24.115: Philosophy and Time, Fall 2014

Instructor: Brad Skow.

Teaching Assistants / Graders: Rose Lenehan (rlenehan@mit.edu), Ian Wells (ianwells@mit.edu).

Meetings: MWF, 11-12, room 4-237.

Description: Available here.

Requirements: Homework assignments (precise number to be announced), 40%; 4-5 page paper, 30%; final exam, 30%.

Regarding the homework assignments: you will not receive a letter grade on them, just written feedback. Your grade for the homework component of the course is equal to the number of assignments you complete, divided by the total number assigned. (You complete an assignment if you make a fair try at answering the questions on it.)

Regarding the paper: you may revise your paper after it is first graded, for a new grade. Your grade for the paper component of the course is the higher of the two.

Resources: Guidelines for writing philosophy papers.

Remarks on studying for the final.

Handouts/"slides" from class:

Homework "solutions":

Schedule (in progress and subject to change)

Unit 1: Time and Metaphysics

Date TopicReading
9/3Introductory Class.
9/5What do philosophers mean when they ask "does time pass?"
Remarks on determinism question.
•Smart, "The River of Time," p. 483-84, up to "...somehow illegitimate."
•Markosian, "How Fast Does Time Pass?" sections 1, 2.
•Price Time's Arrow pp. 12-13 (stop after first underlined sentence on 13).
9/8What do philosophers mean, continued; Arguments.
Handout on arguments, with "HW" 1.
In-class video.
9/10Argument Extraction; The Rate of Passage Arguments. •Smart p. 484, to first paragraph of 485.
•Markosian section 3.
9/12No class: instructor away.
9/15More on the Rate of Passage Arguments.HW2 due in class.
9/17The Direction of Passage Argument;
Price's Argument from Indiscernible Experiences.
•Price p.13, "A rare but..." paragraph;
•p.14 "So it is doubtful..." to footnote 4 on p. 15.
9/19No class: student holiday.
9/22Maudlin's Replies.•Maudlin, "On the Passing of Time," p. 9, "Price also mentions...," to end of section 1;
•p. 15, "Price raises..." to end of section 3.
HW3, due in class.
9/24Does Experience Support Passage?•Prosser, "Could We Experience the Passage of Time," sections 1 and 2, and objection/reply 7.
9/26Class discussion / Debate.An argument for the moving spotlight theory.

Unit 2: Time and the Mind, I

9/29The puzzle of the perception of change.Reid, "Memory," p. 144 "After these remarks..." to top of 146.
10/1Neuroscience and the perception of change.
The theory of the specious present.
Specious present reading packet.
10/3The argument from jumbled sounds;
The argument from repetition.
HW4 due in class.
10/6The Retention Theory.Retention theory reading packet.
10/8The color phi illusion; Stalinesque vs Orwellian hypotheses. Dennett, Consciousness Explained, chapter 5; chapter 6, sections 1 and 2.
10/10Experiments to distinguish Stalinesque vs Orwellian hypotheses?HW5 due in class.
10/13No class: Columbus Day.
10/15Against the Cartesian Theater?(Dennett, continued.)

Unit 3: Time and the Mind, II

10/20What is subjective duration?; Illusions of duration.Eagleman, "Human Time Perception and Its Illusions."
10/22No class: instructor away.
10/24No class: instructor away.
10/27The naive model of subjective duration.Phillips, "Perceiving the Passage of Time."
HW6 due in class.
10/29A "quantum" theory.Merino-Rajme, "A Quantum Feeling of Felt Duration."

Unit 4: Time and Value, I

11/3Theories of welfare; atomic theories; hedonism.Feldman, Pleasure and the Good Life, chs. 1, 2.
HW7 due in class.
11/5Is Hedonism True?hedonism HW due.
11/7Is Hedonism True?
11/10No Class: Veteran's Day.
11/12Hedonism and time: distribution, subjective duration.
11/14Hedonism and time: the peak-end effect.Kahneman et al, "Memories of a Colonoscopy."
11/17Welfare and "the shape of a life."Velleman, "Well-Being and Time," to the top of p.73.
11/19Attitudinal Hedonism and the shape of a life.Feldman ch. 4.1-4.3; ch. 6.
11/21The Bias Toward the Near.Parfit, excerpt from Reasons and Persons.
First paper due.

Unit 5: Time and Value, II

11/24Is the bias toward the near rational?
11/26Class canceled for Thanksgiving.
11/28Thanksgiving break
12/1Is the bias toward the near rational?Greene and Sullivan, "Against Time Bias."
12/3Is the bias toward the future rational?Greene and Sullivan, continued.
12/5Is the bias toward the future rational?


12/8Conclusion: Time, Value, and Metaphysics. 
12/10Final Exam Review Session.

Brad Skow | MIT