26 Oct 2013

Dainton, “Time in Experience: Reply to Gallagher,” summary

by Corry Shores
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Barry Dainton

“Time in Experience: Reply to Gallagher”

Reply to: Gallagher, Shaun. Sync-ing in the Stream of Experience: Time-Consciousness in Broad, Husserl and Dainton, Psyche 9(10), April 2003

Abstract [quoting]:

Consciousness exists in time, but time is also to be found within consciousness: we are directly aware of both persistence and change, at least over short intervals. On reflection this can seem baffling. How is it possible for us to be immediately aware of phenomena which are not (strictly speaking) present? What must consciousness be like for this to be possible? In Stream of Consciousness I argued that influential accounts of phenomenal temporality along the lines developed by Broad and Husserl were fundamentally flawed, and proposed a quite different account: the overlap model. While recognizing that the latter has merits, Gallagher argues that it too is fundamentally flawed; he also takes issue with some of my claims concerning Broad and Husserl. My reply comes in three main parts. I start by clarifying my use of certain terms, in particular realism and anti-realism as applied to theories of phenomenal temporality in general, and the accounts of Broad and Husserl in particular. I then turn to Gallagher’s main criticisms of the overlap theory. Gallagher argues that the theory is sunk by a problem with ongoing contents, that if our experience possessed the structures I ascribe to it, we would be aware of contents as having longer durations than is actually the case. I suggest otherwise: the version of the overlap theory which is afflicted by this difficulty is not the version I put forward, as becomes clear when two distinct forms of overlap are distinguished. Gallagher is also concerned that the theory lacks phenomenological grounding, and has difficulties with experiential holism. The latter worry, I argue, is completely misplaced. While the former has more warrant, it too is rooted in a misconception: the overlap theory was intended only to provide an account of the most basic sensory components of our short-term experience of temporality, and can easily be expanded to accommodate other aspects. I supply a sketch an augmented theory to back up this claim. I | conclude with an assessment of the intentional account of time-consciousness Gallagher ascribes to Husserl. A meaning-based account of this kind is incapable of accounting for experienced sensory continuity, or so I argue. I also suggest that both Broad and Husserl may have had leanings towards the Simple Conception of consciousness. (1)


1. Introduction

The most serious of Gallagher’s objections are based on misunderstandings that Dainton will here clarify.

Dainton’s Simple overlap model does not rely on the “erroneous awareness-content conception of consciousness” (2) Dainton will defend his model against Gallagher’s critiques.

2. The Phenomenal Present: Realism v. Anti-Realism

We are conscious of continuously altering things. As well we are aware of things that stay the same for periods of time. But even experiences of constancy involve a phenomenal flow of renewing content. (3)

We apprehend change and persistence, which means our phenomenal present cannot be a durationless mathematical present; it must rather have some duration, and thus be the phenomenal or specious present. (3)

We can remember the past and anticipate the future, but our immediate experience is confined to the present, or so it seems natural to suppose. But given the fact that we directly apprehend change and persistence, albeit only over quite short intervals, the present of experience — the phenomenal or specious present — cannot straightforwardly be equated with the mathematical present, i.e. the durationless dividing line between past and future. If change and persistence are directly experienced, the phenomenal present cannot be strictly instantaneous, it must — in some manner — have some duration. (3)

Those analyzing temporal awareness have realized that “a succession of experiences does not, in itself, amount to an experience of succession.” (3) [According to Dainton’s view, a durationless instant excludes temporally other ones, and awareness of succession means an awareness of more than one instant. So to be aware of succession, you need more than one moment of awareness in action.]

Since a typical phenomenal present is an experience of succession (or persistence), it cannot be composed of a succession of durationless experiences that are related by nothing more than temporal proximity. It may well be that instantaneous experiences do exist — if only as ideal limits — but if so, something must serve to bind them together into the experienced successions with which we are familiar. (3)

What we need to know is, what would bind such durationless instants so to allow an awareness of succession.

The A-Theory says that “an experience always consists of a content (or object) falling under an act of awareness”. (3) Those with this view could have a promising solution for the binding problem. Because A-Theorists divide act from content, they can say that a present durationless act can be aware of moments from various different successive times. Miller calls this the principle of simultaneous awareness (PSA).

This conception has been developed in two ways each with its own conception of phenomenal presents.  (3d) One view sees the act as momentary but the contents as really in succession. Dainton calls this realism, because we are directly aware of the temporally extended contents. [For Dainton, realism is not that time is a physical reality but that instead of being aware of representations of other moments we are aware of actual other moments.]

