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Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118

DOI 10.1007/s10743-007-9020-4

Husserls appropriation of the psychological concepts

of apperception and attention

Daniel J. Dwyer

Received: 15 July 2006 / Accepted: 4 December 2006 / Published online: 20 March 2007
Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Abstract In the sixth Logical Investigation, Husserl thematizes the surplus

(Uberschu) of the perceptual intention whereby the intending goes beyond
the partial givenness of a perceptual object to the object as a whole. This
surplus is an apperceptive surplus that transcends the purely perceptual sub-
stance (Gehalt) or sensed content (empfundene Inhalt) available to a perceiver
at any one time. This surplus can be described on the one hand as a synthetic
link to future, possible, active experience; to intend an object is to intend it as
it would appear if we were to have an exhaustively synthetic explication of it.
This perceptual apperceptive surplus is, on the other hand, distinguished from
the surplus that categorial form represents over the perceptual sense data. In
this paper I show how the apperceptive surplus can also be understood as a
synthetic link to past experience that is passively operative in any present
perception. The synthetic link to both past and possible experience is a link to
non-actual perceptions. Links to non-actual experience are despite their non-
actuality nevertheless genuinely intentional in that they enter into the sense of
any actively constituted object understood as a unity of sense. Key to this
interpretation is an explanation of how Husserl appropriated the key concepts
of attention and apperception from psychologists of his day, such as Stumpf
and Wundt.

Keywords Apperception Attention Awakening Genetic

phenomenology Intentionality Motivation Passive synthesis

D. J. Dwyer (&)
Philosophy Department, Xavier University,
3800 Victory Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45207, USA

84 Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118


In the sixth Logical Investigation, Husserl thematizes the surplus (Uberschu)

of the perceptual intention whereby the intending goes beyond the partial
givenness of a perceptual object to the object as a whole. This surplus is an
apperceptive surplus that transcends the purely perceptual substance (Gehalt)
or sensed content (empfundene Inhalt) available to a perceiver at any one time
(Hua XIX/2, 14b). This surplus can be described on the one hand as a syn-
thetic link to future, possible, active experience; to intend an object is to
intend it as it would appear if we were to have an exhaustively synthetic
explication of it. This perceptual apperceptive surplus is, on the other hand,
distinguished from the surplus that categorial form represents over the per-
ceptual sense data. In this paper I will show how the apperceptive surplus can
also be understood as a synthetic link to past experience that is passively
operative in any present perception. The synthetic link to both past and
possible experience is a link to non-actual perceptions. Links to non-actual
experience are despite their non-actuality nevertheless genuinely intentional
in that they enter into the sense of any actively constituted object understood
as a unity of sense.
What Husserl develops in the early stages of the phenomenological
critique of reason is a theory of intentionality as an attentive directedness
toward objects. Attention is always temporally and environmentally
conditioned, however: What one can attend to at any one time is a function
of what is in the field of attention. The field of attention is structured on
the one hand by the spatial arrangement of objects in the field of per-
ception and on the other by the temporal arrangement of the successive
acts of intentionality in the field of consciousness. The notion of a field as a
horizon of indeterminateness within which anything determinate makes its
appearance develops further a theme that was only briefly discussed in the
sixth Logical Investigation, namely, the interplay between determinacy and
indeterminacy that pervades the structure of intentionality. These themes
are often understood by scholars as the themes of an explicitly genetic
phenomenology that is dated after the publication of Ideas I to the
programmatic statements of the distinction between static and genetic
phenomenology.1 In this paper, however, I will show how the inner logic of
Husserls theory of perception as begun in the sixth Logical Investigation
and developed in the period leading up to the Ideas I implies the possi-
bility, indeed, the necessity, of an analysis of consciousness as historically
and temporally conditioned. Key to this interpretation is the various ways
in which Husserl appropriated some important psychological concepts of
his day.

See, for example, Hua XI, pp. 336ff. and Hua XVII, Appendix II.

Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118 85

The development of an intentional theory of attention

There are at least three related presuppositions upon which the first edition of
the sixth Logical Investigation relied. First, it was assumed that there is pos-
sible an adequate external perception of an object that is necessarily valid and
about which there can be no doubt.2 This view was corrected, however, when
Husserl worked out the synthetic theory of evidence, according to which any
particular presentation of an object is connected to future presentations that
could in principle invalidate it. Second, Husserl treated perception as a static
process in which the object is given all at once. He thus relied on the possi-
bility of a tranquil perceiving in which the object of external perception is
given in one blow, as soon as ones regard (Blick) falls upon the object (Hua
XIX/2, p. 676/788; see also 251/452). Intentionality was understood, then, in
the Logical Investigations as essentially not involving a flow stretching from
the past and directed towards the future. Although Husserl recognized the
possibility that perception is accompanied by expectations directed toward the
immediate future, he insisted upon the equally possible situation of a static
adequate givenness: Interpretation, however, constitutes what we call
appearance, whether veridical or not, and whether it remains faithfully and
adequately in the frame of the immediately given, or anticipates future per-
ception in going beyond it. (Hua XIX/2, p. 762/850, italics added)3 The third
presupposition is the one on which the previous two depend. It is the pre-
supposition that all consciousness is an active attention towards objects that
takes place in an undifferentiated present. As Husserl began to work out his
theory of time-consciousness just after the first edition of the Investigations, he
developed a theme that would introduce a fundamental modification in his
theory of intentionality, namely, that the present moment reaches out beyond
itself, that it is surrounded by a temporal horizon of past and future. The
presence of the perceptual now-moment is thus suffused with temporal
absence. Intentionality itself has modes that are absent in that they are
potentially active or operative. In this section I will examine how Husserl
appropriated a psychological theory of attention and invested it with a new,
transcendental meaning. It will be argued that the intentional theory of
attention is motivated by the appreciation of the horizonal nature of the
related phenomena of objects, intentions, and, most primordially, time itself.
In a footnote in Ideas I, Husserl claims that the beginning of a genuinely
intentional, eidetic analysis of the phenomenon of attention was first
attempted in several particular sections of the Logical Investigations.

See Hua XIX/2, pp. 769770/866867, where adequate perception is described as indubitable.
See also Hua XIX, p. 692f./801f.
Hua XIX/2, p. 762/860, cited after the first edition, modified Findlay translation, italics added.
At Hua XIX/2, p. 574/701, Husserl isolates the possibility of a tranquil perceiving that does not
rely on any future-oriented expectations. See also Natorps influential critique of the sixth
Investigation: We go beyond this account in that [we claim] only that such fulfillment takes
place not merely all at once but rather gradually from step to step; of course absolute fulfillment,
on the other hand, never takes place and can never arise. (Natorp, 1912, p. 287).

86 Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118

(Hua III/1, p. 215n./226n.)4 In these sections, Husserl argues against a sen-

sualistic doctrine of attention whereby only acts directed toward physical
objects in a perceptual field qualify as attentional; just such an analysis of
attention as exclusively perceptual was made by Husserl himself in 1893,
where he examined the intuitional process (Anschauungsverlauf) of an
external, continuous perception. (Hua XIX/1, pp. 144148/147152). Husserl
argues that attention covers also the case in which one focuses on a state of
affairs or categorially formed objectivity that one has in mind. Husserl thus
conceives a wider notion of attention that applies equally to intuition and
thought. The unitary notion of attention is thus a mindedness (Zumutesein)
understood as a certain preference for one thing over another thing within the
sphere of consciousness (Hua XIX/1, pp. 168/384 and 396/565). Attention is a
turning-toward (Zuwendung), an aiming-at that sets an object into relief
(hervorheben) and constitutes that object for consciousness (Hua XIX/1,
p. 169/385). What is turned freely in attention is precisely ones mental regard
(geistiger Blick) in a concentrated way.5
For Husserl, attention aims directly at the objects themselves, and not the
contents of consciousness. What one is primarily aware of when one focuses
ones concentration on a certain matter is not something in the Cartesian veil
of ideas; rather ones interest reaches out towards an object itself. Therefore,
attention is an objectifying act and as such is equivalent to the new notion of
intentionality that Husserl develops in the fifth Investigation. Intentional
objects are thus the only things to which one could ever be attentive. The
extension of the concept of attention to include directedness towards objects
of thought is implemented, no doubt, as a result of the investigations of
Philosophie der Arithmetik. The analysis of collective connection as a psychic
act serves as a kind of model for other cases of intellectual attention. Although
Husserl speaks primarily of interest and not attention, it is the case that in the
few contexts in which attention is mentioned it is treated as synonymous with
interest (Hua XII, pp. 26 and 195n.).6 The interest that is directed toward
a multiplicity of objects is a psychic act that lifts those objects into relief
(hervorheben), guides the mind (leiten) and prevails (vorwalten) as it takes in
(umfassen) the aggregate (Hua XII, pp. 43, 45, 73, 74, 195). Interest is most
significantly described as the unitary (einheitliches) mental directedness that
sets the individual contents into relief and connects them and thus apprehends
(auffassen) the collectivum (Hua XII, p. 214). What one apprehends depends
upon the direction of interest; whether one sees a tree as a single object or as a
collection of branches depends upon ones attention, i.e., the concentration of

