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The time-lag argument and simultaneity

Gu, Zhiwei (2021) The time-lag argument and simultaneity. Synthese.

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The time-lag argument seems to put some pressure on naïve realism to agree that seeing must happen simultaneously with what is seen; meanwhile, a wide-accepted empirical fact suggests that light takes time to transmit from objects at a distance to perceivers—which implies what is seen happened before seeing, and, accordingly, naïve realism must be false. In this paper, I will, first of all, show that the time-lag argument has in fact involves a misunderstanding concept of simultaneity: according to Special Relativity, simultaneity is a matter of convention rather than a matter of fact, so, in principle, we can stipulate a perceptual conception of simultaneity, according to which what is seen is simultaneous with seeing. Secondly, the generalized time-lag argument has a mistaken view on the perceived events and perceiving; it has a doubtful assumption that these events are momentary in the mathematical sense. Such idealization is the main reason why we have the intuition that the time-lag effect of perceiving is in conflict with our ordinary perceptual experiences. Finally, I argue that the naïve realist account of the perceptual relation is a nontemporal constitutive relation; and hence naïve realism is compatible with the claim that we can perceive things as they were, and it should not be weakened by the time-lag argument.

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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Gu, Zhiweiguzhiweibp@gmail.com0000-0002-0808-8735
Keywords: Simultaneity, Special Relativity, Idealization, Naive Realism
Subjects: General Issues > Conventionalism
Depositing User: Dr. Zhiwei Gu
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2021 02:24
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2021 02:24
Item ID: 19254
Journal or Publication Title: Synthese
Publisher: Springer
Official URL:
Subjects: General Issues > Conventionalism
Date: 28 June 2021

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