Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Time and the One and the Many

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Time and the One and the Many

Article excerpt

(IN HUSSERL'S BERNAUER MANUSCRIPTS ON TIME CONSCIOUSNESS)

To raise the issue of time is to confront a vivid instance of the relation of the one and the many. Even in ordinary prephilosophical living, if we think about time at all, we at least think of it as a unity playing host to infinitely many objects and events. Edmund Husserl accepts this ordinary assumption about time, but-whether in the early texts published in Husserliana X, in the Bernauer Manuscripts from 1917/1918,1 or in later unpublished texts-he is concerned with more than simply time. His focus is on time-consciousness, which brings before us time as presentgd to consciousness and consciousness as presenting time, and not only time but temporal objects and even itself as a process. This focus on the consciousness of time, embracing both the time of which we are conscious and the consciousness of it, uncovers a rich and layered array of one/many relationships. Indeed, it is reasonable to claim that Husserl's phenomenology of temporality is precisely the investigation of the interplay of the one and the many within levels and among levels of time and time-consciousness. The aim of this essay is to examine several of the ways in which such interplays appear in the Bernauer Manuscripts.

Time, Temporal Objects, and the Unity of Time

I will start with time itself, the time that is the object of time-consciousness. Husserl speaks of many times: immanent time, phenomenological time, transcendent time, the time of phantasy. Whether these various times in some sense form one time is an important question to which I will turn later. But however one answers it, Husserl holds that any time is a unity with infinitely many successive points or positions. Time as a unity is a continuum of many time points. This does not mean that Husserl thinks that we can be conscious of time or of its successive points by themselves, in isolation from any content. On the contrary, we are always conscious of objects in time. "A time point is the time point of an individual filling this time point" (181). What can we say, then, about the time in which we experience temporal objects? Objects are temporal objects because they fill time. Each point of time is filled with some phase of an object or event, of a bird in flight, for example, or of the act of seeing the bird in flight. In that sense, both time and each of its points are forms (160). Hence time points and the object points filling them are not identical; they differ as form and content. This displays itself in the fact that one time point can accommodate many different objects. It is this distinction between time point and the different objects that fill it that accounts for simultaneity. I can hear a melody playing on the radio, look at the illustrations in the magazine in front of me, and feel a soft breeze coming through the window-all at the same time. On the other hand, there cannot be several time points at once. Time points are not contents in time and hence are not "at a time," as objects and their phases are. Time points are the one time in its manyness. Hence time points, unlike object points, are never simultaneous. They are what makes the simultaneity and succession of temporal objects possible. They are the times at which an object or event can be.

When we are conscious of temporal objects, of course, we are not just aware of isolated temporal points, each filled with a dol-lop of objective content. We experience enduring objects, as when we contemplate a picture or listen to a piece of music or watch a baseball game. To be an individual object constituted in time means to endure in time. The individual object "becomes constituted point by point as filled temporal duration" (322). An object's duration is part of time; it is the amount of time the object lasts, the continuum of time points the object fills (121). "The duration itself and the temporal extension are the same" (134). For this reason, Husserl writes, "every property endures; (but) the duration itself does not endure: ex definitione" (306). …

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