The relevant sections in the Logical Investigations are 22 in the second Investigation and 19 in
the fifth Investigation.
See also Ms. A VI 26, p. 149b.
The Husserlian link between attention and interest is clearly influenced by Carl Stumpfs
treatment of attention and interest under the category of feelings that can either be voluntary or
involuntary; see Schuhmann (1996, p. 120).

Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118 87

ones interest (Hua XII, pp. 195n. and 26).7 Here we see an anticipation of
Husserls intentional doctrine of the animating apprehension that takes up
sense data in a certain way and thus constitutes them as objects for
consciousness. That interest is seen as a unifying and connecting psychic force
anticipates the notion of an attentive intentionality that is through and
through synthetic. The interest in objects that constitutes a collective
connection is, however, one of many higher logical and mathematical interests
that are possible (Hua XII, pp. 258, 278).
Closely associated with both attention and interest is the concept of ori-
entation or turning-toward (Zuwendung). Even before 1901 Husserl refers to
a non-psychological, proto-intentional meaning of the term in the realm of
phantasy. When one imagines a lion, one is turned towards it, directed upon it
in a way that means (meinen) it.8 The directedness of mind (Gerichtetsein)
toward an object is a mode of act that cuts across all kinds of acts, be they
perception, memory or imagination (Hua X, p. 289/300). It is of course pos-
sible to pay exclusive attention to the contents of ones consciousness and
consider them precisely as such. This is tantamount to making objects out of
ones contents of consciousness, a perpetual reflective possibility in philosophy
or psychology. To make objective the contents of ones consciousness is to
engage in what Husserl calls at the time of the first edition of the Investigations
internal perception. To understand external perception along the lines of
internal perception, however, is a characteristic error of modern epistemology.
Husserl warns against the conflation of the mere presence of a content in
consciousness (Erlebtsein) with an intentional object; only a certain active
absorption in an object can qualify as attention (Hua XIX/1, p. 423/58485).9
As we will see shortly, this attentive internal perception of the experienced
(erlebt) dimension of consciousness will for Husserl disclose the temporal
structure of all attentive acts.
Husserl does not make explicit the identification of attention with inten-
tionality until the second edition of the Logical Investigations.10 Prior to this,
Husserl had contrasted attention (Aufmerken) with a concept that was related
to it in the psychological literature of the day: observation or noticing
(Bemerken). Husserl borrowed this distinction between attending and noticing
from Carl Stumpf and Anton Marty in an early text from around 1893 on the
topic of intuition. There Husserl gives to the term intuition a narrower and a
wider meaning. The narrow meaning of intuition corresponds to the notion in

For attention as a concentration of interest, see Hua XII, 26.
[D]ie meinende Zuwendung; Hua X, p. 161/165. This text is dated sometime between 1893
and 1901. See also Hua X, p. 170/175: the opposition of meaning (Meinen) in the specific sense
and non-meaning (Nichtmeinen) (the question whether the former is identical with attention).
See also Hua XIV, p. 45: The word lived experience (Erlebnis) expresses thereby precisely this
being lived-through (Erlebtsein), namely a having aware (Bewussthaben) in inner consciousness,
through which it is pregiven for the I at all times.
Ultimately [the concept of attention] extends as far as the concept: Consciousness of some-
thing; Hua XIX, p. 168/384, second edition only. See also the addition in the second edition: ein
Bewutsein, das von [einem Gegenstand] ist at Hua XIX, p. 170/385.

88 Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118

the Investigations of a tranquil perception that delivers its object in one blow;
it is the immanent and primary content of a momentary representing, or
better, noticing. The wider meaning of intuition corresponds to the notion of
a fluid, continuous perception: the content of a unitary continuing noticing
(der Inhalt eines einheitlichen andauernden Bemerkens) (Hua X, p. 141/145).
Only in the case of a continuous, enduring perception is there a transition
(Ubergang) of attention from one part of the sensuous content to another.
In order to explain in more detail the sense of the continuous transition of
perceptual focus in a fluid perception, Husserl distinguishes between noticing
and attention. Noticing is characterized as representing in the strict sense of
the word: the simple surveying of a content, the being-turned-towards-it-
simply (Hua X, p. 146/150). Noticing implies the concept of a field within
which ones attention can be directed at any one moment. Later in the Logical
Investigations, noticing is similarly referred to as a straightforward ... way in
which contents, otherwise lost in the undivided flow of consciousness, achieve
separate consciousness, in which they are emphasized or discovered by us
(Hua XIX/1, p. 169/385). Attention, by contrast, has a function that is
described variously as emphasizing, pointing-out, or fixing an object within the
sphere of noticing.11 Attention shines light as it were on a particular aspect of
the content that is in the range of consciousness at any one time.12 Attention is
a mental regard (geistiger Blick) that is accompanied by a striving to bring
the particular object or feature to full view: Paying attention is a kind of
being-anxious (Gespanntsein) about the content, to which there clings a cer-
tain intention that strives after satisfaction (Hua X, p. 146/150). Husserl
emphasizes that when he describes a striving that seeks its own satisfaction he
is not speaking in a psychological manner that would treat the striving as an
aspect of psychophysical causality.13 He means rather the directed mode in
which an act is carried out (Hua XIX/1, p. 425/586).14
It is now possible to see that when Husserl refers in the Logical Investi-
gations to the need for a unitary concept of attention under which acts of
intuition and thought are both to be subsumed, he is relying upon the simi-
larity between two phenomena he has already described: (1) the thoughtful
interest that constitutes categorial objects like aggregates, as analyzed in

Auszeichnen: Hua X, p. 147/151, Hua XIX/1, p. 423/584, Hua III/1, p. 189/200; pointieren:
Hua X, p. 147/151, Hua XIX/1, p. 169/385; fixieren: Hua X, p. 147/151.
Attention is then seen as an illuminating and indicative function; Hua XIX/1, p. 169/385.
Different moments or parts of an object stand in the light and are the objects of attention; Hua
X, p. 130/133. In the Philosophie der Arithmetik, it is the direction of interest that determines
which characteristics of an object or multitude of objects are illuminated (aufleuchten); (Hua XII,
p. 213) The thing that stands in the center, in the focal point of attention, is as it were lit up by an
inner light. (Hua XXV, p. 92).
About the mental point of regard Husserl says: But that is an unpsychological way of
speaking; Hua X, p. 145/149. See also Hua X, p. 146/150.
See also Ms. F I 37, 28b: The normal concept of interest ... signifies a peculiar way of exe-
cuting an act, by which something is made aware in it in the preeminent manner of a theme. The
thematic interest is specifed later by Husserl as the wider concept of interest; see Experience and
Judgment (henceforth EJ), 20.

Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118 89

Philosophie der Arithmetik, and (2) the perceptual attention that accounts for
the phenomenon of transition of concentration between different aspects of
content in a continuous external perception, as described in the early text
from 1893. The link between interest and attention is based upon a shared
striving tendency directed toward bringing objects to givenness. In Experience
and Judgment, Husserl specifies a narrower concept of interest as [a] moment
of the striving which belongs to the essence of normal perception. ... [A]
feeling goes hand in hand with this striving, indeed a positive feeling. ... Thus
the feeling which belongs to interest has an entirely peculiar direction.15
Interest is thus a striving to come ever closer to the object, to take pos-
session of its self ever more completely.16 Husserl describes attending to an
object or an objects feature as accompanied by a certain intention or a felt
striving towards the elucidation (Verdeutlichung) of the unseen sides or
aspects of that object.
Before the regard shifts from one part of the intuition to another and
modifies it in the described way, we observesupposing the process
ensues slowly enoughthat, of the indirectly seen parts of the total
content, one is rendered prominent (is noticed); and then we sense a
striving, which we do not hesitate to characterize as a striving after
distinctness. The indirectly seen object appears to us burdened with a
certain deficiency, which only seems to be removed when the inevitable
redirection of ones regard and the process of becoming distinct given
with it ensue. (Hua X, pp. 145146/149)
Here, as elsewhere, Husserl does not maintain a strict difference between
bemerken and aufmerken. An attentional striving in perception always tends
toward its own satisfaction (Befriedigung) by bringing the unseen sides or
aspects of a spatial object into view. This is the possibility of transforming
what is only incidentally observed into what is primarily attended to, i.e., into
clarity (Deutlichkeit). The early Husserl claims that there is a sensation of this
transition (Ubergangsempfindung). The intention that attaches itself to the
attention is characterized as a lack which presses towards elimination(Hua
X, p. 148/152). Nevertheless, the text from around 1893 betrays its phenom-
enological navete by asserting that what is directly attended to are the
Inhaltsbestandteile of consciousness. Objective unity, on the other hand, is
constituted only by a judgment, but never through intuition alone (Hua X,
pp. 15051/15455). It is in the transition of attention to the different features
of the object that the synthetic unity of the object as substrate is constituted.17

EJ, 91/85.
Ibid., 92/86.
Each change of attention signifies a continuity of intentions; and, on the other side, there is
implicit in this continuity a unity, a constituted unity capable of being grasped: the unity of the
same thing that presents itself solely in different changes of attention and of which, at any given
time, different moments or parts stand in the light and are the objects of attention. (Hua X,
p. 130/133).

90 Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118

According to the early text from 1893 on continuous perception, the

intention is like a motor that keeps the attentive regard striving continuously
toward the elucidation of the non-given sides or features of an object. By the
time of the Logical Investigations, however, attention is equated with intention,
just as intention is later specified as a conscious striving or a tendency toward
givenness.18 I will argue below that it is precisely the disclosure of the tem-
porality of attentive intentions that reveals them to be strivings that stretch in
the present from what is immediately past to what is immediately future.

Husserls appropriation of apperception psychology

Husserls appropriation of Stumpfs psychological distinction between notic-

ing and attention is paralleled by his appropriation of the psychological con-
cept of apperception developed, among others, by Wilhelm Wundt. Wundt
was a leading proponent of the apperception psychology of Husserls day, a
school of thought that reacted to the empiricist, reductive tendencies of
association psychology.19 Association psychology reduced all consciousness to
a causal network of psychophysical processes. It understood the perceived
object to be mechanically produced as a result of sense stimulation alone. It
was thus maintained that the course of perceptions in consciousness is iso-
morphic with the temporal course of the external sense-impressions. This is
the infamous constancy hypothesis, which is referred to by Merleau-Ponty
and others influenced by Gestalt psychology as the cardinal error of empiricist
The objective world being given, it is assumed that it passes on to the
sense-organs messages which must be registered, then deciphered in such
a way as to reproduce in us the original text. Hence we have in principle
a point-by-point correspondence and constant connection between the
stimulus and the elementary perception.20
Apperception psychology on the other hand explained certain acts of con-
sciousness like perception in terms of higher, non-material mental functions,
like judging or attention.21 Apperception psychology claimed that the per-
ceived object is primarily the result of a formative, productive activity on the
part of the perceiver. According to Wundt, the perceiving subject chooses
between presentations and apprehends sense impressions from determinate
standpoints within a passive field of presentations. The determinacy of any
Hua XI, p. 85. See also Ms. M III 3 III 1 II, p. 75.
For historical background, see Lange (1898, pp. 246279), and Holenstein (1972, pp. 132166).
The influence of Herbarts doctrine of apperception, developed in the mid-19th century, was
influential on both Wundt and Husserl; see especially Herbart (1968, vol. 2, 125128).
Merleau-Ponty (1962, p. 7).
Husserl later argues that the attentive ego could not be appropriately treated in an association
psychology that can explain only the egos associative dispositions in a psychophysical way; see
Hua IV, p. 280/292293.

Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118 91

perception is thus not simply a function of the strength of the sensuous

stimulus. While sense impressions may determine what is present at any
time in the general field of regard (Blickfeld) of consciousness, they do not
alone determine what in fact the subject does pick out in her point of regard
(Blickpunkt). As against the constancy hypothesis, Wundt argued that it is
always possible for one attentionally to prefer the weaker to the stronger
impressions, for example, when one refuses to be distracted by the loud
coughing inside a concert hall. Wundt thus distinguished merely passive
perception from active apperception:
We see here at the same time that the degree of apperception is to be
measured not according to the strength of the external impression but
rather only according to the subjective activity through which con-
sciousness turns itself towards a certain sensuous stimulus.22
According to the theory of apperception, then, sensory stimulus is a necessary
but not sufficient condition for a perceptual apperception; attention
co-conditions the perceptual appearance of an object.23
In response to apperception psychology, an empiricist psychology might
nevertheless incorporate the alleged phenomenon of attention within a theory
of perception in such a way as to remain consistent with the constancy
hypothesis. Let us take the example of sitting next to the coughing man during
a performance in the concert hall. To the extent that one remains focused on
the music being played and does not focus on the coughing, one does not
perceive the louder sensations caused by the mans coughing. These sensations
are, according to the constancy hypothesis, nevertheless objectively there and
causally operative on ones sense organs. For some reason that remains
unexplained on strictly empiricist grounds, the music aficionado shines his
attentive light upon musical tones that are softer than the coughing. Two
explanations of this attention seem possible from an empiricist psychology.
Either (1) attention is an unconditioned and indifferently applied search-
light of consciousness that enjoys an absolute freedom, or (2) attention is
causally conditioned by behavioral dispositions built up from the past.
The first alternative is effectively criticized by Merleau-Ponty as lacking an
account of an internal connection between the object and the act which it
triggers off.24 Empiricism does not have at its explanatory disposal anything
but an external causal account of consciousness based on the objective focus
on the allegedly primordial unit of sensation. Conscious attention would
turn out to be for empiricism a natural miracle that is arbitrarily and
emptily turned toward an object despite the bombardment of sensations.25
Wundt (1874, p.720).
Ibid., p. 726. See also Hua XIX/1, p. 395/565: What is most emphasized in the doctrine of
apperception is generally the fact that consistency of stimulus does not involve constancy of
sensational content.
Merleau-Ponty (1962, p. 28).
Ibid., p. 26. According to Merleau-Ponty, the consciousness of empiricism is too poor ... for
any phenomenon to appeal compellingly to it; ibid., p. 28.

