18 Jun 2009

The River of Dominoes, Husserl, para 9, Supplementary B1 to: On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time

[The following is summary. My commentary is in brackets. Image credits given below. Thanks creativityprompt.com]

The River of Dominoes

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 9

Husserl has been discussing intuitions. He feels compelled to explicate the term ‘intuition’ in its broader and narrower senses.

When we notice something, it immediately enters our mind. For example, we might hear one note of a melody, and it is that particular note that becomes the “content” in our mind. But as we noted previously, the part of a whole represents the whole, although in a “nonpresentational” way. For, the part (the single note) shows signs of being incomplete. Thereby it indicates or suggests the remainder of the melody, even though the rest of the melody is not present. This is the narrow sense of the term ‘intuition.’

Intuition in the narrower sense is the immanent and primary content of a momentary representing, or better, noticing. (145b)

But also consider that when we are listening to the melody, we are continuously noticing the notes. On account of the continuity between the parts, the notes unify into a continuous awareness of the whole melody.

intuition in the wider sense is the content of a unitary continuing noticing. (145b)

Consider if we hear a violinist play one note continuously and at the same intensity. Our continuous awareness will be of one particular note with a certain quality. And if we examine any one moment during the extent of time we heard that long continuous note, what we will find that in our awareness is again that very same note of the same quality.

If ... the content remains unchanged, then, supposing that the temporal dilation is not heeded, there is no difference between the continuing noticing and the momentary intuition of the content. (145bc)

Consider instead if we hear a diverse series of notes. From one moment to the next, there is a tonal change. Nonetheless, the heterogeneity will be unified.

The situation is altogether different if the content continuously changes or if, instead of the one content, a constantly varying manifold enters into the unitary act of intuiting. We then have a connected flow of momentary intuitions encompassed by the one enduring noticing. (145c, emphasis mine)

So the melody’s tonal qualities might change continuously. We can distinguish two primary ways this can be so. First consider how an emergency ambulance siren gradually fluctuates its pitch, like a human cry or moan. This would be a continuous change. Or instead consider when someone is singing a scale – do re mi fa sol la ti do ... In this case there is a series of discrete differences. There is a pause between each note. Yet nonetheless, we take them altogether as the recital of one scale. So we still unify discrete discontinuities.

the fact that particular acts of perceiving may render prominent the individual parts does not interrupt the unitary character of the total intuition, supposing only that the whole flow of acts takes place within an overlapping act. (145cd, emphasis mine)

But what if there really is an abrupt shift? Perhaps the singer coughs in the middle of the scale. We still unify the series, because there was a natural continuum of change, although very quick, from the notes to the cough.

even where discrete changes of content occur, continuous changes are always there as well – the natural variations of content through temporal displacement and dilation. (145d)

Fundamentally, our perduring awareness of discrete changes is a fluidly continuous progression of intuitions. But even so, we should consider the “flow” as being made-of a series of separate instances. During each one, we are aware of a different variation in the changing thing.

it is better to understand by the flow of intuition the succession of discrete acts of noticing in which the manifold variations of content are contained – acts that all flow within the continuous act of noticing. (145-146)

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.

Domino mage obtained gratefully from:

The image's more original source is:

[My thanks to creativityprompt.com for this information]

Cleveland Cascade Image from:


  1. Thanks for the link to Creativity Prompt but the proper attribution is for Wikipedia, which is where the image is published under the Creative Commons license.

  2. Thanks for the correction. I appreciate the help.