Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Interesting Quotes: Bennett on Timeless Personhood

From "Time in Human Experience" by Jonathan Bennett:
To get a sense of what it would be like for us if things were somehow different from how they are, we take fragments of our experience and assemble wholes out of them. We know what it would be like to have purely achromatic vision; for we have watched black-and-white movies, and have seen mountain landscapes whosewhole palette is black, white and grey; and we can have the thought of a visual life that is, so far as colour is concerned, all like that. Or suppose we want to envisage experiencing an outer world which does not consist of hard physical objects but rather of smooth waves of reality of some kind. Never mind the physics. I am talking about the idea of the world’s being given to us as wave-like, with the sort of immediacy with which it actually comes to us as full of knobbly things. We can get some sense of that, too, by focussing on the parts of our actual experience that pertain to fluids and jellies and clouds, and out of those materials trying to build a picture of a complete course of experience that presents us with an objective, outer world which is not organised in a thing-like manner. I know of no other way for us to imagine alternative possibilities for ourselves. If that is our only way, then to get a sense of what it would be like to exist out of time we must focus on the parts of our lives that are not temporal, and out of those fragments assemble a picture of a way of being that is all like that. All like what? What fragments? In this case the technique cannot get started, because all of our inner lives are temporally ordered, not just over-all but also down to the finest detail. We have no atemporal fragments out of which to build; no ground to stand on while we try to get a sense of a non-temporal way of being. So temporality lies deep in our thought because it spreads wide in our experience. We cannot think our way down to a level where time does not apply, because no parts of our experience, however small or odd, lie outside time.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

More Rough Notes on Tracking and Tracking Systems

At least two kinds of tracking – plotting and (semantic) fix maintenance. Talk of ‘tracking time’ here used in the second sense.
Two kinds of maintenance tracking – dynamic state and static state. Dynamic state tracking involves producing a succession of representations which is meant to reflect how things are with what is being tracked at the very time of the tokening (so if tracking A’s height, might token ‘A is 5’6”’ to reflect A’s height at the time of the tokening).
Static state – static state tracking involves using a single representation which (or part of which) has a succession of extensions or propositions expressed to reflect how things are with what is being tracked at the very time of the tokening (so ‘now’ refers to a different time at each time but without itself changing). First person thought may be a limiting case of static state tracking where the succession of extensions of the first person aspect of the representation (within a given a system) are identical (e.g., as used by a single subject, the referent of ‘I’ is going to be identical – the subject using it – across moments). Fully explicit indexical thought will be static state thought since explicit indexicals will be static state trackers of whatever they are meant to refer to.
Past/future tense thoughts may be either ‘n units before now’/ ‘n units after now’ (perhaps to a certain diminishing precision) or ‘before now’/ ‘after now’ and so track what came before or after a time.For the first-person tracking system (the system for tracking me), we don’t need a system which changes states over time – merely such that it can take us from representations to action (e.g., gets me to run away when tokening ‘IS is being chased by a bear’). As far as 3rd person representations go, it chooses which ones are relevant for action. Two ways: Fixed choice of first person representations (which are static state trackers of the agent deploying them) and can then use those and their connections to 3rd person ones (that is, it acts on all 1st person representations and 3rd person representations connected to those – e.g., ‘I am IS’ plus ‘IS is being chased by a bear’ gets me to run), or directly chooses the 3rd person ones somehow (e.g., makes me act on all decisions about what IS ought to do).