92 Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118

The second possible response by empiricism in order to explain the phe-

nomenon of attention might be a dispositional account. According to this
account, one would direct ones attention according to the pattern of stimulus
and response behavioral patterns one has exhibited in the past. It would be
relatively simple, then, to explain the concentration of the classical music fan
sitting to the left and the utter distraction of the young child sitting to the right
of the coughing man. If one transcends as it were the incoming sensations
through attention it would be due simply to the weight of experience and
education that is causally operative on ones present behavior at any one time.
If the first response of empiricism to this problem leaves attentional freedom
so absolute as to be meaningless, then the second response leaves the concept
meaningless for the opposite reason, of constricting attentional freedom so
completely. The truth lies, it would seem, somewhere in the middle: when one
searches for something attentively, one knows in some way, however vaguely,
what one is looking for. Otherwise there would be no sense in looking for it. An
empiricist explanation would find no reason for fighting through the distracting
sensations of a cough in order to appreciate Beethoven; either there is no cause
of the attention or the attention is fully determined by behavioral causes. But
attention is neither fully determined behaviorally nor fully indeterminate in its
operation; ones mental regard is free only within the limits of the indetermi-
nacy of attention. Though it may be true that one learns how to direct ones
attention in experience, this does not tell against a certain structural feature of
attention that cannot be reduced either to sensation or to past experience
alone, namely, its responsiveness to meaning in the perceptual field.
Husserl adopts the terminology of apperception for the animating appre-
hension of sense impressions that constitutes an object for consciousness.
Husserl relies upon apperception psychology in his explanation of the deter-
minacy of any particular perception in the Logical Investigations. It is not
clear that Husserl has in the Investigations a clear account of how and why
attention is directed in a certain way rather than another given certain pat-
terns of sensuous stimuli. Without such an account, the Investigations seem to
rely upon an empiricist notion of attention as a free-floating searchlight
without any rational guidance as to where it focuses its regard. Thus, if con-
sciousness were not attracted by an overpowering external stimulus, it would
have no reason or rational freedom to turn anywhere.
In 10 of the sixth Investigation, Husserl lays out the empty-filled structure
that pertains to all consciousness, and not just to the consciousness of meaning
as it was studied in the first Investigation. Every empty intention points or
refers to its possible fulfillment in certain ways; every filled intention fulfills
what was previously only emptily meant, as it was emptily meant. But this
necessary reference to possible guidelines for fulfillment should not be
confused with an expectation, which is itself a kind of empty intention that can
be fulfilled. Nevertheless, an empty intention contains within it something like
a possible expectation, in that lines are marked out which call for fulfill-

Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118 93

Intention is not expectation, it is not of its essence to be directed to future

appearances. If I see an incomplete pattern, e.g., in this carpet partially
covered over by furniture, the piece I see seems clothed with intentions
pointing to further completionswe feel as if the lines and coloured
shapes go on in the sense of what we seebut we expect nothing (Hua
XIX/2, p. 573/700).
The example here of a rug that is partially covered is in kind no different from
the examples used earlier by Husserl in his analysis of a continuous, fluid
perception. It merely dramatizes what is the case for every perception as fluid:
There is a feeling that sensuous characteristics will appear as such and such
in a way that is continuous with how we have experienced them previously.
Husserl had earlier described this feeling as the striving toward elucidation of
what is not immediately present but still within the observational or noticing
field of regard. Here, however, Husserl uses the notion of a disposition in
order to clarify the sense of possible expectation that is part of any continuous
perception: It would be possible for us to expect something, if movement
promised us further views. But possible expectations, or occasions for possible
expectations, are not themselves expectations. So if we were to move in such
a way as to get beyond the partial covering of the unseen part of the rug, then
we would see the sensuous features of the rug continue in a harmonious way.
The sense of a possible expectation enters into every such perception
insofar it contains a reference to what Husserl calls completing features
(erganzende Bestimmtheiten):
The features which enter into perception always point to completing
features, which themselves might appear in other possible percepts, and
that determinately or more or less indeterminately, according to the degree
of our empirical acquaintance with the object (Hua XIX/2, p. 573/700,
italics added).
To say that a ray of attention, and not simply the intensity of sense impres-
sions, sets into relief a particular object in the perceptual field is not yet a full
explanation of the determinacy of any particular perception. What needs to be
explained is how the illuminating force of any particular attentive ray is
conditioned by the amount of experience one has had with objects sufficiently
similar to whatever is attended to in the present. Where one directs ones gaze
in any particular field of regard is normallyexcepting cases where the
intensity of particular sense data overwhelmingly and unavoidably provokes
an instinctual reactiondue to how one is habituated to direct it. This implies
that the degree of determinateness of any perception depends on the link to
non-actual, past perceptions of the same object. To use Quines expression,
the under-determination of perception by sense impressions implies that
completing features must be supplied by past experience.26
Just as sense impressions do not alone determine the content of an
apperception, so too any present apperception is not autonomously operative
Quine (1961, p. 45).

94 Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118

in its determinative capacity. Every apperception is linked to past appercep-

tions of the same object. The link is actualized by a certain dispositional
arousal: No doubt presentations of such supplementary features, not given
in perception, are dispositionally excited, no doubt intentions which relate to
them contribute to perception, and determine its total character (Hua XIX/2,
pp. 67677/789, italics added). Husserls notion of the arousal of certain built-
up perceptual dispositions is surely in part influenced by Stumpfs law of
habit, according to which states of imagination ... are reproduced every
time the circumstances or the disposition are similar to an earlier one which
first had given rise to the state in question.27 Nevertheless, Husserl betrays
also here in the Investigations his reliance upon Wundts psychology, in par-
ticular upon a psychological notion of apperceptive dispositions:
What is most emphasized in the doctrine of apperception is generally the
fact that consistency of stimulus does not involve constancy of sensed
content; what the stimulus really determines is overlaid by features
springing from actualized dispositions left behind them by previous
experiences. (Hua XIX/1, p. 395/565)28
An arousal of apperceptive dispositions would be then an actualization of
earlier experiences with the same object or objects sufficiently similar to it; it
is the influence of these earlier experiences that helps to focus ones attentive
regard in the present.
Although at various points in the Investigations Husserl makes use of a
dispositional theory of apperception to explain the way in which an empty
intention provides guidelines for its own fulfillment, he has not yet provided a
phenomenological justification for it. This is for several reasons. First, by
insisting on the distinction between perception as a continuous flux and per-
ception as a tranquil perceiving in one blow, Husserl keeps open the possi-
bility of a static, adequate givenness of a perceptual object. Second, Husserl
has no account of a mode of inactuality to explain the way in which disposi-
tions from the past are subsequently actualized in the presence of certain
sense impressions. As we have seen, this account could be a behaviorist
explanation along empiricist lines, according to which the person who dis-
criminates well in a sensory field is the person who is causally conditioned to
do so by past experience. But this would explain only an external connection
between acts of consciousness over time, not an internal connection between
the features of an object and the structural consciousness that intends it.
Schuhmann (1996, p. 117).
An empiricist theory of dispositions is rejected by Husserl in another context as contributing
nothing to the explanation of the transcendence of objects: The genesis of the intellective phe-
nomena in the psychological, psychophysical, biological context is evidently something other than
the clarification of the sense and objective validity of knowledge. For example, the causal genesis
of perception through the psychophysical process and the efficacy of the dispositions that have
accrued from earlier sensations (die Wirksamkeit der von fruheren Empfindungen nachwirkenden
Dispositionen) can obviously teach nothing about the question of whether and how perception can
pretend to be an immediate inner being (Innesein) of an object allegedly existing in-itself; Hua
XXIV, pp. 2078, italics added.

Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118 95

In other words, Husserl has not yet shown in the first edition of the Logical
Investigations how the field of perception is a field of meaning to which
consciousness is genuinely responsive within the limits set not merely by sense
impressions but also by its own past responsiveness.
Only in the second edition of the Investigations does Husserl assign a
phenomenological meaning to a theory of the reactualization of perceptual
dispositions, a theory conceived originally by methods appropriate to psy-
chology and natural science (Hua XIX/1, p. 396/565).29 This is due to the fact
that in the period following the first edition of the Investigations Husserl
worked out a theory of consciousness in terms of two modes, actual and
inactual. Through his investigations of the temporal horizon of the present,
Husserl was able to provide phenomenological justification for a theory of the
actualization of dispositions that are operative in present perception. These
dispositions are not simply behavioral, instinctual relations; they are rather to
be understood as a temporally differentiated responsiveness to meaning in the
perceptual field.

