|Graduate Seminar: The Experience of Time and the Unity of Consciousness
This class will address the following questions : What is it for a “stream of consciousness” to exist? What kind of structure does conscious experience have, both at a time and over time? What is it to experience time passing? Is there such a thing as “subjective time”, or “phenomenal time”, to be distinguished from the objective physical time that events occur in? What support, if any, does the experience of time provide to different views of the metaphysics of time? We will look carefully at the notions of an “experience” and a “subject of experience”, and the idea of one experience being “unified” with another by being part of a larger experience. We will relate these ideas to certain fundamental questions about the timing and temporal structure of conscious experience (e.g. is it discrete, continuous, or something else?), including a discussion of the “unity” of experience over time. Following on from this, we’ll take a look at some different views of temporal experience, including Husserl’s “tripartite” conception. We’ll then ask whether there are aspects of temporal experience that aren’t captured by any of these views – an experience of temporal passage that isn’t an experience of temporal relations between events, or a purely subjective aspect to temporal experience, that might deserve the name “phenomenal time”. Finally, we’ll take a look at the experience of time as a source of evidence in debates about the metaphysics of time: does experience support the claim that there is an objective “moving present”, or some kind of deep asymmetry between past, present and future? Although the focus of the class will be more philosophical than empirical, we will be taking a look at some of the empirical literature on the representation of time in the brain where it is relevant, in addition to discussing relevant philosophical literature.