20 Jun 2009

Bodies Intuiting Bodies, Husserl, para 14, Supplementary B1 to: On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time

by Corry Shores
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Bodies Intuiting Bodies

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 14

When things appear to us, we first perceive their parts. We undergo a series of partial intuitions of the object’s parts. After we have seen enough, we then have a more complete intuition of the whole object. The object as a whole comes about through this flow of partial intuitions. Husserl will now with greater precision examine this intuitional flow.

Physical objects are firstly prominent to this investigation. They have spatial dimensions. And they have surfaces. We cannot see all of the object’s interior and exterior, from every possible angle, all at once.

Even if we perceive it, we have no intuition of a physical thing in the strong sense of the word; there is no momentary act that would grasp in itself, all together and as actually present, the manifold parts, properties, and connections of which the physical thing objectively consists, no momentary intuition that would observe and apprehend them all at the same time. (147)

We perceive an object. We do so during a sequence of moments. Within one moment of our perception, we are attending to the object. We direct our attention in a specific direction. Our attention tends in that particular manner. In this way, we intend the object. We have an intention of it. Husserl means “intention” in this sense of tensing our attention so it tends in some direction (toward some object). This sense of ‘intention’ is useful for when we talk about how things appear to us and the role our consciousness plays in their appearance. We should not also import into our discussion the other sense of “intend,” as in “I intend to clean my room, perhaps soon.” But when we look at our chaotic room, then we are intending the room. For, it appears to our awareness when our attention tends in its direction.

So each intention tends only in a single direction during one moment. For this reason, no one intention can intend the whole physical thing in all its aspects. We see the front. We know it must have a back. The back is not present to us. But the front indicates it. The partial intuition of the object’s front-side represents to us its back-side. But because the back-side is not present to our awareness, our intuition of the front-side serves as a nonpresentative representation: one partial intuition represents the whole object without all its other parts being present to that intuition. For this reason, Husserl says that we do not have a “true intuition” of the object.

We might also imagine some physical object in our phantasy. When we do so, the image of the object refers to a particular partial intuition we had of the object. So in this way the phantasy is a mediated nonpresesentative representation.

So our senses give us partial intuitions of a physical object. And these partial intuitions will come to make-up a full intuition of the whole object, after we have intuited enough of it.

There are primarily two senses that provide us with these partial intuitions of physical objects: sight and touch. Husserl focuses here on seeing. So after seeing enough of the object’s pats, we obtain a full intuition of it. We experience this series of partial intuitions as a flow of intuition. Husserl now will address this intuitional flux.

To do so, he distinguishes two things:

1) We might scan an object merely with our eye motions, and without moving our heads an bodies, [as for example when we read a page of a book.] Such acts include not merely eye movements but also “the movement of the internal regard of noticing and paying attention.” (145-146)

2) Or, we might obtain the flow of intuition also by moving our heads and bodies around to glimpse more of the object. (146a)

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

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