The temporal horizon of straightforward acts of attention

Although attention is usually straightforwardly directed toward (1) real

objects in the world, it can also be directed toward (2) the contents of ones
consciousness in a way that objectifies them for analysis. This reflective
attention would focus not on the object as it existed but rather as it was meant
by consciousness, either in perception, memory, phantasy, or even in hallu-
cinations and dreams. Another kind of reflective attention is also possible that
focuses on (3) the acts by which those objects are meant:
The turning-towards ... is also something grasped in a new turning-
towards and in that way originally becomes objective (in original taking-
cognizance [Kenntnisnahme] of it). Consequently, the setting-in-relation
of the object of our turning-towards and our turning towards it, together
with the original taking-cognizance of this relation, is a new phenomenon.
(Hua X, p. 129/132)
The phenomenological disclosure of the sphere of immanence in both its
noetic and noematic aspects is thus itself carried out in a mode of attention; it
is an attention paid to the appearance and its components, as well as to the
appearing thing (Hua X, p. 95/101).
In the reflective attention that is directed toward a straightforwardly
attentive act as such there is disclosed the temporal structure of that act in
internal consciousness, in which a ray of attention can extend towards it (This
An addition in the second edition of the Investigations testifies further to a phenomenological
appropriation of the notion of apperceptive dispositions: I find nothing more plain than the
distinction here apparent between contents and acts, between perceptual contents in the sense of
presentative sensations, and perceptual acts in the sense of interpretative intentions overlaid with
various additional characters (Hua XIX/1, p. 397/566; the italics are added to signify the change
introduced in the second edition).

96 Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118

ray is not itself an object of attention. It enriches but does not alter the stream
to be considered; it rather fixes it and makes it objective.) (Hua X, p. 116/
121). What is disclosed in the reflective act is the temporal structure of the
lived-through quality (Erlebtsein) of the act, and not the objective time units
that in fact elapsed during the contingent act of perception. The reason why
the reflective attention can grasp a structure to the perception qua lived-
experience (Erlebnis) and not qua contingent matter of fact is precisely be-
cause for Husserl, we do not simply perceive things, we experience or live
through (erleben) the perception. An evidential consciousness, for example, is
not one in which the subject simply has the object given to him; it is one in
which the subject is aware of having the object given to him.30 The temporal
structure of any act is in principle analyzable independently of the objective
phases of duration of any object, for objective time presupposes the immanent
time of acts by which we are aware of objects.
Let us consider Husserls analysis in terms of a straightforward act of
perception. What is fixed by the reflective ray of attention is the now-moment
of a particular perception. This now, however, has its own before and after,
which are not the same as the before and after of objective time (Hua X,
p. 290/301).31 There is no such thing as an absolutely individual sensation or
perception; each now-moment of perception stretches back to the immedi-
ately expired phases and stretches forth to the immediately future phases.
Every perception has therefore a double halo of retentional and proten-
tional phases (Hua X, p. 105/111). Retained content is always slipping back
into the past. Retentions account for the fact that the present is always born
from the past, a determinate present from a determinate past, of course (Hua
X, p. 106/111). Protentions, on the other hand, are the phases of the inten-
tional act that are immediately ahead and about to be fulfilled. They account
for the fact that perception is always oriented temporally to future phases of
experience in a continuous way: Each new tone then fulfills this forwards-
directed intention. We have determinate expectations in these cases. But we
are not and we cannot be entirely without apprehension directed forwards.
The temporal fringe also has a future (Hua X, p. 167/172).
Husserl argues that every perception refers back to an infinite nexus of
perception that lies potentially within the perception itself. Every single
intention is linked to a complex of determinate or indeterminate intentions, a
complex that leads further and, in being realized, is fulfilled in further per-
ceptions (Hua X, pp. 105110). Husserl uses a spatial analogy here. A spatial
object is always found in the foreground against a certain background; we

See Hua X, pp. 12627/130 and 291/301; see also Hua XIV, p. 45. Aristotles descriptions of
self-awareness are relevant here; see De Anima, Book 3, chapter 2, and Nicomachean Ethics,
Of course, the reflective act of attention is a noticing of a second level; as such, it itself has a
now point: When reflection on the observingan observing of the observingtakes place, this
observing of the second degree is also a now and has its position in a temporal nexus, in the
temporal field; and all of these temporal fields are necessarily related to one another; Hua X,
p. 321/333334.

Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118 97

never see simply a coffee cup, we see the coffee cup relative to the background
of the desk, or next to the mouse, or in front of the book, etc. As Husserl puts it,
Foreground is nothing without background. The appearing side is nothing
without the nonappearing side (Hua X, p. 304/316). The background against
which the coffee cup stands out is an environment that is co-given along with
the cup due to environmental co-intendings (Umgebungsintentionen). Here, as
elsewhere, an example drawn from the sphere of external perception serves as
a model for the analysis of the temporal structure of all modes of intentionality:
The intentions aimed at the surroundings involve a halo of intentions for the
experiences themselves (Hua X, p. 310/321322). The temporal present of any
conscious experience at all has as its environmental background the retentional
and protentional phases streaming away in both directions from it.
The temporal structure of conscious experiences is itself constituted by a
layer of conscious life that is located so to speak below any level of attention,
either straightforward or reflective. Thus, according to Husserls descriptions,
retentions, primal impressions, and protentions are intentional without being
attentional. Retention is an intentionality, even though it is not an objectifying
act, like an act of recollection; retention is not a looking-back that makes the
elapsed phases into an object (Hua X, p. 118/122). Similarly, the primal
impression is not an apprehending act: Just as the retentional phase is con-
scious of the preceding phase without making it into an object, so too the
primal datum is already intendedspecifically, in the original form of the
nowwithout its being something objective (Hua X, p. 119/123). These
phases do not set up objects for consciousness; they are rather the temporal
modes in which anything that becomes constituted as objective necessarily
appears.32 Therefore, the modes of immanent time are not themselves tem-
poral. (Hua X, p. 334/346) The non-attentional intentionality is described as a
wakeful consciousness:
The waking consciousness, the waking life, is a living-towards, a living
that goes from the now towards the new now. I am not merely and not
primarily thinking of attention here; it would rather seem to me that,
independently of attention (in the narrower and in the wider sense), an
original attention proceeds from now to now, combining with the
sometimes undetermined and sometimes more or less determined
experiential intentions deriving from the past. These intentions, to be
sure, predelineate the lines of the combination. But the regard from the
now towards the new now, this transition, is something original that first
paves the way for future experiential intentions. I said that this belongs
to the essence of perception; I would do better to say that it belongs to
the essence of impression. (Hua X, pp. 1067/112)
See especially Hua X, 333/345: Is it inherently absurd to regard the flow of time as an objective
movement? Certainly! On the other hand, memory is surely something that itself has its now, and
the same now as a tone, for example. No. There lurks the fundamental mistake. The flow of the
modes of consciousness is not a process; the consciousness of the now is not itself now. The
retention that exists together with the consciousness of the now is not now, is not simultaneous
with the now, and it would make no sense to say that it is.

98 Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118

Retention and protention are furthermore described as the momentary

horizons of the temporal impression (Hua XII, pp. 126127). Retention, for
example, is described as the empty just past, which is oriented towards the
actually present now (das leere Soeben-vergangen, das seine Richtung auf das
aktuelle Jetzt hat) (Hua X, p. 106/111). These momentary horizons are the
conditions of possibility for so-called long-term horizons. A long-term horizon
would be that in virtue of which a present perception could be synthetically
linked to a recollection of having perceived the same object, say, many months
or years ago. In such a case, the former perception is re-actualized and con-
tributes to the sense of the present perception. Long-term horizons are thus
vague, empty intentions that concern what belongs to the further past [and]
are all directed towards the now. These intentions are actualized or come
to fulfillment by our being transported in one leap, as it were, back into the
past by memory, and then by our intuitively re-presenting the past to
ourselves once again in its progression up to the now. (Hua X, p. 106/111)
The transition between the immanent now-moment and a retention is not
appropriately described as an actualization because the immanent temporal
phases are not themselves objectifying acts but only the temporal modes
thereof. There is, however, possible a transition between objectifying acts
themselves over time in which the sense that accrued at any one time through
a particular objectifying act of perception can be re-actualized in the present.
Speaking of a flying bird, Husserl remarks: The bird changes its place; it flies.
In each new position the reverberation of the earlier appearances adheres to
the bird (that is, to its appearance) (Hua X, p. 111/116). The clinging of
earlier to present appearances is made possible by retention.
In summary, Husserls analyses of internal time-consciousness have as a
consequence two fundamental modifications of the identification of inten-
tionality with attention as it was implied in the first edition of the Logical
Investigations. First, although it had been clear that acts of attention comprise
at least two levels, those of reflective acts and straightforward acts, reflective
acts are no longer conceived merely as the acts of internal perception that
characterize the methodology of empirical psychology. Now there is estab-
lished the properly philosophical mode of reflective attention that thematizes
the a priori, pre-empirical synthetic consciousness of time in the absolute
givenness of immanence. Second, intentionality is no longer equivalent to
attention if by the latter is understood an active, objectifying act. An entirely
new domain of passively operative intentionality is uncovered by phenome-
nological analysis. Husserl later claimed that this analysis of the constitution
of the immanent conscious stream of the subject (Erlebnisstrom des Subjekts)
is presupposed by Kants transcendental analysis of the constitution of the
spatio-temporal world. What Kant missed is the study of the synthetic forms
(Gestalten) of immanence (Hua XII, p. 126). The synthetic structures of
retention, primal impression, and protention are always and everywhere in the
life of consciousness passively operative and thus constitute conditions for the
possibility of any active synthesis.

Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118 99

In a letter to Paul Natorp in 1918, Husserl reported that he had ten years
ago begun to overcome the static Platonism in his phenomenology and had set
himself the problematic of transcendental genesis.33 Clearly, Husserl is
referring to the lectures in which he examined the genesis of time as a
constant, passive and fully universal genesis. (Hua I, p. 114/81) The lectures
on time do not, however, in their abstract nature address the problem of how
the content of consciousness is itself affected by temporality:
Mere form is, of course, an abstraction, and thus the intentional analysis
of time consciousness and its achievement is from the beginning an
abstractive one. It includes, it is interested in, only the necessary tem-
poral form of all individual objects and object pluralities, or correlatively
the form of the manifold that constitutes the temporal. . . . But the
analysis of time does not tell us what gives unity of content to any object,
[nor does it tell us] what constitutes the differences of content between
one object and another. This is because the analysis of time abstracts
precisely from the content. Thus, it also gives no representation of the
necessary synthetic structures of the streaming present and of the stream
of unity of the present modes that concern in some way the particularity
of the content (Hua XII, p. 128).34
The formal analysis of the constitution of immanent time does not yet address
how the content of consciousness, i.e., the noematic sense correlated to
intentional acts, is itself affected by temporality. Such a project is begun only
after the lectures on internal time-consciousness and indeed relies on insights
made in those lectures.

Inactuality and apperception

There were, as may be expected, psychological precedents to the notion of a

consciousness that is not actual. For Wundt, as later for Husserl, the difference
between the Blickfeld of perception and the Blickpunkt of apperception is
described in terms of darkness and light, background and foreground.35 In the
text on continuous perception from 1893, Husserl borrowed William James
term in explaining the perceptual background as the fringe that surrounds
the object. (Hua X, p. 147/151, p. 151/155)36 An object fixed in the attentive
Blickpunkt is never isolated from a background. Although the background is

Letter from 29.VI.1918, in Hua Dok 5, pp. 13538, especially p. 137.
Husserl stresses repeatedly in Experience and Judgment that time-consciousness is mere form
and not content; see EJ, pp. 76/73, 207/177, and 191/16465. On this point see also Bernet, Kern
and Marbach (1993, pp. 19899).
But the narrower and brighter the Blickpunkt is, the larger the darkness is in which the
remaining Blickfeld is found. (Wundt 1874, 718).
For an account of James influence on Husserls notion of horizon, see Stevens and Richard
(1974, pp. 3235 and 5357).

100 Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118

itself not attended to, Husserl speaks of a secondary and even tertiary ori-
entation towards the background. The example Husserl uses is that of looking
at a particular member of a plurality in the context of the other members of
the same plurality. One may be primarily oriented toward the particular
member and secondarily oriented toward the other members in that plurality.
There is furthermore the possibility of a tertiary orientation to the background
that is the fringe to all members of the plurality (Hua X, p. 147/151).37 If one
considers that these orientations are all simultaneously possible, and, fur-
thermore, if one preserves the univocity of the concept of orientation, then it
seems as if one would have to speak of an orientation that is inactual. This
Husserl does not do, however, in the early text from 1893. This is precisely
because he understood attention and noticing then as if they were two dif-
ferent things, not as two modes of the same thing. What Husserl begins to do
in the period after the Investigations, however, is to develop a theory of two
modes of the same attention, actual and inactual; thereafter, he consistently
replaces the distinction between attention and noticing with the distinction
between attention and consciousness.38 It is only in the second edition of the
Investigations that the notion of a secondary orientation of attention makes its
reappearance in Husserls thought.39 This is, as we will now show, due to the
developments in Husserls philosophy first reported in Ideas I.
In 27 and 35 of the Ideas I, Husserl develops a Wundtian theme along
phenomenological lines. He considers the example of letting ones perceptual
attention wander around a room filled with objects. The room is analogous to
the field of perception; ones mental gaze enjoys the freedom to seize upon
any object within this room. Every seizing-upon (Erfassen) is a setting-in-
relief (Herausfassen) of the object over and against what is only secondarily
attended to, i.e., the background of the object. The secondary orientation to
the background is indeed a genuinely intentional consciousness of that which
is co-intended in the primary orientation to the object. (Hua III/1, p. 71/70)
Just as the object itself is arranged in an objective spatial framework in a
certain order, so too a primary, explicit consciousness is situated as it were
within a halo of implicit co-intentionalities.40

The Philosophie der Arithmetik refers to an unanalyzed, intuitive background against which
operates the interest that constitutes the unity of a sum: As the interest turns itself towards a
thing merely in virtue of a certain character, the aggregate (Gesamtinbegriff) lights up at once the
objects of this category that have still remained unnoticed in the intuitive backgroundinsofar as
these objects stand out only sharply enoughin order to be able to constitute an easily noticeable
unity of a sum. And according as the interest turns itself towards this or that concept of category, it
accentuates this or that unity of sum from the unanalyzed background. (Hua XII, p. 213, italics
Note the repeated substitution of Bewutsein for Bemerken in the second edition of the
Investigations at Hua XIX/1, pp. 16869.
See the further specification of attention into incidental or primary orientation (nebenbei oder
primar zugewendet) only in the second edition at Hua XIX/2, p. 423. See the same distinction
added only in the second edition at Hua XIX/1, p. 425 (primar oder sekundar zugewendet).
See Bernet et al. (1993, pp. 9596).

Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118 101

There is thus a double-sided transformation possible in consciousness:

A primary orientation can pass over to a secondary and vice versa, with the
passage of time. Husserl employs the terminology of actual and inactual to
describe the two sides of the intentional modification. Intentionality is thus no
longer equivalent only to an active cogito or an actively attentive regard-
towards (Blick-auf) an object; primary attention is now understood as a
modality of that differentiated phenomenon of intentionality which includes
non-active modes (Hua III/1, p. 189/2001). The foreground of consciousness
is the attentional mode of the cogito, whereas the background of conscious-
ness is the mode of attentional inactuality that hides intentionality within
itself (Hua III/1, p. 158/168, p. 188/200).
If, as in the first edition of the Logical Investigations, an objectifying,
constitutive function is assigned to attention, and if, as in the Ideas I, there is a
mode of attention that is inactual, then inactual attentions are to be consid-
ered modes of objectifying acts, and this in two ways. Secondary orientations
are either potential (future) or former (past) objectifying acts. In the first case,
an inactual attention is considered as that into which an actual attention can
always pass over; there is always the possibility of future objectifying acts that
refer either to a different object or different features of the same object. This
doctrine was of course already implied in the synthetic theory of evidence.
Now, however, synthesis is understood temporally as a connection of actual
with inactual intentionality, an active synthesis that has as its presupposition
the passive synthesis of immanent time. The second case introduces a more
radical modification to Husserls original theory of intentionality, and this in
the following way.
Actual attention does not first set up an object for consciousness in an
entirely autonomous way, despite Husserls earlier claim that a perceptual
object can be given adequately in one blow. An attentive regard that in the
present sets up an object does so by virtue of the more or less determinate
sense that had accrued in the past to intentions. Former active intentions
remained inactual for some time, and, due to the objectifying, i.e., sense-
constituting, nature of all such acts, so too did the sense they had acquired
while they were active. The actual attention in the present re-actualizes those
inactual attentions and then may of course go on to further determine the
perceptual object in new, intuitive ways. Perceptual determination is thus
always a further determination of what had previously been determined and
then preserved by virtue of the mode of inactual consciousness.
The modification of an actual into an inactual attention is thus the condition
of possibility for the future re-actualization of both that attention and the
objective sense noematically correlated to it. With this first introduction of
temporality into intentional life and its contents we see how Husserl now gives
a phenomenological grounding to the central claim of a dispositional theory of
apperception, namely, that perceptual intentions are suffused with elements
that point to possible fulfillment. These elements are bearers of objective
sense; if fulfillment occurs, it occurs in virtue of the saturation of those same
elements. Those elements can be dispositionally aroused only because

