Category Archives: Illusion

By ‘illusion’ I mean typically the philosophical concept of illusion. However, I also include hallucination in this heading–anything involving appearances and phenomenology in which:
(a) There is a discrepancy between appearances/phenomenology and reality (or the ‘real world’).
(b) There is more in the appearances/phenomenology than there is in reality (or the ‘real world’).

Naivism and Realism

Lots of people think naive realism is important. But is it important because it’s naive or because it’s realist? Part of that answer depends on whether or not naivism is preferable to realism, or vice versa. Whichever one is, although one might be more important for other reasons, there will be resistance to it because we prefer the other.

We can distinguish between naive realism and naivism:

  • Naive realism concerns the view that what seems to be real is real: 

For example: if, on visually experiencing a coloured round object (such as a red balloon) that seems to be real, then naive realism is the position that, indeed, this apparently real and red balloon is a real and red balloon.

  • Naivism is more general: it is the view that what seems to be x is x: 

For example: if, on visually experiencing a coloured round object (such as a red balloon) that seems to be imaginary, then naivism is the position that, indeed, this apparently imaginary and red balloon is an imaginary red balloon.

That is, along with naive realism, one can also have naive idealism: what seems to be mind-dependent is mind-dependent.

One question such a categorisation raises is: Is naive realism true of our experience? When it comes to our experience, is everything apparent to us (everything in our phenomenology) also apparently real? If so, then naive realism and naivism are the same.

However, this doesn’t seem to be right. Lots of theorists of experience — phenomenologists such as Husserl or Merleau-Ponty, and Sartre (thinking of his book Imagination) — think that some experiences are appearances of only imaginary things. If one is naive about this, then one holds that such things ARE imaginary — because that is how they seem.

Imagination isn’t the only possible case of non-perceptual experience. There is also memory experience — which, whatever else it seems to be, doesn’t seem to be perception (unlike memory hallucination).  And, recently, interest has resurged on the idea of cognitive phenomenology[1] –that there is a phenomenal character or experience to some instances of thought, an experience which cannot be reduced to other forms (such as perception, memory or imagination).

If these are all actually kinds of experience, then there are at least three forms of experience and appearance that are not perceptual.

Another question is raised out of that point: A naive theory is that you take appearances to correspond or, if you can, be identical to how things are. A realist theory is that you take things to be real (independent of human thought and experience). It is possible they can come into conflict. If they do, which is more important?

To answer this, we must first clarify how they could come into conflict. If they can’t conflict, then the question of importance is less important; you’ll never have to choose.

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Temporal Measures are Like Currency (Standards for Experienced Duration 3)

Previous: Time and Tide
Previous: The Windowsill Clock

The man is bemused by this exchange. His colleague makes some tea and sits by the window. Looking out at her ‘clock’ (or, he thinks, exactly not a clock).

“How about this” she says, after some while (or other). “Let’s define a new unit of time. A unit to which we can neutrally refer. It refers to what an hour, second, etc. refers to, but can be linked to any standard. The tide, a dripping tap, experience, etc.”

“For standard time — that measured by a clock — it might be a second, minute, hour, day; whatever you like.

But for any other standard or means of measurement, it needn’t correspond to a clock hour, second, etc.”

The man grunts. “And what will we call it?”

She scratches her ear. “I don’t know….a moment, perhaps? That seems neutral enough.”

He grunts again. “That’s very general. It could mean anything. A second, a millisecond, a year, even, given the scale.”

She dips her head to the side (like the sea did).

“That’s right. Or, at least, it is empty. It denotes a unit of time without any specification of what defines that unit. It’s like units of currency defined without talking about pennies, pounds, kroner, cents.

But here’s the thing: that’s good. We shouldn’t be judging time measured by the tide as accurate or inaccurate according to the clock. They are completely different processes. It is ridiculous to do so, even if they coincide occasionally.