One option is to hold that a momentary (or very brief) act of awareness apprehends a succession of content that is spread through a real interval of time. On this view, an act of awareness may be momentary, but its scope is not. The content that is apprehended may be physical or phenomenal, this account is neutral in this regard. The key point is that temporally extended stretches or successions of content are apprehended, as temporally extended wholes, by single acts of awareness that are momentary, or close to it. Since on this view we are directly aware of temporally extended occurrences, I call it realism. According to the naive (or direct) realist theory of vision, we are directly aware of the material objects we see around us — no inner representation lies between them and us. In analogous fashion, the temporal realist holds that we are directly aware of change and persistence. (4)

The problem with this view is that present consciousness is directly aware of moments now in the past, which is normally thought to be impossible. But if you still want both PSA and A-theory, there is another option; hold that 1) the phenomenal contents are momentary, but 2) these contents appear to be temporally extended. So we only seem to be aware of the past, and thus Dainton calls it anti-realism or representational anti-realism.

Anyone who finds this problematic, but who also wants to retain PSA along with the A-theory, has another option: to hold (i) that the contents apprehended by momentary acts of awareness are themselves momentary, but (ii) that these contents appear to be temporally extended. On this view, we are not really aware of the recent past, we only seem to be, but the illusion is entirely convincing. Since on this conception of the phenomenal present we are not truly aware of temporally extended occurrences, but only seem to be, I call it anti-realism. A more informative label is representational anti-realism: although we seem to be directly aware of temporally extended occurrences, in reality we are only aware of representations of such occurrences. Since these representations are phenomenal mental states, anti-realists do not have the option of adopting naive realism about the perception of change; the possibility of embracing naive realism about the momentary present remains open. (4)

But the anti-realist might object that phenomenologically speaking what seems to be real is phenomenally the same as what might actually be real.

The experience of change and duration on my account is just as real as that found in the doctrine you are calling realism. In the realm of the phenomenal there is no distinction between seeming and being. Phenomenal presents, as I construe them, seem temporally extended, so they are temporally extended — at least on the phenomenological level. (4)

dainton reply fig 1

[Image from Dainton, p.5]

Recall Broad’s model from Scientific Thought [fig 1], which is realist. “He held that the phenomenal present consisted of a momentary (or very brief) act of awareness stretching a short way back in time.” One problem with this is that we would be aware of the same content repeatedly as the umbrella of awareness for each successive act includes within it a particular content once for each successive act. (fig 2)

dainton reply fig 2

[Image from Dainton, p.5]

However, Broad also thought that momentary acts did not exist and their breadth was matter of a continuous uninterrupted awareness of a single content, so it is not as if we hear distinctly different repetitions of the sound. But even so this will cause stretched contents, we will hear for example the sound longer than it actually happened, as the act of hearing it is longer.

Suppose C’s duration is half of a second, and to keep things simple, let us further suppose that my continuous awareness of C has just three phases. By the end of the third and final phase, C’s apparent duration will be a full one and a half seconds, rather than the half a second that (in reality) I experience. Repeated contents have merely given way to stretched contents. (6)

dainton reply fig 3.2

[Image from Dainton, p.5]

Broad’s later accounts were representational anti-realist. (fig 3) We can see on the right now a content diminishes in presentedness.

The diagram on the left depicts the way in which the phases of a short stretch of recently experienced content become represented in a single momentary phenomenal present. The diagram on the right shows how a single (very) brief content is represented in successive phenomenal presents. The smaller the content, the less present or more past it seems to be. In effect, contents such as these are experienced as moving though consciousness, appearing first as fully present before embarking on a smooth, continuous slippage into the past. The problem of repeated contents is thus avoided: there is repetition, but this is accompanied by a continual variation in temporal mode of presentation. (6)

In this model, each phenomenal present is an entirely new production (6)

Dainton notes two problems with this model. 1) It is atomistic. But

How is the moment-to-moment continuity of experience to be secured if a stream of consciousness is composed of a succession of entirely distinct experiences? Neighbouring phenomenal presents may have similar representational contents, but there is no real experiential connection between them, each consists of a discrete experience in its own right. This is profoundly unrealistic: are we not aware — directly aware — of the transitions between the successive phases of our streams of consciousness?

