passage detector illuminates when the detector is switched on, then the other will agree. Consequently there can be no physical device such that whether or not the light illuminates will tell us whether or not time passes. And, correspondingly, if experiences supervene on physical states of the world, there can be no experience such that whether or not that experience occurs will tell us whether or not time passes. Not, at any rate, in a context in which that is what is in dispute. In any case, the detector argument was really just a warm-up for the multidetector argument. The detector argument ought to give one a sense that experience couldn’t be sensitive to the supposed dynamic phenomena in such a way as to be an experience of them. The multi-detector argument makes it clearer that this is the case. Really, the argument is quite simple. Consider the ‘red’ experience that you have when looking at a ripe tomato. What makes it an experience of the redness of that tomato, rather than of some other property of the tomato, or of something else? Although the details are not completely uncontroversial, there is no deep mystery here. The redness of that particular tomato caused the particular ‘redness’ element of the experience to occur, it did not cause any other element of the experience to occur (such as the element of experience representing the tomato’s shape), and nothing else caused the ‘red’ element of the experience to occur (at least not in the relevant way). The multi-detector argument challenges the A-theorist to explain how there could be any corresponding story about what would make it the case that some specific element of experience (and not some other element) was an experience of a dynamic feature of the world (and not an experience of something else). In the book, I argue that this challenge cannot be met. To put it simply, if experience told us that time passed (in the straightforward sense in which it tells one that the tomato is red) this would have to be because some specific element of experience was sensitive to the presence of some dynamic feature of the world; but this kind of differential sensitivity is not possible. Skow raises several objections to this argument, but none of them work. Suppose we have an element, E, of experience that is always present while other elements of experience come and go (Skow puts this in terms of my analogy of a detector with multiple lights; to save space, and perhaps avoid confusion, I’ll translate directly to the case of experience with its many elements). Let’s accept that if the A-theory were true, then it would be true that if time did not pass, E would not occur (because if time did not pass then the world would be so different from the actual world that no experience would occur at all). So there’s a sense in which the occurrence of E would be counterfactually dependent upon time passing, and it might be suggested that this would be sufficient to regard E as an experience of time passing. In the book I complain that by the same reasoning every element of experience would count as an experience of time passing; and E would also count as an experience of everything else upon which E’s occurrence would be dependent, such as the value of Planck’s constant, the occurrence of the big bang, and so on. To this, Skow replies that E could be regarded as an experience of all of those conditions; and the changeable elements of experience should not be regarded as experiences of temporal passage because they come and go according to the occurrences of other states of affairs (the presence of a ripe tomato in front of the perceiver, for example), and thus may be absent even though conditions are normal and time is passing. For Skow’s objection to work, he’d have to be right on both counts; but that cannot be the case. I’ll acknowledge that someone who knows that E would only occur if conditions C1, C2, … Cn obtained could use the occurrence of E to infer C1, C2, … Cn. So, in that limited sense, E could be regarded as a ‘detector’ for C1, C2, … Cn. Suppose, however, that someone does nothing more than connect a battery to a light bulb, sees the bulb illuminate, and says ‘look, I have a built a detector, and it shows that time is passing, the big bang occurred, Planck’s constant has such-andsuch value, etc.’. Although, as I said, given enough theory one could of course infer those conditions, in many contexts the claim would appear ridiculous – in such contexts we should rather say that this is a device that in itself detects nothing, it’s just a bulb and a battery, and the most that’s shown by the illumination of the bulb is that the battery is charged. More importantly, transposing to the case of experience, do we really want to say that I perceive that the big bang occurred, that Planck’s constant has such-and-such a value, and so on, just because if I were equipped with suitable theoretical knowledge I could infer these things from the fact that I have experiences? I think it’s clear that we should not say this. We do not take ourselves to be perceiving something just because, were it not the case, the experience would not have occurred. When I look at a ship sailing by on a sunny day, I do not thereby see the nuclear reactions at the centre of the sun that produced the light that illuminates the scene, even though my experience would not have occurred without them, and even though I could infer their existence given suitable theoretical assumptions. Here’s one reason why: we can normally rule something out as an object of perception if it is a condition for the occurrence of all of the experiences in a given sensory modality (see p. 44n, where I connect this point with H. H. Price’s distinction between ‘standing’ and ‘differential’ conditions). I do see the ship, however, because if the ship were not there then the relevant elements of my experience would not have occurred, while the elements of experience representing the water, sky, clouds, and so on, would still be present. What about Skow’s suggestion that the changeable aspects of experience, such as a visual experience of a red tomato, would be ruled out as experiences of temporal passage just because, given the truth of the A-theory, sometimes they would not occur yet time would still be passing? Of course I agree that this lack of sensitivity is a reason why those elements of experience could not be experiences of anything dynamic. But Skow should not say this, given the other things he says. For if he were right that an experience can be of all of the conditions necessary for its occurrence, then he ought to say that each changeable element represents the conjunction of the changeable phenomenon with which it is correlated, and the passage of time (and all other such necessary conditions). The tomato experience would thus represent the conjunction of the presence of the tomato and the passage of time (and the value of Planck’s constant, and so on). The conjunction would only be true when the tomato was present. But then every element of experience would be an experience of the passage of time; which is just another way of saying that just by having any kind of experience at all, once is having an experience of time passing. But the project here was to explain how just one element of experience could concern a dynamic feature of the world (where an ‘element’ is something less than the whole). That’s what would be needed in order to defend the claim that we can experience the passage of time (or other dynamic features that entail it), rather than the somewhat implausible claim that we infer the passage of time from any experience at all, regardless of its content, even though no part of the phenomenology has any more connection with the passage of time than any other. Speaking of ‘elements’ of experience, Skow’s discussion of sense data shows that he has misunderstood what I had in mind with this word. In terms of the sense datum theory that he discusses, he assumes that while phenomenal characters correspond to properties of sense data, the sense data themselves are the elements of experience. If that were what I meant by an ‘element’ of experience then probably some of the things I say would be incorrect. But it is not what I meant. Like Skow, I reject sense-datum theories, but if one nevertheless wishes to put things in terms of sense datum theory, and if one construes sense data as items that can each have multiple phenomenological properties, then what I mean by an element of experience is a token instantiation of a phenomenological property by a sense datum. That’s why I insist that there is a one-one correspondence between elements of experience and perceived features of the world. When I see a ripe tomato, there is an element of experience corresponding to the colour of the tomato (or perhaps many elements, corresponding to the colours of many parts of the tomato), another element corresponding to the shape of the tomato, and so on. There need be no uniquely correct individuation of elements, thus construed, but for the purposes of the multi-detector argument elements must be individuated at least as finely as phenomenological discrimination allows. Lee’s objection is more subtle. Lee accepts that experience cannot be sensitive to the passage of time, as shown by the multi-detector argument, and agrees that experience cannot tell us about metaphysical phenomena of this kind, but worries that the lack of experiential sensitivity is not sufficient to show that the passage of time cannot be experienced. He says two related things about why. Firstly, he observes (as I also do, p. 24) that space and time are perceived not directly but via the perception of spatial and temporal relations. Thus experience can tell us that the world is spatial, even though no element of experience is directly sensitive to this fact. Rather, there are elements of experiences that are sensitive to specific spatial relations, and our perception of these relations tells us that the world is spatial. Much the same is true for time and temporal relations. Similarly, Lee suggests that insofar as experience tells us that time passes, this could be because experience is sensitive to ‘specific temporal facts that involve the passage of time’. He gives as an example that one might be aware of an event occurring and then getting further into the past as one attends to it in memory. A few remarks about this. Firstly, the example is ambiguous. It could mean that as one recalls a recent event one has, via one’s continuously changing memory, a continuous sense of the event ‘moving’ further into the past. If so, then the multidetector argument would apply straightforwardly to that sense of temporal movement; one’s experience could not be differentially sensitive to the passage of a specific event through time. Perhaps one might infer something dynamic (that time passes) from something else dynamic (that this particular event is receding into the past), in much the same way that one can infer something spatial (the world is spatial) from something else spatial (this object stands in a spatial relation to that object). But this doesn’t remove the problem about how experience could be differentially sensitive to something’s being dynamic. Perhaps instead Lee has something else in mind: that one’s combined experience and memory have an embedded structure, such that right now they tell one that the event is, say, ten minutes into the past, but one also remembers times at which it was only five minutes into the past, and at which it was present. And Lee’s question then would be why one should not be entitled to employ dynamic concepts in describing what one experiences. So, for example, one might hold that ‘past’, as it appears in the description just given of a structured memory, refers to the A-theoretic property of pastness, rather than the B-relation that the B-theory holds to be the semantic content of ‘past’ (in the book I argue that this would be a relation between a personstage and a remembered event). Lee accepts that we are not entitled to employ dynamic concepts in this way, but he thinks that my sensitivity arguments are not sufficient to show why. Lee further illustrates his point with the example of someone who claims to know that light is an electromagnetic wave through direct perceptual observation. It seems that this would be mistaken, and I agree with Lee that the reason why it is mistaken cannot be that experience is not sensitive to electromagnetic waves, because it is (cf. experience is sensitive to temporal relations, and if the A-theory is correct then experience is thus sensitive to relations in dynamic time). But I do not know why Lee also thinks that the problem with the claim is not that there is no feature of experience that is sensitive to whether light is an electromagnetic wave. It seems to me that this is exactly what would be needed. It is a contingent fact that we have no such experience. The fact that light is an electromagnetic wave is, after all, an empirical discovery. We can perfectly well imagine someone, albeit very different to ourselves, whose experience would tell them this. Think of someone, for example, who had, in addition to vision, the capacity to ‘feel’ electric and magnetic fields. Such a person might be able to feel the fields vibrating whenever light was present, and conclude that light is an electromagnetic wave. Let ‘dynamic phenomenology’ be any phenomenology that is sensitive to, and has as its content, the presence of specifically dynamic features of time (and not just time or temporal relations per se). (I don’t always use ‘dynamic phenomenology’ in this way in the book). Either we have dynamic phenomenology or we do not. The sensitivity arguments show that we do not; whatever phenomenology we have, that we take to be sensitive to the presence of dynamic features, it cannot really be sensitive to them. This leaves us with non-dynamic phenomenology – phenomenology that is sensitive only to B-relations or other temporal features whose metaphysical nature is in dispute. So Lee’s question now is why we should not be entitled to apply dynamic, A-theoretic concepts to such experiences. But in fact this question never really arises, because we simply do not possess such concepts (despite appearances to the contrary). Concepts like ‘past’ are deployed via experience in a way that is causally sensitive to B-relations. Since experience is not sensitive to dynamic features such as the presence of A-properties, we simply do not have concepts with such features as their contents (this is the conclusion of the intelligibility argument, section 2.9). Perhaps it will be suggested instead that dynamic concepts acquire their contents through our understanding of their theoretic roles. This would be true for Lee’s example of a electromagnetic waves, which play a role in physics. But what would be the theoretical roles of the putative dynamic features of time? They do not have theoretical roles within physics; not in the way the electromagnetic waves do. Unlike electromagnetic waves, they have no essential role in explaining how specific experiences come about, as opposed to the general claim that no experience would occur at all were time not dynamic. In any case, whatever theoretical role they are supposed to have, it does not appear that this role could make them the contents of words like ‘past’; for those words, as explained above, are deployed in a way that is causally sensitive to B-relations, and thus have B-relations as their contents. This makes it impossible to claim that ‘past’ is a dynamic concept. All of this can perhaps be made clearer by extending the spatial analogy a little further. I look around me, and I see two objects: object A is 2m to the left, and object B is 1m to the left. I am aware that from object B’s location, object A is only 1m to the left, and from object A’s location object A is ‘here’. This structure of degrees of left-ness and here-ness matches the structure of pastness and presentness in the temporal example above. To keep things simple let’s imagine that humans always face the same direction, so that the directions ‘left’ and ‘right’ don’t change with our movements. Suppose now that there were a theory according to which space seeps from left to right. ‘Seep’ is only a metaphor, we are told, though no one can tell us anything much else about what it is, except that the seepage of space is entailed by the presence of properties which, according to the seepage theorist, we refer to when we use the words ‘left’, ‘right’ or ‘here’. It is acknowledged that the seepage of space is not something to which experience is directly sensitive; we have no seepage phenomenology (cf. no dynamic phenomenology). But the seepage theorist nonetheless claims that we experience the seepage of space by virtue of experiencing objects with varying degrees of left-ness, right-ness or here-ness, as described above, and when we talk about left-ness and here-ness in this context we are deploying seepage concepts that refer to the properties posited by the seepage theory. The seepage theorist also holds that if this were not a world in which space seeps, there would be no conscious experience at all, because even though the laws of physics describing such a world might be isomorphic with our own, the metaphysical nature of all physical phenomena, including those upon which experience supervenes, would be utterly different. I think it’s clear that the seepage theory does not deserve to be taken seriously, and it certainly doesn’t gain any support from experience. But why? I think the central reason is that the theory lacks content; it is an entirely empty speculation. We know what ‘left’, ‘right’ or ‘here’ mean, and they do not refer to intrinsic properties of places. The word ‘left’ is correctly applied just when an object stands in a certain spatial relation to the subject, and thus its content is that relation. It is because one stands in such a relation to an object that the objects looks to the left. The experience – the seepage theorist has already acknowledged – would not be sensitive to the supposed seepage-property of leftness. But the problem is not just that the seepage theorist has used words like ‘left’ and ‘here’ incorrectly. The problem is that the putative concepts employed by the seepage theory are empty. For what properties do they refer to? And, perhaps most importantly, what on earth is seepage? It is clearly not enough to hold that these properties are defined by their theoretical roles. The theoretical roles have not been specified in such a way as to individuate a unique set of properties; and, moreover, they have nevertheless been specified in such a way as to make it clear that the properties in question are not referred to by words like ‘left’ and ‘here’. So the seepage theory is not so much false as meaningless. Moreover it wouldn’t help if there were some further ‘seepage’ phenomenology; not if that phenomenology were not sensitive to a real phenomenon of seepage. The phenomenology might give us the illusion that there was some phenomenon called ‘seepage’, and that we knew what this was; but in the absence of the required sensitivity to the objective phenomenon this would be merely an illusion. The same, I have argued, is true of the A-theory, for parallel reasons. Finally, I should briefly address two points raised by Deng concerning chapter 2. Firstly, in the context of the detector argument, I discussed a view associated with Hermann Weyl, according to which ‘the objective world simply is, it does not happen. Only to the gaze of my consciousness, crawling upward along the life line of my body, does a section of this world come to life as a fleeting image in space which continuously changes in time.’ (1949: 116) I took this to be a version of substance dualism, in which the conscious mind ‘passes’ along the otherwise ‘static’ physical time-line. This would suggest a succession of different realities, each of which could be depicted by a diagram showing consciousness at a different position along the time line (I give a sample diagram on p. 36). Deng interprets me as saying that the problem is that these different realities contradict one another. But, she notes, I’d already argued, against the standard McTaggart paradox, that such objections beg the question, for the A-theorist claims that the whole of reality changes as time passes, and hence no single reality contains a contradiction. This would indeed be a good reply to the complaint that the Weylian position led to contradiction, but that wasn’t my objection. My objection was that each of the putative diagrams would be inaccurate, not that they would contradict one another. If the diagram shows consciousness at just one point on the time line then it depicts a world in which the person in question is conscious for just one instant, and is a zombie at all other times. But this is not correct; I, for one, was conscious ten minutes ago, and hope to still be conscious in ten minutes time. A correct diagram should therefore show my consciousness as spread out along the time line, not as occurring at just one time. But in that case it’s hard to make sense of the notion of consciousness ‘moving’ along the time line. This undermines the Weylian view. Secondly Deng raises a worry about my reply to an imagined quasi-Kantian position according to which the putative dynamic phenomenology, P, supervenes on other, non-dynamic phenomenology. Just to clarify, my thought was just that nothing has been said here that would explain how the occurrence of P would be sensitive to the real passing of time, or other dynamic phenomena. The multidetector argument would still apply to it. This is compatible with saying (as I do) that such phenomenology might have a role in making people believe that experience is telling them time ‘passes’ (as they say). Chapters 3-5 In these chapters I discuss the attitudes that we express using words like ‘past’ and ‘future’, I give an account of the way we experience durations and rates, connecting this with the rate at which time seems to pass, and I discuss the doctrine of the ‘specious present’ and various other issues relating to the way we experience change and duration. Chapters 4 and 5 are lengthy, and between the three chapters I put forward quite a lot of new ideas, but since there weren’t too many objections from the commentators I won’t say much more about them here. I must, however, correct one misunderstanding in Lee’s comments about my intentionalist account of experiences of (and thoughts about) rates and durations, in chapter 4. My view is that the phenomenal character of an experience of a temporal feature represents what I call a Subject-Environment Functional (SEF) relation, as does a tensed thought. This is meant to capture the role of, for example, a time interval of a given length, in the life of the perceiving subject. Thus the significance of a period of one minute in the life of a normal human might be the same as that of a period of two minutes in the life of a counterpart who is the same in all respects except for having internal processes that take place at half the rate. In the book I also tended to align this intentionalist view with a functionalist account of consciousness (though I’ve subsequently come to think that the same kind of intentionalism could also be combined with a form of anomalous monism). Putting these claims together, Lee says that a temporal SEF relation will be something like the relation of ‘causing an internal state with such and such functional role’. Given metaphysical functionalism the representation of a temporal property then reduces to ‘the temporal property that causes this kind of experience’. This, Lee points out, will ultimately make it impossible to hold a genuinely reductionist intentionalist view (where phenomenal character is reduced to representational content), and might push me toward accepting some kind of qualia view. The view that Lee attributes to me is in fact pretty close to the non-reductive ‘Fregean’ view advocated by David Chalmers (2004) (albeit Chalmers does not have the temporal case as his main focus). Not surprisingly, given his anti-materialism, Chalmers has no problem with qualia (albeit he doesn’t accept non-intentional qualia). But that’s not what I had in mind by a SEF relation. A SEF relation can be specified without reference to the experience itself. Someone can stand in such a relation to temporal features of the world without having any particular kind of experience at all; experience serves only to tell us that we stand in such relations. Consider, for example, the relation in which one stands to a forthcoming exam, such that one has insufficient time to prepare for it. Even if one had no mental representation of the exam whatsoever, one could still stand in that relation to it (one might encounter a student who is in precisely this position). The SEF relations represented by temporal thought and experience are more general than this – they don’t just concern one specific kind of action, such as not having time to prepare – but they are of the same general character. As I explain in chapter 4, this allows the view to be a version of reductive intentionalism, and thus avoids any need for qualia. Chapters 6 and 7: Some partial explanations for time seeming to pass Overall, Experiencing Time suggests that there are many different components of our mental lives that collectively lead us to be disposed to reject the B-theory and to believe in something that we call the passage of time. Perhaps different such components dispose us toward accepting different putative A-theoretic features – after all, there are many different versions of the A-theory, and together they make several quite different claims (e.g. the passage of time, the reality of tense, the open future, and so on). In chapters 6 and 7 I offer direct explanations for some of these components. All three commentators direct most of their more critical comments at chapter 6, so this will be the main focus of my reply. I’d like to emphasise that chapter 6 concerns only one part of the story about why time seems to pass – it certainly isn’t the story given by the book, or even the main story. There is no main story about this; just a collection of explanations of different phenomena. (Perhaps, despite my statements to the contrary, I invited misunderstanding on this point by entitling a previous paper on the topic of chapter 6 ‘Why does Time Seem to Pass?’ (Prosser 2012)). In the book I try to make it clear that the topic of chapter 6 is the specific claim that change is experienced as having a certain ‘dynamic’ quality that strikes some people as incompatible with the Btheory’s ‘at-at’ notion of change. I suggest that change is experienced in this way because objects are experienced as enduring through changes (in the sense of being wholly present at each time, and not having temporal parts. I acknowledge that I could be running together two different notions here, though they do seem natural partners.) The claims of chapter 6 concern phenomenology, in the narrow, perceptual sense (or at any rate as narrow a notion as is needed to capture the experience of perceived change; see chapter 5 for my own account of how narrow this is). Now, there’s an emerging dispute among B-theorists over what role, if any, experience has in giving rise to A-theoretic views. I hold that the phenomenology of temporal experience does have such a role, despite the fact that it does not represent genuine dynamic features of reality (such as the passage of time). Instead, I hold that the relevant phenomenology of change represents certain contradictions. But there are other Btheorists – ‘veridicalists’, including Deng and Christoph Hoerl (see the works cited by Deng) – who claim that the content of experience is entirely B-theoretic, and normally veridical, and that the idea that time passes arises for some other reason. Deng’s comments have helped me to realise that in the book I failed to distinguish two different forms that veridicalism might take. One version, which I’ll call moderate veridicalism, says that there is something about experience, veridical though it is, that results in our being disposed to find the A-theory plausible. The other version, which I’ll call extreme veridicalism, says that we are disposed to find the A-theory plausible for reasons that have nothing to do with experience. When I suggested, in the book (p. 59), that I find veridicalism problematic because it seems to offer no explanation of why time seems to pass, and moreover no explanation of why so many of us think that experience tells us this, I had in mind extreme veridicalism. But Deng correctly points out that this is not an objection to moderate veridicalism (of which, I take it, Deng’s own view is an example). In fact Deng is right that my own view is very close to moderate veridicalism. Chapter 6 concerns the only point of disagreement; I accept that much of the story about why time seems to pass concerns our dispositions to form incorrect metaphysical beliefs as a result of a largely veridical engagement with a B-theoretic world, but I do hold that the phenomenology of perceived change contains an element that does not represent anything B-theoretic, but instead represents a kind of contradiction, which we then mistakenly describe as a dynamic feature of reality. To some extent this rests on a claim about the phenomenology with which the veridicalist simply disagrees (see my disagreement with Christoph Hoerl (2014), discussed on p. 185). I could of course just be wrong about the phenomenology; this could be a case of conceptualising the phenomenology in a certain way, not required by the phenomenology itself, because of certain metaphysical views held antecedently for independent reasons. An example might be the endurance view of persistence, and in fact I shall argue below that there are indeed independent reasons for connecting the concept of endurance with the concept of temporal passage. But even if I did make that mistake, what I say in the book could still be pretty close to the right view, and just mistaken in over-interpreting the phenomenology. There is of course a rather subtle relation between what one perceives and the way in which one conceptualises what one perceives; it’s not clear that the two are entirely independent. Nevertheless, I can only report that it still seems to me that there really is something in the phenomenology of any perception of change that makes it appear incompatible with the B-theorist’s ‘at-at’ notion of change. In support of my view in chapter 6, I argue first that if there is a seemingly ‘dynamic’ element of the phenomenology of change perception – an element that does not simply make the world appear as a B-theory world should appear – then the representational content of that element must be a necessary falsehood. So although the content is not A-theoretic, it is not compatible with the B-theory either. Of course merely having a necessary falsehood as content does not in itself explain why anyone would describe such a phenomenology as ‘dynamic’ – there will be a further story to explain this. Again, this puts me fairly close to the veridicalist position (but not quite there, just because I’m denying that change experience is fully veridical). I then suggest that the necessary falsehood in question comes about because every perceptual representation of a change involves representing the very same object (not different parts of the same object) as both F and not F (for some property F). I then address some obvious-seeming objections. I initially put forward the endurance claim as a hypothesis. Then, in section 6.7, I gave a few tentative arguments in favour of the claim, though I do acknowledge (top of p. 182) that these are less than watertight. The commentators bring out the reasons why, and I acknowledge that more needs to be said before it has been made fully clear how and why experiences of change represent the changing object as enduring. The matter is not as straightforward as it might initially appear, though. I do of course hold that experience is not sensitive to whether objects endure or perdure; this is shown by arguments similar to those given in chapter 2. But it does not follow directly that the content of experience is neutral between different theories of persistence. For the mind does have the capacity to represent identity, for independent reasons, and my thinking was that the structure of mental representations of change is such as to represent the changing object at t1 as numerically identical with the object at t2, where this could not be taken as equivalent to saying that the object-stage existing at t1 is part of the same temporally extended entity as the object-stage existing at t2 (note my remarks on the difficulties facing the paraphrase strategy that would be needed in order to defend a perdurance content, and the reasons for taking surface form as a guide to logical form in certain cases. I do of course realise that a failure to represent temporal parts is not equivalent to a representation of the absence of them, but there are delicate issues here about just what the correct description of the content should be.) I don’t currently have anything very substantive to add to what I say in section 6.7 of the book, though, so I won’t dwell on the details of the objections to those arguments raised by the commentators, even though I do think there’s a little more to the arguments than it might have appeared. Difficulties with particular arguments in favour of a position do not of course show that the position is false, and any view must be judged not only on the arguments that can be put forward directly in its favour but also on what it can explain. Instead, I’d like to say a little more by way of motivation for (if not proof of) the very general claim that mental representations of endurance, including those involved in non-perceptual cognition, have a role to play in explaining why time seems to pass. This is something that I wish I’d said more about in the book. As I mentioned in chapter 7, there is a fair bit of empirical evidence for the claim that temporal cognition shares resources that are used for spatial cognition (p. 191). In short, in our thinking about time, we sometimes think of time as though it were space. I think that this is a further, important source of the notion that one is ‘moving’ through time. To see why, consider first an analogy. I feel that I am extended in space to a certain degree. My fingers and toes feel as though they are located in different places; all of the parts of my spatially extended body are felt as parts of me. There seems to be growing evidence that this sense of ‘ownership’ of one’s body involves not only the perception of bodily parts, but also something else. There is some dispute about the details, but one currently popular view is that a sense of agency, the sense that these body parts are under one’s direct control, has a crucial role. Now, movement through space consists in being at one place at one time, and at another place at another time. An object that is, and remains, spatially extended from A to B does not move from A to B just by virtue of having a part at A at t1 and a part at B at t2 – not if it also has a part at B at t1 and a part at A at t2. So one thing that might follow is that if we think of ourselves as ‘moving’ through time, this would have to involve being wholly located at one time (with no parts elsewhere on the time line), and then being wholly located at another time. As metaphysics this wouldn’t make much sense, of course, but the current project allows that we might well have notions that don’t amount to a fully coherent worldview. If some version of four-dimensionalism is true, as many B-theorists believe, then our bodies are extended through time as well as though space. But does it feel that way? I don’t think it does; I think one has a sense of being wholly located in the present, which is why it often comes as a surprise to consider that one might in fact be a temporally extended four-dimensional object. One does have access, through memory, to earlier states of one’s temporally extended body. But if we tend to think of other times as though they were other places, then by analogy with the spatial case, perhaps the mere receipt of information about one’s extended body might not be sufficient for one to feel as though parts of one’s body that are located in the past are currently parts of oneself. One currently has direct agency only with respect to those parts of one’s body that are located in the present. Of course, when one thinks back to earlier times, one remembers that one did have agency with respect to the parts of oneself that were located at those times. So those parts were parts of oneself at that earlier time. This might go some way toward explaining a sense that ‘I’ am wholly located in the present, but I was previously wholly located at various earlier points along the time line. It would thus provide an explanation for a sense in which it seems to me that I endure (rather than perdure) through time. And, if we are implicitly thinking of the times at which one is thus located as though they were positions in space, the only way to make sense of my having been wholly located at A at t1 and wholly located at B at t2 would be that I moved from A to B, along the time line. This would involve implicitly treating ‘A’ and ‘B’ as though they were locations and t1 and t2 as times at which one was at those locations; whereas in truth A and B just are t1 and t2. So, as I said, one does not thereby have a coherent metaphysics. But this might explain one source of the idea that one is ‘moving’ through time. It might also thus explain at least a part of what lies behind Weyl’s notion of one’s consciousness ‘crawling’ along the time line. This line of thought needs much further development, of course. My point, for now, is that it illustrates one possible reason why thinking of oneself as enduring seems to be necessary in order to be able to think of oneself as ‘moving’ through time, along with a tentative explanation for why one mistakenly and incoherently does so. My broader suggestion – still tentatively – is that there may be reasons why things other than oneself may seem to ‘move’ along with one, and hence that change is experienced in terms of an object ‘moving through’ two incompatible property instantiations. As I said, though, this is no more than a broad motivation for a hypothesis related to, but not identical with, that of chapter 6. More arguments are needed. One more reply regarding the endurance view. Skow notes that in order to fend off certain objections to the endurance view I have to deny that properties are experienced as relations to times, but he thinks that I am mistaken in doing so. He says ‘Ask a subject: when you were looking at the second-hand, and it looked like it was here, did it look like it was here in some “atemporal” way, or did it look like this: it is here at this time (the time I’m doing the looking)? I’m confident that those who understand the question will answer the second.’ But this is misleading. There are several ways to read ‘o is F at t’. One of them takes F to be relational. But another takes the state of affairs at t to be that o is F. Given that we’re interested in how changes are experienced it would be better to show a subject an object that changes, say from being red at t1 to being blue at t2, and then ask which of the following was the most appropriate description of what was experienced: (1) Your experience told you that the state of affairs at t1 was that the object was red, and the state of affairs at t2 was that the object was blue. (2) Your experience told you that the object stands in the ‘red’ relation to t1 and the ‘blue’ relation to t2. Ask it that way, and my feeling is that the first statement, which corresponds to my proposal, would be found to be the most appropriate description. Lee and Deng both raise some issues relating to my claim that the content of seemingly dynamic experience is a necessary falsehood. I’m surprised that the claim sounds so odd, as it seems to be a fairly common claim that the A-theory holds that the reality changes between incompatible states (this comes out, for example, in Kit Fine’s (2005, 2006) ‘fragmentalism’, and in the standard reply to McTaggart’s paradox, discussed in chapter 1 of the book). It’s not a new view that the passage of time involves one state of affairs being replaced by a state of affairs with which it is inconsistent. Given the A-theory, no actual contradiction arises because no single reality contains more than one of the contradicting states of affairs. But if the Btheory is true then the contradiction cannot be avoided; so it should not be very surprising if the B-theorist’s story about how reality is represented, such that the Atheory seems true, involves an overall contradictory representation (and not be a contradiction concerning the state of affairs at any one time). However I’ll say more about one possible source of confusion below. Lee asks why the sense of passage should not just arise from the combination of one’s memory that a certain time was present with one’s knowledge that the same time is now past, and another time is present – the ‘now’ thus seems to have ‘moved’ forwards. I do discuss and endorse this possibility as part of the overall story about why time seems to pass (pp. 24, 201), but Lee is right that I should have made it more prominent. I’m puzzled by Lee’s proposed version of projectivism, though. Lee suggests that our sense of a ‘moving now’ comes from ‘illicitly projecting an awareness of genuine psychological change onto the world, where this psychological change consists in the constant updating of our tensed perspective on the world’. Here he seems to have in mind a continuous process rather than a comparison among discrete beliefs and memories, but as far as I can see my comments should largely apply to both approaches. First, a general worry about any account that takes this form: unless one is aware of the psychological change as a dynamic change, then it is hard to see why projecting it onto the world should give rise to any sense of the world undergoing a dynamic change. But no account has been offered of why the psychological change should seem like a dynamic change. In any case, I don’t understand what’s supposed to be psychological here. Words like ‘past’ and ‘present’ have either an A-theory semantics or a B-theory semantics. If they had an A-theory semantics then to be aware of an event going from being present to being past would be to be aware of a change in the objective A-series position of the event. But we’re assuming the B-theory at this stage, so instead these words should have a B-theory semantics. This says that words like ‘past’ and ‘present’ apply to an event (or time) if, and only if, that event (time) stands in a relation to something. The candidates for the ‘something’ are either the time of utterance, the utterance itself, or the speaker (or perhaps a temporal stage thereof). See chapter 3 of the book for discussion of the details. So the updating of one’s tensed perspective consists in an event being represented as standing in one relation to something that exists at one time and in another relation to something that exists at another time. But an awareness of this content clearly does not constitute an awareness of a psychological change. Why should an awareness of this overall content give rise to any sense of time passing? After all, the structure of past and present relations just described is much the same as the structure of ‘left’ and ‘here’ relation described above in my ‘seepage’ example. It’s a state of affairs compatible with the B-theory, so why should it suggest anything A-theoretic to the subject? In chapter 3 I suggest one possible answer: we use monadic predicates like ‘is past’ and ‘is present’ to deal with what are really twoplace relations, and this metasemantic fact is not apparent to us in our uses of these predicates (or in the memories and experiences that lead us to judge that events are past or present). Consequently we have a tendency to think that ‘past’ and ‘present’ stand for properties of events (or times), rather than relations between events (or times) and something else. So a change from being present to being past seems to us to be a change in an objective property of reality. On this view, the experiences and/or thoughts are veridical, but we make a kind of metasemantic error in our interpretation, leading to an incorrect metaphysical view. So, given the terminology introduced above, this particular view, taken on its own, would count as an example of moderate veridicalism. Lee suggests that if this is a source of our A-theoretic views then it is a counterexample to my claim about necessarily false contents, because the content in question would be contingent (and normally true). This is another point where my not having clearly distinguished between the different versions of veridicalism may have obscured things. If my account of the above case is correct, then it is a case in which one’s experience presents the world as B-theoretic, but one makes a metasemantic error in interpreting this experience. But, although I probably didn’t make this clear enough in the book, I had intended the claim that the seemingly dynamic elements of experience have necessarily false contents to apply to cases where veridicalism, even in its modest version, is false. If experience presents the world in a way that conflicts with the B-theoretic account of it, and in such a way as to seemingly lend support to an A-theoretic account, then, in those cases, I stand by the claim that the relevant element of experience has a necessarily false content. Given the assumption that all phenomenology represents something, then once veridicalism is ruled out, and given that the representation of A-theoretic features was ruled out by other arguments, the only remaining contingent candidates are contingent falsehoods compatible with the B-theory. These don’t have much prima facie plausibility, and are ruled out by the argument given in the book. Bibliography Chalmers, D. J. 2004. The Representational Character of Experience. In B. Leiter (ed.), The Future for Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Fine, K. 2005. Tense and Reality. In Fine’s Modality and Tense: Philosophical Papers. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Fine, K. 2006. The Reality of Tense. Synthese, 150: 399-414. Phillips, I. 2016. Review of Experiencing Time by Simon Prosser, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, 2016.12.01. Prosser, S. 2000. A New Problem for the A-Theory of Time. The Philosophical Quarterly, 50: 494–498. Prosser, S. 2007. Could We Experience the Passage of Time? Ratio, 20: 75–90. Reprinted in Oaklander, L. N. (ed.), Philosophy of Time: Critical Concepts in Philosophy, volume 3. New York/London: Routledge, 2008. Prosser, S. 2012. Why Does Time Seem to Pass? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 85: 92–116. Prosser, S. 2013. Passage and Perception. Noûs, 47: 69–84. Weyl, H. 1949. Philosophy of Mathematics and Natural Science. Based on a translation by Olaf Helmer. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Parts of an earlier version were published in German in Handbuch der Philosophie under the title ‘Philosophie der Mathematik und Naturwissenschaft’, R. Oldenbourg, 1927.
Inquiry An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy ISSN: 0020-174X (Print) 1502-3923 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/sinq20 Explaining away temporal flow – thoughts on Prosser’s ‘Experiencing Time’ Geoffrey Lee To cite this article: Geoffrey Lee (2017): Explaining away temporal flow – thoughts on Prosser’s ‘Experiencing Time’, Inquiry, DOI: 10.1080/0020174X.2017.1406640 To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/0020174X.2017.1406640 Published online: 04 Dec 2017. Submit your article to this journal Article views: 4 View related articles View Crossmark data Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?journalCode=sinq20 Download by: [UC Berkeley Library] Date: 08 December 2017, At: 12:39 Inquiry, 2017 https://doi.org/10.1080/0020174X.2017.1406640 Explaining away temporal flow – thoughts on Prosser’s ‘Experiencing Time’ Geoffrey Lee Downloaded by [UC Berkeley Library] at 12:39 08 December 2017 Department of Philosophy, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA ABSTRACT I offer some responses to Prosser’s ‘Experiencing Time’, one of whose goals is to debunk a view of temporal experience somewhat prevalent in the metaphysics literature, which I call ‘Perceptualism’. According to Perceptualism: (1) it is part of the content of perceptual experience that time passes in a metaphysically strong sense: the present has a metaphysically privileged status, and time passes in virtue of changes in which events this ‘objective present’ highlights, and moreover (2) this gives us evidence in favor of strong passage. Prosser argues that perception cannot be sensitive to whether the strong passage obtains, and therefore cannot represent strong passage in a way that gives us evidence of its truth. Although I accept this conclusion, I argue that Prosser’s argument for it is problematic. It threatens to over-generalize to rule out uncontroversial cases of perceptual knowledge, such as our knowledge that we live in a spatial world. Furthermore, a successful argument ruling out perceptual evidence for strong passage would have to give constraints on the theory/observation distinction of a kind not provided by Prosser’s discussion. I also comment on several other parts of the book. ARTICLE HISTORY Received 10 June 2017; Accepted 8 September 2017 KEYWORDS Time; passage; consciousness; temporal experience 1. Introduction The goal of Prosser’s book1 is to offer a comprehensive account of the different aspects of our awareness of time, in a way that debunks a view of temporal experience somewhat prevalent in the metaphysics literature. This view, which I’ll call ‘Perceptualism’, says (1) that it is part of the content of perceptual experience (or maybe of our experience of time more generally), that time passes in a metaphysically strong sense: the present has CONTACT Geoffrey Lee geoffrey_lee@berkeley.edu 1 Prosser (2016). Page references are to this book. © 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group 2  G. LEE Downloaded by [UC Berkeley Library] at 12:39 08 December 2017 a metaphysically privileged status, and time passes in virtue of changes in which events this ‘objective present’ highlights (I’ll call this the ‘A-theory’, or ‘strong passage’), and moreover (2) that this gives us evidence in favor of strong passage. Prosser’s view is that experience does not in any literal sense represent the A-theory, but we nonetheless need to give an account of experience that explains this intuition. Along the way he offers accounts of how time can seem to pass at different rates, why it seems like we’re moving toward the future, and the nature of the ‘specious present’, along with much other interesting material. I’ll comment here on a few salient highlights. 