The Time and Consciousness conference in Sydney (here are some photos) yielded a lot of food for thought. The talks focused on a number of different connections between the phenomena. Barry Dainton and Philippe Chuard focused on the experience of time in perception, giving models to explain the experience of a "specious present". Jenann Ismael and Jordi Fernandez focused on representation of time in memory, over scales up to a lifetime. Craig Callender examined experimental studies of time perception to undermine arguments that appeal to temporal experience to support an A-theory ("flow") model of the metaphysics of time. Steve Weinstein discussed models in physics that posit multi-dimensional time, and their implications for the experience of time. Simon Haines focused on different conceptions of time in the history of philosophy and in the history of poetry. Finally, Alex Byrne, Uriah Kriegel, and I gave summary presentations.
The issue most closely connected to my own interests is the representation of time in perceptual experience. One connection: I think one can argue that at least at the level of representation, experience represents time as passing in a robust A-theoretic sense, so that Eden (the world where our experience is perfectly veridical) is a world of temporal passage, rather than a "block universe". Of course this does not entail that our world is such a world: as with color experience, our temporal experience might be only imperfectly veridical. I have seen people use temporal experience to support the A-theory more directly, by arguing that it is not just the case that experience represents A-time, but that the flow of experience itself involves the passage of A-time. Here we are faced with the familiar issue of whether introspection reveals only properties represented by experience, but also nonrepresentational properties of experiences.
Getting clear on this issue, as most issues involving the relation between time and consciousness, involves understanding the relations between three vertices of a triangle: (TCC) the temporal contents of consciousness (time as represented in experience), (TPC) the temporal properties of consciousness (time in which experience takes place), and (TPW) the temporal properties of things in the world. Of course TCC represents TPW, and TPC is an aspect of TPW. The crucial issues for understanding temporal consciousness seem to me to be understanding just what is built into TCC, and just what is the relationship between TCC and TPC.
Even once one distinguishes TCC from TPC, it remains tempting to think there is some closer connection between them than there is in the case of color and space, say. It is not implausible that a being could have the same spatial phenomenology as me, despite a massive distortion or inversion of spatial properties of representations in its brain. But could a being have the same temporal phenomenology as that of my stream of consciousness, despite undergoing my experience in reverse temporal order, or in assorted jagged bursts? There is some intuition that the answer is no. If this is right, then inferences from TCC to TPC may be somewhat more legitimate than in the case of color and shape. If this is wrong, however, then one can make the familiar representationalist move saying that introspection tells us only about temporal contents of experience and not about temporal properties, in which case phenomenology will give relatively little guidance about the temporal metaphysics of experience.
The issue of TCC and its relationship to TPC is also central to the debate over different models of the perceptual experience of time, as discussed in the talks by Chuard and Dainton. Here the leading candidates include the "retention" model of Husserl and Broad, which postulates momentary experiences that represent not just present goings-on but momentarily preceding goings-on, and the "extension" model of Dainton and others, which postulates temporally extended experiences that represent goings-on over a brief period of time. Both models allow that TCC involves representation of at least a brief period of time, but the extension model postulates a much closer connection between TCC and TPC than the retention model. The "projection" model suggested at the conference by Chuard involves an interestingly different role for TPC. According to this model, perceptual experience represents only a momentary state of the world, but the succession of experiences in time produces the cognitive illusion that perception represents more than this. On this model, in effect, TCC is quite thin, but there is an illusion of thickness brought about by TPC.
In any case, this is all just scraping the tip of the iceberg of a very complex issue. There are some good relevant papers in the time and consciousness section of my online papers directory. Sean Kelly (also here) gives a nice introduction to the issue between the retention and extension (or "specious present") model, arguing for the former. Shaun Gallagher and Barry Dainton have an exchange that goes into great depth and detail on this issue in a PSYCHE symposium on Dainton's book Stream of Consciousness (the middle chapters of which are perhaps the best starting point for issues about time consciousness), arguing for the retention and extension models respectively. Rick Grush discusses the relationship between models of temporal phenomenology and potential mechanisms in cognitive neuroscience. There's obviously a lot of room for further work here, and I'm looking forward to seeing how things develop in coming years.