102 Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118

former acts of attention have passed into a state of potentiality that can always
in principle be re-actualized.
Let us now return to Husserls analogy of the field of perception and the
halo of consciousness. As the perceptual attention wanders from one object to
another, as it fixes its glance upon the first object and then passes over to a
second, it continuously transforms what was only partial and imperfect into an
ever clearer intuition: What is now perceived and what is more or less clearly
co-present and determinate (or at least somewhat determinate), are pene-
trated and surrounded by an obscurely intended to horizon of indeterminate
actuality (Hua III/1, p. 57/52). Two significant points are made here. (1)
Whenever an object of actual perception appears, it always appears as at least
in some way determinate (mindestens einigermaen Bestimmte), though
always incompletely indeterminate.41 This point was also made in the
Investigations: the determinacy of any particular perception depends upon
ones prior experience with the same object or a similar object. What is new in
the Ideas I is (2) the claim that every perceptual attention is necessarily
surrounded by a misty and never fully determinable horizon (Hua III/1,
p. 57/52). As a supplementary note makes clear, the image of a cloudy or misty
horizon signifies the infinity of inactual modes of consciousness that are
synthetically connectable with any one particular actual consciousness and
therefore partially constitutive of it.42
In sum, neither the perceptual object nor the perceptual horizon can ever
be adequately given or fully determinate: Perceptual absence pervades per-
ceptual presence. The idea of an absolute, i.e., absolutely determinate and
immediately given, presence is countersensical because
the stream of conscious experiences can never consist of just actuali-
ties.... [T]he continuously unbroken chain of cogitations is continually
surrounded by a medium of inactuality which is always ready to change
into the mode of actuality, just as, conversely actuality is always ready to
change into inactuality. (Hua III/1, p. 73/7273)
Absolute or adequate determinacy in experience is as impossible as absolute
indeterminacy. Just as intentional life in general is a constant interplay be-
tween empty and filled intentions, so too is perceptual life a constant interplay
between determinacy and determinability.43 If the expression determinate
sense is redundant, then literal non-senseutter lack of any determinate
senseis a perceptual impossibility. Even in the most insignificant act of
external perception we are, in the words of Merleau-Ponty, condemned to
Starting with Ideas I, intentional life in general and perceptual conscious-
ness in particular are described almost exclusively as a stream or a flow:
Husserls note in copy D; see Kersten translation, p. 52.
Husserls note in copy D; see Kersten translation, p. 52n.
See James Hart (1996, p. 128).
Merleau-Ponty (1962, p. xix).

Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118 103

The perception itself, however, is what it is in the continuous flux of

consciousness and is itself a continuous flux: continually the perceptual
Now changes into the enduring consciousness of the Just-Past and
simultaneously a new Now lights up, etc. (Hua III/1, p. 84/87)
Whereas the physical thing is the intentional unity, the physical thing
intended to as identical and unitary in the continuously regular flow of
perceptual multiplicities which interpenetrate and change into one
another, the perceptual multiplicities themselves have their determinate
descriptional composition essentially coordinated with that unity. (Hua
III/1, p. 85/88)
The distinction between tranquil and continuous perception as described in
the Investigations can therefore no longer be justified by Husserl. This is as the
result of Husserls insight that all primary attention, whether it be an act of
perception, memory or even phantasy, is temporally constituted. Husserl later
remarked that in Ideas I he did not show how one has access to the stream of
experience; this he did in the analyses of time-consciousness, as we have seen
Despite the inclusion of inactual modes of consciousness under the rubric of
intentionality, actual attention still retains a primacy within phenomenology.
To express this primacy of act Husserl often uses metaphors of light, life, and
alertness or being awake (Wachheit). Only an alert self can carry out an
intentional act in the preeminent mode of the cogito (Hua III/1, p. 73/72).46
Any active orientation carried out in the present moment, from the slightest
turn toward an affective stimulus to the most complete production of a cat-
egorial form, qualifies under the notion of alertness.47 By contrast, the
intentional modes of inactuality are characterized as dead conscious
awareness (totes Bewuthaben) or even as the hidden unconscious (Hua
III/1, p. 213/224).48 The terms inattention (Unaufmerksamkeit) or negative
attention (negative Aufmerksamkeit) as used in the period of Ideas I are thus
equivalent to the concept of unconsciousness.49
Here one comes across a fundamental objection to a phenomenology of
passivity or of inactuality: How can a philosophy of consciousness like phe-
nomenology describe structures that are essentially unconscious? Thomas

See the marginal note in Copy A; Kersten translation, p. 72n. Husserl later acknowledged the
fundamental modification in the theory of intentionality introduced by the concept of horizon:
In the Logische Untersuchungen I still lacked the theory of horizon-intentionality, the all-
determining role of which was first brought out in the Ideen (Hua XVII, p. 207n./199n.)
The notions of perceptual stream and an alert intentionality are of course derived meanings
from the originary flow of the living present, i.e., absolute time-consciousness.
Alertness is first characterized by the fact that the I is continually in activity, continually
responds to affections, turns itself toward the affecting thing, concerns itself with it; Ms. D 14,
transcribed p. 17. See also p. 18: The widest concept of attention includes the alertness-affection
[die Wachaffektion].
See also Hua IV, p. 223/234.
See Hua III/1, p. 213/224 and Hua XXV, p. 92. At EJ, p. 83/79, Zuwendung is equated with

104 Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118

Seebohm formulates the objection in the following way: How does one go
from a philosophy of consciousness of direct phenomenological description to
a level that partially or fully has the character of the unconscious? This
appears to be a contradictio in adjecto.50 Unconsciousness is, however, not
seen as a lack of consciousness but rather as potential consciousness, either
past or possible. Husserl notes that the concept of an unconsciousness is meant
as an ideal limit case, an idea in the Kantian sense.51 Phenomenological access
to the potential is only had indirectly through an analysis of that which con-
ditions active constitution. The analysis of a passive level of consciousness is
justified if it is necessary to explain that pregiven sense which always functions
as a base for further determinations. Thus, the horizonal structure of con-
sciousness explains the temporal continuity of sense-constituting structures.52
Merleau-Ponty notes in this regard Husserls thematization of a passively
operative intentionality: In Husserls language, beneath the intentionality of
the act..., we must recognize an operative intentionality, which makes the
former possible.53 The arousal (erregen) of apperceptive dispositions as
treated in the Investigations is later developed by Husserl as the intentional
awakening (wecken) of preconstituted sense within the context of an active
intention: Awakening is possible because the constituted sense in the
background consciousness, in the unliving form that is called the uncon-
sciousness, is really implied (Hua XI, p. 179). It is because the awakening is a
phenomenon, a lived experiencean awareness of not being currently
responsible for a preconstituted sense that suddenly reappearsthat
phenomenology extends its descriptive domain to include forms of passive
preconstitution. As Husserl later makes clear in Formal and Transcendental
Logic, the critique of logical reason would have been incomplete without
uncovering these hidden intentional implications of active constitution (Hua
XVII, p. 60 and 66).