2. Do we have perceptual evidence for strong passage? Prosser’s main line of attack against Perceptualism involves what I’ll call a ‘perceptual sensitivity’ argument. The idea is that strong temporal passage is not the kind of thing that we could be perceptually sensitive to, in the way that we are perceptually sensitive to features like shape, size, color, etc. Without perceptual sensitivity we can’t gain perceptual knowledge of the relevant feature. Compare : X claims knowledge through sense perception that ghosts exists. Y’s response : ghosts cannot causally effect our sense apparatus and therefore cannot be known through perception. More specifically, Prosser’s view is that perception gives us knowledge of features by containing distinct experiential elements that are differentially sensitive to those features: for example, there is a quality space of types of shape percepts, and changes in experience through this space track changes in the configuration of shape properties around the observer. However, there isn’t similarly a quality of experience whose role is to track whether or not time is passing! Every feature of experience might be sensitive to the existence of temporal passage because the existence of any experience at all might depend on it, but there is no single feature that differentially signals passage. The idea, as I understand it, is that if a feature is not one that is knowable through perception, then it’s also not one we can get perceptual evidence for (as Perceptualism requires). What to make of this argument? I agree that we can’t get experiential justification for the A-theory from perception. The A-theory is an abstract metaphysical hypothesis about the nature of time, which is, intuitively, not the kind of thing perception is in the business of telling us about: perception only delivers more mundane information about the layout of macroscopic objects and events around us; it doesn’t weigh in on metaphysical debates. But has Prosser given us the right explanation of why that is so? Downloaded by [UC Berkeley Library] at 12:39 08 December 2017 INQUIRY  3 One concern I have about the perceptual sensitivity argument is that it threatens to over-generalize. The fact is there are at least some very general features of the world that we know about through sense perception (in a sense). We know that we live in a spatial world; we know that we live in a temporal world. We know that the world contains solid three-dimensional bodies that have colored surfaces that are only visible under illumination; and we know that we live in an illuminated world. How do we know these things? Certainly our experience doesn’t have a single feature that is differentially sensitive to the spatiality of the world; at best, none of the features of experience would exist were the world non-spatial because experience wouldn’t exist. Rather, we are able to perceive the specific ways in which the world is spatial, temporal, etc., and then immediately infer that we live in, e.g. a spatial world. I think it would be natural for the fan of strong passage to say something similar: our perceptual/psychological states have features that are differentially sensitive to specific temporal facts that involve the passage of time: for example, I might be aware of a specific event occurring and then getting further and further into the past as I attend to it in memory. My perceptual and memory states have features that differentially track these features of the event. I infer from my awareness of such specific temporal facts that I live in a world where time passes, and so the A-theory is true. There is an obvious response to this (as Prosser outlines [50]), which is that even if the A-theory is in fact true, and so I am sensitive to specific A-theoretical facts, I can’t be aware of them as A-theoretical facts. That is, I’m not justified in applying such theoretically loaded concepts to my experience; rather, I should use neutral temporal concepts that do not a priori entail that the A-theory is true (or that the B-theory is true). I agree that this is surely what we should say here; the problem is in explaining why we are entitled to say it. In effect, the problem is to put some conditions on the observation/theory distinction that entail that metaphysically loaded temporal concepts are on the wrong side of the divide. To my mind, that is the key issue in explaining what is wrong with Perceptualism. Furthermore, I doubt that perceptual sensitivity considerations help us address it (or at least not on their own). (Compare: an individual claims to know that light is an electromagnetic wave through direct perceptual observation. It would be right to complain that ‘electromagnetic wave’ isn’t a concept that can be applied observationally to experience. But the reason for this isn’t that we aren’t perceptually sensitive to electromagnetic waves (we are!), nor that we don’t have a feature of experience that tracks whether light is an electromagnetic wave.) Downloaded by [UC Berkeley Library] at 12:39 08 December 2017 4  G. LEE We could try saying: any a priori consequence of an observational judgment (i.e. one framed only in observational terms) must be such that we have a direct perceptual sensitivity to the obtaining of that consequence. But that would be too strong: as mentioned, we aren’t perceptually sensitive to the spatiality, temporality, solidity, etc. of the world, but we can still know about these features through observation. We could also try saying that the contents of observational concepts must be reflected in the right way by phenomenology or phenomenal contents (e.g. maybe ‘electromagnetic wave’ isn’t reflected in phenomenal content). But now the problem is that the A-theorist thinks that the more loaded concepts are reflected phenomenally, so we are unlikely to get leverage this way. We could try saying that observational concepts should be as theoretically neutral as possible. But it’s not totally clear how to understand this constraint. We already saw that requiring perceptual sensitivity to all consequences of observational judgments is too strong. Another view of this kind says that observational judgments should be as epistemically conservative as possible, in the sense that the manifest image is limited to facts about experience, understood in such a way that we can directly infer nothing about the environment from them; the leap beyond experience is ampliative. But many philosophers would reject this conservatism. Think about the plethora of cases in philosophy where the issue arises, that is, where there is a disagreement about whether our initial data include more than experiential facts. For example, in philosophy of physics, there is a debate about whether certain theories, like wave function monism, are incompatible with our perceptual evidence of a 3D spatial world (Albert 1996; Maudlin 2007; Ney 2012); or we might look at the old debate about the reality of color: do we have perceptual evidence that surfaces have mind-independent colors (e.g. Gow 2014)? As Prosser appreciates, in these debates, some theorists will regard hypotheses which explain our experiences but which are incompatible with certain ordinary beliefs about our perceptual environment as akin to skeptical hypotheses that can be (defeasibly) set aside on the basis of perceptual evidence (Pryor 2000; Maudlin 2007). If such anti-conservatism is viable, so we can sometimes take environmental facts as part of our initial data, how do we decide which ones get in the privileged group? Why not propositions that entail strong passage? It would be nice to get some independent philosophical leverage for or against different views on this question, and also for or against conservatism; but I doubt that perceptual sensitivity arguments alone will do this work. Since Prosser doesn’t give a story about the theory/observation distinction, it’s hard to know what he would say here. INQUIRY  5 Downloaded by [UC Berkeley Library] at 12:39 08 December 2017 3. Projectivism and temporal passage Prosser thinks that we have to explain why it seems to us that time passes, but since we don’t literally experience A-theoretical passage, it must be that there is a more indirect explanation. What is his alternative proposal? It has multiple aspects because he thinks that there are multiple aspects of our experience of passage that need accounting for. He does however have a proposal about the form that any explanation must take: our sense of passage is to be explained in terms of the representational contents of perceptual experiences. Specifically, we should isolate the relevant experiences and then describe their contents, and explain why they have the contents that they have. An example is his explanation of our sense of ‘dynamic change’ – according to him, this is really an experience as of objects enduring (in a metaphysically loaded sense) through change; and the presence of this content is explained in terms of our use of ‘object files’ to represent objects. Before looking at any specific proposals, let’s ask: What are the alternatives to this style of explanation? A lacuna in the book, I think, is that he doesn’t take seriously enough the idea that the correct account will have a projectivist character: that is, it will involve the idea that strong passage enthusiasts are mistaking one or more features of their own minds for mind-independent features. He does briefly consider and reject one kind of ‘projectivist’ view, on which it is a purely qualitative feature of experience (i.e. one not captured in terms of the experience’s content) that explains passage experience – passage experience is like the experience of secondary qualities, on views that treat us as literally projecting qualitative aspects of experience onto external objects [p.167]. An important point here, I think, is that this is not the only kind of ‘projectivist’ view that we can have, and moreover there is a kind of projectivism that seems particularly salient in the case of explaining passage experience (more on the other kind of projectivism below).2 This is the view that our sense of a ‘moving now’ or ‘dynamic change’, etc. comes from illicitly projecting an awareness of genuine psychological change onto the world, where these psychological changes consist in the constant updating of our tensed perspective on the world. Because our temporal perspective is constantly changing, our tensed mental representations (memories, experiences of what is presently happening, and anticipations) all have to be constantly updated to keep up. There is a kind of psychological conveyor belt, whereby events come into consciousness, and then gradually ‘fade’ into the past. In so far as we are aware of this For a precedent in the literature, see Miller (1984), who attributes to Husserl a view similar to the one I describe here. 2 Downloaded by [UC Berkeley Library] at 12:39 08 December 2017 6  G. LEE psychological change, we might mistakenly think it is an objective change in the world itself. The ‘now’ is moving along! Events are moving into the past away from us! Crucially, this kind of projectivism doesn’t involve projecting non-intentional qualia, but rather projecting other kinds of psychological properties: changes in tensed representations. In so far as it involves the content of experiences, it is the contents of introspective experiences, not first-order perceptual experiences of the kind Prosser considers. It’s true that the projectivist will have to explain why we are prone to such an error when we aren’t in other cases (e.g. spatial updating), but nonetheless this is surely a plausible story. It must be acknowledged that Prosser does at least come close to endorsing some such story himself. He says ‘we are … aware of a changing of A-series designations over time, which may give rise to a sense of passage insofar as passage is construed as a changing of A-properties’ (201). He also gives an explanation in terms of the represented adicity of A-relations and certain disanalogies with our awareness spatial relations (e.g. we can control our motion through space but not through time) for why we might mistakenly objectify these relations. However, he never explicitly says that the illusion of passage involves mistaking psychological change for mind-independent change, nor does he describe his view as a kind of projectivism. I think this matters. One reason is that once we are thinking in projectivist terms, certain questions become salient: in particular, what is the nature of our introspective awareness of the relevant psychological properties, and why does such introspective awareness seem like perceptual awareness of mind-independent change? Also, are we merely introspecting that our tensed perspective has updated, or are we aware of an ongoing process of update (the ‘flow’ of time, perhaps) (compare: being aware that the second hand has moved vs. being aware of it moving)? Another is that, once such a projectivist view is on the table, it makes it unclear why there is any need for the kind of account he gives in terms of the content of world-directed perceptual experiences. I think this is particularly clear in the case of his account of ‘dynamic change’ in terms of an awareness of objects as enduring, which is worth some independent discussion. 4. Perceiving endurance and temporal passage Here’s how he describes that view: … the illusion of dynamic change comes about because of the illusory and indeed contradictory way in which change is represented, involving the INQUIRY  7 Downloaded by [UC Berkeley Library] at 12:39 08 December 2017 representation of something retaining simple numerical identity through the change. Intuitively, this captures a sense of one state of affairs giving way to a new incompatible state of affairs; yet certain things continue to exist through these changes. (186) But why isn’t the sense of one state affairs giving way to another incompatible one adequately captured in terms of an awareness of one (mistakenly objectified) tensed perspective giving way to a conflicting one? The endurance explanation also seems independently questionable to me. For one, it’s odd that Prosser argues that perception can’t represent the A-theory as true, but he’s comfortable with the idea that it represents endurantism as true. I’m strongly inclined to think that perceptual experience is neutral on endurantism/perdurantism, and pretty much every other controversial metaphysical debate (it’s not as if attracting mates on the savannah depended on having accurate metaphysical views, as the rarity of good philosophers attests!). And just as with strong passage, there could be features of our experience and cognition of objects that tempt us toward endurance views, without literally representing endurantism as true. Prosser does however offer motivation for this asymmetry in his position. He appeals to the idea that we use ‘object files’ to represent objects existing over time (180–184), pointing out that it is computationally economical to do things this way rather than using separate representations of different temporal parts of the object. But it seems that at best this gives us an explanation for why we don’t explicitly represent objects as perduring, i.e. as having temporal parts, by individually representing those temporal parts. Importantly, explicitly representing objects as enduring is not the only other option – as Prosser acknowledges, experience could be simply neutral on object metaphysics. I don’t see why the object file view isn’t best interpreted as metaphysically neutral. Another motivation, I think, is that it is only if object experience is given this stronger construal that it can explain why people are tempted on the basis of this experience to believe in strong passage. For example, in discussing Hoerl’s critique of his earlier work, he says ‘If all there is to motion experience is the experience of at-at motion, which is compatible with the B-theory, then why should this be mistaken for a wholly incompatible feature of the world?’ (185). So we’re invited to accept the experienced endurance view as an inference to the best explanation of A-theoretic intuitions, rather than as independently motivated. But is it the best explanation? One problem is that, as Prosser acknowledges, there are situations where we seem to experience the flow of time, even though we are experiencing transient events rather than enduring Downloaded by [UC Berkeley Library] at 12:39 08 December 2017 8  G. LEE objects: for example, while listening to music. So the explanation is at best partial. But furthermore, if whatever factor explains flow experience in the music case is also present in object experience cases, won’t that undermine the inference to the endurance explanation? At the very least, we need to consider what this factor is. At this point, we might put the projectivist story back on the table. Why isn’t it enough to say that we mistake awareness of the incompatible tensed representations of the world we have at different times for an awareness of the world itself changing in an objective way: the ‘now’ moving forwards? As I said, it’s true that we’ll need an account of why we make this mistake. But assuming we have this, the explanation will presumably apply both in the music case and the object awareness case – so would presumably make the endurance explanation superfluous. This is especially plausible since the projectivist story would also explain the feeling that change involves a deep incompatibility between states of affairs at different times, which was an alleged virtue of the endurance explanation. One feature of Prosser’s account that allegedly favors the endurance explanation is his view that whatever represented proposition explains the appearance of dynamic change must be a necessary falsehood. He understands endurance through change as involving a kind of incoherence – one and the same object have conflicting properties (even though at different times). So endurance meets the necessary falsehood constraint. Other explanations (such as the projectivist one), even though otherwise plausible, might not meet the constraint. But what motivates the constraint? Prosser gives a complex argument that dynamic change experience can’t represent something contingent. The idea is that for any contingent proposition that is perceivable, there is a world where a subject perceives that proposition, and in addition has experience of dynamic change; since the dynamic change experience is a separate experience, it cannot represent the contingent proposition. Since the argument works for any contingent proposition, dynamic change experience can’t represent any contingent proposition. This leaves open that it represents a necessary truth, but Prosser thinks that the best candidates are going to be necessary falsehoods. The problem here is: Why should someone who thinks that dynamic experience represents something contingent agree with the claim that dynamic experience can always be superimposed as an additional element on an experience of any contingent proposition? For example, my projectivist thinks that dynamic change experience is really an introspective experience of my mind changing in a certain way – so it represents a contingent INQUIRY  9 proposition. On this view, it won’t be true that dynamic change experience can be superimposed on an introspective experience of the relevant psychological changes because it is the same experience. Downloaded by [UC Berkeley Library] at 12:39 08 December 2017 5. Functionalist intentionalism There is another place where Prosser’s view that temporal experience can be fully accounted for in terms of perceptual contents faces problems, some of which, as I will argue, also push him in the direction of a more projectivist style of account (albeit of a different kind). According to Prosser, many important aspects of our experience and thought about the passage of time can be explained in terms of our mentally representing ‘SEF relations’: subject/environment functional relations. The idea is that concepts like ‘happening soon’, ‘happened just now’, ‘quickly’, ‘slowly’, ‘approaching’, and also our general sense of the past/future distinction and our sense of time passing at a certain rate are all to be understood in terms of our representing the functional significance (with respect to behavior or cognition) of objective temporal relations. For example, events that are happening ‘soon’ are (perhaps) ones that certain kinds of preparatory action are appropriate for, or events that are happening ‘quickly’ are (perhaps) ones that are more difficult to discriminate and respond to than events happening ‘slowly’. Prosser’s view is that temporal experiences represent functional properties (representational functionalism), but he motivates this partly in terms of a view on which they supervene on functional properties, or are individuated by their functional roles (metaphysical functionalism). In particular, he is a kind of internalist functionalist about experiences in general – they are determined by functional structure internal to the brain. One place this is illustrated is the case of duration experience: for Prosser, my functionally equivalent but slowed-down twin on ‘Slow Earth’ will have experiences qualitatively like mine in response to counterpart stimuli which differ only in their objective durations; similarly, an individual on earth who is structurally like a human but whose processing is uniformly faster will have ‘slow motion’ experiences of the world. His argument for representational functionalism also appeals to intentionalism: the view that the phenomenology of experience is constituted by it’s representational content (e.g. Byrne 2001). So, for example, two phenomenally identical duration experiences must represent the same property, and have their qualitative character in virtue of representing this property. What is this property? It can’t be an objective duration property because, e.g. me Downloaded by [UC Berkeley Library] at 12:39 08 December 2017 10  G. LEE and my Slow Earth twin have phenomenally identical duration experiences that are normally caused by different objective durations, and which are plausibly both veridical. What could it be then? Prosser’s idea is that, because functional supervenience holds, the only good candidates for the property represented whenever there is a duration experience of this phenomenal type will be functional properties, more specifically SEF relations. Hence, temporal experiences are individuated by representing SEF relations. I’m happy to accept functional supervenience for duration experiences (see Lee [2017] for more detail). I want bring out how the inference from metaphysical to representational functionalism just outlined leaves us with a view that is problematic for Prosser. The trouble is that it the SEF relation relevant to experiencing a particular objective temporal property will be something like ‘causing an internal state with such and such functional role’, where the relevant internal state just is the experience; so in effect, the experience represents ‘the temporal property that causes this kind of experience’. For example, me and my phenomenal twin might have temporal experiences that are hooked up to different temporal properties in the environment but which play the same internal functional role. So if we are both successfully representing different objective temporal properties of our environments with the same contents, these contents must pick out these temporal relations in terms of their relation to (presumably, their causal impact on) our functionally identical internal states, that is, in terms of their relation to our functionally grounded experiences. So the SEF view turns out to be very close to the view that a temporal experience represents a temporal property as ‘whatever is the normal cause of this kind of experience’. This view that inherits many of the same problems is a classic dispositionalist secondary quality view, on which we experience the dispositions of objective qualities to produce subjective effects in us. Notoriously, to avoid circularity, such dispositional views (e.g. of color) are pressed in the direction of saying that the (e.g. color) experience is individuated independently of the fact that it represents this dispositional property because the dispositional property is defined in terms of the experience. Similarly, I suspect that Prosser will be pressed toward saying that duration qualia are not individuated in terms of representing an SEF property defined in terms of the functional basis of the experience, but rather non-intentionally individuated (presumably in terms of having that functional role, rather than representing that role). That is, he will end up giving up any strong Downloaded by [UC Berkeley Library] at 12:39 08 December 2017 INQUIRY  11 form of intentionalism, and instead have to accept non-intentional temporal qualia (or something similar, such as qualitative ‘modes of presentation’ in experience).3 This all plays out in an instructive way when we look at the details of his account of duration experience. Prosser’s view, as I understand him, is that me and my Slow earth twin’s phenomenally matching experiences pick out different objective durations because different objective durations play the same functional role, in particular with respect to causing internal states. However, there’s an attractive alternative, which is to say that we experience relative duration: I experience the durations and rates of events relative to the rates of processes in my head, and my twin experiences them relative to the (slower) rates in his head. Prosser rejects this view however, rightly pointing out that it is very difficult to give an account of what individuates the internal process against which duration is measured (also see Lee [2017] for discussion). He develops his alternative functionalist account is in terms of the notion of an ‘A-second’ – a subjective measure of time, given by the relevant represented functional relation. Me and my neurally accelerated twin experience different number of physical seconds passing per ‘A-second’. But how exactly are we to understand this notion of a functionally defined subjective measure? An important problem here is that any alternative to the relative duration view must also explain how experience involves a metric on objective durations. But simply pointing out that different represented durations play different functional roles for us (in particular, they cause different internal states) doesn’t clearly get that for us. Why think that the functional roles will naturally stand in distance relations? The problem is obscured by the use of the term ‘A-second’. It’s true that if there is a privileged subjective unit of time, determined by a functional role (e.g. the duration that causes a special anointed duration experience), then this would provide a metric. But Prosser agrees that subjective duration experience is unit-free, so presumably his view is that different SEF relations determine different subjective durations, rather one relation giving us a unit that is represented in every duration experience. But, again, why think these different SEF relations will determine a subjective metric in a natural way? More generally, I fail to see how an intentionalist like him can avoid this problem without appealing to Admittedly, this is oversimplistic because there are views on which temporal qualia are individuated independently of the fact that they represent certain objective temporal relations (in virtue of their causal relations to experience), but nonetheless they are intentionally individuated in a different sense: e.g. they might involve intentional relations to sense-data (e.g. Ayer 1955) or primitive ‘edenic’ qualities (Chalmers 2006). 3 Downloaded by [UC Berkeley Library] at 12:39 08 December 2017 12  G. LEE the rate of some internal process to ground the ‘subjective rate of passage’, even if this process is hard to specify. You might think at this point that an intentionalist like Prosser should therefore embrace the relative duration view to avoid the problems with the SEF view discussed above. However, I don’t think that this helps in the end because (in my opinion) the relative duration view ends up looking quite similar to the functional view. The argument is spelled out in Lee (2017), but very briefly, the problem lies in trying to understand the quantity ‘how much time has passed relative to the rate of the internal time-keeper’ (e.g. a sand-clock or a gradually ramping neuron). If we wish to avoid a view on which time is represented in neural units (e.g. the length of one neural tick!), then arguably the best we can do here is interpret this as the view that the time-keeper’s state (how much sand has fallen through the clock, or how intensely the gradually ramping neuron is firing) as representing ‘the duration that normally causes this time-keeper state’, or something like that. I believe this leaves us in a similar situation to the one Prosser’s original representational functionalist view left us in, so is of no help to him. Where does this leave us? For duration experience, I think that both Prosser’s favored view, and the most plausible alternative, the relative duration view, both lead us toward the view that temporal phenomenology is individuated independently of how it picks out objective temporal relations as its representational content. More discussion would be needed before we can justifiably draw conclusions about what positive view of temporal experience this suggests, but I think it’s fair to say that once both Prosser’s version of intentionalism and the relative duration view are off the table, this is highly suggestive that we will have to embrace some form of anti-intentionalist view, like a qualia view. This might (or might not [Shoemaker 1994]) be given a projectivist spin: experience might seem like it is directly acquainting us with mind-independent temporal relations, but really we are aware of subjective features of experience that play the role of representing these features, and we mistakenly ‘project’ these onto the world. So this is a place where another kind of projectivism about temporal experience perhaps ought to be taken seriously. Acknowledgments Thanks to Simon Prosser and Brad Skow for helpful comments. INQUIRY  13 Disclosure statement No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author. Downloaded by [UC Berkeley Library] at 12:39 08 December 2017 References Albert, D. Z. 1996. “Elementary Quantum Metaphysics.” In Bohmian Mechanics and Quantum Theory: An Appraisal. Vol. 184, edited by J. T. Cushing, A. Fine, and S. Goldstein, 277–284. Dordrecht: Springer. Ayer, A. 1955. Foundations of Empirical Knowledge. New York: St Martin’s Press. Byrne, A. 2001. “Intentionalism Defended.” Philosophical Review 110 (2): 199–240. Chalmers, D. 2006. “Perception and the Fall from Eden.” In Perceptual Experience, edited by T. Gendler and J. Hawthorne, 49–125. Oxford: OUP. Gow, L. 2014. “Colour.” Philosophy Compass 9: 803–813. doi:10.1111/phc3.12173. Lee, G. 2017. “ Making Sense of Subjective Time.” In The Routledge Handbook of Temporal Experience, edited by I. Phillips, 157–168. Routledge. Maudlin, T. W. 2007. “Completeness, Supervenience and Ontology.” Journal of Physics a: Mathematical and Theoretical 40 (12): 3151–3171. Miller, I. 1984. Husserl, Perception, and Temporal Awareness. MIT Press. Ney, A. 2012. “The Status of Our Ordinary Three Dimensions in a Quantum Universe 1.” Noûs 46 (3): 525–560. Prosser, S. 2016. Experiencing Time. Oxford: OUP. Pryor, J. 2000. “The Skeptic and the Dogmatist.” Noûs 34: 517–549. Shoemaker, S. 1994. “Phenomenal Character.” Noûs 28 (1): 21–38.
