The text book analysis of the idea that our experience might extend in time is given below:

"...what we perceive, we perceive as present—as going on right now. Can we perceive a relation between two events without also perceiving the events themselves? If not, then it seems we perceive both events as present, in which case we must perceive them as simultaneous, and so not as successive after all. There is then a paradox.." (Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy).

In other words the way we have whole words and bars of tunes in our Experience is "specious", false, nonsense.

The idea that successive events can be simultaneous seems a contradiction in terms but what about events that are viewed from a different location from their origin? Is having a time extended word in Experience much different from having a simultaneous view in Experience?

Viewing time and space

When we have Experience it is like a view, it occurs around a centre point (although nothing flows into that point in the view). There is separation of the centre from the periphery.

Is the speciousness of the specious present specious?

  • i am not sure what you are asking, as it seems ambiguous whether you think your analogy shows that extended events happen (or are experienced as occuring) at the same time or not
    – user67675
    Nov 22, 2023 at 12:27
  • It may not have been as clearly put as I hoped. The question is whether the argument that successive events cannot be simultaneous is sufficient to disprove the possibility that we have objects that extend in time, now in Experience. Nov 22, 2023 at 14:09
  • I took it as saying that: "it seems we perceive both events as present, in which case we must perceive them as simultaneous, and so not as successive after all" and so argued that time extended objects in our perception now are paradoxical. A simple rebuttal would be to introduce the possibility that the time extension could be some sort of geometrical projection from or to a different place. (No definite theory here, just a possibility) Nov 22, 2023 at 16:09

4 Answers 4


Continuing the SEP quote shows that we can "perceive a relation between two [successive] events" by using memory.

... a paradox in the notion of perceiving an event as occurring after another, though one that perhaps admits of a straightforward solution. When we perceive B as coming after A, we have, surely, ceased to perceive A. In which case, A is merely an item in our memory.

Successive events are not perceived as simultaneous due to memory and the temporality of experience. Experience, according to Heidegger, is temporal, e.g. in Being & Time:

¶68. (a) The Temporality of Understanding

Understanding, ... however it may have been projected, is primarily futural [makes plans/anticipates]. But it would not temporalize itself if it were not temporal—that is, determined with equal primordiality by having been and by the Present.

Heidegger describes experiential temporality as 'authentic', as in proper to the self, and distinguishes it from 'ordinary' clock-time: the caesium standard, which is called 'inauthentic' (but only in this phenomenological context as 'outside' of the self). Authentic and inauthentic temporality run 'alongside' each other but are quite different and only tenuously connect in "the moment of vision" when the self enacts an interaction with the world.

it would not temporalize itself if it were not temporal—that is, determined with equal primordiality by having been and by the Present. ... Everyday concern understands itself in terms of that potentiality-for-Being which confronts it as coming from its possible success or failure with regard to whatever its object of concern may be. Corresponding to the inauthentic future (awaiting), there is a special way of Being-alongside the things with which one concerns oneself. This way of Being-alongside is the Present—the "waiting-towards"; this ecstatical mode reveals itself if we adduce for comparison this very same ecstasis, but in the mode of authentic temporality. ... That Present which is held in authentic temporality and which thus is authentic itself, we call the "moment of vision".

I am surprised the SEP article does not mention Husserl, Bergson or Heidegger.

As regards "events that are viewed from a different location from their origin? Is having a time extended world in Experience much different..."? I presume you mean if you look at the moon you are seeing photons that came from the moon in the past. Well, then you know what you are seeing.

"[The] way we have whole words and bars of tunes in our Experience" is one of the characteristic descriptions of authentic temporality, showing how experience can draw together successive events and appreciate poetic or musical structure. It is mentioned in this BBC podcast which you may find interesting: Bergson and Time.

  • Nice summary of Heidegger. Is there a difference in timing between authentic and clock time? Do they connect only in the moment of vision or do they overlie each other in time? The tick of the clock in the world certainly seems to overlap the extended present of the tick of the clock in Experience. If there were no extension in time of the tick in Experience how much of the "tick" would we have at an instant? A "t" sound, or just the "k" sound? Nov 22, 2023 at 14:03
  • Authentic time in human being (as in the act of being) is quite different to clock time and is described generally, i.e. more from ¶68. (a): "The moment of vision is a phenomenon which in principle can not be clarified in terms of the "now" [dem Jetzt] . The "now" is a temporal phenomenon which belongs to time as within-time-ness: the "now" 'in which' something arises, passes away, or is present-at-hand. ... [As] an authentic Present or waiting-towards, the moment of vision permits us to encounter for the first time what can be 'in a time' as ready-to-hand or present-at­ hand." Nov 22, 2023 at 15:06
  • Interesting points. Authentic time has different contents from clock time but does it have a different time from clock time? If a word or bar of tune etc. is extended in time then that would be available as a whole object now. It would not only contain a being towards the future but would contain the relations of that state. Nov 22, 2023 at 16:00
  • Yes, as being (as Dasein) temporalises, memories and plans (past and future) are on hand for decisions enacted in the moment of vision. Like listening to music and anticipating or enjoying the resolution of a chord progression. Whatever is going on clearly has some kind of temporality, even in the very structure of subjectivity. Meanwhile what we know of clock time is that it is based on the resonant frequency of caesium atoms in their local space-time frame, a human-made standard. Nov 22, 2023 at 16:28
  • I find it hard to imagine the moment of vision but when I am that moment the objects in my vision are replete with their associations. My brain has marked them up with greenness and a hint of hay. Nov 22, 2023 at 19:46

