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Chapter IV: Chapter IV: Phenomenological Quest for the Inter-subjective Dimensions of Transcendental Subjectivity

5.3. Temporal Horizon in Husserl’s Late Phenomenology

5.3.1. Husserl and Bergson on Temporality

Though Bergson was not a true phenomenologist but Bergsonian approach of temporality has various similarities with Husserlian concept of temporality. Bergson was born in the same year Husserl born in 1859. It is evident that most of the prominent figures of phenomenology like Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau Ponty discussed about Bergson in their respective works. Although there could be found similarities among them the most crucial difference between them arises with the issue of the experience of an object. In both Husserl and Bergson experience of an object involves the actualization of the indeterminate elements of a manifold. ―For Bergson and Husserl, then, one of the basic laws of experience is the

‗explication‘ or actualization of the indeterminate elements of a manifold – the synthesis of


indeterminate elements into a concrete object of experience‖ (Winkler, 2006, p. 97). This is because the object always contains a manifold of distinct appearances which finally unveils the actual object which also can be regarded as the unity of a perceived object. In this regard Husserl talks about the tactual and visual form of an object i.e. the form and the matter of an object (Ibid). Interestingly enough, form and matter of an object cannot be perceived at one go. To perceive an object it must be given from some orientation. Therefore, an object might have changing spatial orientations as it is not possible to perceive an object only from one particular point of view. So, the object will be something more than even if there exists infinite numbers of spatial orientations (Ibid). Thus, Husserl maintains that the perception of the spatial object is not quantifiable. On the other hand, according to Bergson, it is ―intuition‖

which is primordially connected with things and therefore, it has direct access to the interior of things without mediated by any other sign or symbol (Hoy, 2009). Bergson gives higher position to intuition and distinguishes it from intelligence, logic and instinct. According to Bergson, there are two approaches to know a thing i.e. relatively, which is perspectival or absolutely, by going directly into the thing and grasping it as a whole (Kreps, 2015). While analysis provides with the relative knowledge of the thing, intuition gives the knowledge of the absolute (ibid). For Bergson, It is an empirical process which focused upon the immediate sensory experience of a real object.

Bergson relates intelligence to the ordinary mode by which he claims objects are conceived. Intelligence makes the circuit of the object, observing its various facets and relating them to one another through a more or less conscious geometry. Intuition, he says on the other hand, takes us inside the object, into its interior reality; it moves us beyond the opposition of thesis and antithesis characteristic of the Kantian antimonies (Hoy, 2009, p. 51).

For Bergson, as intuition grasps the interior reality of an object therefore, consciousness does not have any role in the constitution of an object. According to Bergson, constitution is the task of analytical intelligence. But, in case of Husserl, constitution is that act through which an object is given in consciousness.


Jean-Paul-Sartre and Jacques Taminiaux by criticizing Bergson‘s approach affirmed that Bergson was not of the opinion that consciousness must have a correlate, or, to speak like Husserl, that a consciousness is always consciousness of something.

Consciousness, for Bergson, seems to be a kind of quality, a character simply given; very nearly a sort of substantial form of reality (As cited in Dupont, 2014, p. 53).

For Bergson intuition provides the direct awareness of one‘s own consciousness, one‘s own inner life or the interior awareness of objects. Thus, he regarded this flowing of one‘s personality or awareness over time as duration or durée (Fitz, 2001). As both Bergson and Husserl talks about manifold but, in case of Bergson there does not exist any principle in order to transcend the manifold as for him duration is a creative and changing manifold. So, how could there exist any transcending element in order to stop this creative and changing process of duration. But, in case of Husserl there is a transcending element which he affirmed as prescriptive or sometimes he called it as ideal unity or telos. . ―Reflection on experience can tell us that what is intended in a manifold of changing perspectives is the ―consciousness of the same object‖.‖ (Winkler, 2006, p. 99). The object might be perceived from different orientations at different points of time but the object would be the same and consciousness would also be of the same object. Thus, ―the whole of conscious life is unified synthetically.

… The fundamental form of this universal synthesis…is the all-embracing consciousness of internal time‖ (Husserl, 1982, p. 42-43). For Husserl it is the ‗time‘ only which combines the consciousness with consciousness into a stream of experience.8 But, according to Bergson, time is that which goes beyond the human condition and could be known through intuition only and regarded it as ―the direct vision of the mind by the mind‖ (Bergson, 1946, p. 29).

Thus, whatever both Husserl and Bergson said about temporality, it would be incomplete unless we discuss the concept of memory employed by both the philosophers. It is memory only which brings life to consciousness either in form of recollection or retention.

