Erkenntnis

, Volume 77, Issue 1, pp 121–132 | Cite as

The Metaphysics of the ‘Specious’ Present

Original Article

Abstract

The doctrine of the specious present that we perceive or, at least, seem to perceive a period of time is often taken to be an obvious claim about perception. Yet, it also seems just as commonly rejected as being incoherent. In this paper, following a distinction between three conceptions of the specious present, it is argued that the incoherence is due to hidden metaphysical assumptions about perception and time. For those who do not hold such assumptions, so long as we are clear about what the doctrine is really saying, we can make perfect sense of the specious present doctrine.

In the hundred and more years since it was first detailed by James, the doctrine of the specious present has see-sawed from being considered obvious to risible. Some philosophers consider the specious present to be just how things seem to us; others claim that it is incoherent. This difference of opinion is particularly puzzling because, as will be discussed, a current understanding of the specious present is that it is phenomenological; it is a matter of how things appear; it is not necessarily about how things must be. Why not then agree, at least, on the appearances?

This paper argues that the appearance of a specious present may be problematic due to one’s metaphysical conception of time. What one might call the more common-sense or intuitive conception of time, the A-theory, requires an incoherent description. Thus, assuming the common-sense conception describes appearances, it seems one ought to deny any coherence to the appearance of a specious present. Yet this common-sense conception of time is not the only one available; indeed, no matter its intuitive appeal, it is not even the dominant conception in current metaphysical debate. Given another influential conception of time, the B-theory, it is argued that there is no conflict in the description of the specious present. Thus, if one holds to the B-theory, there should be no problem in the appearance of a specious present.

The paper is divided as follows: Sect. 1 describes three conceptions of the specious present, the third being the most current and controversial. Sect. 2 examines the claim that this most common contemporary view is incoherent. Sect. 3 considers the response that this incoherence is due to hidden metaphysical assumptions about perception and time. It is argued that for those who do not hold such assumptions, so long as we are clear about what the doctrine is really saying, we can make perfect sense of the specious present doctrine.

However, once it is so understood, there is another reason to deny the existence of a specious present; it is that the present that we seem to perceive is not really ‘specious’ at all.

1 Three Conceptions of the Specious Present

The doctrine of the ‘specious present’ is originally introduced as the doctrine that what we perceive is a false present; literally, ‘specious’ means ‘false’. James takes this from Clay (James 1918, p. 608). We will see below that the falsity of the present no longer accurately captures the description; ‘specious’ has to some extent lost its original meaning. Nevertheless, while the metaphysics has otherwise changed, the core reasons for the doctrine are still held by many contemporary philosophers.

There have been three ways the doctrine has been understood over the years.1 Our experience is said to be a false present because what we seem to experience (1) is past, (2) appears to be but is not instantaneous or (3) does not even seem instantaneous. (1) and (2) describe the present as specious because what we seem to experience is not really present; thus, we do not experience a present. However, (3) describes it as specious because it does not seem to be present. (3) is the conception in most current discussions, and is the most phenomenologically problematic.

1.1 As the Past

The specious present is specious because it is actually past. This is part of Clay’s initial description. Experience’s “objects are given as being of the present, but […][t]he present to which the datum refers is really a part of the past—a recent past […] Let it be named the specious present” (James, ibid; see also Marshall 1907, p. 7).

It is uncontroversial that we do not really experience external events which are simultaneous with the resulting neural events in our brain. The speed of light is finite. Therefore, it takes time for the light leaving an object to stimulate an observer’s retinal field; and it takes further time for the result to be processed by the brain. Regardless of how this process which gives rise to our perception occurs, many of the external events are over by the time of the neural events. Thus, if the perception occurs just when the neural events occur, many of the external events that we seem to perceive are past and not present. Hence, what we seem to perceive is speciously present.

In more recent discussions, this is presented as a separate discussion known as the time-lag argument2 and is no longer brought up as a reason to believe in the specious present. Indeed, the conclusion of the time-lag argument has generally been that we indirectly experience past external things via present internal things. Thus, what we experience is present and so not specious at all; it also says nothing about what we seem to experience. It would be better, perhaps, to say that this argument is for a doctrine of specious distance (but that is another discussion). As the ramifications of the time-lag argument do not impact the following discussion, I bracket it off here.

