Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Tye on the Specious Present

Central Claim (CC): Represented order has no connection with the order of representations (p. 93).

E.g., I can say that I have an experience of red following an experience of green. In that representation, the order of "red" and "green" need not mirror the order of the experiences of red and green.

The Central Claim is incompatible with the Principle of Presentational Concurrence (PPC): The duration of a content being presented is concurrent with the act of presenting it (p. 90).

Tye uses the CC in his rejection of standard arguments against overlapping specious presents:

The Standard Argument:
1. Imagine a single click that occurs at a time during which specious present a and specious present b overlap.
2. The single click is experienced twice, since it occurs in two specious presents.
3. (2) Contradicts our experience in such a situation of experiencing only a single click, so the idea of overlapping specious presents is false.

Tye's Reply:
Premise (2) involves an equivocation between acts of experiencing the click and the content of those acts. While it is true that two acts of experiencing the click take place (at different times), their representational content is the same: they both represent a click as occurring at a particular time. So there is only one experienced click.

Tye's New Argument Against Overlapping Specious Presents
1. Mere overlap of contents does not generate unity of content (if I sing do-re and you sing re-mi so that we overlap in our acts of singing, we do not thereby generate a singing of do-re-mi [p. 94]).
2. Overlapping specious presents involve mere overlap of contents.
3. So overlapping specious presents do not generate unity of content.

At the end of the chapter, Tye makes the puzzling claim that if I were to fall asleep immediately after hearing do-re and then wake to hear mi, I have no experience of the succession of re by mi. Why not? It can surely seem to me as if re is followed by mi, especially if I don't realize that I have dozed off. He says that there are two token experiences in this case, separated by the lapse in consciousness. But why should the number of token experiences matter for how we understand the represented content?

At t1 I have the content of do followed by re. Then I fall asleep at t2 until t3. At t3 I awake to hear mi, and I then have the content of do followed by re followed by mi. I experience their succession.

The unity Tye is interested in concerns the content of the representations, not the acts of representing.

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