On ‘Experiencing time’: a response to Simon Prosser (forthcoming in a Symposium in Inquiry) Abstract: In his recent book ‘Experiencing time’ (OUP), Simon Prosser discusses a wide variety of topics relating to temporal experience, in a way that is accessible both to those steeped in the philosophy of mind, and to those more familiar with the philosophy of time. He forcefully argues for the conclusion that the B-theorist of time can account for the temporal appearances. In this article, I offer a chapter by chapter response. Introduction Simon Prosser’s ‘Experiencing time’ is a must read for anyone interested in temporal experience. It covers a wide range of topics in both the philosophy of time and the philosophy of mind, and it does so with meticulous care. Though both of these areas are equally relevant when it comes to thinking about temporal experience, this book is unusual in offering a treatment that does justice to both. What follows is a chapter by chapter response, with a particular focus on chapter 2. Chapter 1 Chapter 1 sets the scene by introducing the mainstream metaphysical debate about time that forms the backdrop of the book. On the one hand, there is the B-theory (or tenseless theory) of time, according to which ‘the apparently dynamic quality of change, the special status of the present, and even the passage of time are all illusions’ (preface). This is the theory that the book argues for. It says that time is closely analogous to space. The world ‘is a four-dimensional space-time block, lacking any of the apparent dynamic features of time’ (preface). The rival A-theory (or tensed theory) of time says that ‘time passes and change is dynamic’ (1).1 There are many variants of the A-theory, including the moving spotlight theory, the growing block theory, and presentism. But all of these are united by the claim that time passes. Chapter 2 Chapter 2 begins the main argument of the book, the conclusion of which is that B-theorists can account for the mismatch between the temporal appearances and temporal reality. The first thing on the agenda, then, is to outline what the temporal appearances are, and how they are in conflict with the B-theory. Seven relevant items are described, having to do with memory, A-properties, the present, dynamic change, motion through time, the open future, and the direction of time. In all these ways, experience seems to tell us that time passes. Since on the B-theory, time doesn’t pass, there is a mismatch to be accounted for. 1 2 All unmarked page references are to (Prosser 2016). In some places the claim is instead that these are features of veridical perception. I found the 1 However, this picture grows rather more complex as the book progresses. Already the main message of the second chapter is ‘that it is impossible to experience the passage of time, and that experience does not even represent A-theoretic features (not even falsely)’ (54). There is also a second message, which is that ‘the A-theory is not merely false, but unintelligible’ (54). Let’s call these claims ‘1’ and ‘2’, respectively and let’s focus on 1 for now. On the face of it, 1 is in some tension with the project of the book. If we can’t experience anything A-theoretic, especially not the passing of time, then how can there be a troubling mismatch between the B-theoretic nature of the world and the A-theoretic temporal appearances, especially our experience of the passing of time? However, Prosser is well aware of the possibility of a misunderstanding here. The answer, as I understand it, is that there are (at least) two notions of ‘passage experience’ in play. The first is a broad one: there are aspects of our mental lives – of ‘what it is like to be us, in a very broad sense of ‘what it is like’’ (26) – such that we take ourselves to be aware of the passing of time. This broad sense may not coincide with what is ordinarily thought of as perceptual experience, or the phenomenal character thereof. It’s the broad sense that is relevant for the project of the book. But what’s relevant for chapter 2 is a narrower sense of ‘passage experience’. This, I take it, has to do with perceptual experience, or the phenomenal character thereof. Relatedly, it's to do with what experience represents. Claim 1 says that experience does not and cannot represent any A-theoretic feature, including the passing of time. One question one might have here is whether or not it’s important for the book’s project that passage experience in the broad sense be ‘more’ than just our being disposed to think of time in A-theoretic ways. If it’s important, then one might worry about this point, because it’s not clear that the seven items outlined are about ‘more’ than that, nor indeed what this ‘more’ could consist in if not perceiving time as passing (which 1 says is impossible). Prosser offers an analogy with causation here. Suppose, with Hume, that we don’t have sensory impressions of causal connections, just of causes and then of effects. The idea seems to be that this Humean view doesn’t preclude one from going along with empirical results showing that in some sense we experience causation. In many cases, subjects seem to noninferentially judge that causation has occurred based on perceptual experience. Why not say that in some sense they experience causation, even if there is no sensory impression, or (in our modern terms) no quale of causation? The analogy, I take it, is that even if there is no (and can’t be any) quale of time’s passing, so that there is no experience of passage in the narrow sense, we still experience passage in the broad sense. And this still amounts to more than inferring that time is A-theoretic or thinking in A-theoretic ways. It amounts to non-inferentially judging, on the basis of perceiving things other than passage, that time passes. I confess I’m not completely sure how to understand this. One reason is that in the case of time at least, this stance makes it a little mysterious what the quale of time’s passing was supposed to have been, and hence what the significance of claim 1 (that there can be no quale of time’s passing) is. Perhaps it will be replied that this is somehow the point, and that 2 this is where claim 2 comes in; I return to claim 2 below. In any case, as mentioned, it’s not clear that all of the seven items outlined at the start of chapter 2 do amount to more than reasons for which we infer A-theoretic claims or are disposed to think A-theoretically. For example, the second item (‘A-properties’) is that ‘when we think of past and future events we think of them as occupying a part of reality that is objectively past or future. If we take our uses of words like ‘past and ‘future’ at face value, it seems to us that they are used in discussing and thinking about real A-properties’ (24). Before presenting the main arguments of chapter 2, Prosser discusses a number of related arguments from the literature, one of which I’ll comment on briefly. Laurie Paul’s argument (Paul 2010) is, as Prosser says, intended to undermine the A-theoretic appeal to experience. The core idea is that illusory motion phenomena (such as the colour phi phenomenon) support the claim that static inputs can produce dynamic experience, so that a B-theoretic reality can be experienced as a dynamic A-theoretic one. First, Prosser considers an objection he finds in Christoph Hoerl’s work (Hoerl 2014a), which is that ‘it is not clear that the experience of phi motion (or of veridical motion) really represents the world in a way that is in conflict with the B-theory’; ‘both the short-lived stimuli and the experienced longer-lived persisting object are compatible with the B-theory’ (29). In response, he says that experienced motion really does seem dynamic in a way that is incompatible with the B-theory, but that arguments may come to an end here. Now, if this was Hoerl’s entire objection, then one might also point out that Paul was simply assuming for the purposes of her discussion that there is an A-theoretic phenomenology to be explained. So one shouldn’t expect her to give us reasons to accept the claim that there is such a phenomenology. But I take at least part of Hoerl’s point to be that there is a prior question about what A-theoretic phenomenology would be, and that a proposal like Paul’s leaves (or makes) that somewhat mysterious. Hoerl calls this the intelligibility problem. Note also that this objection doesn't seem far removed from Prosser’s own claims 1 and 2 that there couldn’t be a quale of passage and that the notion of passage is even unintelligible. After all, we are here talking about the narrow sense of ‘passage experience’. So one might wonder how to square 1 and 2 with Prosser’s description of his own phenomenology in this response to Hoerl. Prosser then raises an objection of his own, but one which he answers on Paul’s behalf. The objection targets a reading of Paul on which she is claiming that ‘a genuinely ‘static’ (i.e. nondynamic) stimulus produces a dynamic experience’ (30). The objection is that an A-theorist can insist that the ‘static’ stimuli in question, while being static in the sense of unchanging, are in fact dynamic in the sense of being A-theoretic in character (as everything is, according to the A-theorist). The answer he provides on Paul’s behalf is that a weaker reading was intended, namely one that ‘emphasizes the extent to which our experiences are constructed’ (30). We learn from the phi phenomenon that an experience of motion can be constructed by motionless stimuli. Since the constructed experience involves (A-theoretic) dynamicity, the dynamicity must have been constructed along with the motion. Why? Because there is no motion (dynamic or otherwise) in the stimuli. 3 But this reply doesn’t quite work, and (something like) the original objection still stands. Why think the dynamicity was constructed along with the motion? Why not think that the output is dynamic because the input is (in this case as in all others)? In other words, why should it matter that there is no motion (dynamic or otherwise) in the stimuli? If motionless stimuli are dynamic (in the A-theoretic sense), as the A-theorist thinks, it’s hardly surprising that the illusory experience of motion they give rise to is one of dynamic illusory motion. We’ve been given no good reason to think any constructive mechanism is involved in that, and therefore we’ve been given no good reason to think any such mechanism can do the trick. Let’s now turn to the main two arguments of chapter 2. The detector argument is intended to show that ‘experience fails to favour the A-theory over the B-theory’ (33). The multidetector argument is intended to show that ‘the passage of time cannot be experienced at all’ (33). Let’s take these in turn. The detector argument establishes its conclusion by aiming for a stronger one and failing. Its original aim is to establish the claim that ‘the mind cannot be a passage detector’ (this is claim 1), because no physical system can be, and the mind at the very least enjoys a relevantly close relation to physical systems. Let’s focus on the claim that no physical system can be a passage detector. Prosser concedes, to begin with, that if time does in fact pass then clocks measure how much time has passed. However, since in this context ‘passage’ means A-theoretic passage (I return to this point below), that gets us nowhere; it would be question-begging to assume that clocks are passage detectors. They are if and only if time passes, i.e. the B–theory is false. Instead what Prosser asks us to imagine is a device that can detect whether or not time is passing, in the Atheoretic sense, i.e. whether or not the A-theory is true. That is, the question under consideration is whether there can be a device that lights up if and only if the A-theory is true. I certainly share Prosser’s skepticism about the possibility of such a device, which after all would be a peculiar thing, given that this is a metaphysical debate (are there devices that light up if and only if Platonism about numbers is true?). Nonetheless, I worry about the argument against this possibility. The key claim is that the A-theory and the B-theory both posit the same series of physical events, ‘where a ‘physical event’ is an event described using only the vocabulary of physics’ (34). This is described as completely uncontroversial and something with which ‘[p]hysicists agree’ (35). Here is a slightly flat-footed way of stating the worry. Later on in the chapter, we will learn that the A-theory is unintelligible (claim 2). Put simply, if that’s so, how can one confidently claim that the A-theory posits the same series of physical events as the B-theory? Here are some more specific ways of expressing the worry. Suppose there is a moving spotlight, and suppose this means there is a second time-series, because the spotlight’s arriving at an event is an event in a second time-series. Is that second series of events physical 4 or not (and hence, does this version of the A-theory posit a different set of physical events or not)? Or suppose presentism is true, and suppose we go along (for the sake of argument) with an understanding of presentism according to which a presentist posits only a subset of physical events of those posited by the eternalist (Wüthrich 2011). In what sense does this version of the A-theory posit the same series of physical events as the B-theory? Or again, consider versions of the A-theory that posit tensed facts, like the fact that Thursday is objectively present and other days were and will be. Are those physical facts or not, according to that theory? The corresponding B-theoretic claim would be that there are only tenseless facts involving B-relations like simultaneity and succession. Do these theories agree on all the physical facts? Given that I don’t think there can be a passage detector in the sense at issue, this point is not crucial. But it does suggest that the argument may fail sooner than chapter 2 allows. Supposedly, what hinders the argument is that the A-theorist can, in the end, insist that there would be no experience at all without temporal passage. The result, we are told, is a standoff. But effectively the same standoff may loom much earlier. The A-theorist may think that without temporal passage, physical reality would be very different from how it actually is, because nothing would happen. By the A-theorist’s lights, temporal passage may be no optional add-on to the physical, any more than it’s an optional add-on to the mental. If so, then emphasizing the close connection between the mental and the physical is dialectically irrelevant. Of course, whether either choice point really does involve a standoff, in the sense that both sides are begging the question and neither has better arguments than the other, is up for discussion. Prosser briefly mentions Bradford Skow’s point (Skow 2011) that equal consistency (with experience) is not the same as equal quality of explanation (of experience). It’s surprising that he does not spend more time on this point. He says the reason he doesn't dwell long on it is that later, in the multidetector argument, he will argue that no version of the A-theory can explain temporal experience at all (41). But the detector argument is already supposed to establish that experience doesn't favour the A-theory. In order to show that, one does have to compare the quality of A- and B-theoretic explanations of experience. One final comment on the detector argument. In a very interesting discussion of figures like Hermann Weyl and Arthur Eddington, Prosser outlines a view according to which consciousness is not a part of the physical world, but plays a role analogous to the moving spotlight. On this view, successive events along one’s world line become ‘present’ to consciousness. He discusses many good objections to this Weylian view. However, one of them (middle of p. 37) is a close cousin of McTaggart’s argument against the coherence of the A-series (McTaggart’s ‘paradox’), which Prosser dismisses as question-begging in chapter 1. Prosser’s objection targets a Weyl-inspired diagram depicting consciousness at one instant with an arrow representing its eventual ‘movement’ to another. The objection says that the diagram in fact depicts a world in which, ‘at all times other than the present, there was and will be no consciousness’ (37). The thought is that the arrow, or what the arrow represents, by itself doesn't make it the case that consciousness will ‘move on’ and has ‘moved on’. And 5 it makes no difference that the diagram would be different at a different time, because each diagram is incorrect in the same way. This is strongly reminiscent of McTaggart’s argument, especially in some of its contemporary guises, such as the one defended by Kit Fine (Fine 2006). Admittedly, Prosser only explicitly dismisses McTaggart’s original, but the implication is that all versions fail: ‘[d]espite its influence, I shall suggest that the argument is question-begging. I am not the only one to think so; in fact there seems to be a growing consensus about the failure of the argument’ (14). What’s striking is that even though Prosser considers only the original version of McTaggart’s argument, which is less closely related to his objection against the Weylian view than contemporary ones, his response to McTaggart lends itself particularly well to being adopted by the Weylian. The response goes something like this: there is no contradiction in the A-series, because on the A-theory, propositions change their truth-value. Suppose t1 is the present. ‘[A]ccording to any A-theorist, after t1 the nature of reality changes as time passes; the world becomes the world at t2 […] [T]he McTaggart objection simply fails to take the A-theorist’s position, according to which the whole of reality changes, seriously. It begs the question by taking it for granted that propositions do not change their truth-values, and thus implicitly assumes that reality does not change’ (16). That is, according to this response to McTaggart, there is no contradiction in the A-series because t1 is present, t2 is future and will be present, etc., but neither is both present and future. But if that is what makes it the case that on the A-theory, the whole of reality changes, then how can the Weylian be in trouble with making consciousness move on? His arrow clearly represents that t2 (rather than t1) will be present to consciousness. If McTaggart can be answered in that fashion, then why won’t this do? Let’s now turn to the multidetector argument. Recall that its conclusion is that ‘the passage of time cannot be experienced at all’ (33), i.e. that the mind cannot be a passage detector. As I understand it, along the way it also aims to show that there cannot be a passage detector. So it aims to establish what the detector argument originally aimed and failed to establish. Thus, this is the central argument for claim 1 (‘that it is impossible to experience the passage of time, and that experience does not even represent A-theoretic features (not even falsely)’ (54)). As mentioned, I find it plausible that there cannot be a passage detector in the sense of the light that goes off if and only if the A-theory is true. From this it follows that the mind can’t be such a thing. However, I’m a bit less confident of the claim that it’s impossible to experience passage (as mentioned I don’t quite know what we’re meaning by ‘experience of passage’ in this chapter). More to the point, I’m not quite persuaded by the multidetector argument. The basic idea is that a passage detector, be it mental or physical, needs to have (what I’ll call) a differential response to passage. It, rather than some other indicator, has to be causally connected to and counterfactually dependent on passage. It, rather than something else, has to be caused by passage to ‘go off’, and it, rather than something else, has to be such that if 6 there were no passage, it would not ‘go off’. These are features of perception.2 But such conditions can’t be met by passage. So there can be no passage detector, mental or otherwise. There are two sources of unease, both of which are probably related to objections discussed in the chapter. First, what about the view that experiencing passage is necessary for experiencing anything? If there are necessary features of experience, then is it reasonable to demand that these satisfy the differential response constraint? Prosser considers the following related Kantian (or Kant-inspired) objection. Why not say that experiencing passage is necessary for experiencing anything, and vice versa (i.e. one can’t experience passage without an experience of something else, such as a change of some kind), so that the experience of passage supervenes on other phenomenology? As I understand it, Prosser’s reply is very concessive. He says that in chapter 6 he will in fact argue that there is some phenomenology (call it ‘P’) that supervenes on other phenomenology, and that people describe this as the experience of time’s passing, but that this description is problematic. But why is it problematic? Here’s why: ‘When described in terms of the neutral ‘P’, it should be apparent that there could be nothing in such phenomenology that connects it with the passage of time. Indeed, the fact that P supervenes on other elements of experience suggests that whatever content it has can only be derived from the content of those other elements of experience’ (49). That wasn’t apparent to me. We’ve chosen to describe the phenomenology in question neutrally, as ‘P’, but that doesn’t seem significant. Why can’t an experience of passage supervene on other phenomenology? Moreover, if P has nothing to do with an experience of time as passing, then why is chapter 6 devoted to it, and why is it there described as one of the ways in which the illusion of passage comes about (186)? One might object that I’m mis-interpreting the phrase ‘connects it with the passage of time’. Maybe the idea isn’t that P has nothing to do with passage, but merely, again, that it can’t have causal or counterfactual connections to passage (even if time passes). But on the view under consideration, it’s not clear that a differential response is required at all. Moreover, the contention does seem to be that P has nothing to do with passage: ‘The problem with this [Kantian] line of argument is that it shows only that there is something unusual about the phenomenology in question; it does not show that the phenomenology has anything to do with passage’ (49). 2 In some places the claim is instead that these are features of veridical perception. I found the switch between these variants a little confusing. However, as far as I can see, the overall claim is that these are necessary conditions for perceptual representation full stop, and that therefore it’s impossible to perceive passage, whether veridically or non-veridically (claim 1). Moreover, the arguments in section 2.8, which are specifically supposed to rule out the possibility of non-veridical perception of passage, have much in common with the multidetector argument. So that’s what I’ll focus on. 7 The second source of unease may be related to an objection by Geoffrey Lee considered on p. 50. When looking for an element of experience that has a differential response to Atheoretic features of the world, why must that feature be ‘passage’ taken as a mysterious whole? Why not look for an element of experience that is differentially linked to, say, an event’s presentness or pastness? (Again, it’s not quite clear why some of the seven items outlined at the start of the chapter, such as ‘A-properties’, ’memory’, and ‘the present’, are not relevant here.) Moreover, if the argument would proceed in a parallel fashion, i.e. if the idea is that no element of experience can be differentially connected to something as metaphysical as an A-property, why is the B-theorist better off? How do we perceive Brelations, and why aren’t they too, too metaphysical to elicit differential responses? This brings us to claim 2 and the question of relevant asymmetries between the A- and the B-theory. Recall that claim 2, the second message of chapter 2, is that ‘the A-theory is not merely false, but unintelligible’ (54). In fact, since we can’t experience the passing of time, we can’t even speak about it. Nor do we know what we are talking about when we use the words ‘the passing of time’ or other A-theoretic vocabulary, and this is because all these expressions fail to denote anything. All this is thought to be strongly supported by 1 and the case for 1. Of course in general, being imperceptible doesn’t entail being unintelligible. But in the case of passage, the entailment holds, because ‘[w]e have no other way of explaining what it means for time to pass’ (57), other than by appeal to experience. So the peculiar situation is that passage turns out not to have anything to do with experiences we had taken to be experiences of passage, and which were our only means of knowing what we meant by ‘passage’. Here too I’m sympathetic to the conclusion (claim 2) but worried about the argument. (As will become clear, I also take a different view of the dialectical significance of the conclusion.) Perhaps this partly traces back to the difficulty with understanding claim 1 and its significance. But I don’t think it straightforwardly follows, even if we assume 1, that ‘passage’ doesn’t refer and passage talk is unintelligible. One obvious reason to hesitate here is provided by the book itself: some people think about the passing of time, and this book is a case in point. Prosser considers this kind of objection: ‘Have, you, the reader not been thinking about the passage of time while reading this chapter, pondering whether it is the kind of thing of which we can have experience? Obviously there is some sense in which we talk and think about the passage of time. We use the words ‘the passage of time’ in meaningful communication, we have thoughts that we express using those words, and we have experiences that we describe using those words. But I have in mind another kind of question. For example, does the definite description ‘the passage of time’ denote anything? Is an attitude report such as ‘Bloggs believes that passage is a real feature of time’ meaningful when given a de re reading with respect to ‘passage’?’ (55) But I’m not sure that answers the objection. How is this a different kind of question? Note that the difficulty is not that ‘we’ in general, i.e. human beings who use languages with temporal expressions, are able to communicate using terms like ‘passage’. It’s that prima facie, those who think about the metaphysics of time, including Prosser and his readers, are 8 apparently able to do so. The difference matters, because as is made explicit on p. 33, the book is not about what ordinary people mean by ‘passage’. It’s about a metaphysical term of art. B-theorists don’t disagree with ordinary people about whether time passes. Instead, in the context of the A versus B debate, ‘we reserve the use of ‘passage’ for the A-theoretic notion’ (33). Apparently ‘we’ who do that, namely those thinking about the metaphysics of time, seem to use ‘passage’ and other A-theoretic vocabulary in meaningful ways. I think this objection is by no means fatal – as mentioned, I’m sympathetic to 2. But it highlights a peculiar (perhaps even paradoxical) feature of 2, in the light of which 1 doesn't by itself seem a good enough reason to accept 2. Chapter 1 manages to introduce the A- and the B-theory, by means of metaphysical distinctions, and in spite of our (supposed) inability to experience passage. There is at least the appearance of the possibility of thinking about this metaphysical debate, whether or not 1 is true. Having said that, if 1 is true (or even if there is some merit to the arguments of chapter 2) this should certainly give participants of the debate much food for thought. But in my view, Prosser underestimates 2’s dialectical significance. If these intelligibility problems obtain, they implicate the B-theory too, especially the B-theory as understood in this book. The reason is that as understood here (and as often understood), the B-theory is a positive metaphysical view that makes essential use of the expression ‘temporal passage’ (understood A-theoretically) just as much as does the A-theory. It says that necessarily, time doesn’t pass, and all times are metaphysically on a par and equally real. These are the same notions the A-theorist uses to state his theory. Intelligibility problems with these notions can’t leave the B-theory untouched. They throw into doubt the very metaphysical debate that forms the backdrop of the book. Occasionally in later chapters, the B-theory is weakened to ‘necessarily, it’s not true that time passes’ (165). But the full implication of 2 is that ‘time passes’ has no clear meaning, so that neither the claim that time passes nor the claim that time doesn’t pass makes any sense. We can mention the term ‘passage’ but not use it intelligibly. Use of the term ‘passage’ is, after all, unhelpful. Chapter 3 Chapter 3 deals, amongst other things, with tensed beliefs and attitudes towards the past, present and future. Prosser discusses date and token reflexive approaches to tensed language and then says that neither can solve Prior’s thank goodness problem (what do we thank goodness for when thanking goodness that something is past?). On the token reflexive theory, a t utterance of ‘the dental visit is over’ is true if and only if the visit occurs earlier than the token utterance. On the date theory, a t utterance of ‘the dental visit over’ is true if and only if the visit occurs before t. Why thank goodness for states of affairs such as these? One prominent answer to Prior holds that what one thanks goodness for is what one believes to be the case, namely that the dental visit is over (e.g. Dyke & MacLaurin 2002). It seemed as though that view was not discussed. Prosser’s own solution is a person-reflexive approach to tensed language, which comes in two varieties. On the endurantist version, a t utterance by S of ‘e is over’ is true if and only if 9 e occurs earlier than S, relative to t. (We’re taking endurantism to be the view that things persist by being ‘wholly present’ at more than one time.) On the stage theory version, a t utterance by S of ‘e is over’ is true if and only if e occurs earlier than St, S’s temporal part at t or t-stage. (On the stage theory, persons are temporal parts or stages; statements like ‘this person has existed for a while’ are made true by the person’s standing in certain relations to persons existing at other times.) For example, take the stage theory version of the personreflexive approach. A t utterance by S of ‘the dental visit is over’ is true if and only if the visit occurs earlier than S’s t-stage. This is the truth condition of the utterance, and also the propositions expressed by it. Each person-stage thinks a different thought reflecting a different relation to the visit, making different attitudes towards it rational (for different person-stages). Prosser focuses on the stage theory but suggests that in principle both versions of the person-reflexive approach are viable and can be developed along the lines of the following sections. Actually it’s not quite clear how the endurantist version would be developed. On the endurantist version, what one thanks goodness for is that a three-place relation of pastness obtains between the dental visit and oneself relative to t. But that’s presumably no more thankworthy than that a two-place relation of pastness (or earlier-than) obtains between the dental visit and t. Certainly the former state of affairs is no less ‘eternal’ than the latter. Prosser then introduces the central notion of Subject-Environment Functional Relations (SEFs). An SEF relation is ‘a functional relation between the subject and the environment that is relevant to the possibilities of causal interaction between them’ (74). One motivation for positing these concerns the possibility of computer-generated environments that includes functional duplicates of persons. The content of the experiences of such beings, Prosser argues, can’t be spatial (though could one perhaps say they are quasi-spatial in that they concern virtual space?). So we need the notion of an SEF to talk about the relations that are common to the contents of their experiences and ours (e.g. ‘nearness’). I was a little unsure what to make of SEF relations in the temporal case. Are they B- or Acharacteristics? Given that the truth conditions of thoughts about the past and future are said to involve SEF relations, one would expect them to be B-theoretic characteristics (since this is a B-theoretic project). On the other hand, ‘[e]vents […] stand in different SEF relations to a given subject depending on how far into the future they are’ (75). So they stand in different SEF relations to a given subject depending on which A-property they (currently) have. Perhaps the intended answer is that they are neither. They are the functional relations that make it the case that the subject can interact with the environment in certain ways. But what kinds of things can SEF relations relate? And if SEF relations can (amongst other things) relate subjects to events, then are these relations tenseless or not? Prosser goes on to argue that we need to recognize the phenomenon of first-person redundancy in perception and thought (which is said to correspond to that of unarticulated constituents in language). This is presumably closely related to the need for SEF relations. For example, whether something is near to one depends on its distance to oneself, which is a 10 spatial relation. But one need not pay attention to one’s own location in order to experience it as near. One only needs to be sensitive to a single parameter, namely how near the object is. In the temporal case, Prosser then combines this with the stage theory version of the person-reflexive approach: what makes the t thought ‘e is over’ true is that e occurs earlier than St, but what seems to make it true is that the event is past i.e. has an A-property. (Perhaps, given the parallel with unarticulated constituents, the idea is also that tensed thoughts are about A-properties, but concern B-relations.) The difficulty is that, as the example of nearness demonstrates, the phenomenon of firstperson redundancy would not be specific to the temporal case. So how can it explain away differences between spatial and temporal experience (as we’re assuming the B-theorist needs to)? The answer is that we’re far more constrained in our movements through time than we are in our movements through space. As a result, one might wonder whether this, rather than SEF relations and first-person redundancy, is not doing most of the work in explaining why we tend to think there are A-properties (but not properties such as nearness). Chapter 4 However, SEF relations are put to essential use in Chapter 4. The topic here is the experience of events and processes as happening at a certain rate, and as having a certain duration. Prosser defends a version of intentionalism about rate and duration experience that is friendly to ‘versions of materialism that see consciousness as supervening on brain processes and as being intimately related to the functional role of conscious experience’ (95). The chapter is (thus) full of interesting material, and I skip it mainly due to time constraints. Chapter 5 Chapter 5 takes up questions about whether experience is temporally extended. Part of the aim of the chapter is to defend a ‘dynamic snapshot’ view, on which temporal experience has an instantaneous, rather than a temporally extended content. The key idea here is that just because the content of temporal experience is instantaneous, it need not be a static, motionfree snapshot. Experience need not be a ‘rapid sequence of still images’ (Dainton 2010) as on the ‘cinematic’ view. Instead it can represent an instant as containing change, by representing instantaneous velocity, whether or not the latter is metaphysically dependent on what goes on at other times. The rival view posits a temporally extended content or specious present. Prosser argues that the specious present view is undermined by empirical results that suggest that one can experience motion without experiencing any object as being at different places at different times. The chapter is full of in depth discussions of arguments for and against the specious present view and its two versions (the retentional and the extensional model). But the overall message is this: most likely, none of these models of time perception genuinely differ from any of the others so this debate is misguided. 