chapter  7
21 Pages

The overlap model

The only realist theory we have looked at in any detail so far is Broad’s early effort. This was, in effect, an attempt to accommodate realism with PSA. As noted earlier, PSA seems to demand an act-object model of experiencing: how else can the constituent parts of a temporal spread of content be present to awareness at the same time? We saw that Broad’s account ran into difficulties; in particular, there was a difficulty with non-existent repetitions: since successive acts apprehend numerically the same contents, the same contents will be experienced many times over. In his McTaggart theory Broad tried to avoid this problem by adopting (in effect) a form of representationalism. According to this theory, the sound of a finger-snap is reproduced in the content of successive awarenesses, but never in the same way, always with different degrees of presentedness. But now the repetition problem merely resurfaces in a different form: recall the ‘lingering contents’ that trouble both Broad’s representationalism and that of Husserl. However, when discussing Broad’s earlier theory I noted that a solution of a different sort seemed to be available, in principle at least, although Broad did not avail himself of it. The problem of repeated contents arises when we suppose that numerically the same content is apprehended by discrete numerically distinct acts of awareness. If, however, these acts were not discrete, but overlapped each other, the otherwise multiply experienced content would be experienced only once. Although a number of writers have mentioned this idea, the clearest (though regrettably succinct) discussion is to be found in John Foster’s various writings on temporal experience.1