The Stream of Consciousness: A Philosophical Account

  • Oliver Rashbrook-CooperEmail author
Part of the Studies in Brain and Mind book series (SIBM, volume 9)


In this chapter I provide characterisation and explanation of what the “streamlikeness” of consciousness consists in. I distinguish two elements of streamlikeness—Phenomenal Flow, and Phenomenal Continuity. I then show how these elements of the phenomenology can be explained within an Extensionalist account of temporal experience. I also provide criticism of attempts to conceive of the streamlikeness of consciousness in terms of the absence of “gaps” in conscious experience. The “gapless” conception of streamlikeness generates a worry about the stream of consciousness potentially being illusory, as psychological research reveals the processes underlying consciousness to be gappy. The account of streamlikeness I provide generates no such worry, and thus provides a way to reconcile phenomenological and psychological research into the stream of consciousness.


Consciousness Stream Continuity Flow Unity 


  1. Armstrong, David. 1993. A materialist theory of the mind. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. Blackmore, Susan. 2002. There is no stream of consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies 9: 17–28.Google Scholar
  3. Broad, Charles Dunbar. 1923. Scientific thought. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  4. Clark, Austen. 1989. The particulate instantiation of homogeneous pink. Synthese 80: 277–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dainton, Barry. 2006. Stream of consciousness: Unity and continuity in conscious experience, 2nd ed. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Dainton, Barry. 2008. The phenomenal self. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dehaene, Stanislas. 1993. Temporal oscillations in human perception. Psychological Science 4: 264–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dennett, Daniel. 1993. Consciousness explained. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  9. Hoerl, Christoph. 2013. A succession of feelings, in and of itself, is not a feeling of succession. Mind 122: 373–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Husserl, Edmund. 1991. On the phenomenology of the consciousness of internal time (1893–1917). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. James, William. 1890. The principles of psychology. New York: Henry Holt and Company.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Newton-Smith, William. 1984. The structure of time. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  13. Noë, Alva. 2002. Is the visual world a grand illusion? Journal of Consciousness Studies 9: 1–12.Google Scholar
  14. O’Shaughnessy, Brian. 2003. Consciousness and the world. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Phillips, Ian. 2014. The temporal structure of experience. In Subjective time: The philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience of temporality, ed. Valtteri Arstila and Dan Lloyd, 139–159. Cambridge: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  16. Rashbrook, Oliver. 2013a. An appearance of succession requires a succession of appearances. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 87: 584–610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Rashbrook, Oliver. 2013b. The continuity of consciousness. European Journal of Philosophy 21: 611–640.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Richardson, Louise. 2009. Seeing empty space. European Journal of Philosophy 18: 227–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Sellars, Wilfrid. 1963. Philosophy and the scientific image of man. In Science, perception and reality, 60–105. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  20. Soteriou, Matthew. 2013. The mind’s construction: The ontology of mind and mental action. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Strawson, Galen. 2009. Selves: An essay in revisionary metaphysics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Tye, Michael. 2003. Consciousness and persons. Cambridge: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  23. van Wassenhove, Virginie. 2009. Minding time in an amodal representational space. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, B: Biological Sciences 364: 1815–1830.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. VanRullen, Rufin, and Christoph Koch. 2003. Is perception discrete or continuous? Trends in Cognitive Sciences 7: 207–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Wittmann, Marc. 2011. Moments in time. Frontiers in Intergrative Neuroscience 5(66): 1–11. doi: 10.3389/fnint.2011.00066.

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Christ ChurchOxfordUK

Personalised recommendations