1.2 As Duration Perceived as a Punctal Present

The second conception is that what we perceive is not present because it is not instantaneous. This draws on the assumption that the present does not have a duration. This assumes that the present is instantaneous and so is what Gale calls a punctal present. In contrast, Gale calls a non-instantaneous present (if such a present is possible) a durational present (Gale 1971); this distinction has importance further on.

Le Poidevin (2004, p. 3) provides a refinement of this second conception of the specious present: “[T]hat a group of events we experience at any one time as present contains successive events spanning an interval: [it] is ‘specious’ in that, unlike the objective present, it is an interval and not a duration less instant.”

Le Poidevin gives the following reason for taking this position (taken from the art historian Gombrich): Television pictures and VDU images are built up from the different positions occupied by a moving electron beam over time (ibid). At no single instant is the whole screen illuminated; instead, different points on the screen are illuminated in rapid succession. Thus, events that we seem to experience as being simultaneous are actually a temporally extended series.

Similarly, Mundle considers the following demonstration that what we perceive as simultaneous is actually spread over a duration:

Hold a small piece of white paper at arm’s length against a dark background, and move it across (or down) through a distance of about a foot. The speed of movement need not be faster than would prevent one from ‘following’ the paper by eye-movements. But instead of doing this, gaze at a point in the middle of the paper’s path (call it ‘place 1’). When I do this, I see, for a brief but appreciable period, a white streak, and this streak does not disappear until after the paper is seen, out of the corner of my eye, to have halted (at what I shall call ‘place 2’). This indicates that, as we may express it provisionally, visual sensations linger and fade for an appreciable period. […] This feature of our visual experience provides one way in which we can cash the specious present doctrine. (Mundle, 1954, p. 38)

Thus, in seeming to experience simultaneous occupations of different points in space, we actually experience a successive occupation of different points in time.3 And this is what makes what we seem to perceive speciously present.

So far, then, we have the following reasons for holding that what we seem to perceive is a specious present. The first conception holds that what we perceive is speciously present because what it seems to be is really past. The second conception holds that what we perceive is speciously present because what it seems to be really occurs over a duration. Yet, neither hold that what we perceive seems to be specious.

However, the second conception is also not the most common current conception of the specious present. Television beams or white streaks do not appear to have a duration. Even if this second conception is accurate, it does not give us a specious present that we seem to experience.4 This is the claim of those who hold the third conception.

1.3 A Present with Duration and Temporal Order

In the third conception, the perceived present is speciously present not because (or at least not just because) what we perceive occurs over time. It is because what we seem to perceive occurs over time. What we perceive seems to have duration and temporal order.

James writes that a punctual present is nothing we seem to perceive but only something we come to upon reflection. “[The] only fact of our immediate experience is ‘the specious present’ […] the interval of [a duration] as a whole” (James, op.cit., p. 608). Durgin states that the “temporal content of consciousness has been described as the “specious present” […] because it depicts an extended moment.” (Durgin 2002, p. 285). Kelly, who is sceptical of the doctrine,5 states that the “central idea behind [the specious present] is that instead of giving us a snapshot of the world at a time, perception presents us with a temporally extended window of events.” (Kelly 2005, p. 216).6

So, duration and temporal order appear to be perceived, even if they could not really be the case: perception ‘depicts’ the ‘deceptive appearance’ (Loizou 1986) or ‘illusion’ (Montague 1904) of a temporally extended window of events. Yet, why would anyone think that we seem to perceive this duration and temporal order?

The most common reason for supposing it is that we seem to perceive change, and this change seems as immediate, direct and present as anything else we perceive. The most compelling illustrations of this are in perceptions of motion but there are other changes, e.g., the rising change in a note’s pitch or the blinking of the display of an LED; or, to use an example originally given by Broad, the movement of the second hand on the face of a clock (Broad 1923, p. 351).7 Le Poidevin writes:

We are indirectly aware of the passage of time when we reflect on our memories, which present the world as it was, and so a contrast of how things are now. But much more immediate than this is seeing the second-hand move around the clock, or hearing a succession of notes in a piece of music, of feeling a rain drop run down your neck. There is nothing inferential, it seems, about the perception of change and motion. It is simply given in experience (Le Poidevin, 2007, p. 87)

However, although these changes may seem to be directly perceived or immediate, none seem to be instantaneous. They would not seem to be changes if they were instantaneous; instead, they would be more like the image of the TV screen. Thus, according to Dainton, a punctual present is too short for change:

[G]iven the fact that we directly apprehend change and persistence, albeit only over quite short intervals, the present of experience – the phenomenal or specious present – cannot straightforwardly be equated with […] durationless dividing line between past and future. If change and persistence are directly experienced, the phenomenal present cannot be strictly instantaneous, it must – in some manner – have duration. (Dainton, 2003, p.1)

Grush holds that perceived motion requires a specious present:

[O]n the assumption that we can perceive motion, the content of perceptual experience, what is perceived, must include a temporal interval. The specious present doctrine […] provides for a possible explanation of the capacity to perceive the motion of the second hand, but not the hour hand [….] the spatial displacement of the second hand within that interval is noticeable… (Grush, 2005, pp. 3–4)

The reasoning then is: if we do seem to perceive change, and change requires duration, then we do seem to perceive duration. But then, if the present is instantaneous, what we perceive does not seem to be present. Thus, what we perceive seems to be speciously present.

2 The Incoherence of the Specious Present

However, many objections have been raised against the view that this is how things appear.

2.1 We only Perceive the Present

The first objection is that the entire analysis is misconceived. We cannot perceive what seems to be a duration, or temporal order and so on, because we just seem to perceive what is present. Something has gone wrong with those theorists who hold that there even appears to be a perceived duration or temporal order.

The thinking may come from the following chain of reasoning. Whatever we might say about what we do perceive, we only seem to perceive the present. It is mistaken to hold that we perceive events that seem to be past or future. Surely we only remember or anticipate such events? There is nothing ‘past’-like or ‘future’-like in what we might, e.g., see, hear, feel: “We cannot for example refute someone who claims to see the future in a crystal ball by pointing to the visible pastness of the image: there is no such thing.” (Mellor 1998, p. 16; see also Le Poidevin 2007). Everything we perceive seems to be really present, not speciously so.

This intuition leads to the following problem for perceiving temporal order and duration. If there are two events standing in temporal order, one of which is present, e.g., the image in the crystal ball coming before the event it depicts, then either:

a) The image is past and the event is present

Or

b) The image is present and the event is future.

In view of these options, it is not clear how we can experience a specious present involving temporally ordered events. If we only seem to perceive the present then, since any other relata of the temporal relation are either past or future, we do not even seem to perceive them. So, how can we say we experience a specious present which needs both relata? Thus, there is this puzzle about how we can seem to perceive change and motion, and thus duration and temporal order, while also not seeming to perceive the past and/or future.8

2.2 The Specious Present is Incoherent

A related objection is that the specious present doctrine is incoherent because it claims that what we seem to perceive is both simultaneous and temporally ordered. This comes from the following two assumptions: (1) whatever is present is simultaneous with whatever else is present and (2) if we seem to perceive two events together, we perceive them as mutually present. Thus, we perceive them as simultaneous (Bergson 1999). But advocates of the specious present doctrine hold that what seems to be present includes duration and temporal order. Thus, they hold that what we seem to perceive is, as Sellars puts it, “an incoherent combination” of simultaneity and temporal order (Sellars 1968, p. 232).

3 Metaphysical Responses

Both of these objections to a perceived duration require an assumption about the present that we have already encountered: the present is necessarily punctal or instant. The first assumes it in holding that all but an instant of a duration is past or future. The second assumes it in holding that whatever is mutually present is simultaneous. Yet, in the context of referring to the specious present, this is justified; a punctal present is assumed when one insists that the ‘present’ of a change is specious because it is a duration.

Yet, not all philosophers assume a punctal present. Notably, B-theorists hold that the term ‘present’ is an indexical term like the spatial term ‘here’. When we say that some X is present, its presentness is indexed to a time. What is present is whatever is at that time. And there is no necessary constraint on the duration of that indexing time; whatever the duration of that time, the present defined by it can have that duration. Thus, for B-theorists (contra Gale), the present can be durational. Thus, when B-theorists say that something seems to be present, this can be a durational present.

B-theorists are so-called because they hold that events in time are really ordered in the B-series: the series ordered by temporal relations such as, e.g., precedence or ‘later than’, e.g., I hear birdsong before seeing the sun rise. This way of ordering events is contrasted to ordering them by the A-series: the series of events from past to present to future. Philosophers who hold that events in time are fundamentally ordered by the A-series are A-theorists (e.g., McTaggart 1908; Gale 1971; Prior 1990; Lowe 2003). These two theories hold very different views about the fundamentality of tense: that is, the fundamentality of the past, present and future. It will become clear that the fundamentality of tense is important to the problems with the specious present.

