25 Jun 2009

Lengths of Non-Extending Moments, Husserl, para 311-313, Supplementary B1 to: On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time

[Quotations tabbed.]

Lengths of Non-Extending Moments

Edmund Husserl

On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time

B: Supplementary Texts


Seefelder Manuscripts on Individuation

No. 36

On the Seefeld Reflection. The Typical, the Mathematical, and the Unity of the Temporal Object

Paragraph 311

Husserl distinguishes two types of durations, according to their size: the expanding flowing durations, and the momentary ones. So it would seem that their difference would be primarily quantitative. However, their quantitative differences are so contrary that he says they are qualitatively different.

in the type that is duration we have a distinction between the expanding, flowing durations and the momentary durations; and we have this distinctions before the attempts at division. This is, as it were, a qualitative distinction in the total-type. Correlatively expressed: the expanding or flowing duration – the momentary duration, the lightning-like. (263c, emphasis mine)

Paragraph 312

[We see the brown beer bottle. We begin at eight o’clock, and stop at quarter-after. Then we watch the sun-set. We begin at eight thirty and end at quarter-to. There are temporal extents to both phenomenal durations. In this case they equal one another. They could also have been more or less than one another.] Flowing expanding durations have temporal magnitudes. But momentary durations do not. They are inextensive instants. However, Husserl does say they can have a magnitude of sorts that is not of the extensive variety. He does not explicitly say so, but these could be intensive. Consider the sunset. At the beginning, the sky was so bright. Then right before it completely set, the sky was darker. So we may compare magnitudes from one instant to the next, so long as we designate some quality we are comparing. Something like ‘brightness’ might be what he means by ‘conceptual classes.’

An expanding duration can expand for a longer time or a shorter time, or two expanding durations can expand for the same length of time. They have equal temporal durations. All of the extensions that form a group of equivalent extensions have the same temporal magnitude or extent (the same difference in extent for all). On the other hand, momentary durations, moments, have no temporal magnitude, no extension, although, for all that, we do find gradual distinctions in their case as well. Even here we speak, as we do universally in cases of augmentation, of “magnitude,” of greater or smaller. Even here, with our conceptual classes formed, we are able to think of the same “magnitude.” But we cannot speak of stretches, of extensions. (263-264)

Paragraph 313

[The bottle: for fifteen minutes it appeared. This is its duration’s temporal extension. So long as a duration is extensive, it is divisible. But that does not mean every extension is made of smaller extensions. After numerous divisions, we arrive upon indivisible instants. [This is similar to Hume's extensive divisions terminating in inextensive magnitudes, see this entry, this one, this one, this one, and this one regarding his Treatise ] So every extension is made up of a large number of indivisible parts that lack extension. Now consider this: if you take one thing with no extension and add it to another inextensive thing, then it would seem you do not yield something that is extensive. So we might conclude that even an infinity of inextensive parts will never add-up to even the least imaginable extension. However, also consider this too: we are presupposing that an extension cannot be infinitely divided. That means we keep dividing it up into more and more parts. Then at some point in our divisions, we can divide no more. For, we arrive upon indivisible parts. Then, we count up that finite number of moments. From this perspective, we can conceive that longer extensions have more moments, even though none of those moments themselves extend to any length. Hence Husserl explains that] phenomenal extensions are essentially divisible, except when they have been divided many times and finally yield indivisible moments.

Divisibility belongs to the essence of phenomenological extensions, stretches. Yet one cannot say that, with division, extended sections must always break down again into extended sections; [in this process] we finally come to moments. Every extended section can be divided into a greater or smaller number of moments, depending on whether the moments are greater or smaller. (364a)

[So each duration divides into a certain number of indivisible, inextensive instants. We might expect that the exact number depends on how large the full extent is. However, Husserl says that the number instead depends on the size of inextensive instants. But if it does not have extensive magnitude, then what sort of size does it have? I derive one possible answer from the way Deleuze explains the differentials in Spinoza’s Letter on Infinity. In this sense, the inextensive instants have intensive magnitudes. So at each moment there is a certain level or grade (of some quality). As our awareness flows through these moments, they are aware of things that are greater or less in some way, or the awareness itself is greater or less in some way. When you move from one grade to the next (from one instant to another), then you have gradual change. To move from one great intensive magnitude to another large one about the same size is not much of a change. But to move from a small to a large would be. Hence what would matter from this perspective are the differences in level from one moment to the next. Now consider seconds of time. If at second one there is a little intensity, and at second five there is very much more. So to proceed through these seconds means undergoing a great alteration. Perhaps what Husserl means is that in order to bridge such a large change, we would need to go through many many smaller changes. However, if the difference between second one and second five is minimal, then we would not need to travel through many moments. But I do not presume to know exactly what Husserl means here.]

On the other hand, a gradation of moments leads over into extended sections. Small stretches do still present themselves as extensions but are closely connected with moments, and the gradation that allows the separation of greater and shorter moments leads over – in the direction of the expansion of the moment – into small stretches. (264b, emphasis mine)

Husserl says that the difference between the longness and shortness is quasi-qualitative. [That might lend support to our interpretation of them as intensities.]

Finally, we still have to treat the quasi-qualitative distinction between the long and the short outside a comparison or combination of what they have in common as sensuous moments, at least in the case of extensions. Moments surely are classified as “short” here, but we must ask to what extent a hidden intentionality plays a part in the comparison. (264c)

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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