Part 1: The Crannies of the Present
This essay revisits the infamous “Libet lag”: the discovery of a half-second gap in conscious awareness during which perception is forming and liable to modulation by nonconscious cues that appreciably modulate subsequent action. The debate aroused by this discovery has traditionally centered on the question of its implications for free will. This essay argues that this way of formulating the issue belabors a false problem. It implicitly assumes the presence of a “ghost in the machine” behind the workings of the brain and the perceptual apparatus. This “homunculus” theory has been repeatedly debunked in philosophy and in neuroscience. A better starting point is the terms the problem suggests for itself, prime among them “readiness potential.” The half-second delay is not an absence. It is filled with an activity of potentiation and a creative receptivity to what A.N. Whitehead calls an “influx of otherness.” The essay suggests some terms for a positive construal of the Libet lag in terms of William James’ “specious present,” following up on Whitehead’s contention that the creativity of the world can be found in the nonconscious potentiation of experience occurring on the scale of fractions of a second, suggesting that the half-second gap is not only not an absence, but is commodious enough to fit all of metaphysics.
Part 2: Such As It Is
This fragment from a work in progress investigates the purely qualitative, unitary feeling that emerges from the gap into consciousness to fill the specious present, working from C.S. Peirce’s concept of “Firstness.”