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Paradoxes of the Notion of Antedating: A Philosophical Critique to Libet's Theory of the Relationships Between Neural Activity and Awareness of Sensory Stimuli

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Abstract:

Among Benjamin Libet's experiments on the relationship between consciousness and neural activity, those pointing at a substantive difference between subjective timing of a sensory experience and the experimental measure of the time needed to produce that experience appear particularly interesting. From a subjective standpoint, one is immediately conscious of a sensory experience, whereas, as a result of objective measured time of reaction, unconscious neural activation in the presence of a sensory stimulus begins 500 msec before one being aware of the stimulus. In order to compensate this discrepancy, Libet introduces the notion of antedating. However, there is no fully satisfactory answer to the question about the conditions of possibility for antedating. Therefore, the very notion of antedating is highly problematic, though not infertile: the paradoxes present in this conception foster a profound review of the meaning of our experience of time and of the relationships between objective and subjective time.

Keywords: Libet; antedating; awareness; consciousness; experience; neuro-activity; paradox; perception; phenomenology; subjectivity; time

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Email: franco.chiereghin@unipd.it

Publication date: January 1, 2011

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