The following - contrary to the guidlines - reflects my own thoughts about experience :

Experience is not just a series of perceived states or events. Experience is a realization of a meaning of things expressed both in emotions and thoughts. It can be caused by external stimulus or by internal introspection. It can encompass a single event, a time period or your whole life. The "relation between two events" is also an experience. The experience is instantaneous; emotions arise as a direct reflection of it; thoughts come as a serialized stream reflecting our disposition towards the experience. I do not see any paradox or any speciousness in experience; only a gear towards maximizing the meaningfulness of things.

  • I agree with your point about the breadth of Experience. I have a question: how much experience would you have in no time at all, ie:instantaneously ? Listen to a word like "hello", do you hear a letter "h",then an "e" etc. or do you hear the whole word? Nov 22, 2023 at 20:16
  • @John Sydenham, I guess my experience ... gives me feedback on the things that are meaningfully to me. Nov 22, 2023 at 22:32
  • There are guidelines here that we cannot post our own thoughts here?! Can you post a link?
    – AnoE
    Nov 23, 2023 at 7:51

I guess your graph might suggest that view points have extended views. But your comments suggest a more extreme claim.

The paradox is that simultaneous events must not be successive, so you need to argue

  1. that they are not simultaneous, or

  2. that they are not successive, or

  3. that these are not contadictions.

You seem to think the graph shows whether "events cannot be simultaneous is sufficient to disprove the possibility that we have objects that extend": extension -> simultaneity. Presumbaly we can then infer that simultaneity can be successive (against 3).

However, the graph doesn't show that without view points there are no extended views. It's possible, but you I don't think you can argue that by drawing a tree.

  • The argument was 4. The events, or a proxy for the events, could occur at a different location in space. They can then be distinguished either by the angles they all make at a point or the positions they occupy on a surface. We could even, as implied by the diagram, suggest an nD geometry where the events are at a point but also arranged in time. Nov 22, 2023 at 20:00
  • The textbook argument contains the implicit assumption that a time extended object in our Experience is always fixed at the same place in space. Remove this assumption by permitting motion or a flexible geometry and it is possible to have an ersatz time extension, represented by a pattern in space, or a real time extension that uses a flexible, non-Euclidean geometry. Nov 22, 2023 at 20:10
  • in your question, you don't mention moving objects or trees with different shifting "geometries" @JohnSydenham i have no idea what you are getting at, and idt it's my failing, but i'm done with cryptic arguments, so forget it
    – user67675
    Nov 22, 2023 at 20:26

I have not read that whole SEP page for now, but at first glance the paragraph you quoted seems quite questionable to me.

First of all, there is a big "if not, then" in there. It seems in no way clear to me that there is an implicit assertion that the answer is "yes". It seems just like a possibility - food for thought; or a thought experiment.

Secondly, the paragraph goes straight from "perceive a relation between two events without also perceiving the events themselves" to "we perceive both events as present", and on to "we must perceive them as simultaneous". It is totally unclear to me that everybody would read these assertions as facts or logically.

Generally, reading more of the article (the first introductionary paragraph), to be totally honest and opinionated, it seems weirdly flippant to me - there are many rhetoric questions in there, which does not seem quite up to the standard of other SEP articles I've read.

Later on, the article seems to become more earnest, but keeps being very open-ended. For example, the sentence:

But, arguably, we do not perceive events only, but also their temporal relations.

Indeed very arguable! While I of course don't know what objective reality is in this aspect, or how the brain works mechanically to represent time (nobody does), I can definitely think of different possibilities.

Having said all that, I can only assume that that article reflects the fact that the whole topic is wildly unknown. Nobody knows what time is, in a physical or philosophical sense; nobody knows what consciousness is or how it works; and nobody knows how the brain represents time mechanically, or how that information then enters consciousness.

So everything in this regard seems very opininon- and speculation-based to me; hence a SEP article with a lot of "ifs" and "maybes" and rhetoric questions with seemingly implicit answers. To answer questions like whether the "specious present" is a valid concept or even "objectively true" one would have to look elsewhere than this article.

The Wikipedia article on specious presence mirrors my sentiment - it seems obvious that something is going on here; but nobody seems to know anything for sure:

Finally, the claim of what precisely is being affirmed, in affirming the 'existence' of the specious present, is difficult to clarify. Philosophical theories of time do not usually interpret time to be in any unique way a production of human phenomenology, and the claim that we have some faculty by which we are aware of successive states of consciousness is trivially true.

  • You have put your finger on my own misgiving about the argument that what is successive cannot be simultaneous. It is full of implicit assumptions and a limited context. I raised one extra context: what about events being simultaneously observed from elsewhere? But there are many other possibilities. Nov 23, 2023 at 11:41

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