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Author & Title: Giorgio Marchetti, Studies on time: a proposal on how to get out of circularity, published in Cognitive Processing, Vol. 10, No. 1, 2009



The analysis of time is vitiated very often by circularity: several disciplines, such as psychology, linguistics, and neurosciences, analyze time by using concepts or terms which already contain in themselves, or are based, on the experience and notion of time (as when, for example, time is defined as “duration”, or when our ability to estimate durations is explained by resorting to the notion of an internal clock). Some detailed examples of circularity in the analysis of time are given here and examined. A way out of circularity is then given: it is represented by the proposal of attentional semantics (AS) of considering words and their meanings in terms of the aim they serve, and the means and processes developed and implemented in order to achieve that aim. According to AS, the main aim of words is that of indicating to, and eliciting in, the listener or reader a specific conscious experience: namely, the conscious experience referred to by their meanings. Words achieve their main aim by conveying the condensed instructions on the attentional operations one has to perform if one wants to consciously experience what is expressed through and by them. By describing the conscious experiences elicited by words in terms of the attentional operations that are responsible for the production of such conscious experiences, AS offers an a-linguistic counterpart to language, and therefore an effective way out of circularity. Following in footsteps of Mach (Contributions to the analysis of the sensations, 1890), but slightly revising his hypothesis, AS defines time-sensation as the perception of the effort made, or alternatively the nervous energy expended, by the organ of attention when performing a “temporal activity” (for instance, estimating duration), that is, when one’s own attention is focused in a continuous and incremental way on the conscious product of the (“non-temporal”) activity performed by means of another portion of one’s attention.


Keywords: Circularity, Time, Linguistics, Psychology, Attentional semantics (AS), Consciousness, Attention


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