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Bolly Anueisen
Simon Fiasei 0niveisity
holly_anueisensfu.ca



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The teim "specious piesent" was intiouuceu to philosophy anu psychology
by William }ames, in his influential !"#$%#&'() +, !)-%.+'+/- (189u). The specious
piesent uoctiine, as it is often iefeiieu to, is the view that we expeiience the piesent
moment as nonpunctate, as having some shoit but nonzeio uuiation. It can be
illustiateu by compaiing oui expeiience of the 'now' oi piesent moment with the
way the piesent is iepiesenteu on a timeline. Nathematically oi physically, the
piesent can be iepiesenteu by a single point on a timeline sepaiating past fiom
futuie, moving along the line fiom the past towaius the futuie. Such a piesent
moment has no uuiation. In contiast, the tempoial chaiactei of oui expeiience at
least &"#01 ,1%#( seems to span some uuiation, one that might iange fiom as shoit
as seveial hunuieu milliseconus to, as }ames thought, as long as 12 seconus oi moie.
Peiception of motion is fiequently offeieu as a justification foi the specious
piesent uoctiine. Notion iequiies some nonzeio amount of time in which to take
place. We peiceive many kinus of motion 1) 0+2#+$, iathei than peiceiving static
successive locations of objects anu infeiiing motion fiom them. Peiceptual
uiffeiences with uiffeient iates of motion highlight the tempoial span of expeiience.
Notion that is extiemely fast, foi instance, may not appeai as motion at all. We see
movies as continuous, even though they aie compiiseu of changing static images; we
see oveily fast motion as simply a blui oi a line. At the othei enu of the iange,
motion that is extiemely slow uoesn't peiceptually appeai to be motion at all. The
movement of the houi hanu of a clock is not peiceptible by simply looking at it. In
oiuei to notice that it has moveu, we have to compaie its cuiient position to a
pievious position that we iemembei iathei than peiceive. Within a ceitain iange of
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iate of change, though, we peiceive motion 1) motion, iathei than infeiiing that
motion has taken place. This must mean, the ieasoning goes, that oui expeiience of
time was sufficiently extenueu as to incluue a poition of that movement.
The way in which the specious piesent is uesciibeu can sounu self-
contiauictoiy. It involves attiibuting to the expeiience at a given moment of
consciousness contents that must span some non-zeio inteival of physical time. It
can be unueistoou to take expeiience to be punctate anu simply incluue
nonpunctate contents; moie iealistically, though, it takes expeiience to both incluue
nonpunctate content anu to uo so in a way that is both spieau ovei some iange of
time anu yet still 'piesent' in some sense of the woiu. Anu even though the iuea is
that we peiceive these contents at the same time, punctate oi not, we uo not
peiceive them as simultaneous. Wilfiiu Sellais calleu this "an incoheient
combination of liteial simultaneity anu liteial successiveness" (1982, 2S2).
Whethei oi not the specious piesent uoctiine ultimately tuins out to be self-
contiauictoiy, it iaises a vaiiety of intiiguing challenges anu questions foi oui
unueistanuing of time itself, of tempoial awaieness specifically, foi consciousness in
geneial, anu foi the connection between expeiience anu the physical piocesses that
give iise to them. Bo we ieally expeiience the piesent as tempoially extenueu, oi
aie fiist peison iepoits to this effect somehow misguiueu oi false. Is the
uisciepancy between expeiienceu anu iepiesenteu time meiely appaient, oi aie
they genuinely in conflict. What implications uoes this uisciepancy have foi oui
epistemic positions with iespect to time itself, oi foi finuing the physical piocesses
unueipinning tempoial expeiience. Nany of these questions come uown to what
may be the piimaiy oveiaiching questions on which the specious piesent uoctiine
beais: the tempoial extent of the %+$2($2 of consciousness, the tempoial extent of
1%2) of consciousness, anu how these two tempoial extents compaie with one
anothei.
}ames' intiouuction of the specious piesent uoctiine spawneu a wiue iange
of philosophical anu scientific uiscussions, some of which enuoise the nonpunctate
natuie of tempoial expeiience, some of which pioblematize it, anu some of which
take it foi gianteu anu apply it (see, #$2(" 1'#1, Bioau 192S; Le Poiveuin 1999;
S
Bainton 2uu1; uiush 2uuS; Kelly 2uuS; 0aklanuei 2uu2). Theie is an alieauy-stiong
anu giowing tienu to attempt to giounu Busseilian phenomenology of time
consciousness in vaiious aspects of cognitive science (see, #$2(" 1'#1, uallaghei 1997;
vaiela 1999; Lutz anu Thompson 2uuS; uiush 2uu6). Even Busseil's
phenomenological analysis was stimulateu by his ieauing of }ames on this point. It is
haiu to oveiestimate the ielevance of the specious piesent uoctiine in philosophy of
time anu tempoial consciousness.
This uoctiine has ioots stietching fai back into Biitish empiiicism. The
histoiical uevelopment of the specious piesent uoctiine is iich giounu to mine in
oiuei to answei, oi iefiame, questions about the natuie of oui tempoial expeiience
anu the constiaints it places on the kinu of physical piocesses that coulu giounu it.
The pioblems with which philosopheis stiuggleu, anu that gave iise to uiffeient
views on what the expeiienceu piesent moment might be, aie ieflecteu in the
contempoiaiy uebate. Theie aie multiple uistinct ways in which one coulu cash out
what piecisely a 'thick piesent' looks like in this histoiy, with uiffeient implications
foi both oui expeiience of the piesent specifically, anu foi conscious expeiience
moie bioauly. This means that the histoiy of thinking on tempoial expeiience is not
only (as it tuins out) inteiesting in its own iight, it can also eniich contempoiaiy
investigations on these points.


