20 October 2017: Sanna Hirvonen (University of London) — “The Time-Lag Argument, Direct Realism about Seeing, and the Extended Now”

Sala Paci, Via Festa del Perdono 7, h. 16:00-18:00

Abstract: A common sense view of seeing holds that we only see things that are happening at the present moment, and that seeing into the past or the future is impossible. But in fact, it takes time for the light to travel from the reflected object to our eyes and for the information to translate into the experience of seeing. This is most evident in the case of the stars whose light may take up to years to reach us. Russell (1912) argued that given the time-lag between an event and the seeing of it, we only ever see sense-data which offers us evidence about the external world. In contrast, direct realists about seeing have argued that we should give up the view that we see present events. What we see is in fact the past –normally the recent past, but in the case of the stars, a rather distant past.

The time-lag argument seems to have interesting consequences regarding the metaphysics of time. Presentism holds that only the present time exists. Furthermore, it is reasonable to assume that one can only see existing things. Power (2010) thus argues that direct realism about seeing and presentism are incompatible: since the past does not exist, we cannot see it. Hence, presentism must accept an indirect view of seeing. As a consequence, if direct realism about perception is the right view, one must reject presentism.

In this talk I defend a metaphysical view of the present which I call the extended ‘now’. It holds that the present is temporally enough extended to include both the nearby events that cause our seeing and the experiences of seeing (within limits; we cannot see the stars). The view allows one to be a direct realist about seeing while maintaining that we only see present events, thus allowing for the possibility of presentism.

Power, S. E. (2010) “Perceiving External Things and the Time-Lag Argument”, European Journal of Philosophy, 21:1, 94-117.
Russell, B. (1912) The Problems of Philosophy

20 October – S. Hirvonen (University of London) – “The Time-Lag Argument, Direct Realism about Seeing, and the Extended Now”

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