Does it really seem as though time passes?

In Adrian Bardon, Sean Enda Power, A. Vatakis, Valtteri Arstila & V. Artsila (eds.), The Illusions of Time: Philosophical and Psychological Essays on Timing and Time Perception. Palgrave McMillan (2019)
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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 (§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 (§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 (§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, (§3.1) and why we might have evolved (some of) those mechanisms (§3.2). In particular, the paper 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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Kristie Miller
University of Sydney


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