18 Mar 2009

Husserl, On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time, Supplementary B1, paragraph 3

[The following is summary. My commentary is in brackets.]

Edmund Husserl

On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time

B: Supplementary Texts

I "On the Introduction of the Essential Distinction between 'Fresh' Memory and 'Full' Recollection and about the Change in Content and Differences in Apprehension in the Consciousness of Time"

No. 1 "How Does the Unity of a Process of Change that Continues for an Extended Period of Time Come to Be Represented?
Intuition and Re-presentation"

Paragraph 3

Previously we considered the example of listening to a melody. We imagine now that it begins to run-off. When it began, we could discern it from its noisy tonal background, on account of its distinct tonal form. The first note is succeeded by a second one that builds on the first: "in this way forms evolve from forms universally." The old one is held in consciousness. But the new one is not permanent in the present. The melody begins with a tone or tonal structure that remains in the present only for a brief time t in our consciousness.
In the temporal order of the content, the last part in each moment prevails with respect to clarity and fullness. (142bc)
If t is traversed, the beginning disappears; and from then on, ever new parts of what follows disappear. (142c)
We normally do not notice their fading away, as our concern is "fixed on what is more vital, newer, and is directed forwards throughout" in the present moment. In this way, the tonal forms weaken as they gradually disappear, and we tend not to notice. For, "one notices the gain and not the loss." (142c)

What was recently present becomes no longer part of our intuition. Yet, we do acquire it as a retention. All that had come before in the melody influences the "feeling character" and esthetic character of what is there in the present [this is much like Bergson's contraction see §64 and §66 of Time and Free Will].
If the melody comes to an end, then we have a boundary characterized precisely as a boundary: the consciousness of completion. The manner of the ending, like a period of a sentence, leaves me nothing new to expect or demand. (142d)
However, a word or sentence that is only half-written leaves us with dissatisfied expectations, "just as when we sit down to lunch and nothing further comes after the soup." (143a) So if the melody begins but does not complete itself, then it gives us the impression that something is lacking or is "unconsummated." It makes us feel "drawn" forward towards continuation.

Yet, whether or not the melody completes, its presently intuited content bears a unique character that is a quasi-quality. The nature of that quality is this: we associate to this quality certain thoughts that make 'explicite' [explicit?] the fact that we expect tonal forms to follow or not to follow. These forms that we expect would then relate to the ones we just intuited, or they would develop from these just intuited forms.

Kerry and Lipps spoke of the continuation drive. Their point is relevant but different from Husserl's. A melody is an example of a development that follows a uniform path. Our custom of representing such a development impels us to be conscious of possible continuations of the melody which are not yet represented.
The moving-forward in a uniform direction, in a progression, order, and harmony in material interconnections, produces precisely the appropriate "sensations." (143c)
As well, this moving forward brings about associations that point ahead. These open the possibility that our present intuition may be elaborated or even amplified. They also tell us that we may obtain knowledge of what is to come. (143c)

Husserl, Edmund. On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time (1893-1917). Vol 4 of Edmund Husserl: Collected Works. Ed. Rudolf Bernet. Trans. John Barnett Brough. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1991.

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