24 Jun 2009

The Continuity of Discontinuity, Husserl, para 272-273, Supplementary B1 to: On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time

[I tab quotations.]

The Continuity of Discontinuity

Edmund Husserl

On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time

B: Supplementary Texts


Seefelder Manuscripts on Individuation

No. 35

The Unity of the Thing in Time as Something Identical in Change or Constancy

Continuity and Unity

[Second section under this same heading]

Paragraph 272

Husserl distinguishes: three senses of ‘continua’.

1) Temporal continuity.

There are points in time (abstractly speaking). They fall along a continuous line of temporal motion.

2) Internal Continuity of Time-Content.

Time is not empty. Changing things are found in time. These things do not proceed through a series of discrete discontinuous stages. No, things change continuously across time. So there is a continuity to the things that are in time. [This is important. It presumes something like a reality that guarantees things are constituted in a regular orderly way.]

The continuity in time, understand as the unity of the time-content – unity as continuous unity and as “real unity.” The temporal contents “continuously” fill the extent of time; and while they do this, the identity of something real connects them – the identity of what extends throughout the temporal durations that which is unitary, which changes or endures without changing in this time (abides in constancy or change). (251c.d, boldface mine)

3) Continuity of Changing Continuities.

One object remains itself across the different time points of its appearances. But as a phenomena, it is continually modifying.

The continuum of a “continuous” change. The time-continuum is filled by a continuum of “continuously” self-differentiating moments in which the ultimate differences of a species are individuated. The continuous change of a color: The differences in color vary steadily, and the differentiation of the color-moments “coincides” with the differentiation of time. (251-252, last sentence bridges pages, boldface mine)

Paragraph 273

[If things are continuous, then how do they come to an end? Would we not encounter Zeno’s paradox: as time continues and the phenomenon passes away, it does so continuously, so it is less and less and less, but as soon as it is nothing, then there is a discontinuity. So it must never totally disappear. A trace will be there for eternity. Husserl explains why we do not encounter this problem. Consider the sun setting. It continuously falls below the horizon. At some point, it is certainly no longer visible. There is a continuum of qualitative changes (it’s position, let’s say, although that’s more quantitative, so we might call it a changing continuum of its “sun-upness”). But as some point there is a break. However, that break did not happen without there also being another continuum that bridged it. After the sun dipped below the horizon’s edge, its light still showed across that hemisphere of sky. The sun’s “up-ness” clearly made a discontinuous transition at some point. But time itself did not see a break. There were other co-inciding continuums that remained continuous all the while. Although we can think of many discontinuous phenomena, we may be unable to think of a complete break among all phenomena. It seems that all cases of discontinuous phenomena are coincident with other phenomena which remain continuous while the discontinuous one ends.] Husserl writes:

A “qualitative” continuum can become the object of a genuine consciousness of continuity only in a temporal extension. Then, in this temporal extension, something identical is grasped or capable of being grasped – something that “changes,” and changes “continuously,” without a “break.” The break, the discontinuity, ruptures the unity; but the unity can also be produced and maintained by means of a different, coinciding moment – for example, the spatial continuity coinciding with a color-continuity. If the color-continuity undergoes a break, then the extension is divided but nevertheless remains a unity. (252a)

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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