[[Later we will be proposing a Deleuzean model that is momentary except each moment is a variable present, not a static moment but a passage between states of affairs. Like this model, the contents diminish, but only by infinitely small changes, creating the appearance of continuity not just in the absolute present but across a number of past ones.]]

Another problem is that this model explains pastness as diminished vibrancy, but this is not enough to indicate that a past moment is more past than a present one [[perhaps Dainton is saying that we can in the present have faint impressions but that does not mean we take them as past. One possible reply is that the faintness takes on temporal meaning only in relation to the other layered impressions that have more vibrancy.]]

The anti-realist might say that such representational contents are not logically impossible, even though they are hard to conceive. (7) However, if a realist account is adequate to the phenomenological data, then it will be superior in that it is also conceivable.

Dainton then notes one of Gallagher’s misunderstandings. Dainton defines as realist the view that the present moment of awareness is directly aware of other moments not immediately present. So in fact under this definition Broad’s early model is realist and later one anti-realist. (8)

Gallagher also misunderstood what Dainton means by phenomenal contents, which can in fact be sense data. (8)

Recall Gallagher’s 2 “ Lotzean assumptions”.

LA1: The perception of succession requires a momentary and indivisible, and therefore durationless act of consciousness.

LA2: A sequence or succession is represented by persisting sensations or memory images that are simultaneous in present consciousness. (8)

Gallagher claims that Dainton misunderstood Broad’s account with regard to the nature of contents, which persists even after their event of occurrences.  (8d) Dainton is unsure that in the early Broad account we can say that sensations persist in present consciousness. (9a)

Dainton now wants a formulation of LA2 that is faithful to PSA while also being neutral with regard to realist and anti-realist accounts. He suggests:

LA2*: A sequence or succession is experienced only when a temporal spread of content is apprehended together in consciousness. (8)

Dainton changes simultaneous to together, because simultaneous was misleading [this would be misleading if we were not assuming the present moment to be durationless. But Dainton might find it misleading for reasons I am missing “Note the substitution of ‘together’ for the potentially misleading ‘simultaneous’. The ‘temporal spread of content’ should be construed as neutral between theories of perception (so the content could be phenomenal or physical), and realist and anti-realist conceptions of the phenomenal present (what is apprehended could be real contents distributed over an interval of time, or merely representations of the latter).” (9)] Then Dainton combines LA1 and LA2*, which might characterize PSA.

PSA: A sequence or succession is experienced only when a temporal spread of content is apprehended together in a single momentary act of consciousness. (9)

Nonetheless PSA is problematic, as discussed above, so another model is needed. (9)

3. The Overlap Model and the A-Theory

dainton reply fig 4

[from p10 Dainton]

Dainton will now address the overlap model as Gallagher interpreted, using Gallagher’s diagrammatic rendition (fig 4). “Gallagher claims ‘If content C is presented at the end of e1, it is speciously present throughout e1’ (2003, sec.4)” This means that C is perceived a second and a half before it occurs (each e is 2 seconds long and tone C is a half second). And because C is in all the experiences, although it is half second long it is experienced for 4 seconds. Gallagher’s solution was Husserl’s retentional structure. (10)

But Gallagher misunderstood the model. (10a)

Recall Miller’s Principle of Presentational Concurrence (PPC), which says that:

the duration of a content being presented is concurrent with the duration of the act of presenting it. That is, the time interval occupied by a content which is before the mind is the very same as the time interval which is occupied by the act of presenting that very content before the mind.” (1984, 107) (sic [endquotes]Dainton p.11)

Gallagher’s version of the overlap model combines PPC with PSA. But Dainton’s overlap model takes up PPC while rejecting PSA. Thus we should remove the diagonals from Gallagher’s diagram. “brief act-phases are only aware of correspondingly brief content-phases, no act is aware of a stretch of content lasting longer than itself — and so no problem with ongoing contents.” (11)

Dainton then explains how his own writing may have led to the misunderstanding. (11)

But Gallagher’s misinterpretation of the overlap model may have as its source the “puzzling character of the phenomenal present.” (11) Recall the A-thesis, the act-content structure of consciousness. Gallagher’s diagram seems to reflect this.
dainton reply fig 4

In the diagram, ABC is apprehended together as a single whole by a continuous act of awareness e1, because this spread of contents constitutes a phenomenal present and because we are assuming that ABC is being directly apprehended by e1. (11d) Dainton then asks, “But how is any of this possible? How can temporally extended phenomena be apprehended as extended wholes in this manner? What, | precisely, is the relationship between temporally extended contents and the temporally extended phenomenal presents within which they are experienced?” (11-12)

Dainton says he deals with these questions later in his book. (12)

The A-theoretic version of the overlap model has this pseudo-problem of ongoing contents, which Gallagher takes to be the most serious problem, but there are others that result from this misconstruel. The model calls for overlapping acts of awareness and overlapping contents, and Gallagher is skeptical of both.

