How Long is Now? A New Perspective on the Specious Present

  • 1 Durham University,


What is the Specious Present? Which is its duration? And why, ultimately, do we need it to figure in our phenomenological account of temporal perception? In this paper, after introducing the role of the Specious Present in the main models that account for our phenomenological present, and after considering the deflationary objection by Dennett (that the debate relies on the fallacy of the Cartesian Theatre of Mind, the idea that it is meaningful to ask where and when an experience becomes conscious), I claim—thanks to a spatial analogy—that there could be a good criterion to distinguish between a present experience and a past experience, that there are good reasons to sustain the Specious Present (while snapshots are in no sense part of our phenomenological life), and that there could be a precise way to define the nature—and to measure the duration—of the Specious Present; as I will clarify, our capability and possibility to act and react are central in this perspective. If we accept this change of perspective, there is a definite sense in which the Specious Present is part of our temporal phenomenology.

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