Is Future-Oriented Mental Time Travel Inextricably Linked to the Self?

Australasian Philosophical Review 1 (4):420-425 (2017)
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Ganeri's [2018] discussion of mental time travel and the self focuses on remembering the past, but has less to say with respect to the status of future-oriented mental time travel. This paper aims to disambiguate the relation between prospection and the self from the framework of Ganeri's interpretation of three Buddhist views—by Buddhaghosa, Vasubandhu, and Dignaga. Is the scope of Ganeri's discussion confined to the past, or is there a stronger assumption that future thought always entails self-representation? I argue that if mental time travel towards the past and towards the future are continuous, both past and future thought should be possible independently of self-representation. An assumption of discontinuity however would enable the employment of the self as one of the defining differences between remembering the past and imagining the future. The two options can be further contrasted on the basis of distinct ways of constructing past/future scenarios (field vs. observer perspective), modes of experiencing time (known vs. lived), and the origin of mental time travel (episodic vs. semantic memory). I further assess the compatibility of future-oriented thought with the three Buddhist views on the basis of these coordinates.

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