11 The thought is that for all anyone has shown, none of the approaches make any different empirical predictions from any of the others, nor can they be introspectively confirmed or disconfirmed. And whilst that may not be enough for theoretical equivalence in general, it strongly suggests such equivalence in this special case: ‘It may sound verificationist to insist that there can be no fact of the matter just because it is impossible to determine such a fact through any form of observation. But when it comes to the putative qualia, whose essential nature is to determine the subjective character of experience, this verification seems uniquely justified.’ (155) Prosser recommends that we not posit qualia, and thereby avoid the mistake that drives the debate. Instead we should stick with the notion of ‘what it is like to be the subject’ (158). What he has in mind is that we should give up on the notion of qualia in Dennett’s sense, for whom qualia are ‘ineffable, intrinsic, private, and directly or immediately apprehensible’ (155). But it didn’t become entirely clear why we should think that the debate is driven specifically by a commitment to qualia in that sense, as opposed to just to the notion of what it’s like. What drives the debate, and what Prosser denies, seems to be the conviction that it makes sense to ask ‘when is it like that for the subject?’ (158). Perhaps a commitment to qualia in Dennett’s sense forces one to ask that question. But from this it doesn't follow that anyone who asks that question is driven by a commitment to qualia in Dennett’s sense. The view Prosser settles on allows one to say that at certain times, a subject has definitely not experienced some things and has definitely experienced others. What it doesn't allow one to say is anything about what a subject is experiencing at a specific time. All we can say is that over the course of a day, the subject experiences a certain series of events. One thing that might occur to one here is whether there might not be some affinities between this and one of the views Prosser criticizes, namely the extensional model (at least in some of its versions). Prima facie, it’s not that big a step from ‘we can’t say what the subject is experiencing at an instant, only what they experience over a longer interval’ to ‘what the subject is experiencing at an instant is determined by what the subject experiences over a longer interval’. A final point concerning this equivalence thesis is that as Prosser acknowledges, the chapter contains many references to empirical considerations such as temporal illusions of various kinds. These are used to argue against some models of time perception and for others. However, ‘this does not take the form of a difference in empirical predictions between the theories’ (157), and so this can’t supply the empirical difference between the models that would make them genuinely distinct from one another. But even if these aren’t predictions per se, if empirical considerations speak in favour of some models and against others, then how can the debate not be partly empirical (as opposed to ‘purely philosophical’ (157))? 12 Chapter 6 Recall that chapter 2 left open the possibility of some phenomenology that supervenes on other phenomenology and that is often described as an experience of time as passing. Chapter 6 argues that the phenomenology in question is that of experiencing change as dynamic. However, this experience does not represent change as being dynamic. That would, in accordance with chapter 2’s claim 1, be impossible, since dynamicity (we’re assuming) is an A-theoretic notion. Rather, it represents that things persist by enduring, by being ‘wholly present’ at the times they exist. But it makes people think time passes, and is often mistakenly described as an experience of passage. (Thus, it’s an experience of something other than passage in the narrow sense of ‘experience’, giving rise to an experience of passage in the broad sense of ‘experience’.) The main question I have about this relates back to chapter 2. How can this phenomenology be ‘dynamic’, when it doesn't represent the world as being A-theoretic, and we’re assuming dynamicity is an A-theoretic notion? Prosser says that strictly speaking, experience does not represent change as dynamic, or time as passing. It’s sometimes convenient to talk of ‘dynamic experience’ or ‘passage experience’, but by that we mean only ‘elements of experience that are often taken to be experiences of dynamic features of the world’ (165). To my mind, that suggests that we don’t experience time as passing, though perhaps we tend to think in A-theoretic ways (and perhaps even tend to think that we experience time as passing). Yet Prosser dismisses such views in chapter 2. ‘I do not think that such views are plausible, in part because they leave it too mysterious why anyone should ever have been an A-theorist in the first place’ (59). But such (veridicalist) views can still explain why we tend to think in A-theoretic ways.3 Moreover, Prosser’s own view involves a similar challenge. Prosser’s question to veridicalists is ‘If all there is to motion experience is the experience of at-at motion, which is compatible with the B-theory, then why should this be mistaken for a wholly incompatible metaphysical feature of the world’ (185)? Yet on Prosser’s view, experience doesn't (and can’t) represent anything A-theoretic. Motion experience is experience of endurantist persistence and motion, which (as Prosser seems to acknowledge) is compatible with the B-theory. So why should this be mistaken for a wholly incompatible metaphysical feature of the world? In fact, arguably the challenge is even starker on the proposed view. On the proposed view, A-theoretic terms don’t so much as refer. How can all these A-theorists have missed the fact that they were not saying anything? Moving on, Chapter 6 argues that the content of ‘dynamic’ phenomenology is necessarily false. Actually, it assumes that the content is false (and thus dynamic experience is illusory).4 Then, it argues for the claim that it’s necessary, as follows. 3 See e.g. (Hoerl 2014b), (Deng forthcoming). I take the term ‘veridicalism’ from (Baron et al. 2015). 4 One might wonder on what basis one can assume this, even in the context of a B-theoretic project, if dynamic experience doesn't represent anything incompatible with the B-theory. But the assumption is justified later on, when it has emerged that the content is necessary: 13 (P1) Let P be any contingent perceivable proposition. (P2) There is a possible world, w, in which P is true and in which a subject, S, veridically perceives that P. (P3) In some such world, w, in addition to perceiving that P, the subject S experiences the world as dynamic. Let D be any element of phenomenal character that makes w seem dynamic. Then D is a different phenomenal character from that of the element of S’s experience that represents that P. (P4) Within a single subject at a single time no two phenomenologically distinct elements of experience have the same representational content. (P5) Since, in w, S perceives that P and there is an additional element to S’s experience, with phenomenal character D, the latter element of experience does not represent that P. (From P2, P3, and P4). (P6) If the dynamic element of experience does not represent that P in world w then it does not represent that P in the actual world. (C) The content of the dynamic element of experience is not contingent. Hence, given that it is not veridical, it is necessarily false. (From P1, P5, and P6). Perhaps I’m missing something, but I’m still worried that P3 begs the question.5 In a footnote, Prosser emphasizes that dynamic phenomenology is distinct from other phenomenology. But can we, in the context of this argument, be confident that its phenomenal character is distinct from the phenomenal character of any contingent (perceivable) proposition? What justifies the claim that D is a different phenomenal character from that of the element of S’s experience that represents that P? In defense of P3, Prosser says that ‘[a]ll that is required for P3 […] is that there is a possible being whose experience contains the relevant dynamic element, D, who also perceives that P, such that the dynamic phenomenal character D is different from the phenomenal character associated with P’ (169). But whether that’s possible for all contingent (perceivable) propositions P seems to be precisely the question. However, suppose we’ve shown that the content of ‘dynamic’ phenomenology is a necessary falsehood. The hypothesis is that this necessary falsehood is that things persist by enduring. Do we perceive things as enduring? One reason for caution is that most of Prosser’s arguments for this claim seem to equate endurance with persistence. Early in the discussion (173), he acknowledges that on perdurantism too, a single object persists, i.e. exists at more than one time, and retains its numerical identity through changes - it’s just that the object has temporal parts. Yet many of ‘Admittedly the argument does, in principle, leave open the possibility that dynamic phenomenology represents a necessary truth that we somehow mistake for a feature of time’ (171). Prosser goes on to say that he can’t see a plausible way to make this work. I confess I’m not sure what the problem is, nor why the feature in question has to be a feature that we ‘somehow mistake for a feature of time’. 5 I argued for this in response to an earlier version of the argument in (Deng 2013). 14 the arguments emphasize that we perceive things as retaining numerical identity through changes: ‘It is this notion of a single entity passing ‘through’ a change that captures at least a very important element of the experiences of temporal passage’ (175); ‘Many cognitive scientists accept the idea that there are ‘object files’ for perceived objects, which store successive states of an object that is perceptually tracked over time. Where the same file persists, the same predicative information is retained in the file […] when an object is experienced as changing, the predicates ‘is not F’ and ‘was F’ are contained in the same file, and are thus applied to the very same object’ (181); ‘The organization of the subject’s cognitive system into persisting object files may thus be taken as a reason to accept that the subject’s perceptual system represents an object as numerically identical from one moment to the next’ (182); ‘One’s perceptual system is ‘lazy’ – it no longer ‘bothers’ to separate the still images as separate identities and instead puts them together as one single moving object, with a single object file’ (183). The only consideration that supports the claim that we perceive things as enduring is this: ‘[w]hen we experience change we do not – I suggest – have experience as of an F temporal part of an object succeeded by a non-F temporal of that object, with it somehow understood that both parts belong to the same composite whole. This does not correctly capture the phenomenology or the way we naturally think, prior to philosophical reflection’ (173). Recall that the overall message of chapter 6 is that in representing things as enduring, we represent a necessary falsehood. This is partly supported via claim 1 (from chapter 2) that experience can’t represent anything A-theoretic. The idea is that the content of experience has to be B-theoretic, and when that’s combined with endurantism, an experiential contradiction results. Not that the B-theory plus endurantism make up an inconsistent package; but the ways out of the inconsistency are contrary to how change is represented in experience. So does our experience of ‘dynamic’ change seem contradictory? According to footnote 21, the answer is as follows. ‘The way things seem, phenomenologically, has a contradictory content. But things do not seem contradictory in the sense that we are disposed to judge the world to be contradictory. This is probably because we do not automatically assume the Btheory in making our judgments about what is contradictory’ (178). In other words, the contradiction is felt, but we don’t infer from it that there is a contradiction in the world. However, the main text suggests a different stance. We think of and experience the world in something like the way the presentist thinks of it, which involves no contradiction (‘[t]he apparently conflicting truths FO at t1 and ¬FO at t2 do not contradict because there is no reality containing both’ (178)). Not only does the world not seem contradictory, but neither does our experience: ‘This might help explain why it does not seem to us that our experiences of change are contradictory – even though they really are’ (178). So there is no felt contradiction after all. Yet the project is to show why change seems ‘dynamic’, in a sense of ‘seems’ that helps explain why there are A-theorists. So we should be aware of the dynamicity. There has to be a felt contradiction. On the view proposed, there should be ‘a sense of one state of affairs 15 constantly giving way to a new and incompatible state of affairs’ (186). (I confess I’m not sure I have that sense.) Chapter 7 The final chapter 7 naturally draws heavily on earlier chapters, so I’ll be brief. It discusses two further phenomena, our sense of movement through time and our sense of the openness of the future. On this latter issue, Prosser defends compatibilism, the view that ‘even if the world is deterministic we can nevertheless make free choices’ (193). Moreover, he argues that compatibilist freedom involves real openness of the future, albeit of a ‘subjective’ kind. What is subjective openness? It’s not an illusion of openness; it’s real openness. But it’s not objective, because objective openness is the conjunction of indeterministic laws and noneternalism (eternalism says that all times exist). And the reason we tend to think the future is objectively open is that we fail to make this distinction. That’s where the illusion comes in: the illusion is that the future is objectively, rather than (just) subjectively, open. One question about this is why a compatibilist should include indeterminism as part of the definition of ‘objective openness’. Of course one can make a sharp distinction between openness and freedom. Prosser does say that it’s a mistake to think free will requires an open future. But at the same time, he portrays openness and freedom as intimately linked: ‘If we construe the subject as a spatiotemporally extended entity, and we regard all internal complexity as part of the subject, not as part of its environment, then the subject, construed in that way, really does have options. Its future really is open, because the facts about the world external to the subject do not uniquely determine the future, including the subject’s future actions’ (199). The main question, though, is what to make of the explanation. The explanandum is that we tend to think the future is objectively open. The explanans is that we, those who are under an illusion of objective openness, fail to make the distinction between subjective and objective openness. But what does it take to make that distinction? Prosser makes it here. And a reader may well accept and employ it. But presumably, neither will thereby cease having the sense of an objectively open future. If they previously tended to think of the future as open and the past as fixed, they presumably still do so. Most likely the intended reply is that there was no suggestion of the illusion’s being corrigible through an awareness of the distinction. Rather, we are all inevitably in a situation where one easily mistakes subjective for objective openness, seeing one as the other. As agents, we can’t help but enjoy subjective openness (indeed that’s part of what it takes to be an agent). And enjoying subjective openness brings with it the constant danger of mistaking it for objective openness. The explanation points this out, but it doesn't aim to change the fact that we’re in this predicament. 16 But now there’s room for worrying about explanatory depth. Here’s what we start out with (in the context of this discussion). We feel free. We in fact have compatibilist freedom. And we tend to think the future is objectively open. Why do we think that? Answer: because compatibilist freedom is subjective openness, and non-eternalism+indeterminism is objective openness. We enjoy the former, but think we enjoy the latter. The idea is that we enjoy the former and therefore think we enjoy the latter. But that seems to follow only on the assumption that we tend to think freedom requires objective openness. And if we’re assuming that, it’s hard to see how we’re explaining why we tend to think the future is objectively open. Conclusion Perhaps one of the book’s most striking theses is that ‘the A-theory is not merely false, but unintelligible’. I’ve suggested that this possibility would have far-ranging consequences for the metaphysical debate that forms the backdrop of the book. ‘Experiencing time’ is an extremely rich treatment of a number of interesting problems surrounding temporal experience. I’ve learned and will continue to learn a lot from engaging with it, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone interested in how we experience time. References Baron, S., Cusbert, J., Farr, M., Kon, M. and Miller, K. (2015) “Temporal experience, temporal passage, and the cognitive sciences”, Philosophy Compass 10(8), pp. 560-571. Dainton, B. (2010) “Temporal consciousness”, in E. N. Zalta (ed.) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2010 edition). Online at https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/consciousness-temporal/. Deng, N. (2013) “On explaining why time seems to pass”, Southern journal of philosophy 51(3), pp. 367-382. Deng (forthcoming) “Temporal experience and the A versus B debate”, in The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Temporal Experience, Routledge, ed. by Ian Phillips. Dyke, H. and Maclaurin, J. (2002) “Thank goodness that’s over: the evolutionary story”, Ratio 15(3), pp. 276–292. Fine, K. (2006) “The Reality of Tense”, Synthese 150 (3), pp. 399-414. Hoerl, C. (2014a) “Do we (seem to) perceive passage?”, Philosophical Explorations 17(2), pp. 188-202. Hoerl, C. (2014b) “Time and the domain of consciousness”, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1326, pp. 90-96. Paul L. A. (2010) “Temporal experience”, Journal of Philosophy 107(7), pp. 333-359. Prosser, S. (2016) Experiencing time, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Skow, B. (2011) “Experience and the passage of time”, Philosophical Perspectives 25(1), pp. 359-387. Wüthrich, C. (2011) “Demarcating presentism”, in Henk de Regt, Samir Okasha & Stephan Hartmann (eds.), EPSA Philosophy of Science: Amsterdam 2009. Springer 441--450. 17
What Experience Cannot Teach Us About Time Abstract Does the A-theory have an intuitive advantage over the B-theory? Many A-theorists have claimed so, arguing that their theory has a much better explanation for the fact that we all experience the passage of time: we experience time as passing because time really does pass. In this paper I expose and reject the argument behind the A-theorist’s claim. I argue that all parties have conceded far too easily that there is an experience that needs explaining in the first place. For what exactly is an experience of temporal passage? One natural thought is that we experience passage in virtue of experiencing change, or in virtue of experiencing change as ‘dynamic’. Another is that we experience passage in virtue of experiencing events as (successively) present. None of these experiences, I argue, amounts to an experience of passage. Although there might still be other ways to experience passage, A-theorists would have to provide us with a plausible candidate experience. If there is such an experience at all, it won’t be one that qualifies as what we intuitively take to be an experience of passage. The ‘intuitive advantage’, it seems, has dissolved in any case. Keywords: A-theory, B-theory, temporal passage, experience of time, experience of temporal passage, temporal perception, change, presentness. 1. Introduction Time, it seems to us, passes, flows, flies or crawls. Days end, months change, years go by. Few things seem as sure to us in everyday life as the continuous passage of time. Although there are many metaphysical and semantic arguments that intend to show that time passes, one of the most persistent and powerful arguments comes from a very different angle.1 It is an intuitive argument that draws on our everyday experiences. The argument is that passage is ‘given’ to us in experience. The experience of temporal passage is a fundamental aspect of our lives and the best explanation for these experiences is simply that time really passes. Or so it seems. The idea that we can infer time’s passage from experience plays a major role in the debate between dynamic accounts of time, which hold that time really does pass, in the sense that temporal passage is an objective feature of reality, and static accounts which deny that there is anything in reality that corresponds to the concept of temporal passage. A first intuitive characterisation of what we mean when we talk about temporal passage could be given as follows: what is future will be present, what is present will be Among others, there is the classic argument that change requires temporal passage, inspired by McTaggart’s view (1908), (1927) (although McTaggart ultimately rejects temporal passage). Some may argue that temporal passage is reflected in the tensed structure of language. A further argument is found in Prior’s paper ‘Thank Goodness That’s Over’ (1959), where he argues that we need the passage of time to make sense of our emotional attitudes towards events. 1 1 past and what is past was once present.2 A-theories and tense realist theories are paradigm cases of dynamic theories of time.3 Static accounts of time, like the B-theory, reject the idea that time passes, no matter how passage is characterised.4 Time, on this view, is a fixed, static dimension. It does not flow, just as space does not flow. Both parties, dynamic and static alike, standardly accept the idea that we have experiences as of passage. 5 That we experience the passage of time is an assumption that is not only shared by all of us when we go about our daily lives, but it is also embraced by the overwhelming majority of theoreticians, historical and contemporary alike. Here is a selection of some characteristic quotes from the literature: (i) In practice, the most influential argument in favour of the objective present and the objective flow of time rests on an appeal to psychology- to our experience of time. It seems to us that time flows, the argument runs, and surely the most reasonable explanation of this is that there is some genuine movement of time which we experience, or in which we partake. (Price 1997, p.14-5) (ii) Let me begin this inquiry with the simple but fundamental fact that the flow of time, or passage, as it is known, is given in experience, that it is as indubitable an aspect of our perception of the world as the sights and sounds that come in upon us (...). (Schuster 1986,p. 695) 2 Not all dynamic theories would be entirely happy with this characterisation but it suffices to give a first intuitive grasp of the phenomenon I am concerned with. 3 For defence of the A-theory and tense realism see among others: Bigelow (1996), Broad (1938), Markosian (2004), Smith (1993), Schlesinger (1991), Zimmerman (2005), Crisp (2005, 2007), Prior (1958, 1967, 1968b, 1968a), Tallant (2009, 2010, forthcoming), Zeilicovici (1981). For the distinction between tense realism and A-theory see (Percival 2002). 4 B-theorists include Le Poidevin (1996, 1998; 1987), Mellor (1981, 1998) Oaklander (1991, 1993, 2002, 2004), Quine (1960), Reichenbach (1947), Russell (1914, 1940, 1948), Smart (1949, 1955), Smith (1993), Williams (1951). Not all B-theorists think of themselves as static theorists. Oaklander (2012) and Maudlin (2002) defend a B-theoretic account of temporal passage according to which time is inherently dynamic just by virtue of the fact that it features a sequence of different events (Oaklander) and/or has a privileged direction (Maudlin). This is not the sense of passage the dynamic theorist has in mind. 5 To my mind, the only philosophers who have denied that we experience temporal passage (although for different reasons than me) are Prosser (2012, 2007) and Deng . Dainton comes close to arguing that we do not experience passage in (Dainton 2011). 2 (iii) The final motive for the attempt to consummate the fourth dimension of the manifold with the special perfection of passage is the vaguest but the most substantial and incorrigible. It is simply that we find passage, that we are immediately and poignantly involved in the jerk and whoosh of process, the felt flow of one moment into the next. Here is the focus of being. Here is the shore whence the youngster watches the golden mornings swing toward him like serried bright breakers from the ocean of the future. Here is the flood on which the oldster wakes in the night to shudder at its swollen black torrent cascading him into the abyss. (Williams 1951, p.465-6) (iv) Above and beyond and before all these considerations, of course, is the manifest fact that the world is given to us as changing, and time as passing... all the philosophizing in the world will not convince us that these facts are mere illusions (...) In sum then, it is a central aspect of our basic picture of the world that time passes, and that in virtue of that passage things change. (Maudlin 2007, p.135) No doubt the intuition is compelling; but it is dangerous to give in to the temptation of accepting it too quickly. Appearances are deceptive. It is in fact far from obvious that we can have experiences as of temporal passage, at least when the experiences are supposed to support our belief that time passes. First of all, I will argue that only experiences in the strict sense, that is, perceptual experiences, can succeed in the role of securing the dynamic theory an intuitive advantage over the static one. Then I shall look at three candidate experiences that people usually mention when it comes to specifying what an experience of passage is supposed to be. None of them, I argue, do in fact amount to an experience of passage. Worse, we could not even infer that time passes from them. Granted, there might be other ways to experience passage — but if I am correct, then it is at least not evident that we experience passage. Adherents of dynamic accounts of time would have to do much more work explaining what it is to experience temporal passage and how experience is supposed to support the notion of temporal passage. This would weaken their alleged intuitive advantage considerably. The rest of this paper is divided into four sections. In section two I introduce the argument behind the claim that we can know passage from experience. The best way to resist it, I claim, is to deny that we have experiences as of passage. I then assess three usual suspects that have been suggested as experiences of temporal passage. I begin in section three with the “folk intuition” that we 3 experience passage by virtue of experiencing change. This intuition, I argue, is false because we could have experiences of change in a world where time does not pass. In section four I evaluate a slightly different thesis, namely that we are experientially aware of temporal passage by virtue of undergoing change experiences with a distinctively dynamic character, especially when contrasted with experiences of spatial variation. I argue that the “dynamic feel” cannot give us any indication as to whether time passes or not. In the fifth and last section I reject the idea that we experience passage by virtue of experiencing events as successively present. Before I begin, I should mention two caveats. First, I shall assume that perceptual experiences have representational contents, where the contents of one’s experiences ‘represent the world as being a certain way’ (Peacocke 1992, p.61). The view I am assuming is a weak content view, which is compatible with, but does not entail the stronger thesis that perceptual content is propositional. Thus understood, the view that experiences have contents is widely supported in contemporary debates about perceptual experiences (cf.Siegel 2010, p.27). Secondly, I shall concentrate only on visual experiences.6 I believe, however, that my argument is sufficiently general to be applicable to other sensory modalities. 