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Time and Consciousness

Sydney, 22-23 July 2006

Timetable : Abstracts : Venue : Registration : Accommodation : Transport : Enquiries

 

Themes

This conference, organised jointly with the Centre for Consciousness at ANU, will explore some of the many connections between time and consciousness. Some themes will include:

  • the phenomenology and content of temporal experience;

  • memory and temporal awareness;

  • the role of consciousness in the physics and metaphysics of time.

This workshop will be preceded by a conference on The Origins and Functions of Causal Thinking III (more details here). The sessions on Friday 21 July will provide an overlap between the two meetings.


Provisional timetable

 

Saturday 22 July

 

Sunday 23 July

9:30 - 11:00

Barry Dainton
The Specious Present

9:30 - 11:00

Craig Callender
The Subjectivity of the Present

Morning Tea

Morning Tea

11:30 - 1:00

Philippe Chuard
Projectivism and Experiences of Temporal Properties

11:30 - 1:00

Steven Weinstein
The Dimensionality of Time

Lunch

Lunch

2:30 - 4:00

Jenann Ismael
Memory and Temporal Phenomenology

2:30 - 4:00

Jordi Fernandez
Memory and Temporal Awareness

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea

4:30 - 6:00

Simon Haines
Art, Time and Consciousness

4:30 - 6:00

David Chalmers
Roundtable discussion


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Abstracts

The Specious Present
Barry Dainton (Liverpool)

William James characterised the specious present as 'the short duration of which we are immediately and incessantly sensible'.  The doctrine that our conscious awareness is not instantaneous, but rather spans a short interval, is rooted in phenomenology.  We can directly perceive change and persistence – e.g., a bird swooping, a tone droning – or so it seems; since change and persistence take time, how we could directly apprehend them unless our consciousness also extends through time?  However, the doctrine of the specious present strikes some philosophers as highly problematic, even paradoxical.  If these philosophers are right, it is hard to see how our consciousness can be as it seems.  Hence the importance of this topic.  The fact that there are very different conceptions of the specious present – not to mention a lack of consensus concerning how the term itself should be employed – complicates matters considerably.  I will survey the main options and try to impose some order on the situation.  I will go on to argue that one conception of the specious present is considerably less problematic than the alternatives; this conception is largely, but not completely, Jamesian in character.  I will conclude by considering some implications of accepting the specious present in this form for our understanding of time itself.

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Projectivism and Experiences of Temporal Properties
Phillipe Chuard (Australian National University)

Among the many ways in which, it seems, we can be conscious of time, there is the sensory perception of certain temporal properties. Many of perceptual experiences seem capable of representing properties such as (i) the succession of events and (ii) their duration.

Accounting for the representational content of such experiences is one of the central issues that make up what I‚ll call the problem of temporal perception. How does the problem arise and who is it a problem for? In the first part of this paper, I‚ll try to clarify the relationship between perceptual experiences of temporal properties and the main accounts of the metaphysics of time. The problem of temporal perception is in fact quite independent from the issues that oppose A-theories and B-theories of time. For one thing, succession and duration are B-properties, the existence of which is recognized by both A-theories and B-theories. For another, it may be that perceptual experiences typically mis-represent temporal properties&emdash;in which case, an account of such experiences will have little to do with the true metaphysics of time.

The problem of temporal perception arises in fact because of the following two assumptions:

Temporal Resemblance:  perceptual experiences represent the temporal properties of events partly in virtue of their own temporal properties.

No Specious Present: perceptual experiences represent events as present, but a single experience cannot represent non-simultaneous events as being all present.

In the second part of the paper, I‚ll attempt to defend a particular account of experiences of temporal properties: a simple-minded version of Projectivism, according to which experiences represent the temporal properties of events in virtue of their own temporal properties. Interestingly, most alternative accounts of temporal experiences are usually motivated in reference to the many difficulties allegedly plaguing such an account. In particular, it is often argued that such a version of Projectivism cannot account for various aspects of the phenomenology of experiences of time. Thus, the argument goes, an account of experiences of temporal properties needs to be supplemented with an appeal to memory (Mellor), internal clocks (Le Poidevin), or some relation of co-consciousness (Dainton).

After some clarifications of the simple-minded version of Projectivism to be defended in this paper, I‚ll show how it can resist the various phenomenological objections raised against it.

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Memory and Temporal Phenomenology
Jenann Ismael (Sydney)

In the general project of trying to reconcile the objective view of the world with the subjective view, analytic philosophy in recent years, has been almost solely focused on sensory phenomenology. But there is at least as a big a gap between the view of time presented in physics and the view of time presented in the experience of the subject. In physics, there is an almost complete assimilation of time to space.  Time is just one dimension in a four-dimensional manifold of events.  We experience time, however, as something dynamic.  I'll be exploring prospects for understanding of the phenomenology of flow without falling into the incoherent idea that time itself moves.

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Art, Time and Consciousness
Simon Haines (ANU)

Philosophical conceptions of time seem to fall into two groups, “flow” (river, arrow) and “block”: both of them spatialised. Kant was an important exception, and modern subjectivist thinking about time, or about the consciousness  of time, seems to have taken its lead from him. But art (poetry, anyway: music and the plastic arts raise different time issues) seems always to have represented time as consciousness, or at least as an important element in it. Two groups again: “big-time”, apocalyptic poets like Dante and Virgil, and “small-time”, ordinary-life poets like Homer and Shakespeare. Modern (post-Kantian?) poetry wants to find big-time meanings in small-time lives. Maybe if we could blend philosophy’s block/flow conceptions and poetry’s big/small representations  of time we might get a richer sense of the relation between time and consciousness.

