It is often assumed that it seems to each of us as though time flows, or passes. On that assumption, it follows either that time does in fact pass and then, pretty plausibly, we have mechanisms that detect its passage, or that time does not pass, and we are subject to a pervasive phenomenal illusion. If the former is the case, we are faced with the explanatory task of spelling out which perceptual or cognitive mechanism (or combination thereof) allows us to detect and track time’s passage (Sect. 2.1). If the latter, then we are faced with the task of explaining how, and why, we are subject to a pervasive phenomenal illusion (Sect. 2.2). There is, however, a third, somewhat less discussed, explanatory project. Rather than assuming that it seems to each of us as though time passes, and then attempting to explain why it seems that way, we jettison that assumption. According to these views, it does not seem to us as though time passes; instead, we come to falsely believe that it seems to us as though time passes (Sect. 3). This view requires that we explain how we come to have systematically false beliefs about the way our experiences seem to us. This paper aims to motivate this third explanatory strategy and say something about what kind of cognitive mechanisms might be responsible for our having a false belief that it seems as though time passes (Sect. 3.1), and why we might have evolved (some of) those mechanisms (Sect. 3.2). In particular, this chapter does not aim to argue for this view; rather, it aims to present it as a viable contender alongside other more common views.
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Leaving it open that sometimes our phenomenology might be illusory, or otherwise mistaken.
Prosser (2007, 2012, 2013) defends the conditional claim that were there passage, our phenomenology would be illusory because we would be failing to track said passage. That is not to defend Phenomenal Illusionism, since it is consistent with the claim that, in fact, we do have experiences as of passage at all.
Though for somewhat different purposes, Hohwy et al. aim to explain why our temporal phenomenology is as of passage, though they use the phrase temporal flow instead of temporal passage.
Torrengo’s view, known as the phenomenal modifier view, may not be best thought of as a version of the cognitive error thesis. It is the view that our temporal experiences do not have a representational content as of time passing. So in this sense, it is a denial of the veridical passage thesis or the phenomenal illusion thesis. However, Torrengo holds that our experiences are phenomenally modified, in that the way we experience things is ‘passagey’.
Following Baron et al. (2015), this view is sometimes also known as veridicalism, since it holds that our phenomenology has veridical, not illusory, content; it is just that said content is not as of passage.
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Miller, K. (2019). Does It Really Seem to Us as Though Time Passes?. In: Arstila, V., Bardon, A., Power, S.E., Vatakis, A. (eds) The Illusions of Time. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-22048-8_2
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