I don’t think [Dainton] actually means overlapping contents (p. 164). An example of an overlapping content would be if I am looking at someone as they tell me their account of consciousness and the phone rings. I see them, I hear them, and I hear the phone. This kind of thing happens constantly and is phenomenologically unproblematic, although it may be pragmatically problematic. It’s not just one damn thing after another (as Whitehead once said in regard to experience) it’s too many things at once. Rather than overlapping contents, I think Dainton means overlapping specious presents (Gallagher 2003, section 4) (Dainton 12)

Here Gallagher’s notion of overlapping contents would be for simultaneous co-conscious contents, and it is overlap by superposition, in which “two distinct things sharing a common location — where ‘location’ is construed liberally.” (12)

dainton reply fig 5
[From Dainton p 12]

This can apply to spatial but also temporal cases. Consider period P1=1850-1950 and P2=1900-2000. P1 and P2 overlap, but not like “placements lying on top of one another.” (13) The shared parts are numerically identical. [This then would seem to be overlap by sharing common parts.]

Now for overlapping acts. Gallagher:

I’m not sure what overlapping acts of awareness could mean for an individual subject. I can conceive of a temporal overlap of two or more acts of awareness in the following way. I’m sitting in my office looking at the ringing phone, for example. You walk in, hand me a piece of paper, glance at the ringing phone, and walk out. Your awareness of the ringing phone temporally and temporarily overlapped with mine. Can something like this overlap happen in one individual? (Gallagher 2003, section 4) (13)

Here the overlap is overlap by superposition, but Dainton’s overlap is by sharing common parts.

Look again at Figure 4: e1, e2 and e3 are acts of awareness which overlap in just this way. Or at least, that is how the diagram should be interpreted. The different “heights” assigned to e1, e2 and e3 should not be taken to mean these acts are entirely distinct, they aren’t, they share common parts. I can see no harm in using “overlap” to refer to these different sorts of case, provided it is clear just what kind of overlap is involved in each particular instance. (13)

4. The Overlap Model, the Simple Conception, and the Phenomenal Present

PSA presupposes the A-Thesis. But since PSA has problems, and because A-Thesis is already been shown to have its own problems, there seems to not be good enough reason to maintain the A-Thesis. Instead Dainton proposes the Simple overlap model.

According to what I call the “Simple overlap model”, the unity of consciousness over time is a product of inter-experiential relations among partially overlapping phases of a stream of consciousness. On this “Simple Conception” of consciousness, streams of experience are entirely composed of interrelated phenomenal contents, and these | contents do not need to fall under a separate act of awareness in order to be conscious. Phenomenal contents, thus construed, are intrinsically conscious entities. (13-14)

Dainton then addresses the question, “How do the contents in a single phenomenal present come to be experienced as a unified whole if they are not apprehended by a single act of awareness of the sort posited by advocates of PSA?” (14) Dainton says it is because the contents are co-conscious, “the contents in question are experienced together, as a unified ensemble” (14)

Dainton then discusses the issue of the transitivity of spatial co-consciousness but the non-transitivity of temporal moments. [We examined this from his book so we skip much here. The diagrams figs 6 and 7 explain the distinctions Dainton makes.]

dainton reply fig 6

dainton reply fig 7

[From Dainton pp15-16]

Dainton says that although the parts of the present are co-conscious, not all the parts are phenomenally simultaneous. Yet they are all equally present. [It is still not very clear how this is so. He says that earlier parts do not possess an intrinsic property that marks them as older; however somehow they are experienced as having happened at a different moment. So apparently we experience the phases at different times but we regard them phenomenally as all being present.]

