The Whence and Whither of Experience

Erkenntnis 84 (5):1119-1138 (2019)
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Abstract
Consider a toothache, or a feeling of intense pleasure, or the sensation you would have if you looked impassively at an expanse of colour. In each case, the experience can easily be thought to fill time by being present throughout a period. This way of thinking of conscious experience is natural enough, but it is in deep conflict with the view that physical processes are ultimately responsible for experience. The problem is that physical processes are related to durations in a very different way—not by being wholly present at each instant or sub-period, but by having temporal parts that are. There is a choice to be made, therefore, between preserving this common way of thinking of experience and preserving the fundamentality of processes. The first option holds fixed the view of experiences as occurring throughout time and takes this to constrain the category of entity to which they are identical, or upon which they supervene. The second option abandons this common view of experience by taking up a perspective on which we experience things in the world and their properties as existing or occurring a certain way, and mistakenly ascribe this ontological character to our experience as well. The second option is ultimately the better option, however, since only it can make sense of the facts of our experience.
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Archival date: 2018-03-20
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