You wish to hold on to the terminology of ‘hours’, etc.. Any use of these terms implies evaluation with respect to a clock. It is always an Hour O’Clock, never an Hour O’Something else. So we need a new set of alternatives for other measures of time.

First,  some neutral terms referring to any unit of any measurement of time. Without the presupposition that we mean clock time — or tidal time, or even experienced time.

Second, for each measure, specific terms if we like. We might do it by qualifying the neutral term, e.g., it is X Moments O’Tide. For the particularly common measures, we might use condensed terms, or even familiar terms. Obviously, for the standard time of human society, we use ‘seconds’, ‘minutes’, ‘hours’.

So, now I say it takes ….4000 tidal moments for the event to happen and there is no problem with the clock — at least, initially.

Two last things.

First, like currency, these measures can be translated into one another. But they aren’t required to stay in fixed translations. Say a moment of tide matches a GMT hour on one occasion and not on another. This is not a reason to reject either the tide’s measure or GMT. It’s not evidence of error on either side. It’s evidence of a complex relationship between them.

— It’s like the relationship between the kroner and the yen.

— It’s not like the relationship between a good dancer and a bad dancer. Or a bad painting and a good painting.

Second, I might give a rough answer to a question about how much time has passed in clock time. But what I’m doing is basing it on a guess as to how tidal time translates to clock time. It’s like if you asked me ‘How much does an umbrella cost?’ in Kroner. I have no idea; but in my home country, in Japan, I know: I look at one for sale in the local shop window.

If you insist ‘tell me in Kroner‘, I can try an answer, of course. But I’m not looking in the shop window at the price. I’m guessing based on all sorts of half-rules and -remembered bits about the two currencies relationship.

If you used my answer as a base to judge that I don’t know how much an umbrella costs at all, or am under an illusion of its price, I think it’s fair to say you have gone wrong in your thinking, not me. Sure — I get the wrong ‘kroner’ answer — but I don’t have any information about the kroner answer, except the half-stuff I have about its relationship to the yen.

It shouldn’t surprise you, then that when you ask me, in clock time, ‘how long does it take to walk to the beach?’, if I say an hour, I can be quite off. But I am not deviating or misjudging the clock time duration. I am guessing the clock time duration based on a measurement of tidal duration. There is a complicated relationship here between two measures:

i. One which I am using to measure time.

ii. The other in terms of which you are asking me to answer.”

“That is a lot of work?” said the man.

“Yes, it’s complicated. Doesn’t make it false.”

(Now it’s time for a pint).


On the experience of time:

(1) Illusions are instances of inaccurate experiences (or non-veridical or false experiences).

(2) A typical judgement of experiences of duration is based on matching clock time with experienced time, e.g., a clock-read hour matches an experienced half-hour (if you’re having fun, by all accounts).*

*Strictly speaking, it involves matching clock time with a reported experience of time. But assume for the moment that the reported experience accurately captures the experience.

(3) If you look at the literature on time distortions, illusions of duration (I’ll be very interested in any exceptions to this), you get this idea:

An illusion (or distorted experience) of duration is classed this way because the experienced duration (e.g., the half hour) does not match the clock duration (e.g., the hour).

(4) Like the tide, we aren’t using the same thing to judge the time. We are perhaps measuring something in our experience of time, e.g., such as a succession of emotional/introspective/physiological states. The relationship between that and clock time is, as with the tide, like the relationship between currencies. It’s complex.

(5) This complexity is not a sign of an inaccurate measurement under a common system on the part of either clock or experience. It is a sign of two different measurement systems.

To judge an illusion of duration with standard clock time, then, we need to do the following:

(6) Have a correct system for translating measures in terms of clock time to measures in terms of what is being used in experience,

(7) Whatever value we get in standard clock time, use the system in ‘6’ to translate it into the measure of experienced time.

(8) This value in experienced time is, at the very least, the better candidate for judging the reported experience of time.

I think, actually, that the idea of even judging in the last point, in ‘8’, is more complicated than that. But I leave it here for now.