Time in experience: Reply to Gallagher

Psyche 9 (12) (2003)
Consciousness exists in time, but time is also to be found within consciousness: we are directly aware of both persistence and change, at least over short intervals. On reflection this can seem baffling. How is it possible for us to be immediately aware of phenomena which are not (strictly speaking) present? What must consciousness be like for this to be possible? In "Stream of Consciousness" I argued that influential accounts of phenomenal temporality along the lines developed by Broad and Husserl were fundamentally flawed, and proposed a quite different account: the overlap model. While recognizing that the latter has merits, Gallagher argues that it too is fundamentally flawed; he also takes issue with some of my claims concerning Broad and Husserl. My reply comes in three main parts. I start by clarifying my use of certain terms, in particular realism and anti-realism as applied to theories of phenomenal temporality in general, and the accounts of Broad and Husserl in particular. I then turn to Gallagher’s main criticisms of the overlap theory. Gallagher argues that the theory is sunk by a problem with ongoing contents, that if our experience possessed the structures I ascribe to it, we would be aware of contents as having longer durations than is actually the case. I suggest otherwise: the version of the overlap theory which is afflicted by this difficulty is not the version I put forward, as becomes clear when two distinct forms of overlap are distinguished. Gallagher is also concerned that the theory lacks phenomenological grounding, and has difficulties with experiential holism. The latter worry, I argue, is completely misplaced. While the former has more warrant, it too is rooted in a misconception: the overlap theory was intended only to provide an account of the most basic sensory components of our short-term experience of temporality, and can easily be expanded to accommodate other aspects. I supply a sketch an augmented theory to back up this claim. I conclude with an assessment of the intentional account of time-consciousness Gallagher ascribes to Husserl. A meaning-based account of this kind is incapable of accounting for experienced sensory continuity, or so I argue. I also suggest that both Broad and Husserl may have had leanings towards the Simple Conception of consciousness.
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Barry Dainton (2008). Sensing Change. Philosophical Issues 18 (1):362-384.

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