21 Jun 2009

Unity or Multiplicity, Husserl, para 22, Supplementary B1 to: On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time

by Corry Shores
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Unity or Multiplicity

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 22

We have been discussing the flow of intuition that we undergo when intuiting an object. For example, our gaze wonders around an inkwell. At first we have just partial intuitions of the inkwell’s parts. After we see enough of it, we recognize the inkwell and then our stream of intuition intuits it as a whole. Despite that, whenever we intuit the inkwell, we always do so with some particular part being more in focus than the others.

Husserl writes that no matter what perspective we take, we still recognize the same object. Our roving focus only modifies the intuition we have of it, but does not change it to an intuition of a different unity.

Whatever subjective “standpoint” we may assume, recognizing always occurs; and no matter how we vary the standpoint, we find nothing absolute new but only something made distinct – specifically, something made distinct within fixed boundaries. With the exception of the making-distinct of the relevant part, the total impression certainly undergoes no fundamental change of the kind that would lead to something new. (152-153)

So when we are looking at just one object, each of its parts hints at the other ones that make up total unity. We are always then “able to analyze truth from the total impression the various parts that point ahead to and intend the corresponding distinct parts.” Each partial intuition of the object’s parts represents the whole in this way. But the other parts are not evident during that partial intuition. So the partial intuition represents the whole object but not in its full presence. Hence Husserl calls them nonpresentative representations. They give us an intuition of the whole, but in a deficient way, which causes us to satisfy it by seeking-out more partial intuitions and unifying them all into one whole flowing intuition of the entire object. When the partial intuitions flow into the intention of the whole object, then we recognize it. By this means, we identify the object.

Whatever standpoint we assume, by maintaining the same external circumstances of seeing we are able to analyze out from the total impression the various parts that point ahead to and intend the corresponding distinct parts. Thus fulfillment of the intention takes place step by step – and with it identification – only so far as the intending representation flows into union with the intended intuition. Identification therefore takes place step by step, for identification indeed signifies nothing other than the experience of recognition when an intending representation flows over into its intended intuition. (153b)

[Say we ride a train into a tunnel. There is graffiti stretching down the whole wall. We have never been in this tunnel before. Each new part of the graffiti appears to us as the train rolls on. But each part is new. On this account, we do not identify any of the images. However, the next day we ride again through the tunnel. Now we have intuitions of images that are the same as the day before. By this means we recognize the identity of each image. As well, the whole sequence of impressions is the same. So we recognize the whole graffiti mural itself.]

Only where a flow of intuition again and again offers something new does unity give way to a plurality made up of as many different elements as there are new things separately apprehended. But when we always find “the same” again, we have objectively just one thing. It is always the same since we always move within the same intimately related group of intuitions, within which a quite familiar transition leads from member to member, from what is known to what is known, and does so in such a way that the total content that we have in each moment already contains in itself the intention aimed at all the content of the further moments. Consequently, the transition to any member of the group whatever offers a fulfillment of a part of the intention directed towards it. (153c)

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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