In the case of perception, some B-theorists have argued that the apparently perceived present is defined by the time of whatever it is we perceive.9 We do not just happen to perceive the present, leaving what is meant by ‘present’ an open question; the ‘present’ is just what we seem to perceive. Thus, if we seem to perceive anything, no matter what it is, it seems to be present.

However right this analysis might be, it leads to an interesting consequence for B-theorists. An apparently perceived specious present, meaning it seems to be falsely present, is incoherent for a different reason. The ‘present’ is just what we seem to perceive; as such, saying what we seem to perceive is not present is saying what we seem to perceive is not what we seem to perceive. Many B-theorists are aware of the inappropriate use of the term ‘specious’. Instead, they suggest it would be better to call what we seem to perceive the conscious present10 or the phenomenal present.11

Thus, if these B-theorists are correct, then there is no contradiction in holding that we directly or immediately perceive a present duration. It is just that we may not want to call these specious present.

3.1 Dilemma in the Phenomenology of Perceived Change

However, in contrast to B-theorists, A-theorists insist on a punctual present. For A-theorists, the ‘present’ is a unique moment and is not defined by anything else. We do talk about present durations but this is derivative of the punctual present. What we consider as a present with duration is really a duration in which only one moment is present. All the other moments of this duration, no matter how brief, are either past or future and not present. ‘Present’ durations, e.g., the present day, month or year, are not really present; they only include the present, which is a moment. All other moments in this temporal span are either past or future (originally discussed by St. Augustine 1982; see also Le Poidevin 2007, p. 79).

Given this understanding of duration, what seems to have duration necessarily extends into the future and past. Thus, if we seem to perceive something as present, it must seem to be at an instant. If what is present is what we seem to perceive then we cannot seem to perceive a duration or temporal order.

Thus, the problem remains (albeit expressed slightly differently): how can we even seem to perceive a durational present if any duration must be predominantly past or future? It seems that we must say either:
  1. (1)

    We seem to perceive change and, thus, we seem to perceive the past and/or future.

     
  2. (2)

    We do not seem to perceive the past and/or future and, thus, we do not seem to perceive change.

     
(1) suggests that we do perceive a literally specious present (against the B-theorists); we do not seem to perceive a present at all. (2) suggests that the appearance of immediate change is not as basic as the appearance of colour and shape.

As should be obvious, (2) denies the currently motivation for even postulating an apparently perceived change in the first place; accepting it is to hold that change is not something we seem to see, hear, touch, etc. As a result, (1), the specious present option, may seem preferable.

Yet, is (1) any better? It forces us to hold that we seem to perceive—we seem to hear, taste, touch—the past and future. This also denies appearances. Again, the motions and changes that I seem to perceive when I see a blinking light, hear an ambulance approach or when I feel a cold raindrop running down my neck—all of these seem just present. They do not seem to be (even partly) past or future. So how do I make sense of this if any change, because it requires duration must, except for a single instant, seem past and/or future?

We appear to have a paradox of perception here: we perceive present change and we do not perceive present change. And given that such change is common to our experience of the world, a paradox of this sort would be at the heart of our experience.

3.2 Suggested Solutions

What options are there to avoid this conflict between perceiving present duration and the necessity of duration encompassing the past and future? To avoid them, there are two suggested solutions:

  1. 1.

    We hold on to the apparently punctual present and argue as follows: It is true that only instants seem to be present and thus perceived. But it is also true that apparently perceived motions and changes seem to happen at an instant. As a result, when we seem to perceive these motions or changes, we perceive a punctual present.

     

However, there is still a phenomenological problem with this attempt at a solution. Perceived motion typically does not seem instantaneous. To see motion is to “see an object occupying successive positions. We must see these as non-simultaneous [and thus as non-instantaneous] for otherwise we would just see a blur” (Le Poidevin 2007, p. 87). We certainly seem to perceive blurs or, as another example, flashes of lightning, and certainly they may seem instantaneous; however, they also seem much briefer than typically perceived change. The perception of these discernibly briefer events reinforces the point: that we also seem to perceive these as briefer events suggests that other changes seem to take longer than blurs or flashes of lightning; that is, they do not appear to be instantaneous. If so, we seem to perceive something with a duration greater than an instant.

  1. 2.