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Theie aie seveial iecuiiing themes as we tiace uistinct lines of influence on
}ames' uevelopment of the specious piesent uoctiine (which aie also, not
coinciuentally, impoitant influences on the uevelopment of Busseil's
phenomenology of innei time consciousness). In what follows, I will tiace out these
lines of influence, highlighting the evolution of foui themes thiough a numbei of
uiffeient thinkeis. These themes aie closely inteiconnecteu, but each highlights a
uistinct facet oi element of a philosophical position such that the position beais on
the question of the tempoial extent of the expeiienceu piesent.
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The fiist theme is a uistinction between a stiict oi philosophical veisus a
'vulgai' oi populai conception of the piesent. In the stiict oi philosophical sense, the
piesent moment is punctate, even thought it may not appeai to be so. If one weie to
auvocate a stiict notion of the piesent in expeiience, one woulu neeu to then explain
why oui expeiience of it is illusoiy, since it phenomenologically seems to
encompass at least some shoit uuiation (see theme S below foi an example of such
an explanation). The 'vulgai' conception of the piesent, so nameu because it is
utilizeu by those not immeiseu in philosophical thinking, applies the teim 'piesent'
to an extenueu peiiou of time. Sometimes this is a veiy extenueu peiiou of time,
such as the piesent yeai oi piesent eia, anu sometimes it iefeis to a shoitei peiiou
that is specifically unueistoou to be peiceptual in chaiactei.
The seconu theme conceins the uivision of laboi between peiception anu
memoiy. Foi philosopheis such as Reiu, the piesent moment, in expeiience anu out
of it, must be punctate, anu anything else that might mistakenly be asciibeu to the
piesent moment in expeiience must actually be the woik of memoiy. This is
because Reiu, anu otheis like Stewait who follow him in this iegaiu, aie committeu
to views about consciousness that aie incompatible with expeiience genuinely
encompassing a nonzeio uuiation. Wheie piecisely a given philosophei uiaws the
line between peiception anu memoiy is a function of the theoiy of consciousness
being auvocateu; allowing foi a nonzeio uuiation to the piesent moment in
expeiience places iestiictions on the kinus of theoiies of consciousness one can
enuoise. Claiming that we only peiceive the stiict piesent foiceu Stewait, foi
instance, to iely on attention as a supplement to peiception. As such, we can leain a
gieat ueal about theoiies of consciousness fiom claims about wheie peiception
enus anu memoiy begins.
The thiiu theme is the question of whethei tempoial expeiience shoulu be
tieateu as some kinu of faculty foi sensing a peculiai soit of object. Consciousness
incluues, foi many authois to be uiscusseu heie, a faculty foi peiceiving objects in
the woilu, wheie those faculties uelivei theii objects impeifectly. In vision, foi
instance, we have limiteu spatial iesolution with the nakeu eye, anu must iely on
enhancing uevices such as micioscopes to make spatial uisciiminations beyonu a
S
ceitain iange. Analogously, the piesent moment in expeiience is unueistoou by
some to 'ieally' be punctate, anu only appeai somewhat extenueu because oui time
sense has a limiteu iesolution capacity. If we hau a time sense aiu, like a tempoial
micioscope, we coulu uisciiminate inuefinitely smallei units of time.
The fouith anu final theme is closely connecteu to each of the pievious thiee.
Those pie-}ames authois who most cleaily espouse something akin to the specious
piesent uoctiine uo so as a consequence of enuoising a paiticulai iuea about
consciousness: namely, that to be conscious at all iequiies some kinu of change oi
contiast. 0ne coulu take such contiast to be sufficiently pioviueu by simultaneous
awaieness of two uiffeient objects; in that case, theie aie no tempoial iequiiements
on consciousness. Bowevei, the common view on this is that the contiast oi change
shoulu be between states of consciousness: a change between one note anu anothei
note in a song, foi instance. Anytime we aie awaie of a change, it is ,"+0 one
peiception 2+ anothei. If such a successive contiast oi change is iequiieu to be
conscious of anything at all, then theie is a tempoial iequiiement on consciousness
- it must span at least two such moments in oiuei foi a change to be noticeable.


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}ames ueuicates an entiie chaptei in !"#$%#&'() +, !)-%.+'+/- (189u) to "The
Peiception of Time." In this chaptei, he piesents an aiiay of phenomena that aie
pait of the chaiactei of tempoial expeiience to be investigateu by anu accounteu foi
in psychology. Be offeis seveial aiguments to the effect that consciousness must
span a peiiou of time, each of which continues at least one of the foui themes
piesenteu eailiei. The fiist such aigument is that consciousness woulu shiink to a
tiny point, anu leave too much "in total uaikness" (ibiu., 6u6), if it uiu not have some
tempoial uepth. }ames uesciibes the stiict piesent, a point with no extension, as
only an iueal, in the way that a peifectly iounu ciicle woulu be an iueal. We concluue
it exists only because we think it must, not because we evei actually expeiience it.
Insteau of being conscious of oi in a single instant of time, }ames says, we
expeiience a wiuei expanse of time as piesent.
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In shoit, the piactically cognizeu piesent is no knife-euge, but a sauule-back,
with a ceitain bieauth of its own on which we sit peicheu, anu fiom which we
look in two uiiections into time. The unit of composition of oui peiception of
time is a uuiation, with a bow anu a stein, as it weiea ieaiwaiu- anu a
foiwaiu-looking enu. (189u, 6u9)

The specious piesent is intiouuceu as a uesciiption of the actually expeiienceu (as
opposeu to iuealizeu anu abstiact) piesent. }ames quotes a long passage fiom an
authoi he enigmatically anu misleauingly iefeis to as E.R. Clay. The passage, in its
entiiety, is:
The ielation of expeiience to time has not been piofounuly stuuieu. Its objects
aie given as being of the piesent, but the pait of time iefeiieu to by the uatum
is a veiy uiffeient thing fiom the conteiminous of the past anu futuie which
philosophy uenotes by the name Piesent. The piesent to which the uatum
iefeis is ieally a pait of the past - a iecent past - uelusively given as being a
time that inteivenes between the past anu the futuie. Let it be nameu the
specious piesent, anu let the past, that is given as being the past, be known as
the obvious past. All the notes of a bai of a song seem to the listenei to be
containeu in the piesent. All the changes of place of a meteoi seem to the
beholuei to be containeu in the piesent. At the instant of the teimination of
such seiies, no pait of the time measuieu by them seems to be a past. Time,
then, consiueieu ielatively to human appiehension, consists of foui paits, viz.,
the obvious past, the specious piesent, the ieal piesent, anu the futuie.
0mitting the specious piesent, it consists of thiee . nonentities - the past,
which uoes not exist, the futuie, which uoes not exist, anu theii conteiminous,
the piesent; the faculty fiom which it pioceeus lies to us in the fiction of the
specious piesent. (}ames 189u, 6u9; taken fiom |anonymousj 1882, 167-8)

