Husserl and Bergson on Time and Consciousness

  • Rafael Winkler
Part of the Analecta Husserliana book series (ANHU, volume 90)


Conscious Perception Objective Unity Transcendental Idealism Involuntary Memory Conscious Life 
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  1. 1.
    Herbert Spiegelberg, The Phenomenological Movement, A Historical Introduction, 2 Vols. (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1965), Vol. II, p. 399.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Edmund Husserl, The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness, Martin Heidegger (ed.), James S. Churchill (trans.) (Bloomington & London: Indiana University Press, 1964), p. 49.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ibid., p. 130.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ibid., p. 52.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Mario Sancipriano, “R. Ingarden et le ‘vrai’ Bergsonisme”, Analecta Husserliana, Vol. IV (Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1976), p. 141.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Gilles Deleuze has noted Husserl and Bergson’s indebtedness to Riemann in Bergsonism, Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam (trans.) (New York: Zone Books, 1991), p. 117; pp. 39–40.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Bernhard Riemann, Gesammelte mathematische Werke und wissenschaftlicher Nachlass (Leipzig: Teubner, 1876), p. 254; W. K. Clifford (trans.), Nature 8, number 183: 14; quoted from Robin Dune, “Splitting Time, Bergson’s Philosophical Legacy”, Philosophy Today, Summer 2000, p. 154.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Concerning the province of objects within a manifold, Husserl writes, in Formal and Transcendental Logic, Dorion Cairns (trans.) (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1969), p. 91, that it “is a province... that is determined solely by the circumstance that... among the Objects belonging to the province, certain connections are possible, which come under certain fundamental laws having such and such a determinate form (here the only determining condition). In respect of their matter, the Objects remain completely indeterminate.... Thus they are determined... exclusively by the form of the connections ascribed to them. These connections themselves are accordingly as little determined in respect of content as the Objects connected”.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Henri Bergson, Time and Free Will, An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness, F. L. Pogson (trans.) (Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, 2001), p. 99.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 85.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Ibid., p. 101.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Ibid., p. 100.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Ibid., p. 227.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 101.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness, p. 23.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Ibid., p. 24.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Edmund Husserl, Thing and Space: Lectures of 1907, Collected Works, Vol. VII, Richard Rojcewicz (ed. and trans.) (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1997), p. 51.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Ibid., p. 59. Concerning the perception of a surface covered with sensible data — the’ spatial extension of an appearance’ — Husserl says that this is a “qualitative continuity.... That essentially implies fragmentability and the ideal possibility of an abstraction into phases”.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
  20. 20.
    Edmund Husserl, Cartesian Meditations: An Introduction To Phenomenology, Dorion Cairns (trans.) (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1973), p. 45.Google Scholar
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  22. 22.
    Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory, N. M. Paul and W. S. Palmer (trans.) (New York: Zone Books, 1991), p. 81. Cf. Time and Free Will, p. 84.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Matter andMemory, p. 134.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Thing and Space, p. 55, emphasis mine.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Ibid., p. 64.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
  27. 27.
    Ibid., p. 257.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Edmund Husserl, Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology, W. R. Boyce Gibson (trans.) (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd; New York: Humanities Press Inc, 1931), p. 132. Husserl adds: “The perspected variable, however, is in principle possible only as spatial (it is indeed spatial in its essence), but not possible as experience.” This, of course, excludes the body, for the body is given in perspectives no less than any other object of outer perception.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Ibid., p. 133.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Ibid., p. 134. And Husserl adds: “Where there is no Being in space, it is senseless to speak of seeing from different standpoints with a changing orientation, and under the different aspects thereby opened up, or through varying appearances and perspective shadings.”Google Scholar
  31. 32.
    Cartesian Meditations, p. 45.Google Scholar
  32. 33.
    Edmund Husserl, De la synthèse passive: Logique transcendantale et constitutions originaires, Bruce Bégout and Jean Kessler (trans.) (Jérôme Millon, 1998), p. 95; all translations into English are mine.Google Scholar
  33. 34.
    Ideas I, p. 397. Or as Husserl says in Cartesian Meditations, p. 49: “in the flux of intentional synthesis... an essentially necessary conformity to type prevails”.Google Scholar
  34. 35.
    Ideas I, p. 153.Google Scholar
  35. 36.
    Cartesian Meditations, p. 43.Google Scholar
  36. 37.
    Cf. Ideas I, §§ 38, 46, 82, 83.Google Scholar
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    This genetic difference is also true of “all acts directed towards essences, or towards the intentional experiences of other Egos with other experience-streams” (Ideas I, p. 124).Google Scholar
  38. 39.
