On the temporal continuity of human consciousness: Is James's firsthand description, after all, "inept"?

Journal of Mind and Behavior 27 (2):121-148 (2006)
Contrary to James's emphasis on the sensible continuity of each personal consciousness, our purported "stream," as it presents itself to us, is not accurately described as having a flowing temporal structure; thus Strawson has argued based on how he finds his own consciousness to be. Accordingly, qua object of inner awareness, our consciousness is best characterized as constituted successively by pulses of consciousness separated in time, one from the next, by a momentary state of complete unconsciousness. It seems at times that one's consciousness is flowing along, but this is an illusion that is owed to taking continuities of content, across pulses, for continuity in the process itself of consciousness, and that can be overcome by the proper mode of reflection upon one's consciousness as it is taking place. With reference to James's original account and to commentaries from Dainton and from Tye on Strawson's claims, the present article examines the latter claims, and proposes that Strawson errs in how he gives expression to what he observes firsthand with respect to his consciousness. His own introspective reports indicate that what he describes to be states of complete unconsciousness that directly precede and follow each of his conscious thoughts, are actually totally qualified states of consciousness and so they are not stoppages in the flow of his consciousness. Also, Strawson's special mode of reflection - which he labels "attentive" and speaks of as one's "reflecting very hard" - likely works not to reveal his consciousness to him but, rather, to prevent his apprehending that "phenomenal background," which is there, perhaps always, while he is in the general state that we call "awakeness" and of which each of his states of consciousness partially consists, including the purported states of complete unconsciousness he truly apprehends but misdescribes
Keywords *Conscious (Personality Factor)  *Consciousness States  *James (William)
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