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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Is there a ‘Specious Present’?


According to the doctrine of the ‘specious present’ the content of conscious experience comprises a brief but extended interval of time, not just an instant. One standard argument for this view appeals to the fact that change always takes time. In this paper I suggest that this argument is a poor one; it conflates the properties of the stimulus with the properties of the experience. I then outline a simple way in which certain kinds of change could be experienced even if experience did not have a temporally extended content. I stop short of arguing directly against the specious present however; my aim here is more to challenge the argument than to challenge its conclusion.

Insights Paper