    We return to the philosophical viewpoint discussed earlier: the B-theory. B-theorists not only hold that the present is indexed; they also hold that the past and future are indexed. No event is fundamentally past, present or future. Rather, it just depends on which times you pick. Events are, however, fundamentally earlier or later than one another, and this gives you the definition of the past and future. Given some time t, all events earlier than t are past and all events later than t are future. But it is just as right to pick one of these earlier times, and hold that t is future; and if you pick a later moment than t, then t is past.

     

The solution from this B-theoretical understanding of the past, present and future is this:

  1. (1)

    We seem to perceive a series of succeeding events because we seem to perceive them together.

     
  2. (2)

    Because they seem to be perceived, they seem to be present.

     
  3. (3)

    Something seems past if it seems to be earlier than what we seem to perceive and it seems future if it seems later than what we seem to perceive.

     

The necessity of these successive events to appear past or future is then avoided as follows: That these events seem to succeed each other does not mean any of them seem past or future. From (3), what we seem to perceive would only seem to be past or future if they seem to be earlier or later than what we seem to perceive. However, they do not seem to be earlier or later than what we seem to perceive; they seem to be just what we perceive. This is why they are the stages of what appears to be a perceived change. If we can have this analysis, then it is not incoherent to claim that we seem to perceive a change, and thus what contemporary philosophers refer to as the specious present.

Thus, one may describe perceived change in terms of the B-theory without raising the problematic question: again, of how there can be an apparently present duration if any apparent duration must seem to be past or future. Thus, no paradox of perceived change arises. However, if describes the appearance of change in terms of the A-theory, the description is more phenomenologically problematic: either we could not seem to perceive any such change without it seeming partly past or future, or we only seem to perceive instant change.

4 Conclusion

In this paper, the contemporary conception of the specious present has primarily been discussed: that our experience seems to be of a specious present because we have an apparently direct and immediate perception of change. This is because the present is presumed to have no duration (it is punctual). However, a change requires a duration. Thus, if we seem to perceive change then we do not perceive just a punctual present.

It is argued here that this ‘specious’ present is only ‘specious’ if we assume both that the present is all we perceive and that it must be duration less. Given some conceptions of time, it is not necessary to hold that the latter is true. And if we do not assume it, we can put aside many problems with the ‘specious’ present that are otherwise fatal.

Such a solution is unlikely to signal the end of the discussion on the specious present. It rests on accepting the B-theory and rejecting the A-theory; it is not a metaphysically neutral solution to the issue, and this may be uncomfortable for those wishing to avoid metaphysical commitments. Even so, this paper shows at least that the B-theory can coherently describe what seems to be a fundamental feature of our perception, that of change. Given one is otherwise uncommitted to a conception of time, this is a phenomenological reason to prefer the B-theory.

Footnotes

  1. 1.

    This issue is primarily targeted at philosophers of mind and metaphysicians, particularly metaphysicians of time, within analytic (or, perhaps more accurately, western and rationalist) philosophy. An anonymous referee has noted that some of the concepts behind it may not be appropriate in other traditions, e.g., in phenomenology (as lived or embodied experience) or in Asian philosophy. Thus, this should be considered an issue of concern to those philosophers working in the first tradition and not necessarily in the others.

  2. 2.

    E.g., Russell (1914), Ebersole (1965), Houts (1980), Le Morvan (2004).

  3. 3.

    Recent evidence further supports the claim that what seems punctually present is not. See Dainton (2000) and Durgin (2002) for discussions.

  4. 4.

    Indeed, although Le Poidevin refers to this conception as the “specious present” in his 2004, that it does not appear specious is something he recognizes in his 2007.

  5. 5.
    Kelly’s own discussion of perceived change is part of his work on time-consciousness, consciousness of time beyond the perception or experience of the present, e.g., the passage of time, the past, the future (Kelly illustrates by the example of listening to an opera singer holding a note for a long time; ibid, p. 208).
    • Kelly’s work is inspired by the work on time-consciousness by the phenomenologist Husserl, who provides an extensive examination of time-consciousness (notably, the most commonly-known The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness (Husserl 1991) but also elsewhere, e.g., his Bernau Manuscripts and C-Manuscripts, as discussed in Lohmar and Yamaguchi 2010).

    • It is not clear that Husserl ever refers directly to a ‘specious’ present; however, he does discuss the difference between a ‘rough’ and ‘fine’ present and their relations to perception (Husserl 1991, Sect. 16, pp. 40–42). According to one commentator at least, this idea of the ‘rough’ present is what we perceive and it is something like the specious present (Pockett 2003). If so, in the context of this paper, we have this question: Would Husserls understanding of the ‘rough now’ fall under one of the conceptions of the specious present in this paper?