The parts of a phenomenal present may be mutually co-conscious, but they are not experienced as simultaneous, for as already noted, a typical phenomenal present is a temporal field of content, e.g. a transition between two brief tones, or one tone enduring, or the seeing of a car in motion, or a combination of suchlike. But although the constituents of a phenomenal present are not experienced as simultaneous, there is also a sense in which they are all experienced as present. This may seem paradoxical, but appearances can be deceptive, and this is a case in point. Some parts of a phenomenal present are earlier than others, but the earlier parts do not possess an intrinsic property (or temporal mode of presentation) which marks them out as such — it is in this sense that they are all experienced as “present”, and this is a key difference between the overlap theory and typical anti-realisms, such as those of Broad and Husserl. If the experienced succession C-D-E includes two phenomenal presents [C-D] and [D-E], the intrinsic properties of D are the same in both (if they were not, the D in the first phenomenal present could not be numerically identical with the D in the second). (16)

But now we have another problem. If all the parts are equally present to our awareness, how is we experience them as having a direction or order? Dainton says that each moment has a flowing character [So they are all present, but all of them have the character of flow, I suppose meaning the character of flowing into one another, thus we are aware of their linear order even though they are all present.]

A further issue now comes to the fore. If contents all appear equally present as and when they occur, what accounts for the experienced direction or order that most phenomenal contents exhibit? The difficulty is all the more pressing because co-consciousness is symmetrical: if C is coconscious with D, then D is co-conscious with C. The solution, I suggest, is phenomenal character. Phenomenal contents are not just temporally extended, they also inherently dynamic, they possess a flowing character — this flow-character is an intrinsic phenomenal attribute, just like colour or timbre. It is because each of C, D and E possesses this immanent directed animation that C is experienced as flowing into D, and D into E. I stress again that we dealing here with only brief intervals, of around a second or less (cf. SoC, 131) — the overlap model is only intended as an account of our short-term, moment-to-moment, experience of temporality. But then, it is this aspect of our overall experience of time that is by far the most puzzling. 5 [ft 5: 5 Gallagher seems to find all this rather fishy: “On Dainton's view, the flow of experience is no problem at all since experience is intrinsically organized as a flow ... Thus, the problem of temporal order is also easily resolved ... One begins to wonder why Broad and Husserl were so exercised. The way things seem to be is just the way they are.” (2003, section 4) But isn't this precisely what one ought to find in phenomenology? The simplicity of the overlap model - the absence of hidden, introspectibly invisible, mechanisms - is one of its primary virtues.] (16)

Now Dainton wonders of an anti-realist might reject the notion that “as contents slip through the phenomenal present they undergo qualitative modifications, modifications which make it seem as though the contents are slipping into the past.” (16) However, “an anti-realism which combined the overlap model’s conception of the phenomenal present with the doctrine that new phenomenal presents are continually being generated, from moment to moment, would be vulnerable to the problem of repeated contents that sunk Broad’s realist theory. The overlap theory itself, of course, entirely avoids this difficulty.” (16)

Dainton now draws what would be for him a diagram of the overlap model.

dainton reply fig 8

[From p18 Dainton]

A stream of consciousness consists of partially overlapping phenomenal presents. Only three of the latter are shown in Figure 8; in reality, even for a stream as brief as this one, there would be a good many more — successive phenomenal presents being separated by just-noticeable temporal differences. The lower of the two expansions represents the manner in which the parts of the various phenomenal presents are linked by diachronic co-consciousness. The successive phenomenal presents partially overlap by sharing parts or phases, but not for long: thanks to the fact that the relation of diachronic co-consciousness is only transitive for short periods, experiences separated by more than the length of the phenomenal present are not experienced together. The same three phenomenal presents are shown in the upper expansion, the single-headed arrows show the direction in which experience seems to be flowing, this apparent directedness is a consequence of the contents of the phenomenal presents; these contents have the form of temporal fields or spreads of content possessing inherent directedness or “flow” (e.g. a ball moving to the right). (18d)

5. The Intelligibility of Overlap

Recall the Principle of Presentational Concurrence (PPC), which says that the duration of a content being presented is concurrent with the duration of the act of presenting it. Gallagher claims that the rejection of the A-thesis (the act-content structure) makes PPC meaningless. (18) But Dainton’s Simple overlap model still allows that “our consciousness of temporally extended contents runs concurrently with the contents, rather than being condensed into shorter-lasting apprehensions” (18)

Gallagher makes another complaint.