This passage is the uefinitive piesentation of the specious piesent uoctiine, along
with the eailiei passage fiom }ames about the sauule of the piesent.
A point to note heie, which will be followeu up in a latei section, is that
}ames' piesentation of the expeiienceu piesent in this chaptei is not accompanieu
by a uesciiption of what he takes expeiience in geneial to be like. In oiuei to finu
how }ames conceives of expeiience, of which the expeiience of the piesent is one
element (albeit a veiy impoitant one), one has to look eailiei in !"#$%#&'(). This is
ielevant because the uesciiption }ames pioviues of the specious uoctiine in the
chaptei "Peiception of Time" coulu potentially be unueistoou in a numbei of
incompatible ways if one weie to only ieau that chaptei. 0ne might take }ames to be
saying that expeiience itself comes in instantaneous elements, each incluuing
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content that spans a longei peiiou of time than the act of consciousness itself. 0i,
one coulu unueistanu him to say that both the content of expeiience, anu the vehicle
of expeiience itself, come in longei units than meie instants. In oiuei to see how
}ames auvocates the lattei iathei than the foimei view, one neeus to consiuei the
othei things }ames says about expeiience in !"#$%#&'(), especially conceining the
stieam of thought anu consciousness of self.
0ntil quite iecently, scholais wiiting about the specious piesent weie foiceu
to simply iepeat }ames' citation foi the authoi of the passage quoteu in !"#$%#&'()
(Neyeis 1971; Plumei 198S; Pockett 2uuS; Bainton 2uu6). Theie weie no iecoius
of an authoi matching the name 'E.R. Clay'. This effectively piecluueu ieseaich into
the oiigin of this iuea, oi into the othei things its oiiginal authoi might have saiu on
the mattei.
It tuins out that theie is no such peison as 'E.R. Clay', anu the book fiom
which }ames took this passage was publisheu anonymously. E. Robeit Kelly was a
cigai manufactuiei in Boston who appaiently ietiieu eaily anu hau a stiong
amateui inteiest in philosophy. 3.( 4'2("$12#5(6 4 7289- #$ !)-%.+'+/- (1882) was
his sole contiibution to the fielu, anu it beais the hallmaiks of someone who was
enthusiastic about philosophy but not wiuely ieau in it. Robeit Kelly's son, Eumunu
Kelly, was a piominent Socialist aiounu the tuin of the centuiy in the New Englanu
aiea. Eumunu Kelly was fiienus with }ames, which is most likely the way }ames
enueu up with a copy of the book (uilbeit 1972).
Kelly's book was motivateu, as he claims in his intiouuctoiy chapteis, by a
concein that Positivism hau somehow foiceu Common Sense philosophy to give up
tenable positions only because these positions hau not yet been sufficiently well-
aiticulateu. Bis aim was to pioviue a seiies of philosophical uefinitions of teims that
woulu iestoie Common Sense to its iightful philosophical giounu. Kelly's
unueistanuing of Common Sense philosophy, baseu on his own iefeiences, came
piimaiily fiom Sii William Bamilton, of whom Kelly wiites in aweu tones.
While many of the uefinitions pioviueu by Kelly aie awkwaiu, he uoes make
seveial inteiesting points iegaiuing tempoial expeiience beyonu the passage
quoteu by }ames. Foi instance, Kelly thinks that the specious piesent allows foi oui
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expeiience of motion, anu as a iesult, that we must uiaw a uistinction between
'paiauoxic' anu 'anti-paiauoxic' expeiience. Paiauoxic expeiience occuis when the
object of expeiience uoes not, oi coulu not, exist as expeiienceu. Any expeiience of
tempoially extenueu things as tempoially extenueu - a tiill of notes in a song, the
flight of a biiu, the tiail of a meteoi - is paiauoxic, because such objects uo not exist
at any given moment of expeiience anu by uefinition, movement iequiies time
uuiing which to occui. Yet we expeiience them both as occuiiing now, anu as taking
time. Theiefoie, Kelly concluueu, the expeiience itself is paiauoxic. Inteiestingly,
once such paiauoxic expeiience is completely past, it ieveits to being anti-paiauoxic
expeiience, veiiuical expeiience of existent objects. We genuinely expeiienc(9 the
movement of genuinely moving things, but only once both movement anu
expeiience aie no longei piesent; we cannot expeiience such things veiiuically as
they occui.
}ames' mis-citation of Kelly's book, whethei intenueu to pieseive Kelly's
anonymity oi simply uone by mistake, hau the unfoitunate consequence of
obscuiing the ieal souices fiom which }ames uiew foi his chaptei "The Peiception
of Time." In the same section of the same chaptei as the Kelly quote, }ames also citeu
Shauwoith Bougson, although the Bougson passage is ielegateu to the footnotes.
Bougson, as we'll see shoitly, maue almost exactly the same point as Kelly iegaiuing
oui expeiience of the piesent, anu gave it a similai name - the 'empiiic piesent.' The
passage }ames citeu in the bouy of the chaptei containeu an aiguably moie concise
piesentation of the uoctiine, anu motivateu it with the contiast between the
expeiienceu anu the mathematizeu piesent. It also hau a somewhat catchiei name.
This placement uoes not, howevei, inuicate much of inteiest iegaiuing the
uevelopment of the novel uoctiine of the specious piesent. Foi that, we must look to
Bougson, anu to the bianu of empiiicism known as Scottish Common Sense, wheie
psychologically-oiienteu philosopheis hau alieauy iecognizeu the significance of
tempoial uuiation foi consciousness.


E? /0(,,13" F(**(+ /#+3#
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The woik of Kant anu Bume on time anu expeiience has been wiuely
examineu. It tuins out, howevei, that theie was a lively anu ongoing uiscussion
conceining expeiience anu its tempoial chaiacteiistics in the Scottish Common
Sense tiauition, fiom Thomas Reiu, thiough Bugalu Stewait anu Thomas Biown,
anu up thiough Sii William Bamilton. }ames uiew libeially fiom these psychologist-
philosopheis in wiiting !"#$%#&'(), as uiu both Kelly anu Bougson (see below), the
two inuepenuent inventois of the uoctiine of the specious piesent.
Locke (169u) aigues that knowleuge comes only fiom peiception oi
ieflection. Be applieu this foimula in oiuei to explain, among othei things, how we
aiiive at oui iueas of uuiation anu succession. We come to oui iuea of uuiation by
ieflecting on oui iueas which themselves have some uuiation; likewise, we come to
oui iuea of succession by ieflecting on the succession of iueas in oui minus. In the
context of a chaptei on memoiy, Thomas Reiu takes aim at Locke's account. Be uoes
not challenge the backgiounu view of knowleuge as ueiiveu solely fiom peiception
anu ieflection, but iathei challenges the path Locke chaits fiom ieflection to
knowleuge of uuiation anu succession. Reiu (1786) makes two points of inteiest to
us heie. The fiist conceins the feasibility of using the succession of iueas as a means
of coming to unueistanu uuiation. Reiu poses a uilemma foi Locke: eithei 1) the
iueas that constitute the succession have uuiation themselves, oi 2) they uo not
have uuiation. If they lack uuiation (2), then they can't constitute a succession -
they woulu simply be simultaneous, lacking uistance between them. If, on the othei
hanu, they hau uuiation (1) so as to constitute a succession, then a single iuea woulu
still have uuiation, even though it is not a succession. Eithei way, we coulu not ieach
the iuea of uuiation fiom the succession of iueas.
ii