2. The Argument from Experience The quotations above express the intuition that the experience of time’s passage is one of the most fundamental and certain human experiences, above and beyond any reasonable doubt. The intuition is that it seems to us as if time passes and this seeming is so undeniable and figures so prominently in our everyday life that, avoiding the conclusion that we are deeply deluded creatures, we ought to make room for passage as an objective feature of the world. The argument implied in the quotations can be summarised with what I will call with Le Poidevin (2007, p.77) the ‘Argument from Experience’, from here on AfE7. In its most simple form, AfE can be expressed as follows: (AfE): (1) All of us constantly experience time as passing. I will sometimes use ‘experience’ as a shorthand for ‘visual perceptual experience’. Le Poidevin’s argument actually refers to a bundle of arguments. I have taken his label to identify what I take to be the most important one. 6 7 4 (2) The best explanation for these experiences is that time really does pass. ___________________________________________________________ (3) Therefore time passes. Premise one expresses the intuition that passage is represented in our experience and that we have these experiences all the time. The idea is that experiences of temporal passage are not only had by some of us, sometimes, but by all of us, always. Premise two claims that the experience is best explained as an experience of some genuine feature in the world. The conclusion is supposed to be an inference to the best explanation. Supposedly the idea is that we know that the first premise is true just by introspection. Given the ubiquity of the experience in question, it is more plausible to think of passage experiences as veridical, than to think of them as illusory. From there, we make an inference to the best explanation to get to the conclusion, where the general principle employed is of the form ‘if p is the best explanation for q, and q, then p’. There are three different ways to object to AfE. One is to deny that the fact that time passes follows from it’s being the best explanation for our experience. This would be simply to reject the principle from inference to the best explanation. I shall assume that the principle is true. The second way is to reject premise two. Rejecting the second premise is to doubt whether the fact that time passes best explains our experience of temporal passage.8 If, for example, our experiences of passage were illusions, or hallucinations, then the fact that we undergo these experiences would not be best explained by the fact that time passes. To deny the veridicality of the experiences in question is the most popular strategy among static theorists, standardly the B-theorists.9 Popular it may be but it is not the best strategy for the B-theorist, as it puts her in an uncomfortable position. By accepting the assumption that we experience temporal passage, the B-theorist is forced to declare an allegedly fundamental feature of experience as illusory. The onus seems to be on her to explain why and how it is that we all suffer from the illusion of temporal passage. Finally, the third and best way to object to AfE is to deny that we have experiences (as) of temporal passage. It deprives the A-theory of its The objection can also be understood in a more general way. The doubt then seems to be whether we can, in principle, ever know whether a certain explanation is the best explanation for some explanandum. But although we might strictly speaking never be in the position to know whether an explanation is really the best explanation, it does not mean that it could not actually be the best explanation. My thanks to Fiona Macpherson who brought my attention to this point. 9 Philosophers who have argued along these lines include LePoidevin (1991), Oaklander (1993), Mellor (1998), and Paul (2010). 8 5 alleged intuitive advantage and blocks the inference to the best explanation. If there are no experiences to be explained in the first place, then the argument cannot get off the ground. As a result, the B-theorist never has to argue from the defensive corner in the first place. In the attempt to resist AfE, this strategy has been curiously underexplored. Presumably the reason is that most people find the idea that we experience passage so intuitively compelling that they do not waste much thought on whether it is actually true. I shall argue, however, that this is a mistake because if we think carefully about what it would mean to experience temporal passage, it is not obvious at all that we do. For the rest of this paper I will pursue the last strategy against AfE. I will argue that at least none of the standard candidate experiences normally put forward as experiences of passage amounts to an experience of passage. A great part of the challenge consists in clarifying AfE, for as long as we do not know what it means to have an experience of passage and how we could infer from it that time passes, it is far from obvious how the argument is supposed to work. I begin in the next section with the “ordinary folk intuition” according to which we experience passage by virtue of experiencing ordinary change. 3. An ordinary folk intuition It is a very natural thought to many that we simply experience time’s passage whenever we experience change. Here is how Le Poidevin puts it: As for the passage of time, we are not only aware of this when we reflect on our memories of what has happened. We just see time passing in front of us, in the movement of a second hand around a clock, or the falling of sand through an hourglass, or indeed any motion or change at all. (Le Poidevin 2007, p.76) 10 The idea appears to be that we ‘just see’ passage in the moving of the clock’s hand, because passage looks like ordinary change in visual experience.11 Intuitive support for 10 Le Poidevin does not defend the view—he is merely describing an intuitive pre-philosophical assumption that most of us share. 11 By ‘ordinary change’ I mean all changes that objects can undergo apart from the change that constitutes temporal passage. When I just say ‘change’ I refer to ordinary change, unless otherwise indicated. I am not implying that all ordinary changes can be perceived. Mere Cambridge changes are presumably not perceivable and that they are included under the label ‘ordinary change’ might sound strange. However, the 6 this view seems to come from the thought that we measure how much time passes when we observe the length of time that it takes for a change to occur. After all we say things like ‘Two hours have passed since I put the roast in the oven, it is done now’ or ‘Time seems to pass very quickly when you are reading a gripping novel’. Such a view is based on confusion though. Both statements do not refer to anything but the duration of time it takes for some change to occur. The first one merely states that it took two hours for the roast to cook; the second one states that the length of time it takes to read a novel appears shorter than it is, when it is a gripping story. There is nothing in these statements which refers uniquely to temporal passage and which is not applicable to mere change or duration without temporal passage. Although it might be true that experiences of change motivate us to believe that time passes, we do not experience passage in experiencing change. Moreover, we cannot infer temporal passage from our experience of change. To think otherwise, is to confuse passage with duration. Or so I shall argue. To begin with, when considered carefully the idea that we experience time’s passage by virtue of experiencing change appears to be motivated by three implicit assumptions. First, the assumption that we have experiences of change. Apparently innocent this is in fact a controversial thesis, highly debated in the philosophy of temporal perception. Second, the assumption that change entails temporal passage. I aim to show that this is false. And third, the assumption that if p entails q, then experiencing that p entails experiencing that q. This again is very controversial and requires at least some qualification. I shall argue that even if we accepted the first and third assumption, the argument still fails because change does not entail passage. Experiencing ordinary change does not amount to experiencing passage, for we could have accurate experiences of ordinary change, even if time did not pass. Let me go through the assumptions one by one, starting with the first one. Although our awareness of change and duration seems obvious, the analysis of temporal experience encounters an intricate problem. The problem is that temporal term ‘ordinary change’ is mainly chosen to separate the change that uniquely constitutes temporal passage from all other changes. 7 phenomena such as change and duration take time, while our perceptual experiences seem confined to the momentary present.12 If our perceptual awareness lacks temporal depth though, then it is impossible for us to perceptually experience change (or any temporally extended structure). This problem is well known in the literature as ‘paradox of temporal awareness’ (Dainton 2010). Initially it might not be entirely clear what the problem is about. One might for example think that to experience change, as for example the change of a chameleon from red to green, is to see that the chameleon is green, remember that it was red and thereby be aware of the chameleon’s change — but in that case one would not perceptually experience the change of the chameleon. One would infer that the chameleon has changed from memory and experience. Or one might think that to experience change is to be in a composite mental state constituted by a perceptual experience with the content ‘the chameleon is green’ and a memory state with the content ‘the chameleon was red’, where the combination of both results in an experience of change. Alternatively one might think that one could judge that the chameleon was red, while perceiving that it is green or imagine that it was red, while perceiving that it is green, where in both cases the combination of the imaginative state, or the judgement with the perceptual state would result in an experience of change. These kind of more “loosely understood” experiences are not at issue here. Nobody doubts that we are in some way aware of (ordinary) change. The dispute in the debate about temporal perception is whether one can be aware of change solely by virtue of one’s current perceptual experience. The initial problem thus persists: if we are only ever perceptually aware of what is (or more precisely was) momentarily present, and change and duration are temporally extended phenomena, then we cannot be perceptually aware of change (or any other temporally extended phenomena). Strictly speaking it is not true that we only perceive what is momentarily present. In fact, all we ever perceive is the past, due to the time lag in perceptual experience. The point is, however, that we only ever perceive what was present, but we do not perceive more than what was present at the time when the light was emitted from the object we are currently perceiving. Our awareness, it seems, is restricted to what happens at a time, and cannot ‘take in’ what occurs over time. It is natural to assume that when a perceptual stimulus takes n seconds to reach us at a time t, then we are perceptually aware of what happens at time t-n, but not of anything that happened before or after t-n. For ease of reading I shall stick with the less precise formulation that we are only ever perceptually aware of what is present. 12 8 For some theorists, the lesson to learn from the paradox is to deny that we can, strictly speaking, ever have perceptual experiences of change.13 Note, however, that these sceptics about change perception cannot argue in terms of AfE. If my experience of change was a composite of my perceptual experience that F(a) and my remembering or imagining that G(a), I would not be experientially aware of change or passage. I could only infer that change has occurred and thus only infer that time has passed. But if we are merely inferring that time passes, it is unclear what the intuitive advantage of dynamic theories amounts to. After all, static theorists get to their conclusion also by means of inference. It is thus particularly important to keep in mind that AfE appeals to strictly perceptual experiences only. It is only because AfE is based on a claim about perceptual experiences that its defenders can claim an intuitive advantage over static theorists: this, in fact, must be the unique appeal of the argument. AfE cannot be entirely neutral about the question whether or not we perceive change. Its defenders must seek support from accounts that argue that we can, strictly speaking, experience change. These specious present accounts typically make room for change experiences by allowing individual experiences to represent short periods of time.14 The first assumption then, comes at a price: those who hold it must accept some kind of specious present theory according to which a single perceptual experience can represent a temporally extended structure such as change. For the folk intuitionist this might still be an affordable price. Fair enough. More troublesome, however, is the idea that experiencing change entails experiencing time’s passage. This is problematic, for it depends on two highly problematic claims: on the second assumption, according to which change entails passage, and on the third, which is that if p entails q, then experiencing that p entails experiencing that q. Let us start with the latter one. Suppose that two concepts ‘p’ and ‘q’ are connected when they are such that ‘p’ entails ‘q’, and that when we acquire the concept of ‘p’, we thereby acquire the concept of ‘q’.15 It does not follow then from the connection of ‘p’ and ‘q’ that whenever p is experienced, q is experienced. A subject possessing the concepts ‘p’ and ‘q’ might perceive q whenever they perceive p, but they might not experience that q whenever they Philosophers who have denied that we can, strictly speaking, have perceptual experiences of change include Mabbott (1951, 1955), Dennett (1991), Mellor (1998), Le Poidevin (2007), Kelly (2005), and Plumer (1985). 13 Specious present theories of various types have been among others defended by James (1890), Broad (1938), Foster (1982), Dainton (2000) and Tye (2003).For a good overview of the temporal perception debate, see Dainton (2008). 14 15 The term ‘connected’ has been suggested to me by Craig French. 9 experience that p (and thus could not form the belief that q) because they might apply the concepts independently in experience. For example, somebody might possess the concept of a triangle, and the concept of a geometrical figure, but not experience that there is a geometrical figure, when they experience that there is a triangle. So even if a subject possessed the concepts of ‘change’ and ‘temporal passage’, and those concepts were connected, it does not straightforwardly follow that they would experience passage whenever they experienced change. Admittedly though, it is plausible enough to assume that if ‘change’ and ‘temporal passage’ were connected in that way, and a subject would be in possession of both concepts, they would at least be in the optimal position to experience passage whenever they experienced change. 16 For the sake of the argument let us assume that if change and passage were connected, a subject would experience that time passes whenever they experienced that change occurs. Then the correctness of the folk intuition (the intuition that we experience passage by virtue of experiencing change) would depend on whether the two concepts are in fact connected, which in turn (it seems plausible enough) depends on whether change entails passage or not. I shall argue that this is not the case, and that the folk intuition thus fails. Metaphysically speaking, change occurs if some object a is F at t1 and G at t2 where F and G are incompatible properties. Such a change in some object is related to a change of atomic events: a changes from F at t1 to G at t2, if there is a change from event E1 (Fa at t1) to E2 (Ga at t2). Qualitative change requires a succession of events which differ with respect to the properties or objects involved. (Merely) quantitative change requires a succession of events which differ only with respect to the times at which the events occur.17 The difference between change in a dynamic world and change in a static world is that the former change is tensed, and the latter is not. If time passes, then change occurs if and only if F(a) is past (and was present) and G(a) is present (and was future). If time doesn’t pass, then change occurs if and only if a is tenselessly F at t1 and tenselessly G at t2. I shall call the former A-change, and the latter B-change. If time passes, then all change is A-change, as A-change is necessitated by temporal passage. If time does not pass, then all change is B-change. Note however that the most general definition of change, I am much indebted to Thomas Brouwer and Craig French for discussion on this point. qualitatively distinct events are also numerically distinct, although the converse does not necessarily hold. 16 17All 10 according to which change occurs if F(a) at t1 and G(a) at t2, applies to all types of change and is prima facie neutral as to whether time passes or not. Both types of change, A and B, involve a succession of at least two events, in the case of qualitative change E1 (Fa at t1) and E2 (Ga at t2). 18 Thus the fact that things change does not entail the fact that time passes. How do we get from here back to the experience of change and passage? To experience ordinary change just is to experience a succession of qualitatively distinct events.19 In other words, change looks like one thing happening after the other in experience. When we see a chameleon changing from red to green for example, we see that change as a succession of two events, first an event ‘chameleon-being-red’, followed by another event ‘chameleon-being-green’. A succession takes time. It comes at no surprise that one is aware of duration when one is aware of change and succession. In other words, we experience time when we experience change in objects, which is manifest in the fact that we measure durations of time by observing change.20 I suspect that this might be the confusion behind the ordinary folk intuition that we experience temporal passage when we experience change. For the same is not true in the case of passage: neither the fact that things succeed each other, nor the fact that some things take time entails that time passes. Therefore, we could have accurate experiences of change, even if time did not pass. To experience temporal passage by virtue of experiencing change, a subject would have to experience A-change as A-change, rather than B-change, for A-change (as opposed to B-change) only occurs if time passes. In other words, for the folk intuition to be correct, a subject’s experience of change would have to consist in more than simply experiencing F(a) at t1 and G(a) at t2. The folk intuition 18 Standardly, change is taken to occur over time, but some people think that changes are instantaneous (Priest 2006). However, even if change was instantaneous, it could not occur in a world without duration. If there is nothing that changes, nothing that is different now from how it was before, there cannot be change. Moreover, even if change was instantaneous, we would not experience it as instantaneous. When a traffic light changes from red to green, for example, we do not experience that the light is simultaneously red and green, we experience that the light is first red and then green, that is, we experience the change as occurring over time. In experience, a’s change from F to G always takes time, whether or not there is a moment of change. Note however that this does not imply that our experiences would be illusory if Priest was correct. 19 Although change looks like succession in experience, not all successions look like change. To experience succession as change, at least the properties or the objects constitutive of the successive events must differ. A mere numerical change of events cannot be experienced as change, which is presumably why it is standardly thought that we could not be aware of time without being aware of (at least mental) change. 20 See also Shoemaker for this point (1969). Shoemaker thinks that the fact that we measure time by observing change makes it plausible that there cannot be time without change, for to hold otherwise is to be sceptic about the possibility of measuring time at all. Whether or not there could be time without change shall not be my concern here. 11 however, is just that we experience passage by virtue of experiencing change, not the intuition that we experience passage by virtue of experiencing A-change rather than Bchange. Although some A-theorists do argue along these lines, it should be noted that this is a different argument altogether.21 Our every day experience of change is silent as to whether time passes or not. Here is another way to put it. Just as we (standardly) occupy various spatial perspectives during our lives, we occupy various temporal perspectives during the course of our lives. Throughout our lifetime we are aware of what happens at different times, at different times – that is to say, we are aware of one time after another. But this change of temporal perspective can be explained dynamically as well as statically. Explained dynamically, our being aware of one time after another is in some sense “brought about” by time “moving” or “passing by”, that is, by the fact that time passes. Explained statically, we “move” through time, changing our temporal perspectives, one by one, in a similar way as we are moving through static space, thereby changing our spatial perspectives. Consider an analogy that might hopefully help to illustrate the distinction I have in mind. Imagine you are visiting some art exhibition and you are led into a dark room with a hole in the wall to look through. Looking through the hole, you can see an image projected on another wall. After a while the image disappears and is replaced by another one, which is replaced again after a few seconds. Ten images are presented to you in this way before the slide show is over and you are shown into another room. The second room is also dark, but instead of one hole in the wall opposite the door, there are ten holes, lined up in a row. A little note tells you to look into each of the holes, one by one, starting with the first one on the left. As you look into the holes, one by one, you can see the very same images that you have just seen in the slide show. There is no difference in what you see between the first room and the second room. In both rooms you see a succession of different images, one by one, only that in the first room you are still, and the images slide past you, where in the second room the images are still and you are changing your visual perspective, thereby seeing the different images. In any case, just from what you have seen, you cannot tell whether it is you that moves, or whether the images slide by. 21 I come back to this in §5. 12 This is of course not a perfect analogy, but the idea should be clear enough. The difference between the slide show of images and the row of images is somewhat analogous to the difference between change in a dynamic world, and change in a static world. The analogy is certainly not ideal because it is misleading to speak about “our movement through time” in the same way as we speak about our movement through space. For the B-theorist, “movement” through time consists in our occupying various temporal perspectives, simply by virtue of existing at different times. For the A-theorist, our occupying multiple temporal perspectives is necessitated by the passage of time. Common to both cases is that we cannot distinguish between the two kinds of succession, just by experiencing one thing after the next. Thus the experience of ordinary change cannot tell us whether it is time itself that “moves” (as with the slide show) or whether we just see different things at different times (as with the row of images). I conclude that the idea that we experience passage by virtue of experiencing change, or that we can infer passage from experiencing change, is based on a confusion between passage on the one hand, and succession and duration on the other. Next, I shall analyse a slightly modified version of the same claim, according to which we experience temporal passage by virtue of the fact that our experiences of ordinary change have a dynamic or “flowing” phenomenal character. 4. Experiencing the phenomenal flow Closely related to the intuition that we experience passage by virtue of experiencing change, is the intuition that change ‘feels dynamic’ or ‘flowing’ in experience. The intuition appeals to the phenomenal character of change experiences: ‘what it is like’ to experience ordinary change is supposed to be in some sense dynamic. To clarify: the claim is that the content of the experience (F(a) at t1 and G(a) at t2) is neutral as to whether the perceived change is A-change or B-change, but that the ‘phenomenal feel’ of change experiences is in some sense dynamic. Whether or not such a suggestion makes sense depends on the theory of perception one supports. Strong representationalists hold that the phenomenal character of experiences is identical to, or at least supervenes on, the representational content.22 Recall that we are (for now) focussing on experiences of change with a content that is mute as to whether the change represented is A- or B22 See for example Dretske (1995), Tye (2000) and Byrne (2001). 13 change. All that a strong representationalist could infer from the dynamic character of experiences of change is that change in general feels dynamic in experience, but she could not infer as to whether this feature is a feature of experienced A-change, B-change, or of all types of change in experience. Given that the content is neutral as to whether time passes or not, the character would also be neutral with regards to time’s passage. Weak representationalism allows for qualitative divergence between phenomenal character and content.23 On such views, one might think an experience of change that is content-wise neutral as to whether it represents A- or B-change, still “feels” like Achange, rather than B-change. Even if this were the case though, there would be no reason to think that such an experience told us anything about the nature of change and time at all. Phenomenal character, thus understood, is not a representational feature of experiences. Suppose the weak representationalist thinks that we have evolved in such a way that the phenomenal character of our experiences qualitatively ‘matches’ what is represented in experience.24 She could then argue that such a correspondence would allow us to be aware of change as A-change (even if the way the change was represented would be neutral in this respect). Let us assume for a moment that there was such a match. Could I infer from my experience of change that the change I am experiencing is A-change and not B-change? The answer must be negative. Although there is a metaphysical difference between the two changes—A-change is tensed and necessitated by the fact that time passes, B-change not—one would need a very good argument to get from there to a phenomenal difference between the two changes as experienced. This brings us to a further difficulty: we can never be in the situation to experientially compare A-changes with B-changes, for either time passes, in which case all change is Achange, or it doesn’t, in which case all change is B-change. This being the case, we cannot even know what it would be like to experience A-change rather than B-change. If it was possible to compare A-changes with B-changes in experience, and experiences of the former would have a distinctive A-phenomenal dynamic character, then we might (assuming the matching hypothesis) be aware of the change as A-change. But to infer from the fact that there is a metaphysical difference between the two kinds of change 23 See for example Block (1990). 24 Laurie Paul was discussing (and ultimately rejecting) a similar view in her talk ‘Experience and the Direction of Time’ at the Workshop ‘Temporal Experience’ for the Network of Sensory Research in Toronto 2013. 14 that there would also be a matching phenomenal difference, is to put the cart before the horse. Precisely because there are no contrast cases between A-experiences and Bexperiences, passage defenders often motivate their intuition with what they take to be an analogous contrast, the phenomenal contrast between experiences of spatial variation and experiences of change. Consider for example the phenomenal difference between seeing a chameleon changing from red to green and seeing a chameleon that is red and green striped. Once the intuition about change seeming dynamic in experience is bought, the thought is presumably that change seems dynamic because it is brought about by temporal passage, whereas spatial variation seems static because space is static. And, more, if time were static just as space, and change just a series of static events, then experiences of change would be more like experiences of spatial variation. But the analogy is flawed: the phenomenal contrast between spatial variation and change does not carry over to the phenomenal contrast between A-change and B-change. For one might also think that all temporal experiences have a dynamic character by virtue of being temporal experiences, whereas all spatial experiences have a static character by virtue of being spatial experiences. In other words, change experiences could have the dynamic character they have because they are experiences of variation in time (rather than in space), and not because the change experienced is A-change (rather than B-change). These two explanations, it seems, stand on an equal footing. As long as we cannot contrast A-change experiences with B-change experiences, there is no good way to conclusively decide which explanation is better. And given that it is impossible to contrast A-experiences with B-experiences, it is wise to abandon the thought that we are aware of time’s passage by virtue of having experiences of change that feel dynamic. In the next and last section I will look at the suggestion that we experience temporal passage by virtue of experiencing (successive) events as present. 5. Temporal passage and presentness Some people think that experiencing temporal passage just is (read: is nothing more than) experiencing events as present.25 Roughly speaking, the idea is presumably that Le Poidevin mentions this view (Le Poidevin 2007, p.77), but it is also discussed among others by Mellor (1981, 1998), Callender (2008) and Prosser (2007). 