    • Not being (in any way) on expert on Husserl’s overall project, I do not wish to interpret Husserl too freely on this matter. However, perhaps this can be said: if Husserl is concerned with phenomenology, and if phenomenology concerns how the world seems to us (independent of how it might actually be), then Husserl’s concerns about the phenomenology of time concern how time seems to us, as well as the way things and events appear to us in time.

    • If this is right, Husserl would not necessarily be concerned with how they are independent of such appearances (except perhaps by how things are might be constrained by their appearance). Thus, if he discusses a specious present, i.e., a ‘rough now’, a durational now, especially one that we perceive, it will be something apparent; it will not be something that is not apparent. Given the three conceptions above, Husserl’s conception of the specious present would fall under the third.

    • However, I am aware a great deal of interpretation and assumption is involved in coming to this conclusion. It may be that Husserl would not agree with any of these interpretations or, indeed, any of the concepts of time employed in their description (whatever the coherence of such concepts to the description of the specious present, i.e., the topic of this paper). So, I leave the work to others to consider more thoroughly the relationship between the specious present and Husserl’s phenomenology of time-consciousness.

    • For an examination of Husserl’s view on time-consciousness from the same tradition as this paper, see Dainton 2000 (this work also outlines Dainton’s own general account of time-consciousness, overlap theory, as a response to issues with both Husserl and Broad’s views on time-consciousness).

    • For discussions on Dainton’s analysis of Husserl, particularly by phenomenologists, e.g., Gallagher (2003), Dainton (2003), Grush (op.cit.), Zahavi (2007), Gallagher and Zahavi (2008).

  6. 6.

    See also, Hoerl (1998, p. 157), Loizou (op.cit., 25), Montague (op.cit., p. 2), Hoy (1976, p. 615).

  7. 7.

    Broad’s description falls under the third conception of the specious present, i.e., as (or at least apparently) immediately experienced change. What has interested many philosophers, however, is how Broad analyses and explains this appearance. However, the main concern here is with the description and conception rather than explanation; for this reason, and reasons of space, I put discussion of Broad’s explanation aside here. For further discussion, see, e.g., Broad (1923, 1938), Mabbot (1951), Mundle (1958), Plumer (1985), Dainton (2000), Le Poidevin (2007), Kelly (op.cit.); Grush (op.cit.).

    However, along with the specious present, Broad also considered the concept of time itself. Notably, he is attributed with advancing a growing block conception of time: the past and present are equally real, like eternalism, but the future is unreal, like presentism; genuine change is a ‘pure becoming’ of previously unreal future events as they become real present events (Broad (op.cit.); Loizou (op.cit.), Dainton (2000, 2001), Tooley (2000)).

    The growing block has been taken to be an alternative view to the usual conceptions in the metaphysical divides, i.e., an alternative to both A-theory and B-theory, to both eternalism and presentism. So, when considering the specious present, must the growing block be considered in addition to these other conceptions? Here is how I suggest we include it.

    The growing block view shares its conception of (a) the past and present with eternalism and (b) the future with presentism. Thus, what is said about those other positions applies to the growing block theory; respectively, we apply to the growing block theory (a) what eternalism says about the specious present and the past and present and (b) what presentism says about the specious present and the future.

  8. 8.

    Kelly asks: how can we perceive the past, or worse the future when what is past no longer exists and what is future has yet to occur? (Kelly, op.cit.; for a similar point, see Perrett, 1999, p. 98). As stated, this objection misses the point of this conception of the specious present. The objection concerns what we actually perceive but this conception concerns what we appear to perceive. Still, the issue may be translated into phenomenological terms to be “how can what we perceive seem to be past or future if what appears past or future does not seem to exist?”—a version of the more general issue.

  9. 9.

    E.g., Mundle (1954), Dainton (2000), Le Poidevin (2007), Callender (2008).

  10. 10.

    Mundle (1954, p. 48)

  11. 11.

    Dainton (2003), also, Callender (2008).

Notes

Acknowledgments

Thanks to Robin Le Poidevin, Maria Kon and two anonymous reviewers for extensive and thoughtful comments on earlier drafts. This paper was completed during a Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship from the Irish Research Council of the Humanities and the Social Sciences (IRCHSS), held at University College Cork.

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity CollegeCorkIreland

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