The Phenomenology of Temporal Experience
University of California, Los Angeles, US
In this paper, I will explore the dissonance between “physical explanation” and “human experience,” while focusing on the experience of temporal passage. As a starting point, I will introduce J.E. McTaggart’s A-Series theory of time and BSeries theory of time. The A-Series illustrates how humans intuitively experience time; the past is fixed and expired, while the present moment seamlessly unfolds forward into an open future. On the other hand, the B-Series is very unlike the intuitive experience of time; “time” is merely the culmination of “static snapshots,” where each snapshot possesses different properties than the preceding snapshot and succeeding snapshot. Furthermore, there is no present moment or direction of time. For the purposes of this paper, and in agreement with McTaggart’s thesis, I will assume that the B-Series theory of time is true. Second, I will consider two problematic implications of the B-Series, i.e. the knowledge asymmetry and the experience asymmetry. If the past and future are equally real and fixed, why do we only possess knowledge about the past, and know nothing of the future? Moreover, why do we exclusively experience time as unfolding in the direction of the future, and never toward the past? Third, I will consider four possible explanations, which are grounded in physical mechanics or neural architecture, that aim to reconcile physical explanation with human experience, i.e. the static snapshot world of the B-Series with the dynamic present as we experience it. These four theories are the Specious Present Theory, Retention Theory, Neuron Theory, and Blind Spot Theory. I will argue that no physical explanation can provide the reconciliation that I am looking for. Fourth, I will consider cases that highlight the inconsistent and subjective nature of temporal flow to further motivate the peculiarity of and explanatory gap between physical explanation and human experience. Finally, in section V, I will argue that the puzzle of temporal experience, i.e. the explanatory gap between physical explanation and human experience, boils down to a problem of qualia, and thus, is a result of the “hard problem of consciousness.”
How to Cite:
Loury, H., 2016. The Phenomenology of Temporal Experience. International Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities, 8(2), pp.7 (54–68). DOI: http://doi.org/10.7710/2155-4838.1147
24 Jun 2016.