If e1, an ongoing experience, is suddenly overlapped by e2, then my overall consciousness would have a different character and it would not be a case of e2 overlapping with e1, but e1 being replaced by en (the effect of combining e1 and e2). That is, a new experience rather than two overlapping experiences would occur, because overlapping experiences cannot retain their individual phenomenal characters. When they are in sync, one sinks into the other and something new surfaces.” (Gallagher 2002, section 4) (Dainton 18)

It is not clear what sort of overlap Gallagher is describing. One kind would be the overlap of numerically distinct experiences occurring simultaneously, which can be represented (18d):


The / here represents co-conscious simultaneity. e1 persists while e2 begins. Dainton thinks Gallagher is referring to this sort of overlap.

Dainton then explains there are different kinds of experiential holism. Consider two experiential wholes with different simultaneous contents, W1 = [C, D, E] and W2 = [C, D, F]. Both have different phenomenal characters. Dainton also discusses phenomenal interdependence in which “the character of an experiential whole can impact on the intrinsic phenomenal character of its parts” (19)

Now we consider the case that is probably worrying Gallagher, where a new experience is added to a persisting experience: e1-e1/e2. (19) Gallagher says that when e2 comes into the picture, e1 ceases to exist and it is replaced by a numerically distinct experience, which Dainton gives as: e1-e1*/e2. [It is not clear to me this is what Gallagher meant. Gallagher says that when e2 overlaps with e1, they are replaced by en, which I thought meant a synthesis that is different than either part]. Dainton agrees but does not see how this threatens the intelligibility of the overlap model. (19d)

And thus: “Experiential overlap involves experiences being experienced together; the fact that the experiences in question are interdependent at the level of phenomenal character is no obstacle whatsoever to their being experienced together, or their overlapping.” (20a)

Regarding when overlap occurs over time, the same considerations apply, and Dainton concludes “phenomenal interdependence, whether local or global, is no barrier to experiences being related by co-consciousness, and hence to temporally extended experiences partially overlapping.” (20)

Dainton then discusses at length something puzzling about diachronic overlap, referring again to discussions in chapter 9 of his book SoC. (20)

6. Phenomenological Adequacy: The Overlap Model Augmented

Dainton then addresses one of Gallagher’s phenomenological objections.

if I try to find overlapping experiences phenomenologically, it seems just as problematic as trying to find reified retentions and protentions appearing in the flow. Dainton’s criticism of Husserl seems to apply equally to his own analysis in this regard. Perhaps my defense of Husserl would work equally as a defense of Dainton: overlapping experiences are simply descriptive abstractions. In contrast to Husserl’s description, however, according to which I can say that when I hear a piece of music my experience is that I seem to retain the sense of previous notes in the melody and anticipate what is to come next, I find it difficult to say that when I hear a piece of music the current note seems to overlap with previous and future notes. In the overlap model, for example, it’s not clear why, in a sequence of auditory experiences (or phases of experience) a1- a2- a3-a4, the fact that experience a3 is just prior to a4, or that there is an overlap between a2- a3 and a3- a4, explains or describes anything about the phenomenal character of anticipating the continuing melody at any moment of the experience. (Gallagher 2003, section 4) (Dainton 21)

Dainton observes “One of Gallagher’s concerns here is that he cannot detect any overlapping of experiences within his own consciousness. I suspect Gallagher’s worry may stem from his construing overlap in terms of superposition, rather than its being a matter of possession of common parts.” (21)

dainton reply fig 9

[From Dainton p.21]

Dainton’s overlap is by sharing common parts. Thus there is no problem of doubling.

Dainton thinks that the overlap by sharing has a discernible phenomenal character, namely, the character of running into a successor. This does not mean that the content will be heard twice.

Of course, the question remains: does the sort of overlap shown on the right have a discernible phenomenological character? The answer is unambiguously “Yes”. Suppose you hear a succession A-B-C; you hear A-running-into-B, and B-running-into-C. Since you hear [B] only once, we can immediately conclude that the experiencing of [B] in the earlier phenomenal present is numerically identical with the experiencing of [B] in the later phenomenal present, and hence that you have just experienced two phenomenal presents that overlapped by virtue of possessing a common part. This identity not just a reasonable inference, it is directly apprehended: the [B] that you experience [A] running-into is one and the same experience as the [B] that you experience running-into [C]. This overlap structure is not, I concede, immediately obvious. We find it most natural to think of ourselves as simply experiencing A-flowing-into-B-flowing-into-C. The fact that this extended experience consists of overlapping phenomenal presents only becomes apparent after some reflection and introspective experimentation, but once thus equipped, the existence of overlap- structures within our ordinary experience becomes obvious. More generally, if we accept the overlap model, then we are all continually aware of experiential overlaps, for it is these overlap which are directly responsible for the experienced continuity of our streams of consciousness. These overlaps do not produce noticeable alterations in experience of the sort Gallagher seems to require — and which might naively be expected if distinct experiences could overlap in the manner of sheets of glass, which when overlapping affect the appearance of what can be seen through them — but, as I hope is now very clear, the overlap model does not posit this sort of overlap. (22)

