Abstract Details

Philosophy of Time and Knowing: Kant and Hegel's Blueprint for Consciousness  Melanie Swan (Palo Alto, CA )   C1

This talk engages the foundational blueprints for consciousness set forth by Kant and Hegel. Each provides a detailed written specification for self-reflective consciousness, which could be booted up in a machine learning environment to produce both ethical artificial consciousness and a greater understanding of human consciousness. There are two kinds of time in the world: axiomatic time, the fundamental time of physical reality that can be described by equations, and phenomenological time, the lived experience of time, with a unidirectional arrow passing through past-present-future. The Greeks called these chronos (quantitative measurable clock time) and chiros (the propitious time of lived experience). The diverse durational regimes are likewise reflected in physics in the precise measurement of atomic clock time in quantum mechanics and the relative experienced time dilation of general relativity. In philosophical attempts to specify consciousness, the problem of time immediately arises. This is related to the experience of temporal duration and temporal structure. Regarding duration, there is a question about how the diverse temporalities of chronos and chiros, and snapshot, perdurance (elapsing over an interval), and eternality are integrated in one conscious experience. Regarding structure, there is an issue about how the constantly elapsing present is absorbed into the composite structure of past-present-future. Hume did not think the problem of time could be resolved sufficiently, and that impressions of both external objects and the self would always be merely unconnected bundles of perceptions. Kant though, overcomes Hume by specifying consciousness, the conscious entity of an "I think" (technically, the Transcendental Unity of Apperception). Consciousness has the durational presence to collect impressions across time. Kant's great advance in temporality is to introduce a retentional time structure, in the form of a "while" loop. He specifies the imagination as a perdurant faculty with a memory function that stores impressions (snapshots) over a time interval such that they can be subsumed under concepts (eternal). However, Kant's theory of consciousness can only recognize tangible objects such as a "chair." Hegel surpasses Kant by providing a theory of all knowing that includes intangible concepts such as "justice." To do so, Hegel provides an enlarged description of consciousness as a self-aware entity that self-determines by reflecting on its own thinking processes. Thinking processes elapse in time, and hence Hegel elaborates a full past-present-future time structure, and how present "Now" moments are multiplied into the composite. Hegel's main advance in temporality is to see time (as history) as a philosophical object. History is a philosophical object because it has a time structure and is produced in a self-determining process. The temporal structure of history reveals that history is not merely objectively recorded events but rather a self-produced process. For Hegel, consciousness (spirit (Geist)) is both individual and collective consciousness, a rich self-determining process that runs in time. Overall this talk shows how the consideration of the problem of time is central to establishing Kant and Hegel's philosophical accounts of consciousness, and how such accounts might be motivated practically in the contemporary understanding of consciousness.