25 15 experiences of events as present amount to experiences of temporal passage because temporal passage consists in times being (successively) present. I shall give three arguments against this view: 5.1. The argument against visibility 5.2. The argument against vividness* 5.3. The argument against tensed perceptual content First I argue that it is hard to see what experiences of presentness are supposed to be like, for there is no property presentness can be contrasted with in visual experience. Second, I argue that if presentness was experientially represented as a kind of vividness, then these experiences would not be best explained by the fact that some things are really present in the relevant, that is, A-theoretic sense. And third, I point out that to have tensed perceptual content is not sufficient for an experience to be an experience of tensed facts. Before I begin, two issues have to be clarified, one about terminology and one about temporal perception. Concerning the terminology, it will be especially important to keep the distinction between the A-theoretic and the B-theoretic notion of presentness in mind. For A-theorists, presentness is an objective (that is mind-independent) property. For B-theorists, presentness is an indexical notion analogous to the spatial indexical ‘here’. Contrary to A-theoretic presentness, B-theoretic presentness is perspective dependent: to predicate presentness of something is to predicate a relation of simultaneity between that thing and something else: a date, a speaker, an event. To avoid misunderstandings, I shall call the A-theoretic notion of presentness ‘A-presentness’ or ‘Apresent’. The terms ‘B-presentness’ or ‘B-present’ are used for the B-theoretic notion of presentness and I shall just say ‘present’ or ‘presentness’ when I wish to stay neutral between these notions. Second, I have introduced the view under discussion as the view that to experience temporal passage is to experience events as A-present. More precisely it should be stated as the view that to experience temporal passage is to experience a succession of events as successively A-present. It would be incoherent to hold that to visually represent temporal passage is to visually represent a single event being present. For time 16 to pass, there needs to be a change of what is present, and one might then ask how it is possible to represent successive events in a single perceptual experience. Thus, similarly as with the argument from folk intuition, the argument here requires a realist account of temporal perception to begin with. I shall thus assume, for the sake of the argument, that some such theory is correct. The argument I aim to prove wrong is that we experience temporal passage by virtue of experiencing events being successively A-present. That said, we can simplify our strategy somewhat and just argue against the claim that we have experiences as of events as A-present. If we do not experience events as A-present, we do not experience events being successively A-present either. I call the argument I am opposing the Argument from Presentness (AfP): (AfP) (1) 1. We have experiences as of events as A-present. 2. The best explanation for these experiences is that some things are A-present. ______________________________________________________________ 3. Therefore some things are A-present. 4. Some things are A-present, only if time passes. ______________________________________________________________ 5. Therefore time passes. AfP is the view that one can infer from experience that some things are A-present, and that A-presentness entails temporal passage. The first of my three arguments rejects the first premise of AfP, the last two turn against the second. 5.1 The argument against visibility Suppose that on a clear night you are out with a telescope to look at the stars. With you is a friend who knows a lot about stars. He is pointing the telescope towards the sky and tells you to look into it. You see two stars. ‘The one on the left does not exist anymore’ your friend explains, ‘it is only because it is so far away and the light takes so long to reach us, that we still see it’. You are amazed because it looks just like the other star. It seems as though you see both stars as A-present, although you know that one of them does not exist anymore.26 26 A similar example is found in Mellor (1998), Le Poidevin (2007) and Hestevold (1990). 17 One mistaken conclusion that someone might draw from this is that since past events appear through the telescope in the same way as present events, nothing looks like it has presentness. This is the view that Skow (unfairly, I think) ascribes to Hestevold: Hestevold concludes: “since past events [or past things] appear through the telescope to an observer in the same way that present events [or things] appear to the observer,” nothing looks like it has presentness. (Skow 2011 370)27 I agree with Skow that this is not a good argument. The fact that one seems to see both stars as A-present, although one of them does not exist anymore, does not show that neither of them looks A-present. It could be that both stars are visually represented as Apresent, but that (at least) one of the experiences is illusory. If you seem to see two red apples, although one of them is actually green, it does not follow that neither of them looks red. It rather shows that you experience both apples as red, and that in one case your experience is mistaken (cf.Skow 2011). It would be unfair to interpret the example in this way though. What it means to show is that everything, even stars that do not exist anymore, is (when it is experienced at all) represented as A-present in experience. We do not have visual experiences as of past or future events as past or as future. Even if what is seen is actually past, we see it as A-present.28 There does not seem to be anything in the visual properties of a photograph, say, that shows us that the depicted scene is past. In fact, due to the time lag in perceptual experience, everything that we see is past. But we still seem to see it as A-present and not as past. As Mellor puts it, [o]ur reasons for thinking we cannot see the future [or the past] rest not on observation but on theory. (1998, p.16) In other words, we cannot contrast A-presentness from anything else in visual experience.29 But if everything is experienced as A-present, then it is hard to get a grip on what something has to look like in order to look A-present. An analogy might help. We can understand what green looks like by looking at two different green objects, say a Skow refers to Hestevold (1990). A similar point could be made about future events. If we were able to see the future, we would still represent it as present. Mellor has an example of this sort involving a magic crystal ball. Whatever future scene is presented to you in the magic ball, it still looks present to you. But we could not conclude from this that it is present (Mellor 1998, p.16). 29 Le Poidevin makes a similar point (2007, p.78). 27 28 18 cloverleaf and a grasshopper. Although the objects are very different, they are also similar in one salient respect — they are both green. If everything looked green, then it would be hard to grasp the respect in which those objects are similar (cf.Skow 2011, p.366). The idea behind this is that phenomenal properties, properties that are represented in experience, have a discriminatory function (see also (Prosser 2007)). We learn what it means to look in a certain way, by distinguishing objects on the basis of their visual differences. In other words, to understand what green looks like, one has to learn what green does not look like. An analogous point could be made about Apresentness: to understand what A-presentness looks like, one needs to understand how A-presentness does not look like. But if I experience everything as A-present, then I cannot know what A-presentness looks like, for I cannot know what A-presentness does not look like. If we cannot contrast experiences as of A-presentness from experiences as of pastness or futurity, then experiencing something as A-present just seems to boil down to experiencing something fullstop. Le Poidevin agrees: To perceive something as [A-]present is simply to perceive it: we do not need to postulate some extra item in our experience that is ‘the experience of [A-]presentness.’ (Le Poidevin 2011) 30 Here is another way to put it. If two experiences seem qualitatively the same to you, even though they are supposed to be different with respect to some property F, then it is safe to assume that we do not represent F in experience. If you want to know whether you can see a certain colour or not, then you make a test by looking at some spectrum that includes the colour and another spectrum which doesn’t include it. If you fail to notice the difference, then it is safe to assume that you cannot represent that particular colour in experience. That said, somebody might argue that we can contrast experiences as of Apresentness from memory experiences as of past events or from imaginings as of future ones.31 Whatever quality is phenomenally present in perceptual experience but not in memory or imaginings, is how A-presentness is represented in perceptual experience. I will come to that objection in the next sub-section. 30 31 See also Hestevold (Hestevold 1990, p.542), Le Poidevin (2007) (Paul 2010) on the same point. Fiona Macpherson brought this point to my attention. 19 5.2 The argument against vividness Against the view that A-presentness is not visible because it cannot be phenomenally contrasted from anything, one might raise the following objection. It is not true that we cannot contrast experiences as of A-presentness from anything. Memory experiences represent things as past. Imaginative experiences can represent things as future. Just because we perceptually represent everything as A-present, it does not follow that we cannot know what it is for something to look A-present. We can contrast the way things look in perceptual experience from the way things look in our memories or future orientated imaginings. If this objection is to be successful, the opponent has to show first that the phenomenal difference between my visual experiences and my memories or my imaginings about the future is due to the fact that my perceptual experiences represent A-presentness, whereas my memories and my imaginings don’t. If A-presentness is represented in visual experience, then it should be visible (cf. Skow 2011, p.369). Suppose at time t1 you are looking at a green tomato and at time t2 you are looking at a red tomato and you remember looking at a green tomato. Now, if A-presentness was a phenomenal property, then you should be able to see that the tomato is red, round and A-present, whereas in your memory, you should represent a tomato that is green and round, but as lacking the quality of A-presentness. However, I am not aware of such a quality represented in visual experience. A-presentness does not seem to be some additional visible feature that distinguishes the perceived tomato from the remembered one. Apresentness, it seems, is not a phenomenal property. This is too quick, my opponent might complain. There is after all some phenomenal difference between one’s visual perceptual experiences and one’s pictorial representations of the past in memory (or respectively one’s imaginings of the future). Perceptual experiences seem to have a special lucidity or vividness about them that memories or imaginings lack. Maybe we represent A-presentness as a kind of vividness in perceptual experience. Maybe this is the way A-presentness looks — it makes whatever is experientially represented vivid. Let us grant for the sake of the argument that Apresentness is visually represented as a kind of vividness in experience. Let us also grant that the kind of vividness that represents A-presentness in experience is a unique kind of vividness that all and only present experiences have. I shall call it vividness*. The idea 20 then is that whatever is perceptually experienced as A-present, is represented as looking vivid*. Only present perceptual experiences, but not memories or imaginings look Apresent, by virtue of looking vivid*. To show why this suggestion wont help the dynamic theorist, I will have to appeal to the overall structure of the argument. The first premise of AfP says that we have experiences as of events as A-present. If A-presentness looks like vividness* in experience, we can change the first premise such that we have experiences as of events as vivid*. To get from that premise to the conclusion that time passes, one needs to argue from the experience of vividness* to the conclusion that some things are A-present. From the claim that some things are A-present, a further argument is needed to show that A-presentness entails temporal passage. The Argument from Presentness (AfP) (2) 1. We have visual experiences as of events as vivid*. 2. The best explanation for these experiences is that some things are A-present. ______________________________________________________________ 3. Therefore some things are A-present. 4. Some things are A-present only if time passes. ______________________________________________________________ 5. Therefore time passes. (1) is the position that is assumed. I will assume the truth of (4), although one might think that a ‘frozen’ static A-world is a viable position in logical space.32 A discussion about the tenability of such non-standard A-theoretic views would lead us too far astray though. Note that (1)-(3) is an argument analogous to AfE, the Argument from Experience. The structure of AfE imposes a constraint on the experience of temporal passage. However passage is experientially represented, the experiential content must be best explained by the fact that time passes. The same goes for AfP: however Apresentness is experientially represented, the experience must be best explained by the fact that something instantiates A-presentness. Something is only best explained by some fact F (or, depending on one’s view of facts, by some theory involving F), if there aren’t any better or equally good explanations than F at hand. I suggest that, all things considered Fine writes for example: ‘Even if presentness is allowed to shed its light upon the world there is nothing in [this] metaphysics to prevent that light from being ‘frozen’ on a particular moment of time. (Fine 2005: 287) 32 21 even, a necessary condition for the content of one’s experience to be best explained by the fact that time passes, or that A-presentness is instantiated, is that the experience must be such that it could not be accurate if time did not pass, or A-presentness were not instantiated.33 (BestEx) For an experience Ex to be best explained by the fact that p, it must be the case that, all things considered even, Ex could not be accurate if not p. (BestEx) is a necessary condition for (the content of) any experience to be best explained by the fact that time passes (or that A-presentness is instantiated). For suppose temporal passage was visually represented in such a way that one’s experience could be accurate if time passed, but also if time did not pass. In that case, it would be false to say that the fact that time passes is the best explanation for one’s experience, even if those experiences were accurate.34 And analogously with experiences that are to be best explained by the fact that A-presentness is instantiated. According to (1), A-presentness is represented as vividness* in visual experience. Applying (BestEx), the question is: Could anything be accurately represented to look vivid* even if there were no A-presentness properties? There is no prima facie reason why this could not be the case. One’s visual experience of some event E as vivid* could be accurate if E was B-present. An event is B-present when it occurs at the same time as one’s experience of it. That is, a subject S might accurately experience an event as vivid*, when I insert the ‘all things considered even’ clause because one might think that if there are other things than the occurrence or lack of passage which differ between a static and a dynamic world, than these might also be factors in explaining the experience. In that case, the fact that time passes would not necessarily be the best explanation for the experience that time passes. Analogously with A-presentness. Many thanks to Alexander Skiles for making this point. 34 Note, though, that (BestEx) is not a sufficient condition for an experience to be best explained by time’s passage, for an illusion or hallucination of temporal passage could not be accurate in a static world either. The AfE/AfP defender also needs to say that an explanation that takes experiences to be veridical is generally a better explanation than one that resorts to illusions and hallucinations. 33 22 it occurs at the same time as S’s experience of it.35 If so, then we can give a competing explanation to the A-theorist’s:36 (1) We have visual experiences as of events as vivid*. (2) The best explanation for these experiences is that some events are B-present. ______________________________________________________________ (3) Therefore some events are B-present. The alternative explanation offered is that a subject S experiences some events as vivid*, because some events are B-present, that is, occur at the same time as S’s experience of it and Bpresentness looks like vividness* in experience. A-theorists could still argue that this is a worse explanation than the explanation that some things are A-present. But it is hard to see how without begging the question. In other words, the A-theorist fails to argue for the existence of A-present things from experiences as of vividness*. If nothing is Apresent, then there is nothing that entails that time passes. I conclude that, even if Apresentness was represented in visual experience as vividness*, we could not infer from these experiences that time passes. Next, I shall discuss a very different way in which one could be said to represent A-presentness in experience. 5.3 The argument against tensed perceptual content Some people think that to represent A-presentness in experience is just to have experiences with perceptual contents that are best expressed by tensed propositions, as in ‘the rhino is (A-presently) yawning’. To this I will only say that it is a very contested point whether or not perceptual contents are tensed or not.37 I will, however, not go further into the debate because there is a more important point to be made. It is one thing for perceptual content to be expressed by a tensed proposition, and another thing for that proposition to have tensed truthmakers. Just as the B-theorist can deny that tensed propositions have tensed truthmakers, she can deny that perceptual contents expressed Strictly speaking, these experiences would be illusory, due to the time lag in experience. According to Butterfield though, we can almost always ignore the temporal delay. If the process of observation is reliable, and the object is not (much) more than 1000 meters away, we can learn about the observed object’s state at the time when we judge it, not only at a previous time. This is not only due to the fact that the time lag is very short (Butterfield suggests ‘half a second’) but also because solid objects change very infrequently. (1984, p.163 pp.) 36 Note that the analogous move is not open to the B-theorist in the case of the original argument AfE: That time does not pass cannot be the best explanation for one’s experience as of events undergoing Achange for if time did not pass, there could not be A-change. 37 Hoerl (2009), Oaklander (1991) and Russell (1915) are among those which have explicitly denied that perceptual experiences should be described as having tensed content. Oaklander has since changed his mind about this, as evident in his article in this very volume. 35 23 by tensed propositions have tensed accuracy conditions. Thus, the B-theorist could say that if I see that the rhino is (A-presently) yawning, my experience is accurate, if and only if the rhino yawns at the same time as I am seeing it. She could thereby argue that the tensed form of the perceptual content merely represents that the event experienced occurs simultaneous with one’s experience of it. In other words, to have a veridical experience with a content that is best expressed by a tensed proposition, does not imply that one perceives A-presentness or that time passes. We cannot discriminate things as present in experience. Even if we could, we could not know from experience alone whether the presentness seen is A-presentness or B-presentness. We cannot, therefore, experience temporal passage by virtue of experiencing events as A-present. Conclusion Many philosophers have claimed that dynamic accounts of time have an intuitive advantage over static ones. I think that they have judged too fast. To have any force at all, I argued, the argument behind that claim needs to be one that derives from perceptual experience. Once we scrutinize the usual suspect experiences that are commonly held to be experiences of temporal passage, it turns out that none of them actually amounts to an experience of passage. As a consequence, it becomes ever more opaque what exactly an experience of passage is supposed to be. And although dynamic theorists can still search for other candidate experiences, their obvious intuitive advantage has, it seems, dissolved. I have not attempted to settle the question whether we experience passage or not once and for all. However, if it turns out that there are no other or better candidate experiences than those I have discussed here, then passage is not among the temporal features that we are aware of in experience.38 In that case, one might even question the need for A-theories in the first place (Prosser 2007). 39 I attempt to show as much in (Frischhut 2012). This paper has developed from my thesis, which has been financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation. I am indebted to many people who helped me to improve it. 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1 The Causal Theory of the Mind D. M. Armstrong Is Philosophy Just Conceptual Analysis? What can philosophy contribute to solving the problem of the relation to mind to body? Twenty years ago, many English-speaking philosophers would have answered: "Nothing beyond an analysis of the various mental concepts." If we seek knowledge of things, they thought, it is to science that we must turn. Philosophy can only cast light upon our concepts of those things. This retreat from things to concepts was not undertaken lightly. Ever since the seventeenth century, the great intellectual fact of our culture has been the incredible expansion of knowledge both in the natural and in the rational sciences (mathematics, logic). Everyday life presents us with certain simple verities. But, it seems, through science and only through science can we build upon these verities, and with astonishing results. The success of science created a crisis in philosophy. What was there for philosophy to do? Hume had already perceived the problem in some degree, and so surely did Kant, but it was not until the twentieth century, with the Vienna Circle and with Wittgenstein, that the difficulty began to weigh heavily. Wittgenstein took the view that philosophy could do no more than strive to undo the intellectual knots it itself had tied, so achieving intellectual release, and even a certain illumination, but no knowledge. A little later, and more optimistically, Ryle saw a positive, if reduced, role for philosophy in mapping the "logical geography" of our concepts: how they stood to each other and how they were to be analyzed. On the whole, Ryle's view proved more popular than Wittgenstein's. After all, it retained a special, if much reduced, realm for philosophy where she might still be queen. There was better hope of continued employment for members of the profession! Since that time, however, philosophers in the "analytic" tradition have swung back from Wittgensteinian and even Rylean pessimism to a more traditional conception of the proper role and tasks of philosophy. Many analytic philosophers now would accept the view that the central task of philosophy is to give an account, or at least playa part in giving an account, of the most general nature of things and of man. (I would include myself among that many.) Why has this swing back occurred? Has the old urge of the philosopher to determine the nature of things by a priori reasoning proved too strong? To use Freudian terms, are we simply witnessing a return of what philosophers had repressed? I think not. One consideration that has had great influence 2 was the realization that those who thought that they were abandoning ontological and other substantive questions for a mere investigation of concepts were in fact smuggling in views on the substantive questions. They did not acknowledge that they held these views, but the views were there; and far worse from their standpoint, the views imposed a form upon their answers to the conceptual questions. For instance, in ​The Concept of Mind​ (1949), Gilbert Ryle, although he denied that he was a Behaviorist, seemed to be upholding an account of man and his mind that was extremely close to Behaviorism. Furthermore, it seemed in many cases that it was this view of the mind-body problem that led him to his particular analyses of particular mental concepts, rather than the other way around. Faced with examples like this, it began to appear that, since philosophers could not help holding views on substantive matters, and the views could not help affecting their analyses of concepts, the views had better be held and discussed explicitly instead of appearing in a distorted, because unacknowledged, form. The swing back by analytic philosophers to first-order questions was also due to the growth of a more sophisticated understanding of the nature of scientific investigation. For a philosophical tradition that is oriented towards science, as, on the whole, Western philosophy is, the consideration of the methods​ of science must be an important topic. It was gradually realized that in the past scientific investigation had regularly been conceived in far too positivistic, sensationalistic and observationalistic a spirit. (The influence of Karl Popper has been of the greatest importance in this realization.) As the central role of speculation, theory and reasoning in scientific investigation began to be appreciated by more and more philosophers, the border-line between science and philosophy began to seem at least more fluid, and the hope arose again that philosophy might have something to contribute to first -order questions. The philosopher has certain special skills. These include the stating and assessing of the worth of arguments, including the bringing to light and making explicit suppressed premises of arguments, the detection of ambiguities and inconsistencies, and, perhaps especially, the analysis of concepts. But, I contend, these special skills do not entail that the objective of philosophy is to do these things. They are rather the special ​means​ by which philosophy attempts to achieve further objectives. Ryle was wrong in taking the analysis of concepts to be the end of philosophy. Rather, the analysis of concepts is a means by which the philosopher makes his contribution to great general questions, not about concepts, but about things. In the particular case of the mind-body problem, the propositions the philosopher arrives at need not be of a special nature. They perhaps might have been arrived at by the psychologist, the 3 neuro-physiologist, the biochemist or others, and, indeed, may be suggested to the philosopher by the results achieved or programs proposed by those disciplines. But the way that the argument is marshalled by a philosopher will be a special way. Whether this special way has or has not any particular value in the search for truth is a matter to be decided in particular cases. There is no a priori reason for thinking that the special methods of philosophy will be able to make a contribution to the mind-body problem. But neither is there an a priori reason for assuming that the philosopher's contribution will be valueless. The Concept of a Mental State The philosophy of philosophy is perhaps a somewhat joyless and unrewarding subject for reflection. Let us now turn to the mind-body problem itself, hoping that what is to be said about this particular topic will confirm the general remarks about philosophy that have just been made. If we consider the mind-body problem today, then it seems that we ought to take account of the following consideration. The present state of scientific knowledge makes it probable that we can give a purely physico-chemical account of man's body. It seems increasingly likely that the body and the brain of man are constituted and work according to exactly the same principles as those physical principles that govern other, non-organic, matter. The differences between a stone and a human body appear to lie solely in the extremely complex material set-up that is to be found in the living body and which is absent in the stone. Furthermore, there is rather strong evidence that it is the state of our brain that completely determines the state of our consciousness and our mental state generally. All this is not beyond the realm of controversy, and it is easy to imagine evidence that would upset the picture. In particular, I think that it is just possible that evidence from psychical research might be forthcoming that a physicochemical view of man's brain could not accommodate. But suppose that the physico-chemical view of the working of the brain is correct, as I take it to be. It will be very natural to conclude that mental states are not simply determined by corresponding states of the brain, but that they are actually ​identical​ with these brain-states, brain-states that involve nothing but physical properties. The argument just outlined is quite a simple one, and it hardly demands philosophical skill to develop it or to appreciate its force! But although many contemporary thinkers would accept its conclusion, there are others, including many philosophers, who would not. To a great many thinkers it has seemed obvious a priori that mental states could not be physical states of the brain. Nobody would identify a number with a piece of rock: it is sufficiently obvious that the two entities fall under different 4 categories. In the sam'e way, it has been thought, a perception or a feeling of sorrow must be a different category of thing from an electro-chemical discharge in the central nervous system. Here, it seems to me, is a question to which philosophers can expect to make a useful contribution. It is a question about mental concepts. Is our concept of a mental state such that it is an intelligible hypothesis that mental states are physical states of the brain? If the philosopher can show that it is an ​intelligible​ proposition (that is, a non-self-contradictory proposition) that mental states are physical states of the brain, then the scientific argument just given above can be taken at its face value as a strong reason for accepting the truth of the proposition. My view is that the identification of mental states with physical states of the brain is a perfectly intelligible one, and that this becomes clear once we achieve a correct view of the analysis of the mental concepts. I admit that my analysis of the mental concepts was itself adopted because it permitted this identification, but such a procedure is commonplace in the construction of theories, and perfectly legitimate. In any case, whatever the motive for proposing the analysis, it is there to speak for itself, to be measured against competitors, and to be assessed as plausible or implausible independently of the identification it makes possible. The problem of the identification may be put in a Kantian way: "How is it possible that mental states should be physical states of the brain?" The solution will take the form of proposing an independently plausible​ analysis of the concept of a mental state that will permit this identification. In this way, the philosopher makes the way smooth for a first-order doctrine, which, true or false, is a doctrine of the first importance: a purely physicalist view of man. The analysis proposed may be called the Causal analysis of the mental concepts. According to this view, the concept of a mental state essentially involves, and is exhausted by, the concept of a state that is ​apt to be the cause of certain effects or apt to be the effect of certain causes.