A Mereological Perspective on Husserl’s Account of Time-Consciousness

Research paper by Di Huang

Indexed on: 16 Sep '21Published on: 14 Dec '19Published in: Husserl Studies


This paper approaches Husserl’s analysis of time-consciousness from a mereological perspective. Taking as inspiration Bergson’s idea that pure durée is a multiplicity of interpenetration, I will show, from within Husserlian phenomenology, that the absolute flow can indeed be described as a whole of interpenetrating parts. This mereological perspective will inform my re-consideration of the much-discussed issue of Husserl’s self-criticism concerning the schema of content and apprehension. It will also reveal a fundamental similarity between Husserl’s conception of the absolute flow and Sartre’s conception of lived temporality. This paper consists of four sections. Section 2 presents the basic elements of Husserl’s mereology. Section 3 introduces the difficulty encountered by Husserl’s early account of time that makes use of the schema. I will examine Barry Dainton’s criticism of Husserl’s theory of time-consciousness against the background of the older debate between Meinong and Stern, a debate that has informed Husserl’s own account. Section 4 distinguishes two common (but misguided) criticisms of the schema from Husserl’s own self-criticism, which is in turn divided into two steps. It is shown how the second step of this self-criticism implies the interpenetration of the absolute flow and responds to Dainton’s criticism. Finally, Sect. 5 concludes with some comparative remarks. I will show how Husserl’s notion of absolute flow, as mereologically interpreted, anticipates Sartre’s conception of consciousness as self-transcendence, as well as how it accommodates the apparently conflicting mereological intuitions of Aristotle and Bergson.