Another complaint of Gallagher’s is that Dainton’s model is missing the phenomena of retentional and protentional awareness, which our experiences show to exist. (22)

Dainton admits his model does not explain these other aspects of time consciousness, but also he notes he never meant it to do so. He merely wanted to explain the flow.

To this charge I plead guilty. The overlap theory only offers an account of the most elementary aspect of temporal experience, the immediate experience of change and duration in sensory experience, over short intervals of time. There are, of course, additional ingredients or levels in our everyday experience of temporality, some of which are mentioned by Gallagher. But then, I did not claim to be providing a complete account of time-consciousness, in all its multi-faceted complexity. As I indicated right at the outset (SoC, pp.xv-xvi), I was attempting only to provide an account of the most basic structures of streams of consciousness, structures that might also be found in creatures not equipped with conceptual abilities, creatures whose consciousness is restricted to sensory experience of the most basic kinds. (22)

Dainton then describes the non-elementary aspects of temporal experience and he says they do not pose a problem for the overlap theory. (23d. see 24 for list)

Dainton will discuss the non-elementary aspects.

(B) Non-Elementary Aspects:

(B1) Conscious thoughts and conscious acts.

(B2) Memory and Imagination

(B3) Non-sensory “fringe”  consciousness (23)

B1. Conscious thoughts like “when have I heard this melody before” are “easily accommodated in the overlap theory, for they are merely contents in the stream of consciousness, and when temporally extended (some thoughts appear momentary, or close to it) they are distributed across overlapping phenomenal presents in precisely the same way as extended contents.” (23)

B1 continued. The same holds for conscious acts, such as volition, mental activities, wishes, fearing etc.

B2. Memories are felt when we have conscious thoughts of the past. Memory also allows us to replay our past experiences, and our past sensory reproductions can accompany our present ones. (24a) The replay can be either involuntary or voluntary.

B3. Fringe aspects of conscious are non-sensory, “it lacks distinctive qualities of a sensory kind, but it nonetheless possesses a definite (if not always very detailed) content or meaning of its own, one which is clearly manifest in consciousness.”  (24). James uses this word, also halo, psychic overtone, feelings of tendency, and suffusion. “Intuitive feeling” is a little better. For example,

Think of what it is like see someone and know that you have seen them before, but can’t remember when or where: there is a strong feeling of conviction, a feeling that in itself has no sensory features, but nonetheless has a definite sense or meaning: “I’ve seen that person before!” (24)

The fringe explains what we take to be retentions and protentions.

Once the existence and importance of the fringe is recognized, the forwards- and backwards- oriented aspects of consciousness in question can be seen for what they generally are: products of present feeling. At the purely sensory level, the experienced continuity of consciousness is produced by overlapping temporally extended experiences whose contents are inherently dynamic. This sensory continuity is typically accompanied by (or infused with) fringe feelings of rightness and familiarity, feelings which provide us with the reassuring sense that thin are proceeding as they should, that how things are now is in line with how they were moments ago. (25)

Dainton continues to elaborate on fringe feelings by examining passages by William James.

We should not overstate the importance of fringe in James. Mangen did this by saying the steam metaphor was not for the dynamic flowing character of experience but rather to emphasize fringe. (26)

Dainton does not think that fringe experience explains the continuity of consciousness. (26)

Think again of listening to a melody: each note may be accompanied by a dying echo of what preceded it and a dawning sense of what will follow, but each note also has its own dynamic sonic character, each note consists of a flow of sensory quality, a flow which also carries one note over into its successor — and this flow could exist largely unchanged in the absence of its subtle halo of fringe feeling. (26)

Dainton then shows a diagram to explain how fringe and co-conscious overlapping flow are enmeshed. (26)

dainton reply fig 10

[Image from p27 of Dainton]

But perhaps the fringe elements are separate.

dainton reply fig 11

[Image from p28of Dainton]