​ An example of a causal concept is the concept of poison. The concept of poison is the concept of something that when introduced into an organism causes that organism to sicken and/or die.​1​ This is but a rough analysis of the concept the structure of which is in fact somewhat more complex and subtle than this. If A pours molten lead down B's throat, then he may cause B to die as a result, but he can hardly be said to have poisoned him. For a thing to be called a poison, it is necessary that it act in a certain ​sort​ of way: roughly, in a biological as opposed to a purely physical way. Again, a poison can be introduced into the system of an organism and that organism fail to die or even to sicken. This might occur if an antidote were administered promptly. Yet again, the poison may be present in insufficient quantities to do any damage. Other qualifications could be made. 5 But the essential point about the concept of poison is that it is the concept of ​that, whatever it is, which produces certain effects​. This leaves open the possibility of the scientific identification of poisons, of discovering that a certain sort of substance, such as cyanide, is a poison, and discovering further what it is about the substance that makes it poisonous. Poisons are accounted poisons in virtue of their active powers, but many sorts of thing are accounted the sorts of thing they are by virtue of their ​passive​ powers. Thus brittle objects are accounted brittle because of the disposition they have to break and shatter when sharply struck. This leaves open the possibility of discovering empirically what sorts of thing are brittle and what it is about them that makes them brittle. Now ​if​ the concepts of the various sorts of mental state are concepts of that which is, in various sorts of ways, apt for causing certain effects and apt for being the effect of certain causes, then it would be a quite unpuzzling thing if mental states should tum out to be physical states of the brain. The concept of a mental state is the concept of something that is, characteristically, the cause of certain effects and the effect of certain causes. What sort of effects and what sort of causes? The effects caused by the mental state will be certain patterns of behavior of the person in that state. For instance, the desire for food is a state of a person or animal that characteristically brings about food-seeking and foodconsuming behavior by that person or animal. The causes of mental states will be objects and events in the person's environment. For instance, a sensation of green is the characteristic effect in a person of the action upon his eyes of a nearby green surface. The general pattern of analysis is at its most obvious and plausible in the case of ​purposes.​ If a man's purpose is to go to the kitchen to get something to eat, it is completely natural to conceive of this purpose as a cause within him that brings about, or tends to bring about, that particular line of conduct. It is, furthermore, notorious that we are unable to characterize purposes ​except​ in terms of that which they tend to bring about. How can we distinguish the purpose to go to the kitchen to get something to eat from another purpose to go to the bedroom to lie down? Only by the different outcomes that the two purposes tend to bring about. This fact was an encouragement to Behaviorism. It is still more plausibly explained by saying that the concept of purpose is a causal concept. The further hypothesis that the two purposes are, in their own nature, different physical patterns in, or physical states of, the central nervous system is then a natural (although, of course, not logically inevitable) supplement to the causal analysis. Simple models have great value in trying to grasp complex conceptions, but they are ladders that may need to be kicked away after we have mounted up by their means. It is vital to realize that the mental concepts have a far more complex logical structure than simple causal notions such as the 6 concept of poison. The fact should occasion no surprise. In the case of poisons, the effect of which they are the cause is a gross and obvious phenomenon and the level of causal explanation involved in simply calling a substance "a poison" is crude and simple. But in the case of mental states, their effects are all those complexities of behavior that mark off men and higher animals from the rest of the objects in the world. Furthermore, differences in such behavior are elaborately correlated with differences in the mental causes operating. So it is only to be expected that the causal patterns invoked by the mental concepts should be extremely complex and sophisticated. In the case of the notion of a purpose, for instance, it is plausible to assert that it is the notion of a cause within which drives, or tends to drive, the man or animal through a series of actions to a certain end-state. But this is not the whole story. A purpose is only a purpose if it works to bring about behavioral effects ​in a certain sort of way.​ We may sum up this sort of way by saying that purposes are information-sensitive​ causes. By this is meant that purposes direct behavior by utilizing ​perceptions a​ nd beliefs,​ perceptions and beliefs about the agent's current situation and the way it develops, and beliefs about the way the world works. For instance, it is part of what it is to be a purpose to achieve X that this cause will cease to operate, will be "switched off," if the agent perceives or otherwise comes to believe that X has been achieved. At this point, we observe that an account is being given of that special species of cause that is a purpose in terms of ​further​ mental items: perceptions and beliefs. This means that if we are to give a purely causal analysis even of the concept of a purpose we also will have to give a purely causal analysis of perceptions and beliefs. We may think of man's behavior as brought about by the joint operation of two sets of causes: first, his purposes and, second, his perceptions of and/or beliefs about the world. But since perceptions and beliefs are quite different sorts of thing from purposes, a Causal analysis must assign quite different causal roles to these different things in the bringing about of behavior. I believe that this can be done by giving an account of perceptions and beliefs as ​mappings​ of the world. They are structures within us that model the world beyond the structure. This model is created in us by the world. Purposes may then be thought of as driving causes that utilize such mappings. This is a mere thumb-nail, which requires much further development as well as qualification. One point that becomes clear when that development is given is that just as the concept of purpose cannot be elucidated without appealing to the concepts of perception and belief, so the latter cannot be elucidated without appealing to the concept of purpose. (This comes out, for instance, when we raise Hume's problem: what marks off beliefs from the mere entertaining of the same proposition? It seems that we can only mark off beliefs as those mappings in the light of which we are prepared to act, that is, 7 which are potential servants of our purposes.) The logical dependence of purpose on perception and belief, and of perception and belief upon purpose, is not circularity in definition. What it shows is that the corresponding concepts ​must be introduced together or not at all.​ In itself, there is nothing very surprising in this. Correlative or mutually implicated concepts are common enough: for instance, the concepts of husband and wife or the concepts of soldier and army. No husbands without wives or wives without husbands. No soldiers without an army, no army without soldiers. But if the concepts of purpose, perception and belief are (i) correlative concepts and (ii) different species of purely causal concepts, then it is clear that they are far more complex in structure than a simple causal concept like poison. What falls under the mental concepts will be a complex and interlocking set of causal factors, which together are responsible for the "minded" behavior of men and the higher animals. The working out of the Causal theory of the mental concepts thus turns out to be an extremely complex business. Indeed when it is merely baldly stated, the Causal theory is, to use the phrase of Imre Lakatos, a ​research program​ in conceptual analysis rather than a developed theory. I have tried to show that it is a hopeful program by attempting, at least in outline, a Causal analysis of all the main concepts in ​A Materialist Theory of Mind​ (1968); and I have supplemented the rather thin account given there of the concepts of belief, knowledge and inferring in ​Belief, Truth and Knowledge​ (1973). Two examples of mental concepts where an especially complex and sophisticated type of Causal analysis is required are the notions of introspective awareness (one sense of the word "consciousness") and the having of mental imagery. Introspective awareness is analyzable as a mental state that is a "perception" of mental states. It is a mapping of the causal factors themselves. The having of mental imagery is a sort of mental state that cannot be elucidated in ​directly​ causal terms, but only by resemblance to the corresponding perceptions, which ​are​ explicated in terms of their causal role. Two advantages of the Causal theory may now be mentioned. First, it has often been remarked by philosophers and others that the realm of mind is a shadowy one, and that the nature of mental states is singularly elusive and hard to grasp. This has given aid and comfort to Dualist or Cartesian theories of mind, according to which minds are quite different sorts of thing from material objects. But if the Causal analysis is correct, the facts admit of another explanation. What Dualist philosophers have grasped in a confused way is that our direct acquaintance with mind, which occurs in introspective awareness, is an acquaintance with something that we are aware of only as something that is causally linked, directly or indirectly, with behavior. In the case of our purposes and desires, for instance, we are often (though not invariably) introspectively aware of them. What we are aware of is the presence of factors within us that drive in a certain direction. We are not aware of the intrinsic nature of the factors. This emptiness or gap in our awareness is then interpreted by Dualists as immateriality. In fact, however, 8 if the Causal analysis is correct, there is no warrant for this interpretation and, if the Physicalist identification of the nature of the causes is correct, the interpretation is actually false. Second, the Causal analysis yields a still more spectacular verification. It shows promise of explaining a philosophically notorious feature of all or almost all mental states: their​ intentionality​. This was the feature of mental states to which Brentano in particular drew attention, the fact that they may point towards certain objects or states of affairs, but that these objects and states of affairs need not exist. When a man strives, his striving has an objective, but that objective may never be achieved. When he believes, there is something he believes, but what he believes may not be the case. This capacity of mental states to "point" to what does not exist can seem very special. Brentano held that intentionality set the mind completely apart from matter. Suppose, however, that we consider a concept like the concept of poison. Does it not provide us with a miniature and unsophisticated model for the intentionality of mental states? Poisons are substances apt to make organisms sicken and die when the poison is administered. So it may be said that this is what poisons "point" to. Nevertheless, poisons may fail of their effect. A poison does not fail to be a poison because an antidote neutralizes the customary effect of the poison. May not the intentionality of mental states, therefore, be in principle a no more mysterious affair, although indefinitely more complex, than the death that lurks in the poison? As an intermediate case between poisons and mental states, consider the mechanisms involved in a homing rocket. Given a certain setting of its mechanism, the rocket may "point" towards a certain target in a way that is a simulacrum of the way in which purposes point towards their objectives. The mechanism will only bring the rocket to the target in "standard" circumstances: many factors can be conceived that would "defeat" the mechanism. For the mechanism to operate successfully, some device will be required by which the developing situation is "mapped" in the mechanism (i.e. what course the rocket is currently on, etc.). This mapping is an elementary analogue of perception, and so the course that is "mapped" in the mechanism may be thought of as a simulacrum of the perceptual intentional object. Through one circumstance or another (e.g. malfunction of the gyroscope) this mapping may be "incorrect." It is no objection to this analogy that homing rockets are built by men with purposes, who deliberately stamp a crude model of their own purposes into the rocket. Homing rockets might have been natural products, and non-minded objects that operate in a similar but far more complex way are found in nature. The living cell is a case in point. So the Causal analyses of the mental concepts show promise of explaining both the transparency and the intentionality of mental states. One problem quite frequently raised in connection with these analyses, however, is in what sense they can be called "analyses." The welter of 9 complications in which the so-called analyses are involved make it sufficiently obvious that they do not consist of ​synonymous translations​ of statements in which mental terms figure. But, it has been objected, if synonymous translations of mental statements are unavailable, what precisely can be meant by speaking of "analyses of concepts"? I am far from clear what should be said in reply to this objection. Clearly, however, it does depend upon taking all conceptual analyses as claims about the synonymy of sentences, and that seems to be too simple a view. Going back to the case of poison: it is surely not an empirical fact, to be learnt by experience, that poisons kill. It is at the center of our notion of what poisons are that they have the power to bring about this effect. If they did not do that, they would not be properly called "poisons." But although this seems obvious enough, it is extremely difficult to give exact translations of sentences containing the word "poison" into other sentences that do not contain the word or any synonym. Even in this simple case, it is not at all clear that the task can actually be accomplished. For this reason, I think that sentence translation (with synonymy) is too strict a demand to make upon a purported conceptual analysis. What more relaxed demand can we make and still have a conceptual analysis? I do not know. One thing that we clearly need further light upon here is the concept of a concept, and how concepts are tied to language. I incline to the view that the connection between concepts and language is much less close than many philosophers have assumed. Concepts are linked primarily with belief and thought, and belief and thought, I think, have a great degree of logical independence of language, however close the empirical connection may be in many cases. If this is so, then an analysis of concepts, although of course conducted ​in​ words, may not be an investigation ​into words. (A compromise proposal: analysis of concepts might be an investigation into some sort of "deep structure"-to use the currently hallowed phrase-which underlies the use of certain words and sentences.) I wish I were able to take the topic further. The Problem of the Secondary Qualities No discussion of the Causal theory of the mental concepts is complete that does not say something about the ​secondary qualities​. If we consider such mental states as purposes and intentions, their "transparency" is a rather conspicuous feature. It is notorious that introspection cannot differentiate such states except in terms of their different objects. It is not so immediately obvious, however, that perception​ has this transparent character. Perception involves the experience of color and of visual extension; touch the experience of the whole obscure range of tactual properties, including tactual extension; hearing, taste and smell the experience of sounds, tastes and smells. These phenomenal qualities, it may be argued, endow different perceptions with different qualities. The lack of 10 transparency is even more obvious in the case of bodily sensations. Pains, itches, tickles and tingles are mental states, even if mental states of no very high-grade sort, and they each seem to involve their own peculiar qualities. Again, associated with different emotions it is quite plausible to claim to discern special emotion qualities. If perception, bodily sensation and emotions involve qualities, then this seems to falsify a purely Causal analysis of these mental states. They are not mere "that whiches" known only by their causal role. However, it is not at all clear how strong is the line of argument sketched in the previous paragraph. We distinguish between the intention and what is intended, and in just the same way we must distinguish between the perception and what is perceived. The intention is a mental state and so is the perception, but what is intended is not in general something mental and nor is what is perceived. What is intended may not come to pass, it is a merely intentional object, and the same may be said of what is perceived. Now in the case of the phenomenal qualities, it seems plausible to say that they are qualities not of the perception but rather of what is perceived. "Visual extension" is the shape, size, etc. that some object of visual perception is perceived to have (an object that need not exist). Color seems to be a quality of that object. And similarly for the other phenomenal qualities. Even in the case of the bodily sensations, the qualities associated with the sensations do not​ appear​ to be qualities of mental states but instead to be qualities of portions of our bodies: more or less fleeting qualities that qualify the place where the sensation is located. Only in the case of the emotions does it seem natural to place the quality on the mental rather than the object side: but then it is not so clear whether there really ​are peculiar qualities associated with the emotions. The different patterns of bodily sensations associated with the different emotions may be sufficient to do phenomenological justice to the emotions. For these reasons, it is not certain whether the phenomenal qualities pose any threat to the Causal analysis of the mental concepts. But what a subset of these qualities quite certainly does pose a threat to, is the doctrine that the Causal analysis of the mental concepts is a step towards: Materialism or Physicalism. The qualities of colour, sound, heat and cold, taste and smell together with the qualities that appear to be involved in bodily sensations and those that may be involved in the case of the emotions, are an embarrassment to the modern Materialist. He seeks to give an account of the world and of man purely in terms of ​physical​ properties, that is to say in terms of the properties that the physicist appeals to in his explanations of phenomena. The Materialist is not committed to the ​current set of properties to which the physicist appeals, but he is committed to whatever set of properties the physicist in the end will appeal to. It is clear that such properties as color, sound, taste and smell-the so-called "secondary qualities"-will never be properties to which the physicist will appeal. 11 It is, however, a plausible thesis that associated with different secondary qualities are properties that are respectable from a physicist's point of view. Physical surfaces ​appear​ to have color. They not merely appear to, but undoubtedly do, emit light-waves, and the different mixtures of lengths of wave emitted are linked with differences in color. In the same way, different sorts of sound are linked with different sorts of sound-wave and differences in heat with differences in the mean kinetic energy of the molecules composing the hot things. The Materialist's problem therefore would be very simply solved if the secondary qualities could be identified with these physically respectable properties. (The qualities associated with bodily sensations would be identified with different sorts of stimulation of bodily receptors. If there are unique qualities associated with the emotions, they would presumably be identified with some of the physical states of the brain linked with particular emotions.) But now the Materialist philosopher faces a problem. Previously he asked: "How is it possible that mental states could be physical states of the brain?" This question was answered by the Causal theory of the mental concepts. Now he must ask: "How is it possible that secondary qualities could be purely physical properties of the objects they are qualities of?" A Causal analysis does not seem to be of any avail. To try to give an analysis of, say, the quality of being red in Causal terms would lead us to produce such analyses as "those properties of a physical surface, whatever they are, that characteristically produce ​red sensations​ in us." But this analysis simply shifts the problem unhelpfully from property of surface to property of sensation. Either the red sensations involve nothing but physically respectable properties or they involve something more. If they involve something more, Materialism fails. But if they are simply physical states of the brain, having nothing but physical properties, then the Materialist faces the problem: "How is it possible that red sensations should be physical states of the brain?" This question is no easier to answer than the original question about the redness of physical surfaces. (To give a Causal analysis of red sensations as the characteristic effects of the action of red surfaces is, of course, to move round in a circle.) The great problem presented by the secondary qualities, such as redness, is that they are unanalyzable.​ They have certain relations of resemblance and so on to each other, so they cannot be said to be completely simple. But they are simple in the sense that they resist any analysis. You cannot give any complete account of the concept of redness without involving the notion of redness itself. This has seemed to be, and still seems to many philosophers to be, an absolute bar to identifying redness with, say, certain patterns of emission of light-waves. But I am not so sure. I think it can be maintained that although the secondary qualities ​appear​ to be simple, they are not in fact simple. Perhaps their simplicity is ​epistemological​ only, not ontological, a matter of our awareness of them rather than the way they are. The best model I can give for the 12 situation is the sort of phenomena made familiar to us by the Gestalt psychologists. It is possible to grasp that certain things or situations have a certain special property, but be unable to analyze that property. For instance, it may be possible to perceive that certain people are all alike in some way without being able to make it clear to oneself what the likeness is. We are aware that all these people have a certain likeness to each other, but are unable to define or specify that likeness. Later psychological research may achieve a specification of the likeness, a specification that may come as a complete surprise to us. Perhaps, therefore, the secondary qualities are in fact complex, and perhaps they are complex characteristics of a sort demanded by Materialism, but we are unable to grasp their complexity in perception. There are two divergences between the model just suggested and the case of the secondary qualities. First, in the case of grasping the indefinable likeness of people, we are under no temptation to think that the likeness is a likeness in some simple quality. The likeness is indefinable, but we are vaguely aware that it is complex. Second, once research has determined the concrete nature of the likeness, our attention can be drawn to, and we can observe individually, the features that determine the likeness. But although the model suggested and the case of the secondary qualities undoubtedly exhibit these differences, I do not think that they show that the secondary qualities cannot be identified with respectable physical characteristics of objects. Why should not a complex property appear to be simple? There would seem to be no contradiction in adding such a condition to the model. It has the consequence that perception of the secondary qualities involves an element of illusion, but the consequence involves no contradiction. It is true also that in the case of the secondary qualities the illusion cannot be overcome within perception: it is impossible to see a colored surface as a surface emitting certain light-waves. (Though one sometimes seems to ​hear​ a sound as a vibration of the air.) But while this means that the identification of color and light-waves is a purely ​theoretical o ​ ne, it still seems to be a possible one. And if the identification is a possible one, we have general scientific reasons to think it a ​plausible​ one. The doctrine of mental states and of the secondary qualities briefly presented in this paper seems to me to show promise of meeting many of the traditional philosophical objections to a Materialist or Physicalist account of the world. As I have emphasized, the philosopher is not professionally competent to argue the positive case for Materialism. There he must rely upon the evidence presented by the scientist, particularly the physicist. But at least he may neutralize the objections to Materialism advanced by his fellow philosophers. 13 NOTE 1. "Any substance which, when introduced into or absorbed by a living organism, destroys life or injures health." (​Shorter Oxford Dictionary​, 3rd edn., rev., 1978.)

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The Philosophy of the Mind
Deng and Lee offer a lot of informative information about Posser’s view towards the concept
of time and space. Experiencing time by Posser entails various concepts of the philosophy of the
mind and its intersection with metaphysics. The information provides connections that
previously remained neglected in the sector by other philosophers. The huge comments made by
Deng and Lee focus on the A-theory and B-theory and their relevance and logic or lack of in
philosophy. Geoffrey Lee tries to explain time-lapse through “Explaining away temporal flow
thoughts on Prosser’s ‘Experiencing Time’. The author explains that Posser possesses a general
knowledge in expressing his argument. Posser explains that perception remains insensitive and
may not give evidence about the specific truth. Lee explains that the general explanation refers to
similar notions like the existence in a spatial world.
On the other hand, Deng suggests that the book’s main arguments begin in the second
chapter. The author explains that the B-theorists help to account for the difference existent
between temporal reality and temporal appearances. Deng explains that he does not comprehend
the concept of time’s passing explained by the author. Deng argues that he does not understand
the way that perceiving various aspects to express time passage (p, 5). Deng explains that time

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passage ought to explain and derive more information and not focus on the extra generalization
of the process and concept.
Deng’s Critique from Prosser’s Reply to Her

Deng provides a claim named 2 that explains that the A-theory might contain limited
intelligence (p, 4). Deng supports that the theory does not necessarily equate to any false
accusations. Deng explains that the constructed claim 1 might own or bring about tension about
the other projects in the book, explaining the purpose of experience in explaining time passage.
In general, Deng explains that humans live in the A-theory instead of B-theory. However,
Prosser explains that no tension exists between the two theories. The author explains that, even
though an individual might argue about the A-theory, there exist different features that remain
incompatible with the B-theory.

Deng also suggests that the detector argument does not have or fully set up the failure of
experience that can collaborate with the A-theory. The author of Experiencing Time gives
specific information about the multi-detector and detector arguments. Both arguments, according
to the author can help to express that experience may lack a certain form of sensitivity that can
support the dynamic features around the world. The detector argument represents a general
direction leading and explaining the main problem realized by the non-detector argument.
Another purpose of the detector argument represents that of explaining that the A and B theories
represented truths. Therefore, in such a case, experience represents the exact aspect and meaning
adopted by philosophy in many aspects. However, as Deng supports, the A-theory helps with a
better explanation leading to the understanding of the proper nature of experience.

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Deng also raises a few issues about chapter 2. She explains that the goal world does not exist.
The only way that the objective world exists through the continuous change of time while
incorporating a group of fleeting images over a long time. The author suggests that Deng uses a
form of substance dualism. The author understands that the conscious movement of time passes
simultaneously with the physical and static timeline. The author concludes that Deng’s argument
possesses logic as the definition would equate to the realization of various consciousness in
various positions about the life timeline. Deng continues to explain that the main issue presented
by the case results in the realization of different realities that continue to contradict each other (p,
11). The author also argues that the standard McTaggart paradox explains the controversy by
explaining that reality as a whole keeps changing, contributing to no controversy about the
inconsistencies in realities brought upon by the case.

The reply to the imagined quasi-Kantian position suggested by the author also raises some
issue on Deng of the non-dynamic phenomenology. Deng feels that the author does not
offer relevant and adequate information about the concept discussed. On the other hand, the
author explains that the punitive dynamic phenomenology, P, does not offer an
accurate assessment of the real passing of time or any other existent dynamic phenomena.

Deng also initiates the issue and claim that the author makes about the dynamic experience.
The author argues that dynamic experience represents a falsehood containing necessity in the
context (p, 17). Deng suggests the necessary falsehood preached by the author represent an odd
statement without the effective basis or background. The author, however, suggests that the Atheory explains that reality has various changes and definitions through its incompatible states.
Time passage cannot include the incorporation of the shift from one form of affairs to another

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state in the presence of inconsistencies. The only passage of time, according to Posser’s analysis,
can occur through the use of similar mediums. The author goes on to explain that mo
contradiction can exist through the use of the A-theory since one reality can o...

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