Thank you for writing this summary (and conducting this research project)!
I have a question. I am not sure what the standard terminology is, but there are (at least) two different kinds of mental processes: reflexes/automatic response and thoughts or experiences which span longer times. I am not certain which are more related to capacity for welfare, but I guess it is the latter. Additionally I imagine that the experience of time is more relevant for the former. This suggests that maybe the two are not really correlated. Have you thought about this? Is my view of the situation flawed?
Thanks, that’s a great question!
Welfare is constituted by those things that are non-instrumentally good or bad for the creature. Insofar as reflexes are unconscious, they probably are not non-instrumentally good or bad. (They are, of course, often instrumentally good; they help the creature get other things that are good for it.) Conscious experiences, on the other hand, are usually non-instrumentally good or bad. Experiences with a positive valence are non-instrumentally good; experiences with a negative valence are non-instrumentally bad. (Experiences that are perfectly neural may not be non-instrumentally good or bad; experiences can also be instrumentally useful in a variety of ways.)
Differences in the subjective experience of time—assuming they exist—are relevant to welfare (both realized welfare and capacity for welfare) because they reflect differences in the amount of experience a creature undergoes per unit of objective time. I write about the moral importance of the subjective experience of time in this part of the first post.
You’re right that there are other aspects of temporal perception that may not be directly relevant to welfare. We already know that there are differences in temporal resolution (roughly: the rate at which a perceptual system samples information about its environment) across species. Enhanced temporal resolution may, among other things, enable faster unconscious reflexes. Naturally, the speed of a creature’s reflexes will indirectly contribute to its welfare, but those unconscious reflexes won’t be part of what constitutes the creature’s welfare. Whether or not there is a correlation between temporal resolution and the subjective experience of time is an open question, one that I explore in depth in the second post.
Hope that clarifies things a bit for you, but if not, please ask a follow-up question!
Thank you for the eloquent response, and for the pointers to the parts of your posts relevant to the matter.
I think I understand your position, and I will dig deeper into your previous posts to get a more complete picture of your view. Thanks once more!