Memory, according to Bergson, is pure recollection, while for Husserl it is retention. Memory is that factor which continues the identity of a thing or a self. According to Husserl, there are two kinds of memory they are the ―primary memory‖ or ―retention‖ and

―secondary memory‖ or ―recollection‖ which contains the usual sense of the terms

8 By the consciousness with consciousness Husserl meant the consciousness of a manifold at different point of time.


―memory‖. In order to understand Husserlian concept of retention Kreps (2015) in his book explained it very clearly and says that according to Husserl, while the point ―A‖ occurs at a

―now‖ point of time that can be regarded as a present perception. But, this ―now‖ point is not an eternal point of time, it does not endure forever. So, when a new ―now‖ point like ―B‖

appears, the earlier ―A‖ point does not fade away, it just runs off to the past. So, now though

―A‖ is not fully present, it is still given to the consciousness but as a past present. Now, at point ―C‖ both ―A‖ and ―B‖ would still retain in consciousness but in a peripheral manner while, the point ―A‖ would be given in a more peripheral manner than ―B‖. But the point should be noted here is that both ―A‖ and ―B‖ are still given in consciousness. Thus, this process would continue so forth. This can be regarded as the retention of the retention which is the condition of temporal progression (Ibid). Again, by talking about secondary memory Husserl said that it is possible only on the basis of retention.

Here a particular former ―now‖ is given again, but not as past, but as being present again. This true memory, or recollection, is a synthetic act. Husserl calls memory an act of representation, for the past is literally re-presented, made present again. It is a bringing together of a present act (the recollection with) a past act (the former seeing or hearing). However, it is not a complete merging of the two acts; otherwise there would be no distinction between the remembering and what is remembered (Buckley, 1992, p. 86).

Thus, Husserl maintains that in an act of true memory though everything is not always recalled but they always retained by keeping the scope of recollection. Paul Ricoeur notes, ―because what runs off from it ‗still‘ belongs to it; beginning is beginning to continue‖

(Ricoeur, 1988, p. 30). Thus, it seems that Husserl explains his phenomenology of temporality diachronically while on the other hand Bergson explores it synchronically (Hoy, 2009). Like Husserl, Bergson also denies the objective clock time and goes for a temporal flow by talking about the inner time graspable through intuition. But, while Husserl explains temporal flow as a continuous process on the other hand Bergson explains how the past is present in the present experience not as present but precisely as past (ibid). According to Bergonian exploration, past is meaningful only in light of the present. Thus, duration in Bergson involves past, present and future as co-existing elements but not as successive moments. In this regard Merleau Ponty regarded Bergsonian account of duration as an attempt of assembling past, present and future in order to express the ―oneness‖ of time at


any given moment (ibid). Merleau Ponty by criticizing Bergsonian account of duration stated that ―Bergson‘s snowball account, in its preoccupation with forcing everything to accumulate in the present, does not sufficiently explain how we distinguish whether a given moment is a past, present, or future moment‖ (ibid, p. 121). Thus, Merleau Ponty said that Bergsonian account of time could not establish the independence of the past. As for him, viewing the past from the eyes of the present makes the past dependent on the present.

Thus, by concluding the discussion it could be said that though there could be found various similarities in Husserl and Bergson regarding phenomenology of temporality but it is also true that in Bergson it is not possible to leveling up the past, present and the future. In Bergson one could remember the past with the help of the present and same is the issue with the future as well. But, for Husserl, remembering does not involve only recollecting the past events like information. Alongwith remembering Husserl also talks about re-living the past at present moment. For him, the memory of the past is not fixed but can be re-lived in the present moment which could also render various new horizons.

Therefore, Husserl talks about the element of forgetting. As according to him, if there is no forgetting then it would be like computer memory or storehouse of information. Thus, by following Husserl it could be said that memory of the past does not involve simply remembering of certain past events only but it also involves sense of joy, lost, guilt etc. of those past events which now sometimes either I would like to rectify or re-live. Therefore, Husserl has never emphasized upon fixed time expressed by certain phrases like ―Once upon a time‖, ―at one time‖ etc. Thus, in explaining the concept of temporality Husserl stated that consciousness is like a stream or unity where experiences flows like waves which cannot be viewed like the wagons in the same train. According to him, temporality is a continuous flow where everything takes place including historical events. And thus, by taking various elements from different generations, diverse cultural backgrounds, historical trajectories traditions take shape.

Finally, from the above discussion of historicity and temporality it could be stated that both are interconnected in Husserl‘s phenomenology. Therefore, Husserl talks about the historical time and its division into historical eras.


he centres these around the ―now‖ of my life and its experience, with its horizons of the past and future, and then calls for a ―parallel‖ way of looking at the life of society in its historically concrete unities, such as marriage, family, tribe, people, nation. It is only through the continuous life of such unities, from generation to generation, that tradition takes shape, and it is tradition that ―fills‖ historical time as the present and the past (Ströker, 1997, p. 233).

Therefore, Husserl‘s concept of historicity and temporality could be understood from broader perspective only which contributes in the formation of tradition and finally the Life-World.

Now, it is important to discuss what Husserl meant by the tradition and how it contributes to form the Life-World.