Some Cosmological Implications of Temporal Experience

  • Barry DaintonEmail author
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science book series (BSPS, volume 285)


The claim that we directly apprehend change and succession in our ordinary experience is phenomenologically plausible – after all, we certainly seem to, at least over short intervals. However, there are those who hold that any attempt to grant consciousness temporal breadth falls into incoherence. I argue here that this is wrong, and defend the “extensional” conception of temporal experience over its “retentional” rival. I then argue that this means that reality itself must be dynamic, simply because experience is dynamic, and experience is part of reality. The precise extent to which the dynamism we find in our experience impacts on the rest of the universe depends on the (much contested) relationship between consciousness and the rest of the universe; on some views it will be trivial, on others immense. Of the different metaphysical accounts of the nature of time currently on offer, Presentism is (arguably) the most dynamic. However, Presentism – at least in its standard guise – looks to be irreconcilable with the extensional account of temporal experience. The way forward, I suggest, is to adopt a modified form of Presentism. I conclude by examining the implications of this view of experience for the claim that we might very probably be short-lived “Boltzmann Brains”.


Block universe Presentism Temporal experience Motion perception Specious present Extensional model Retentional model Extensional presentism Synchronic and diachronic co-consciousness Transitivity Boltzmann brains 


  1. Albrecht, A., and L. Sorbo. 2004. Can the universe afford inflation? Physical Review D,
  2. Bergson, H. 1911, Creative Evolution. Trans. A. Mitchell. New York: Henry Holt.Google Scholar
  3. Broad, C.D. 1923. Scientific thought. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  4. Broad, C.D. 1938. A reply to my critics. In The philosophy of C.D. Broad, ed. P.A. Schilpp. New York: Tudor.Google Scholar
  5. Carroll, S. 2010. From here to eternity: The quest for the ultimate theory of time. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  6. Chalmers, D. 2015. Panpsychism and panprotopsychism. In T. Alter and Y. Nagasawa (eds.) Consciousness in the Physical World: Essays on Russellian Monism, Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Chalmers, D. forthcoming. The combination problem for panpsychism. In Panpsychism, eds. G. Bruntrup and L. Jaskolla. Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Chisholm, R. 1981. Brentano’s analysis of the consciousness of time. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 6(1): 3–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dainton, B. 2006. Stream of consciousness, 2nd ed. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Dainton, B. 2008. Sensing change. Philosophical Issues 18(1): 362–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dainton, B. 2010a. Temporal Consciousness. In Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy,
  12. Dainton, B. 2010b. Time and space, 2nd ed. Durham: Acumen.Google Scholar
  13. Dainton, B. 2011a. Time and temporal experience. In The future of the philosophy of time, ed. A. Bardon. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Dainton, B. 2011b. Time, passage and immediate experience. In Oxford handbook of philosophy of time. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Dainton, B. 2014a. Flow, repetition and symmetry. In Debates in the philosophy of time, ed. N. Oaklander. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  16. Dainton, B. 2014b. Self. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  17. Dolev, Y. 2014. Motion and passage: The old B-theory and phenomenology. In Debates in the philosophy of time, ed. N. Oaklander. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  18. Ellis, G. 2006. Physics in the real universe: Time and spacetime,
  19. Ellis, G., and T. Rothman. 2010. Time and spacetime: The crystallizing block universe. International Journal of Theoretical Physics 49: 988–1003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Paul, L. 2015. Experience and the Arrow. In A. Wilson (ed.) Chance and Temporal Asymmetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Russell, B. 1903. The principles of mathematics. London: George Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
  22. Russell, B. 1917. Mathematics and metaphysicians. In Mysticism and logic. London: George Allen and Unwin.Google Scholar
  23. Slezak, M. 2013. Saving time: Physics killed it. Do we need it back? New Scientist, 01 NovGoogle Scholar
  24. Smolin, L. 2013a. Time reborn: From the crisis in physics to the future of the universe. London: Allen Lane.Google Scholar
  25. Smolin, L. 2013b. Temporal naturalism,
  26. Stern L. 1897/2005. Mental Presence-Time. Trans. N. De Warren. In The new yearbook for phenomenology and phenomenological research, ed. C. Wolfe, 205–216. London: College Publications.Google Scholar
  27. Strawson, G. 2008. Real materialism and other essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK

Personalised recommendations