Jenann Ismael
Columbia University
In the general project of trying to reconcile the subjective view of the world (how things seem from the perspective of the embedded agent) with the objective view (the view of the world from the outside, as represented, for example, in our best physics), analytic philosophy, especially in recent years, has been almost solely focused on sensory phenomenology.1 There are two very salient features of the subjective view that haven’t been explored even on the descriptive side but that present prima facie problems at least as great as sensory phenomenology. One is agential phenomenology (the experience of ourselves as agents in the world), and the other is temporal phenomenology. 2 The problems presented by these cases are very different. I want to focus on temporal phenomenology, by which I mean the felt character of a life lived in time. And my goal here is mostly descriptive; I’ll be exploring the question of what it is like to be the kind of being that has a history, that experiences that history in stages, and that keeps a running record of that history as it unfolds. 3 My suggestion is going to be that there is a special phenomenology, not supervenient on the sensory phenomenology, that arises only in the representational setting created by autobiographical memory and that is central to the felt character of a life lived in time. 4 (by autobiographical memory here, I mean not simply what is sometimes referred to as episodic memory - mental images of past experiences - I mean an explicit, account of one’s own history, rendered in explicitly first-personal form. (the difference here is the difference between a perspectival representation centered on the self of the sort that visual experience gives us and an explicit representation of self, of the sort you have, for example when you translate visual experience into a first personal belief like “I am such and such a place, seeing such and such”)..
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