The seconu point Reiu iaises is that Locke's account piesupposes memoiy as
a pieiequisite foi being capable of ieflecting on iueas anu theii succession in oui
minus. We coulu not notice that oui iueas succeeueu one anothei in time unless we
weie able to iemembei a pievious iuea anu compaie it to a cuiient, uistinct, iuea.
This point is not a ciiticism of Locke pei se, othei than peihaps as a ciiticism foi
neglecting to mention that memoiy is also iequiieu in oiuei to ieach oui iueas of
succession anu uuiation. But Reiu's emphasis on this point touches on seveial of the
1u
themes explicateu in section 2. In oiuei to ieach knowleuge of succession anu
uuiation via the succession anu uuiation of iueas, consciousness itself must have
ceitain chaiacteiistics that enable us to holu fast to multiple iueas sepaiateu in time
fiom one anothei, anu to compaie these iueas to one anothei.
Reiu's positing of memoiy as playing the iole of holuing onto an immeuiately
piioi iuea in oiuei to compaie it to its successoi is a consequence of how Reiu
uiviues up the ioles that peiception anu memoiy can fill, anothei theme fiom
section 2. Reiu uiaws a uistinction between the vulgai oi ciuue, anu stiict oi
philosophical, ways of speaking about the piesent. This is one of the veiy fiist
occasions on which the issue of the tempoial span of expeiience is explicitly iaiseu,
although Reiu's view is that the actual span of expeiience is zeio.
. Philosopheis anu the vulgai uiffei in the meaning they put on upon what is
calleu the &"()($2 time, anu aie theieby leu to make a uiffeient limit between
sense anu memoiy.

Philosopheis give the name of the &"()($2 to that inuivisible point of time,
which uiviues the futuie fiom the past: but the vulgai finu it moie convenient
in the affaiis of life, to give the name of piesent to a poition of time, which
extenus moie oi less, accoiuing to ciicumstances, into the past oi the futuie.
(178S, S48)

Thus, on Reiu's account we cannot peiceive succession at all - we can &("%(#5( a
single instantaneous slice of a succession anu "(0(0:(" the iest. This uistinction
between the ciuue oi vulgai conception of the piesent anu the stiict oi
philosophical conception of the piesent staits with Reiu but will change iathei
uiamatically by the time it ieaches }ames. In Reiu's veision of it, the vulgai usage of
the piesent is not confineu to anything that is necessaiily &("%(&281' in chaiactei -
Reiu mentions the vulgai iefeiiing to the piesent week oi the piesent yeai. This
uistinction will subsequently become peiceptual in chaiactei: the vulgai conception
of the piesent will be the uuiation uuiing which objects of peiception appeai to be
piesent.
Reiu acknowleuges that it ceitainly seems to us as if we peiceive successions
uiiectly. Be accounts foi this by analogy to vision anu the 0#$#080 5#)#:#'(. Theie is
a smallest spatial size that we aie capable of peiceptually uisceining as a iesult of
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limiteu sensoiy abilities, even though theie aie in fact smallei spatial aieas.
Similaily, theie is a smallest tempoial uuiation we aie capable of uisceining, even
though tempoial uuiations themselves come in inuefinitely smallei units. 0ui
expeiience of the piesent moment is actually punctate, but we aie unable to
iecognize this because we cannot uiscein sufficiently shoit tempoial inteivals.
This iuea of the limiteu tempoial iesolution of peiception, the thiiu theme
uiscusseu in section 2, is taken up again by Bugalu Stewait (1792). Stewait followeu
Reiu in the Scottish Common Sense tiauition anu elaboiateu many of Reiu's
positions, iesponuing to ciiticisms anu potential pioblems that hau aiisen with
iespect to Reiu's woik. Stewait took the analogy with the 0#$#080 5#)#:#'( even
fuithei than Reiu hau. Stewait uesciibeu how we aie capable of uisceining spatial
objects only uown to a ceitain size. Bowevei, with the aiu of a micioscope, we can
see that spatial uisciiminations can be maue much moie finely. If we hau, he
suimiseu, something like a tempoial micioscope, we woulu be able to uiscein
inuefinitely smallei tempoial inteivals (1792, 61). As such, the implication goes,
theie is nothing special oi piivilegeu about the featuies of expeiience that suggest a
given tempoial uuiation to the piesent moment - it is simply a function of how
shoit-sighteu we aie, so to speak, with iespect to time.
0ne of Stewait's most impoitant contiibutions to the uiscussion iegaiuing
the tempoial chaiacteiistics of expeiience is the way in which he ieconcileu ceitain
aspects of expeiience with Reiu's stiict uivision between peiception anu memoiy.
The pioblem is that both Reiu anu Stewait thought peiception was capable of
uisceining only one object at a given instant. Anu yet, it seems that we aie capable of
immeuiately peiceiving a gieat ueal moie than this. Stewait's example is that of
peiceiving a geometiic figuie. Be thought we coulu only peiceive a single point of
the figuie in any given instant. We seem, howevei, able to peiceive the entiie figuie
at a glance. 0n Reiu's account, memoiy ought to be playing a key iole in this
phenomenon, but it appeais that peiception is uoing the woik.
Stewait auueu to Reiu's account in two ways in oiuei to auuiess this
pioblem. Be intiouuceu attention as a key faculty neeueu to biiuge peiception anu
memoiy, anu he got some mileage out of the limiteu tempoial iesolution of
12
consciousness. Peiception, he claims, can only take in a single object with each act.
But, these acts of peiception aie quite shoit, much shoitei than the smallest
tempoial uuiation we can uiscein. Fuitheimoie, we uo not iemembei eveiything
we peiceive. We only iemembei the content of peiceptual acts to which we pay
attention foi a sufficient amount of time. The amount of time iequiieu to attenu to 'a
peiception' in oiuei to iemembei it is longei than the time it takes to peiceive the
object, but shoitei than the shoitest tempoial uuiation we can notice. Thus, in what
seems to us like a single instant, theie aie actually multiple uistinct acts of
peiception, which aie attenueu to in multiple uistinct acts, such that we iemembei
the peiceptual contents of the attention-acts appaiently simultaneously (1792, SS-
S4). It is an awkwaiu theoiy, but it pieseives the majoi featuies of Reiu's account of
peiception anu memoiy while accommouating appaiently conflicting featuies of
expeiience.
Thomas Biown (18S1) took issue with the way philosopheis like Stewait
'uoubleu' consciousness, by sepaiating acts of peiception, memoiy, oi attention
fiom consciousness by making them +:;(%2) of consciousness, while, Biown aigueu,
they shoulu be thought of as %+$)2#282#$/ consciousness. Be also maue two key steps
along the ioau fiom Reiu to }ames: the notion of 'iapiu ietiospect', a piecuisoi to
the specious piesent uoctiine, anu the iuea that consciousness iequiies a contiast
between two uistinct sensations, theme 4 fiom section 2.
Biown faileu to past some of the views uevelopeu by Reiu, as a iesult of
which he came up just shoit of giving the fiist full veision of a specious piesent
uoctiine. Be accepteu Reiu's uivision of laboi wheie peiception coulu only be
instantaneous while memoiy supplieu the iemainuei. Biown iesponueu to the
appaient conflict between this view anu expeiience in a subtlei anu aiguably moie
satisfactoiy mannei than Stewait uiu. Be uistinguisheu between the kinu of memoiy
that is cleaily memoiy - with objects that aie in the obvious past - anu the kinu of
memoiy that uoes not seem like memoiy, whose objects aie only just past. Be calls
this seconu kinu of memoiy iapiu ietiospect.
When we think of feelings long past, it is impossible foi us not to be awaie
that oui minu is then tiuly ietiospective . But when the ietiospect is of veiy
1S
iecent feelings - of feelings, peihaps, that existeu as uistinct states of the
minu, the veiy moment befoie oui ietiospect began, the shoit inteival is
foigotten, anu we think that that piimaiy feeling, anu oui consiueiation of
the feeling, aie stiictly simultaneous. . When it is any thing moie than the
sensation, thought, oi emotion, of which we aie saiu to be conscious, it is a
biief anu iapiu ietiospect. (18S1, SuS)