But in instances like meditation one might have fringe feelings that are “ wholly non-temporal in phenomenal character” . Dainton diagrams this too.

dainton reply fig 12

[From p28 of Dainton]

7. Husserl

Gallagher thinks that Dainton was wrong about Broad’s early view resembling Husserl’s later and vice versa. Dainton thinks it still stands that Broad shifts from realism to anti-realism and Husserl vice versa. (29-30)

It is certain that “until  around 1908-1909 Husserl subscribed to an anti-realist view of the phenomenal present.” [Meaning the non-immediately present contents or acts are present only as representations] (30)

[Dainton here seems to continue the claim that Husserl’s models of the now phases of consciousness are momentary, even though Gallagher showed this to be untrue of both early and later Husserl.] Dainton says that regarding later Broad’s model, “in one key respect his view of the phenomenal present was similar to Husserl’s: it consists of a momentary (and so simultaneous) collection of contents, which appear to stretch from the present into the resent past. And so, as with the early Husserl, the scope of direct awareness is confined to the momentary present.” (30)

Husserl later (1907-9) recognizes the problems with his earlier anti-realist view. (30)

Retentions are not presently-occurring representations. Rather, they provide us with direct unmediated access to the past. (30)

But this returns us to the problem of repeated contents. (31)

Dainton will now argue that Husserl’s now point is momentary. Dainton points to a quote by Miller that Gallagher thinks describes accurately Husserl’s time consciousness [that can be read either to suggest Husserl’s time is momentary or continuous. It is not clear why Dainton is relying on a Miller quote instead of a Husserl one as defense for his claim. It is also unclear why Dainton does not address the unequivocal quotes by Husserl which state the now is not momentary]:

“An awareness of succession derives from simultaneous features of the structure of that  awareness ... A continuous awareness of a tone as  enduring must involve an awareness of (at least) some temporally extended part of the tone at any given instant of that awareness” (Miller, 1984, p.109). (Dainton 31)

Dainton notes that the now can be both momentary and continuous. (32)

Dainton thinks that

Husserl always took the view that momentary acts and cross-sections were dependent parts (or “moments”) of extended phases of consciousness, and so could not exist in isolation, but that they nonetheless perform real functions within extended acts, one such being the delivery of momentary primal impressions. (32)

Dainton thought that descriptions of momentariness in Husserl were descriptive abstractions and thus misrepresentations. (32)

Dainton thinks that the momentariness of primal impressions is more than a descriptive abstraction.

Although Husserl insisted that retentions and protentions are themselves impressional modes of consciousness (unlike re-productive memory and ordinary anticipations — see the quote above), he also insisted — in both his early and later accounts — that primal impressions are “originally | present” in a way that retentions and protentions are not. As a consequence, change and duration cannot possibly be experienced with the same immediacy as colour and shape, the latter being features which can be apprehended in primal impressions. The overlap theory, by contrast, begins by positing extended phenomenal presents, all of whose constituents possess the same raw immediacy, and so faces none of these difficulties. (32)

8. Intentionalism

Later Husserl switches to realism. So we directly perceive the past. But if momentary phases of the stream directly apprehend the past then there is the problem of repeated contents. Dainton said that Husserl did not have a clear solution, but Gallagher thinks he did. Gallagher describes a purely intentional theory in Husserl. Retentions retain intentional contents and not real contents. (33)

But there are problems with the purely intentional model. When we strip temporal experience of sonsory elements it solves the lingering contents problem, but it makes our stream of consciousness “too thin, too transparent, too ethereal.” (33a)

Dainton believes that while there is a non-sensory element of our experience of temporality, there is as well a sensory element. (34)

This strong form of intentionalism regards protentions, retentions and as well primal impressions as lacking sensory meaning contents. There is weaker form, “partial intentionalism”, that says primal impressions have both noetic and a sensory components.

This does not solve the problem, however, because it makes the sensory content limited to momentary sensation-slices. (34d)

This can have the problem of explaining the relation of moments with their neighbors. (35) The overlap theory is able to explain how we are continuously aware of succession. (35)

9. Intentionalism and Husserl

Dainton continues looking into Husserl’s intentional theory, examining more closely the development of Husserl’s thought in this regard.

At one point in this development Husserl seems to have taking up a view similar to the Simple Conception. (38)

Dainton, Barry. “Time in Experience: Reply to Gallagher”, Psyche 9 (12), 2003.

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