Philosophical Studies

, Volume 176, Issue 1, pp 21–44 | Cite as

The fragmentary model of temporal experience and the mirroring constraint

  • Gerardo Alberto VieraEmail author


A central debate in the current philosophical literature on temporal experience is over the following question: do temporal experiences themselves have a temporal structure that mirrors their temporal contents? Extensionalists argue that experiences do have a temporal structure that mirrors their temporal contents. Atomists insist that experiences don’t have a temporal structure that mirrors their contents. In this paper, I argue that this debate is misguided. Both atomism and extensionalism, considered as general theories of temporal experience, are false, since temporal experience is not a single undifferentiated phenomena as both theories require. I argue for this conclusion in two steps. First, I show that introspection cannot settle the debate. Second, I argue that the neuroscientific evidence is best read as revealing a host of mechanisms involved in temporal perception - some admitting of an extensionalist interpretation while others admitting only of an atomistic interpretation. As a result, neither side of the debate wins.


Temporal experience Temporal perception Cognitive science Perception Neuroscience Philosophy of mind Mental representation 



This paper has benefited from comments from a number of people. I want to give special thanks to Murat Aydede, Carl Craver, Emma Esmaili, Kathy Fazekas, Eric Margolis, Christopher Mole, Evan Thompson, Hannah Trees, Lawrence Ward, and Kenneth Williford for comments on earlier versions of this paper.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Philosophical PsychologyUniversity of AntwerpAntwerpBelgium

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