This skiits veiy close to the specious piesent uoctiine as piesenteu by }ames, but it
maintains the view that peiception must be punctate. Biown aigueu that in oiuei
foi a self to be conscious as a self, it must encompass at least two uistinct sensations.
Be pioviues the example of an imaginaiy consciousness that was abiuptly cieateu
fully foimeu, listening to a single tone on a flute. Such a cieatuie woulu have no
consciousness that it was a self - it woulu only know the tone. If this is succeeueu by
the fiagiance of a iose, howevei, one coulu compaie the pievious anu new
sensations togethei, fiom which one woulu be conscious of oneself as spanning both
of those sensations -conscious of the eailiei one, anu now conscious of the new one.
This means that a conuition necessaiy foi the possibility of consciousness is content
that spans moie than a single instant, although Biown uoes not go so fai as to say
that consciousness itself spans moie than a single instant. Be places the implicitly
tempoial constiaint on consciousness that it involve nonpunctate content even if
peiception itself occuis in a punctate instant.
The final philosophei to consiuei heie is Sii William Bamilton. Bamilton
expanus on Biown's constiaint that must consciousness involve contiast between
uistinct states, a view that hau become wiuely accepteu by then. Bamilton offeieu
five "special conuitions on consciousness," conuitions that must be met in oiuei to
be conscious, two of which aie ielevant to this uiscussion. Bamilton's thiiu
conuition simply is the point we just saw Biown make: consciousness iequiies some
kinu of change oi contiast. If we weie only to expeiience a single thing
unchangingly, we woulu "be absolutely unconscious" (1861, 2uS). Fiom this thiiu
conuition Bamilton uiew a coiollaiy, which he maue the fifth conuition - memoiy.
When these two conuitions aie put togethei, Bamilton goes fuithei than
Biown by making explicit how the conuitions foi consciousness have a tempoial
uimension:
14
In the inteinal peiception of a seiies of mental opeiations, a ceitain time, a
ceitain uuiation, is necessaiy foi the smallest section of continuous eneigy to
which consciousness is competent. Some minimum of time must be aumitteu
as the minimum of consciousness. (1861, 2S7)

Bamilton goes so fai as to say that Buiation is "a necessaiy conuition of thought"
(18S6, S71). Beie we have the culmination of an ongoing uevelopment in Scottish
Common Sense philosophy, which cleaily piefiguies the specious piesent uoctiine
as }ames piesents it.
}ames cieuiteu Reiu, Stewait, Biown, Bamilton, anu otheis with shaping
psychology as a fielu in the pie-technical, pie-specializeu "youth of oui science," anu
took !"#$%#&'() to be a step fiom theii woik towaiu an empiiical, fully scientific,
'English' psychology (189u, 192). Theie is a uisceinible movement, fiom Reiu
thiough Stewait, Biown anu Bamilton, culminating in }ames, wheie the issue of the
tempoiality of expeiience - incluuing the expeiience of tempoial objects as well as
the tempoial piopeities expeiience must have in oiuei to function as it uoes - iaises
pioblems within the psychologies offeieu by each philosophei, which the next then
solves by complicating the pictuie with the auuition of new faculties.
These issues peisist in }ames' wiitings even outsiue of his chaptei on the
Peiception of Time. Consiuei Reiu's ciiticism of Locke foi failing to iecognize the
iole that memoiy must play in ieflection in oiuei foi us to ieach ceitain iueas like
succession. }ames answeis Comte's ciiticism of the use of intiospection as a methou
in psychology by citing memoiy as a necessaiy supplement to occuiient
consciousness. Comte claimeu (see }ames 189u, 188 foi iefeience) that
intiospection must necessaiily lag at least slightly behinu eveiything in
consciousness, because it is by uefinition impossible to both have an expeiience anu
to ieflect on that expeiience in the same moment. }ames iesponus in pait, that the
contents foi which we intiospect lingei just long enough that we can, with the use of
memoiy, ieliably intiospect in just the way Comte uenieu (!"#$%#&'(), 189).
}ames' answei is stiongly connecteu to the Scottish Common Sense views on
the mattei because }ames is not in this case talking about memoiy in geneial. Be
specifically means the kinu of 'memoiy' that Biown teimeu 'iapiu ietiospect', the
1S
kinu of memoiy that Reiu claimeu was necessaiy in oiuei to uiscein that a
succession of iueas is in fact a succession. It is just this aspect of memoiy that }ames
will go on to say, just a few chapteis latei in !"#$%#&'(), is in fact the backwaius-
looking pait of the sauule that is the specious piesent. Piesumably he uiu not iely on
the specious piesent in iefuting Comte because he hau not yet intiouuceu it; it is
inteiesting that he took iecouise to the same answei that the Common Sense
tiauition woulu have given.


