Time, consciousness and scientific explanation
Dixon, Joan Elizabeth (1997) Time, consciousness and scientific explanation. PhD thesis, University of Warwick.
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Official URL: http://webcat.warwick.ac.uk/record=b1367061~S15
To date, there is no universal and coherent theory concerning the nature or the function of time.
Furthermore, important and unresolved controversies raging within both philosophy and the
natural sciences apparently indicate that there is little hope of constructing a single, unified theory.
Even so-called "folk" theories of time, embedded within different cultural traditions, show no
common elements, and therefore can not provide a pre-theoretical description of time, towards
which an explanatory framework could be constructed. This lack of consensus indicates that the
concept as it is currently being used is ill defined, and, at the very least, needs to be considerably
revised. The conceptual disarray surrounding time has aided and abetted the arguments of certain
thinkers, especially Ricoeur, working within the phenomenological tradition who make de principe
claims that there can not be a single theory of time.
My intention is not to try and to produce a concept of time that was capable of unifying all
these different elements. Rather, Ricoeur's arguments and those of others working in the
phenomenological tradition dissatisfied me. I believed that their arguments were informed by a
myopic, muddled and positively 19th Century understanding of the scientific project. Hence, my
aim is to show that Ricoeur's claim will not stand up to scrutiny, and that there are no principled
arguments against the possibility of a unified theory of time. We examine the major arguments
against unification in general, and also with particular reference to theories of time, such as
Husserlian phenomenology, conventionalism, instrumentalism, anti-reductive positions in general,
as well as the specific problem of reducing subjective experience to objective description. We
demonstrate that none of these objections constitutes a watertight a priori argument against a
unified theory of time.
Furthermore, we demonstrate that recent developments in the philosophy of science and the
philosophy of mind have made such a unified theory a plausible goal. We argue that post-positivist
philosophy of science, with its emphasis on research programmes, the co-evolution of theories and
super-empirical rational support, opens the way for new types of evidence to be brought to bear on
questions about time. Also, recent developments in the brain sciences mean that a neurologically
plausible and fully naturalised analysis of our experience of time is being developed.
Although much work in this direction has begun, we argue that it is fragmented, partly through
the limitations of our current knowledge, but more particularly through an inadequate background
of coherent philosophical thought. This has lead both philosophers and scientists to attempt grand
metaphysical answers to muddled philosophical questions which threaten the progress which
natural science and the philosophy of science have offered in the second half of the twentieth
|Item Type:||Thesis or Dissertation (PhD)|
|Subjects:||B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BD Speculative Philosophy|
|Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH):||Time, Ricœur, Paul -- Criticism and interpretation|
|Official Date:||September 1997|
|Institution:||University of Warwick|
|Theses Department:||Department of Philosophy|
|Sponsors:||University of Warwick|
|Extent:||vi,  leaves|
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