21 Jun 2009

The Phenomenon of Transitional Intuitional Flow, Husserl, para 25, Supplementary B1 to: On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time

The Phenomenon of Transitional Intuitional Flow

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 25

We have been discussing intuitions. We have partial ones of the object’s pieces. After seeing enough, they unify into one flowing intuition of the whole thing. Nonetheless, we cannot intuit the whole thing at once. That would be like seeing an object from all angles, inside it and outside it, all at once. So we always intuit the thing from some vantage point. On that account, some one part of the thing is most prominent. That would then also be a partial intuition, but it is part of the larger flow of intuition of one object. So when intuiting an object, we go through a series of awarenesses of its parts. For each stage of our noticing, there is some part that is most prominent, while the other parts hang in the periphery or are implied, like how the front-side implies the back-side.

Husserl notes a complicating factor. [We look at the inkwell. Below it is the desk. When we see the bottom edge of our well, the desk is immediately next to it, maybe not even far away into the periphery. The bottom edge of the inkwell is distinct and prominent to our awareness, but we are also aware of the desk. So how is it that we only unify the inkwell parts at the exclusion of the desk-top?] He writes:

Since certain accompanying circumstances are also connected with the partial contents of the moment, how does it happen that the former do not fuse together with the latter into the unity of the thing but instead appear opposed to it as something merely subjective set over against the objective? (155b)

Husserl replies. [Certain parts of the inkwell are distinct during particular moments of the whole flowing intuition of the well in its unity. These parts suggest the other parts of the well as being parts that would fulfill our implicit intention of the larger object. Perhaps our eyes jumped from the inkwell to the table for a second, then returned to the well. The desk does not imply itself as being a part of the inkwell. It’s appearance rather suggests it is a part of the desk. When we are looking at the bottom edge of the inkwell, the table will be at the fringe. Husserl says they are fused to the distinct impressions of the inkwell, but in a marginalized way. So,] on account of the fringe status of our impression of the extraneous things, we exclude them from the series of distinct partial impressions of the object we intuit.

Husserl raises another complication. It’s quite interesting to note. Our eyes move from one corner of the well to another. In between there was a continuum of intention. But throughout that transient continuum, there were no distinct phenomena. However, there was the phenomena of a transition itself. First note some of Husserl’s symbols. When we look at corner A of the inkwell, we are marginally aware of corner B near to it. Perhaps we have seen it before, which will make it even more prominent in our marginal awareness. But as something at the fringe or nonpresentively represented, it is not the same content of our consciousness as we would have if we were actually looking at corner B instead of A. Husserl notates that distinction with a prime symbol: ‘. So while looking at corner A, corner B is not yet distinct to our awareness yet. However, we are marginally aware of it in its indistinctness. So Husserl indicates this alternate intuition by calling it B’. But say we move our eyes to corner B now. We will no longer be aware of the implied impression of corner B. Rather, we will notice corner B in its distinctness. So B’ changes to B. Contrariwise, when our eyes arrive upon corner B, corner A loses its distinctness. So A becomes A’. More interestingly, between A and A’, and B and B’, there is the phenomenon of a transition, passage, change, etc. But this too is like a fringe phenomenon. We do not include it as being an inherent part of the inkwell itself, even though it is inherent to our intuition of the inkwell.

Matters therefore stand with [the first sort of marginal impression] as they do with the fleeting transition-sensations, which are complex phenomena consisting of the movement of the content – consisting, that is, of the phenomenon of the content’s alteration that occurs with the conversion of A into A’ and of B into B. These transition-sensations [and similarly the fringes] consist further of the phenomenon of the change in objective circumstances (the sensation of movement, the sensation of convergence, the sensation of accommodation, etc.). And finally, they consist of the phenomenon of the change in noticing itself. These fringes contribute essentially to the consciousness of identity; but they do not belong to the “content,” do not belong to the thing, to which only what is primarily noticed and intended belongs. ( 155c.d)

[For more on this phenomenon of passage, see this entry, Deleuze Cours Vincennes Spinoza 20-01-1981, for Deleuze’s description of Bergson’s duration as the phenomena of transition. Husserl discusses it also in paragraph 17 of the same text. But there is an important distinction with Deleuze’s Bergsonist version of this phenomenon: the transition proceeds between discontinuous discrete and instantaneous moments of consciousness, rather than being a flow of intuition.]

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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