G? H(8C3(+
The philosophei who hau the most impact on establishing the chaiacteiistics
of tempoial expeiience as an impoitant issue is, iionically, someone least associateu
with the topic, anu whose name has been laigely eiaseu fiom intellectual histoiy.
Shauwoith Bollway Bougson was a monumental figuie in the philosophical ciicles
of late 19
th
centuiy Biitain. Be wiote thiee majoi books (3#0( 1$9 7&1%(, 186S;
!.#'+)+&.- +, <(,'(%2#+$, 2 vols., 1878; =(21&.-)#% +, >?&("#($%(, 4 vols., 1898)
publisheu wiuely in venues such as =#$9, anu was a co-founuei anu then piesiuent
of the Aiistotelian Society foi 14 yeais. Anu yet, scaicely twenty yeais aftei the
publication of his foui-volume lifewoik, Bougson's name was all but absent fiom
philosophical uiscussion, a situation that then tuineu into almost complete
ignoiance of his existence anu influence uuiing his lifetime. uiven his extensive
involvement in psychology anu philosophy in Biitain uuiing this peiiou, it is a
histoiical puzzle as to why he ieceives so little attention in compaiison with his
peeis.
Bougson publisheu two books piioi to }ames' publication of the !"#$%#&'().
}ames ceitainly ieau one in paiticulai, !.#'+)+&.- +, <(,'(%2#+$ (1878), which he
iefeienceu a numbei of times. While Kelly uiu state the specious piesent uoctiine,
anu pioviue the name that stuck, Bougson hau actually alieauy uevelopeu anu
nameu the uoctiine foui yeais eailiei- he calleu it the 'empiiic piesent'.
Fuitheimoie, baseu on eviuence such as coiiesponuence between the two, it is cleai
that Bougson hau a ueep anu ongoing impact on }ames' thought, as pait of a
16
fiienuship that incluueu but was not limiteu to philosophical uiscussion anu lasteu
foi uecaues.
In !.#'+)+&.- +, <(,'(%2#+$, Bougson takes up the line of thought we have just
tiaceu thiough the Scottish Common Sense philosopheis. Bamilton establisheu that
some minimum uuiation is necessaiy foi consciousness, as a consequence of
consciousness uepenuing on a contiast between two uiffeient states oi objects
(classeu togethei as 'feelings').
The minimum of consciousness contains two uiffeient feelings. 0ne alone
woulu not be felt. . But of this 1&&1"($2 simultaneity theie aie two cases: the
fiist is that of a ieal simultaneity, the two sub-feelings aie ieally paits in
coexistence, not in succession; the seconu is that in which one of them is felt
as giowing faintei (calleu going when iefeiieu to its place in succession), the
othei as giowing stiongei (calleu coming when iefeiieu to the succession).
The simultaneous peiception of both sub-feelings, whethei as paits of a
coexistence oi of a sequence, is the total feeling, the minimum of
consciousness, anu this minimum has uuiation. (1878, 249-Su)

This passage illustiates how Bougson staiteu fiom, but then went on to claiify anu
expanu, Bamilton's tempoial iequiiement that consciousness incluue at least two
feelings anu thus span some uuiation,. Two feelings that weie felt simultaneously
aie sufficient foi consciousness, but not the +$'- way we can be conscious. We can
compaie two feelings without those feelings fully co-existing: one is 'coming' anu
the othei is 'going', anu as such, they oveilap without being simultaneous. This
means that Bougson allows foi tempoially extenueu feelings that, within the
tempoially extenueu iange of consciousness, wax anu wane in the way }ames
uesciibes in his chaptei on Peiception of Time.
Bougson even piesents a paiagiaph that is almost iuentical with the one
Kelly pioviueu, with just a slight uiffeience in teiminology foi the name of the
uoctiine. Compaie to the passage in section S that }ames quoteu fiom Kelly.
Ciuuely anu populaily we uiviue the couise of time into Past, Piesent, anu
Futuie; but, stiictly speaking, theie is no Piesent; it is composeu of Past anu
Futuie uiviueu by an inuivisible point oi instant. That instant, oi time-point,
is the stiict &"()($2. What we loosely call the Piesent is an empiiical poition
of the couise of time, containing at least the minimum of consciousness, in
which the instant of change is the piesent time-point. (1878, 2SS)

17
Bougson continues with the uistinction, intiouuceu by Reiu, between a ciuue oi
vulgai conception of the piesent anu the stiict conception of the piesent. But now
Bougson auus the iuea that on the stiict conception, the piesent is not en entity, anu
that what we call the piesent is simply that minimum uuiation iequiieu to
encompass at least two uistinct feelings in oiuei to be conscious. This is ieally the
fiist statement of the specious piesent uoctiine as such.
It is well-known that }ames' !"#$%#&'() seiveu as an impoitant souice of iueas
anu inspiiation foi Busseil as he wiote the lectuies that became !.($+0($+'+/- +,
@$$(" 3#0( A+$)%#+8)$()). As such, Bougson hau an inuiiect influence on Busseil's
pioject of unueistanuing the stiuctuie of tempoial expeiience, as uiu Reiu,
Bamilton, anu otheis. Bowevei, it tuins out that Bougson also hau a uiiect influence
on Busseil (1966), via the massive tome he publisheu aftei }ames hau publisheu the
!"#$%#&'(). In =(21&.-)#% +, >?&("#($%(, volume I, Bougson lays a giounuwoik foi his
pioject with a numbei of iemaikable featuies. The fiist is the mannei in which
Bougson takes his empiiicist examination of expeiience so fai that he enus up with
something that is, moie oi less, Busseilian phenomenology. uiven the bieak
between empiiicist, analutically-oiienteu anu phenomenological-oiienteu
philosophy that is geneially taken to occui somewheie in the eaily twentieth
centuiy, Bougson occupies a unique histoiical position in occupying both of these
tiauitions just piioi to such a split. It is likely that the way in which Bougson's woik
was so quickly uioppeu fiom Biitish philosophical uiscussion conceineu the
iauically analytic tuin it took soon aftei his publication of =(21&.-)#%, a tuin in
which his style of philosophizing simply hau no place. This makes Bougson a
culminating figuie of 18
th
anu 19
th
centuiy empiiicism.
The seconu iemaikable featuie of Bougson's volume I, obviously connecteu
to the fiist, is how stiikingly Bougson's fiist foui chapteis oi so paiallel the points
maue by Busseil in !.($+0($+'+/- +, @$$(" 3#0( A+$)%#+8)$()), even to the extent
of using the same examples as illustiation. Reauing Bougson's fiist volume, anu then
ieauing Busseil, the connections between the two aie so stiong as to make it highly
unlikely that they aie meiely coinciuental. Anu in fact, it tuins out that Busseil hau
ieau Bougson's =(21&.-)#% +, >?&("#($%( iight aiounu the time that he was
18
compiling the notes that weie subsequently euiteu into the posthumous
!.($+0($+'+/- (Anueisen anu uiush 2uu9). It is not an acciuent that Busseil's
!.($+0($+'+/- has such stiiking similaiities to Bougson's =(21&.-)#%.
The upshot of this is that Bougson ueseives a gieat ueal moie cieuit foi his
views on time anu expeiience, as well as his influence on }ames' views on these
matteis anu on Busseil's. Fuitheimoie, theie is a wealth of histoiically anu
philosophically iich mateiial in Bougson's wiitings that sheu light on empiiicist
thought at the time anu on contempoiaiy uiscussions of tempoial expeiience.