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The Subjectivity of the Present
Craig Callender (University of San Diego, California)

Perhaps the most compelling argument for the tensed theory of time ˜ and in particular the idea of a global monadic present or now ˜ has always been that it is the best explanation of temporal experience.  Most detensers admit this, but suggest that other arguments outweigh these considerations.  However, it is time detensers rise and fight back on the experiential front as well.  Fascinating recent work in the psychology of time perception suggests that the subjective present behaves in surprising ways.  The best explanation of these phenomena, I argue, is not that we are responding to a global mind-independent present; rather, the best explanation refers to a (tenseless) temporal integration mechanism in our brains.  Coupled with evidence that the subjective present is highly contingent on environmental variables, varies from person to person, and the difficulty of reconciling a global monadic present with our background theories, this argument seriously undermines one‚s confidence that our experience of the present is an experience of time rather than a feature of experience in time. 

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The Dimensionality of Time
Steven Weinstein (University of Waterloo)

Many philosophers have concluded that Kant was wrong about space, the form of outer experience - that the space of our experience is not necessarily Euclidean.  Be that as it may, one can nevertheless ask whether he was right about time, the form of inner experience.  Is time necessarily one-dimensional?   In this talk I will explore whether and how one might make sense of the possibility that the mind, or its physical embodiment, is extended in more than one time dimension.

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Memory and Temporal Awareness
Jordi Fernandez (University of Macquarie) 

Memories have content in that they can be correct or incorrect. In addition, memories have an interesting phenomenological feature: If a subject remembers some event, then that event is presented to her as taking place in the past. The aim of this paper is to determine how we should construe the content of memories to account for that ‘feeling of pastness’ in memory. Three proposals will be considered and eventually rejected. According to some of those proposals, a reference to the temporal location of a remembered event is built into the content of the relevant memory. I will propose an alternative view. According to it, when a certain event is presented to us in virtue of having a memory experience, the content of that experience is that it was caused by a true perceptual experience of the event in question.

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Roundtable Discussion
David Chalmers (Australian National University)

David Chalmers will chair a discussion of issues arising from the conference.

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Venue

The conference will be held at historic Tusculum mansion, 3 Manning St, Potts Point. (Manning St can be seen in the centre of this map. Tusculum is the square-shaped property just south of the double-n in "Manning".)

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Registration

Full-fee registration is $50, or $70 for both this meeting and Origins III: INtervention, Time and Physics, provided you register by Thursday 13 July 2006. An additional late registration fee of $10 applies to all registrations received after that date. Student/unwaged registration is $20 (which covers both meetings) or $30 for late registrations. Registration includes morning and afternoon refreshments.

To register, simply download this form and follow the instructions.

(Speakers at either meeting get free registration at both.)

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Accommodation

A limited number of rooms at the Macleay Apartments have been reserved for conference attendees and are available at the special conference rate of $125 per night. These are within (very) easy walking distance of the  conference. (Please contact John Cusbert at john.cusbert@gmail.com if you would like to make a booking.)

There is also plenty of other accommodation in Potts Point and Kings Cross, within walking distance of the conference. Listed below are some options. For those on a very tight budget, there are also numerous backpacker's hostels on Victoria Street.


Other options

Challis Lodge
21 Challis Avenue
Potts Point

$55 per night for a single room (shared bathroom)
$65 per night for a double/twin (shared bathroom)
$70 per night for a single room (ensuite)
$75 per night for a double/twin (ensuite)

Stay seven nights for the price of five! 

Phone: 

+61 2 9358 5422

Fax:

+61 2 8356 9047

Email:

challis@budgethotelssydney.com

Web:

www.budgethotelssydney.com


Holiday Lodge Hotel
55 Macleay St
Potts Point  

$55-$100 per night for a single room
$60-$120 per night for a double room
$120-$140 per night for a family room

 

Phone: 

+61 2 935 63955

Fax:

+61 2 9356 3485

Web:

www.holidaylodgehotel.com.au


Victoria Court Hotel
122 Victoria St
Potts Point

Rates on enquiry

 

Phone: 

+61 2 9357 3200

Fax:

+61 2 9357 7606

Web:

http://www.victoriacourt.com.au



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Transport

The best way to get around downtown Sydney is on foot or via public transport. The conference venue and the accommodation listed on this site are all within a 5-10 minute walk from Kings Cross railway station.

From the Airport

You can catch a train from the Airport to Kings Cross station, though you will need to change trains at Central station. The train fare from the Airport is $10. A taxi from the Airport to Potts Point costs about $28. There are also regular shuttle buses from the airport to accomodation in Potts Point. "Kingsford Smith Airport Bus Service" runs one such service, which costs around $8 per person and departs from outside the arrival hall every half hour. There is no need to make a booking.

Parking

Streetside parking is very limited in this area. Listed below are some commercial parking lots within 5-10 minutes walk from the conference venue. Parking charges are around $13 per day.

Kings Cross Car Park Pty Ltd
Ward Ave Kings Cross NSW 2011
ph: (02) 9358 5000
 
Bayswater Parking Station
33 Bayswater Rd Kings Cross NSW 2011
ph: (02) 9357 7343
 
Enacon Parking
Cathedral St Woolloomooloo NSW 2011
ph: (02) 9380 8850
 

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Enquiries


Please direct all enquiries to John Cusbert at the following email address:
john.cusbert@gmail.com


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Web page maintained by John Cusbert. Last update 20/6/2006