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    2Ibid., p. 236.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 139. Husserl adds that while experiences exclude spatial orientations, an experience has temporal orientations, notably past, present and future, in which case, then, our reflection on some experience does imply some ‘imperfection’, for the past and future phases of an experience are ‘not there’. But “this incompleteness... which belongs to the essence of our perception of experience is fundamentally other than that which is of the essence of ‘transcendent’ perception, perception through a presentation that varies perspectively through such a thing as appearance” (Ibid., p. 140).Google Scholar
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    Ideas I, p. 143.Google Scholar
  45. 46.
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    Ibid., p. 152; cf. Ibid., p. 153. Whether the world’s dependence on consciousness is to be understood epistemologically, strictly in terms of essential relations, or also ontologically, as involving existential relations, does not concem us here, where what is at stake is to establish a contrast with Bergson. For the view of ontological dependence, cf. Herman Philipse, “Transcendental Idealism”, in The Cambridge Companion to Husserl, Barry Smith and David W. Smith (eds.) (Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 239–305. For the view of epistemological dependence, cf. Richard H. Holmes, “Is Transcendental Phenomenology Committed to Idealism?”, The Monist 59 (1975).Google Scholar
  47. 48.
    Cf. The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness, p. 44.Google Scholar
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    On these points I refer the reader to John Brough’s essay, “The Emergence of an Absolute Consciousness in Husserl’s Early Writings on Time-Consciousness”, Man and World 5(3) (August 1972): 298–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness, p. 48.Google Scholar
  50. 51.
    Ibid., p. 132. These are contraries: what is indivisible, it is conunonly assumed, cannot change, cannot be subject to modification; if, e.g., one were to change Socrates’ individuality by inserting another soul into him, then it would no longer be this Socrates. Conversely, that which is changeable, it is generally held, is divisible. It is Bergson and Husserl’s virtue to have combined contrary properties, indivisibility and changeability, into one concept of time.Google Scholar
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    Time and Free Will, pp. 113, 104.Google Scholar
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    Cf. The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness, p. 64.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 50. Paul Ricoeur, Time and Narrative, 3 Vols., Kathleen Blamey and David Pellauer (trans.) (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1988), Vol. III, p. 30.Google Scholar
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    The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness, p. 49.Google Scholar
  55. 56.
    Ibid., p. 50.Google Scholar
  56. 57.
    Ibid., p. 51.Google Scholar
  57. 58.
    Cf., Ibid., p. 130.Google Scholar
  58. 59.
    Ibid., p. 51.Google Scholar
  59. 60.
    Ibid., p. 24.Google Scholar
  60. 61.
    Ibid., p. 53.Google Scholar
  61. 62.
    Matter and Memory, p. 34.Google Scholar
  62. 63.
    The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness, p. 62.Google Scholar
  63. 64.
  64. 65.
    Matter and Memory, p. 67.Google Scholar
  65. 66.
    De la synthèse passive, p. 76.Google Scholar
  66. 67.
    Ibid., p. 77.Google Scholar
  67. 68.
    Cf. The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness, pp. 64–68.Google Scholar
  68. 69.
    There is, of course, nothing surprising in this if, to begin with, the “question of the ‘origin of time’ ” is addressed from “the point of view of theory of knowledge” (Ibid., p. 27).Google Scholar
  69. 70.
    Ibid., p. 65.Google Scholar
  70. 71.
    Ibid., p. 73.Google Scholar
  71. 72.
    Ibid., pp. 162–163.Google Scholar
  72. 73.
    Noted by André Robinet in Bergson et les métamorphoses de la durée (Paris: Éditions Seghers, 1965), p. 66.Google Scholar
  73. 74.
    Cf. Matter and Memory, pp. 35–37.Google Scholar
  74. 75.
    Ibid., p. 17. By calling objects, or the elements of matter, ‘images’, Bergson has in mind the ‘object’ of common sense, notably, something placed halfway between what the realist calls a ‘thing’ and what the idealist calls a ‘representation’: it is an image since the object is as we perceive, with all the appurtenant sensible qualities, but it is a self-existing image, for perception does not bring the object into being (Ibid., pp. 9–10).Google Scholar
  75. 76.
    Ibid, pp. 17–18.Google Scholar
  76. 77.
    Ibid., p. 20.Google Scholar
  77. 78.
    Ibid., p. 25.Google Scholar
  78. 79.
    Perception arises “from a sort of question addressed to motor activity” (Ibid., p. 46). Perception is sensory-motor owing to the double faculty of the body: sensing affections within, and performing automatic or voluntary actions (Ibid., p. 61).Google Scholar
  79. 80.
    M. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, Colin Smith (trans.) (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1962), p. 78.Google Scholar
  80. 81.
    Matter and Memory, p. 32.Google Scholar
  81. 82.
    Ibid., p. 31.Google Scholar
  82. 83.
    Ibid., p. 61.Google Scholar
  83. 84.
    Ibid., p. 66.Google Scholar
  84. 85.
    Ibid., p. 38.Google Scholar
  85. 86.
    Ibid., pp. 35–36.Google Scholar
  86. 87.
    Ibid., pp. 78–84.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 80.Google Scholar
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    The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness, p. 76.Google Scholar
  89. 90.
    Matter and Memory, p. 82. Insofar as this is true of every member of the body, the latter is a collection of inductive motor mechanisms: “we may speak of the body as an ever advancing boundary between the future and the past, as a pointed end, which our past is continually driving forward into our future” (Ibid., p. 78).Google Scholar
  90. 91.
    Ibid., p. 81.Google Scholar
  91. 92.
    Henri Bergson, “Memory of the Present and False Recognition”, in Time & The Instant: Essays in the Physics and Philosophy of Time, Robin Durie (ed.) (Manchester: Clinamen Press, 2000), p. 47.Google Scholar
  92. 93.
    Matter and Memory, p. 102. “Memory... creates anew the present perception” (ibid., p. 101).Google Scholar
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    The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness, p. 131.Google Scholar
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    Matter and Memory, p. 83.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rafael Winkler
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WarwickWarwick

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