I? J7,#5 97*#3
We've now seen that many of the iueas aiticulateu by }ames in !"#$%#&'()
iegaiuing tempoial expeiience hau been actively uiscusseu foi moie than a centuiy
befoie he wiote, anu that Bougson playeu a key iole in }ames' uevelopment of the
specious piesent uoctiine. In this section I will piesent a schematic aigument to the
effect that theie is an impoitant shift in }ames' thinking about tempoial expeiience
fiom the time he wiote !"#$%#&'() to his latei wiitings on piagmatism. Fuithei, in
oiuei to unueistanu }ames' view on tempoial expeiience specifically, we must
unueistanu the pictuie of expeiience in geneial that is the founuation of his
piagmatism. }ames moves fiom simply %+$2"1)2#$/ the expeiienceu veisus 'ieal'
piesent, noting that they uiffei, to &"#5#'(/#$/ the expeiienceu piesent ovei the
puipoiteuly ieal one. This shift was pait of his laigei ciitique of intellectualism, anu
at least in pait a iesponse to what }ames saw as misuse of the specious piesent
uoctiine. Be takes an unusually bioau anu iich view of expeiience, which is why he
can iest the notion of tiuth squaiely on it. Without keeping in minu this eniicheu
notion of expeiience as uesciibeu in his piagmatic wiitings, oui unueistanuing of
}ames' views on the expeiience of time will be impoveiisheu. The shift in }ames'
thinking anu the notion of expeiience on which he ielies funuamentally altei the
way we shoulu think about his views on what the specious piesent is anu what it
inuicates about expeiience anu time.
19
As we've alieauy seen, }ames oiiginally piesenteu the specious piesent
uoctiine in contiast with the 'obvious piesent'. The specious piesent is tempoially
extenueu, encompassing some pait of the immeuiate past anu having both a
foiwaiu-looking anu a ieaiwaiu-looking element. The obvious piesent is punctate;
it is the point on a timeline wheie the past anu futuie meet. }ames piesents the
specious piesent as a featuie of oui (?&("#($%( of time, anu the obvious piesent as a
featuie of a (mathematical) iepiesentation of time. Impoitantly, he uoes not take a
stance on what the ieal natuie of time is, oi on which of the two conflicting
iepiesentations of time shoulu take pieceuence (which woulu, inueeu, be iathei ouu
in a book establishing the piinciples of psychology). In labeling the expeiiential
phenomenon 'specious', meaning appaient oi illusoiy, theie is a slight implication
that the expeiience is mistaken oi nonveiiuical. }ames is piimaiily conceineu with
uesciibing this featuie of expeiience anu uiscussing the measuiements of its iange,
iathei than aujuuicating oui time sense as a ieliable inuicatoi of time itself.
When we look foiwaiu about twenty yeais, though, a uiffeient pictuie
emeiges. Between 19u2 anu 191u, }ames uevelopeu his piagmatism as a full-fleugeu
iauicalization of empiiicism. Even moie than Peiice, fiom whom he took the teim,
}ames ielieu on expeiience as the ultimate aibitei of tiuth. Bis veision of
piagmatism is suipiisingly misunueistoou, a situation paitially explaineu by }ames'
use of evocative anu metaphoiical language to piesent it (his talk of the usefulness
of beliefs anu oui neeu to inquiie as to theii 'cash value' evokeu unfoitunate
steieotypes of ciass Ameiicans to his Biitish auuience).
}ames was stiuck by Beigson's wiitings on time anu memoiy, anu heaitily
enuoiseu Beigson's iejection of the oveiintellectualization taking place within
philosophy
iii
. Concepts, thought }ames, anu the logic that goveins them, weie being
given too much weight when appaient conceptual contiauictions aiose. A vaiiety of
philosopheis in the Begelian tiauition, foi instance, thought that theie weie
contiauictions within the content of immeuiate expeiience. }ames thought this a
iiuiculous impossibility. Any contiauiction that might aiise in immeuiate expeiience
woulu only be uue to the concepts chosen to impeifectly uesciibe oi iepiesent that
expeiience. Piioi to uesciiption, expeiience can be iich anu complex, but not self-
2u
contiauictoiy. 0se of concepts to uesciibe expeiience constituteu taking something
uynamic anu changing anu cutting out a static piece. In any potential contiauiction,
then, the blame shoulu sit on the static concepts iathei than expeiience itself.
This can be illustiateu by looking at the use to which NcTaggait, as an
example, put the specious piesent. NcTaggait (19u8) famously aigueu foi the
unieality of time. As pait of that aigument, he auuiesseu the ciiticism that oui
expeiience ceitainly is of a genuinely moving piesent moment. We expeiience time,
anu we expeiience the piesent as moving: how then, the ciiticism goes, can it be
unieal.. NcTaggait iathei cleveily avoius answeiing the chaige that his view
contiauicts expeiience by iefeience to the specious piesent. Because the extent of
the specious piesent may be slightly uiffeient foi uiffeient people, theie may be
some event that is still 'piesent' to one while 'past' to anothei. Thus, claims
NcTaggait, expeiience contiauicts itself alieauy. Be ceitainly neeu not ieconcile his
view to oui expeiience of the piesent; theie is nothing wiong with contiauicting the
self-contiauictoiy. As to the unieality of time itself, a laige pait of NcTaggait's
aigument comes uown to the fact that past anu futuie aie exclusive - they cannot be
pieuicateu of the same thing. Anu yet the ieality of time implies that we must call an
event futuie anu past, he claims. Theiefoie, NcTaggait concluues, time itself is
contiauictoiy anu cannot exist. It is this kinu of use of concepts anu the logic
goveining concepts against which }ames ieacteu so stiongly. If oui concept-logic
allows us to concluue that, because of contiauiction, time itself uoes not exist, this
shoulu be taken as inuicating a shoitcoming in the concepts anu logic useu to ieach
that conclusion.
}ames' ciusaue against intellectualism constituteu his taking a stanu on a
geneiic veision of the contiast we just saw that he iemaineu agnostic on in
!"#$%#&'(), namely, on how to think about a phenomenon when theie is a conflict
between the way oui concepts iepiesent it anu the way we expeiience it. Pie-
piagmatism, }ames can be unueistoou as agnostic with iespect to this conflict. Post-
piagmatism, }ames comes uown emphatically on the siue of expeiience ovei
concepts. }ames makes points that apply to a wiue iange of expeiiences that aie
potentially contiauictoiy when uesciibeu in ceitain ways, as well as to the
21
expeiience of the piesent. "Time itself comes to us in uiops" of expeiience, iathei
than inuefinitely subuiviuable inciements (19u9, 7S4). Repiesentations of tempoial
expeiience that involve the assumption that time itself, especially the piesent
moment, 'ieally' aie punctate make time aitificial anu static, anu with it, expeiience.
In an especially }amesian tuin of phiase, he says, "But all these abstiact concepts aie
but as floweis gatheieu, they aie only moments uippeu out fiom the stieam of time,
snap-shots taken, as by a kinetoscopic cameia, at a life that in its oiiginal coming is
continuous" (19u9, 7SS-6).
Bis lectuies on piagmatism contain an extiemely elaboiate anu inclusive
view of what expeiience itself is. }ames' piagmatism, iecall, iecast the notion of
tiuth as simply being that which best oiganizes oui expeiiences; beliefs aie useful if
they aie tiue, anu they aie tiue if they aie useful (19u7, S7S). This might look
tiivially false, if one weie to evaluate such statements using something like a
iepiesentational view of expeiience, wheie expeiience simply iepiesents how
things aie in the woilu. In that soit of view, expeiience gives us access to the woilu
that is the way it is, iegaiuless of oui expeiience. }ames thought this was
insufficiently empiiicist (ibiu., Su8). To genuinely iely on expeiience foi knowleuge,
we neeu to accept that theie ieally is nothing but expeiiences on which to iely. Iueas
oi beliefs about the woilu shoulu pioviue schemes by which we can ieliably act in
the woilu anu achieve uesiieu consequences, anu allow us to ieliably pieuict what
will happen. Nost impoitantly, beliefs aie tiue when they allow us to make the most
sense out of oui expeiiences.
.'tiuth' in oui iueas anu beliefs means the same thing that it means in
science. It means, |the the piagmatistsj say, nothing but this, 2.12 #9(1)
BC.#%. 2.(0)('5() 1"( :82 &1"2) +, +8" (?&("#($%(D :(%+0( 2"8( ;8)2 #$ )+ ,1" 1)
2.(- .('& 8) 2+ /(2 #$2+ )12#),1%2+"- "('12#+$ C#2. +2.(" &1"2) +, +8" (?&("#($%(,
to summaiize them anu get about among them by conceptual shoit-cuts
insteau of following the inteiminable succession of paiticulai phenomena.
(19u7, S12; italics in oiiginal)

}ames make the notion of expeiience so bioau that it is encompasses as a subset any
othei categoiy, such as iepiesentations, iueas, conceptions, etc. that one might use
as a means of uefining tiuth. This unueistanuing of expeiience was sufficiently
22
novel that }ames' piagmatism hau a iathei bau initial ieception, at least in Biitain,
anu continues to be fiequently misunueistoou. If one weie to stait with what he
says about tiuth anu its ielationship to expeiience, anu combine it with an oiuinaiy
unueistanuing of expeiience, then the iesulting notion of tiuth may seem weak oi
untenable. If, on the othei hanu, we stait by assuming that theie is something
inteiesting to the notion of tiuth }ames offeis in his piagmatist wiitings, anu then
woik towaius the notion of expeiience neeueu to seive that iole foi tiuth, it
becomes cleai that }ames intenus 'expeiience' to be much iichei anu moie
funuamental than it is oiuinaiily taken to be.
In oiuei to fully unueistanu }ames' views on the specious piesent, then, we
neeu to consiuei the chaptei "The Peiception of Time," anu we also neeu to take a
bioauei view of }ames' latei wiitings that beai on tempoial expeiience specifically.
But in oiuei to unueistanu }ames' views on the expeiience of time, we neeu to get
cleai on }ames' extiemely unique anu iich views on expeiience moie bioauly, anu
the ielationship between expeiience anu the concepts we use to ienuei that
expeiience coheient, to ielate uiffeient expeiiences togethei, anu to pieuict anu
contiol expeiiences in the futuie.


K? F(+0'231(+
Contempoiaiy uiscussions of tempoial expeiience iely on the
chaiacteiization of the specious piesent uoctiine as }ames piesenteu it in chaptei
1S of 3.( !"#$%#&'() +, !)-%.+'+/-. Because of }ames' peculiai citation of Kelly in that
chaptei, the histoiical uevelopment of this uoctiine has been obscuieu. As I have
shown heie, theie was a substantive anu ongoing uiscussion of the tempoial
chaiactei of expeiience fiom which }ames uiew foi his own woik. The philosopheis
contiibuting to this uiscussion, incluuing but ceitainly not limiteu to Reiu, Stewait,
Biown, Bamilton, anu Kelly, hau a gieat ueal moie to say on the subject than maue it
into }ames' biief piesentation. The foui themes piesenteu eailiei illustiate how this
histoiy of the specious piesent uiaws connections between peiception, memoiy,
2S
attention, consciousness, iepiesentations of time, anu the natuie of expeiience in
geneial.
}ames himself also hau a gieat ueal moie to say about expeiience anu its
tempoial chaiacteiistics than is founu in !"#$%#&'(). Bis piagmatism incluueu at least
two key issues that neeu to be accommouateu in any auequate piesentation of his
views on the expeiience of time. The fiist is his ciitique of intellectualism, anu of the
way in which oui conceptualization of expeiience can leau us astiay. The seconu is
the incieuible iich view of expeiience that }ames takes. Bis piagmatism, uepenuing
so iauically on expeiience anu tiuth as what best oiganizes that expeiience, will
sounu tiite if accompanieu by an insufficient unueistanuing of what }ames takes
'expeiience' to incluue. Likewise, oui unueistanuing of the specious piesent
uoctiine shoulu be infoimeu by }ames' views on expeiience in geneial, incluuing the
wiitings subsequent to !"#$%#&'().
In conclusion, then, theie is a fascinating set of mysteiies associateu with the
histoiy of the specious piesent uoctiine. A few, such as the iuentity of 'Clay', have
been uncoveieu. Some, like Bougson's abiupt uisappeaiance fiom philosophical
uiscussion, iemain. Anu this histoiy pioviues a wealth of iueas to mine foi
iefinement of contempoiaiy accounts of tempoial expeiience.

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i
Nuch of the histoiical ieseaich piesenteu heie was uone in collaboiation with Rick
uiush (see Anueisen anu uiush 2uu9). Special thanks to Rick uiush anu Enuie
Begby foi uiscussion anu feeuback.
ii
}ames iefeiences Reiu's ciiticism of Locke's "uim" account in the same chaptei as
wheie the specious piesent is intiouuceu (189u, 6u9).
iii
See especially "Beigson's Ciitique of Intellectualism" (}ames, 19u9).