The apperceptive surplus as the residue of noematic sense

In Ideas I, Husserl extends the originally linguistic concept of sense bestowal

(Sinngebung) as analyzed in the first Logical Investigation to cover all forms of
intentionality, including that of perception.54 Husserl had argued in the first
Investigation that to understand the dynamics of meaning one must focus not
Seebohm in Muller (1999, p. 16). Merleau-Ponty made a similar objection that a phenome-
nology of acts of consciousness is not compatible with a phenomenology of passivity; see Mont-
avont (1999, p. 9).
Addition in Copy A of Hua III/1 in Kersten translation, p. 224. See also the reference to the
so-called unconscious, which, far from being a phenomenological nothing, is itself a limit-mode
of consciousness; HUA XVII, pp. 318319/319.
See a similar argument in Muller (1999, p. 59).
Merleau-Ponty (1962, 418); see also xviii.
The widening of the concept of Sinngebung has as its correlate the extraordinary and yet, in its
way, admissible broadening of the concept sense. (Hua III/1, p. 121n./129n.)

Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118 105

merely on the sign but on the intention or act that confers meaning on the
sign. That is to say, a word is not a word until someone takes it as a word. It is
precisely this taking a word as a word or using a word as a word that
Husserl examines under the name of expression. Husserl thus focuses our
attention on the intentional dynamism behind the phenomenon of meaning,
which is often naively conceived as involving a strict word-object dichotomy.
Husserl delimits the sphere of speech and communication as that of
meaningful signs or expressions. Expressions are signs by means of which a
speaker intends to communicate her thoughts. Meaningful signs are what they
are by virtue of a meaning-bestowing act, an intention of the speaker to mean
something in a communicative way. Expressions for Husserl are ultimately
sense-informed (sinnbelebte) expressions (Hua XIX/1, p. 45/281). What is
expressed by the expression is not the meaning of the word, but the sense of
the fulfilling act that intends the object referred to in a fully intuitive way. The
intention to express, or the meaning-bestowing act, means its object, and this
object is the same as the object of (possible) perception or imagination.
Meaning, then, for Husserl, consists in the peculiar sense-giving act-
character that can invest a sensible sound or mark with expressive capacity
(Hua XIX/1, p. 72/303). The act of understanding thus lends to the sign a
meaning and a relation to objects. This attitude toward the sign must be
contrasted with an attitude of merely considering the sensuous character of
the sign, as when we mutter the word over and over and focus merely on its
verbal quality; in this case, no longer does our meaning-bestowing act shine
through the expression (Hua XIX/1, p. 71/302). Signs are essentially inert
and lifeless; they borrow their very life from the intentional act-character.55
In Ideas I, all acts of consciousness are considered constitutive of sense
(Sinn), and all sense can be studied as the noematic correlate to the acts. Sense
is defined very precisely by Husserl as ideal content, which corresponds to
what in the Logical Investigations was called matter or content (Materie).56
Ideal content is noematic content, or that which can be intended in different
ways and which nevertheless remains the same. This noematic content is none
other than the noematic correlate revealed by phenomenological reflection:
In every case the noematic correlate, which is called sense here (in a
very extended signification) is to be taken precisely as it inheres
Derrida describes this lending of life to the sign as the intentional animation that transforms
the body of the word into flesh, makes of the Korper a Leib, a geistige Leiblichkeit (Derrida,
1973, p. 16).
We recall the familiar talk to the effect that the same content may now be the content of a
mere presentation, now of a judgement, now of a question, now of a doubt, a wish, etc., etc. A man
who frames the presentation There are intelligent beings on Mars frames the same presentation
as the man who asserts There are intelligent beings on Mars, and the same as the man who asks
Are there intelligent beings on Mars?, or the man who wishes If only there are intelligent beings
on Mars!, etc., etc. ... plainly the intentional objectivity of the various acts is the same. One and
the same state of affairs is presented in the presentation, put as valid in the judgement, wished for
in the wish, asked about in the question (Hua XIX/1, p. 426/58687). Husserl adds that he once
considered defining meaning as matter: One might therefore be temptedI myself hesitated long
on this pointto define meaning as this very matter. (Ibid., p. 617/737).

106 Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118

immanentally in the mental process of perceiving, of judging, of liking;

and so forth; that is, just as it is offered to us when we inquire purely into
this mental process itself (Hua III/1, p. 203/214).
For Husserl, Sinn is thus revealed by phenomenological reflection. As a
general term, we can say that sense discloses the as structure of intended
objects; for in reflection we consider acts precisely as they appear to us as of a
certain sort, e.g., as perception, as imagination, etc.
Husserl is at pains to show that Sinn as noematic ideal content is as such
free from all expression and conceptual overlays: Continually it is indeed to
be kept in view that the concepts sense and positum contain for us nothing
pertaining to expression and conceptual signification (Hua III/1, p. 305/317).
If sense is distinct from expression, we are led to ask about the relation
between the meaningful intentionality of noematic Sinn and the meaningful
intentionality of conceptual expression (Bedeutung). Husserl claims that every
act of intending can be brought to expression; in fact, this possibility is part of
what it is to be an intentional meaning:
Every act, or every act-correlate, includes in itself, implicitly or explicitly,
something logical. It is always to be explicated logically, namely by
virtue of the essential universality with which the noetic stratum of
expressing allows of being attached to everything noetic (or that of
expression to everything noematic). (Hua III/1, p. 271/282)
By being expressed conceptually, the pre-expressive does not acquire mean-
ingthis it has already, insofar as it is intentionalbut its own meaning is
made more explicit, brought to logical form. Meaning, for Husserl, then, does
not first arise from language. Language rather makes a pre-linguistic sense
more explicit, more public.
Starting in Ideas I, apperception is understood as the institution of sense
(Sinnstiftung), the constitution of an object as a determinate something for
consciousness, whether as a linguistic or an essentially non-linguistic object.
Institution of sense has as a condition of its possibility the transference of
sense (Sinnubertragung) from previous institutions of sense. Although trans-
ference of sense is a theme that is not developed fully until later by Husserl,
we can see already in the Ideas I the development of a new meaning to the
apperceptive surplus (Uberschu). This surplus is essentially different from
what was described in the Logical Investigations and elsewhere as that extra-
sensuous component to perception that accounts for the animation of certain
sense impressions in a certain way.57 The excess of perception is now
understood also as that enduring validity of past sense-determinations that are

Apperception is our surplus, which is found in the lived experience itself, in its descriptive
content as opposed to the raw existence of sensation; Hua XIX/1, p. 399/567. See also Ms. A VII
22, p. 16b, which refers to the co-intending of the sensuous, namely the sides that have become
invisible as ein Ubersinnliches or ein Ubersensuelles in experience. We recall here that the
perceptual notion of apperceptive surplus is distinguished from the categorial notion of surplus
discussed in the sixth Logical Investigation, 40, and in Taminiaux and Jacques (1990).

Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118 107

available, more or less determinately, to the alert, active self.58 It is the

operative intentionality of inactual modes of attention that accounts for the
core of noematic meaning that functions as the base from which every actual
intention begins, or, more properly speaking, begins again. Thus, Husserl
accounts for perception as a seeing-as that is always already historical and
As Merleau-Ponty has argued, the surplus of perception over any particular
set of sense impressions should not be attributed to a judging function, as it is
by Descartes and other modern thinkers. In the second Meditation, Descartes
mentions the example of looking out of a window and seeing hats and coats
moving around below on the street. That we see these moving hats and
coats as human beings is for Descartes due solely to a predicative judgment.
The problem with this analysis is that it runs the danger of confusing the
specific intentionalities of judgment and perception. Since perception is
always underdetermined by sensation, a judgment would be, according to
Descartes, necessary every time one perceived something:
While judgment loses its constitutive function and becomes an explan-
atory principle [for the analysis of perception], the words see, hear,
feel lose all their meaning, since the least significant vision outruns the
pure impression and thus comes under the general heading of judg-
ment. . . . [According to Descartes] judgment is everywhere where pure
sensation is notthat is, absolutely everywhere.59
The notion of perception is an abstract limit-concept for Husserl as it was for
Wundt before him. Perception is always ad-perception; an intention of
something given is always a co-intending of that which is not given.60 Con-
ditioning the very possibility of the disclosure of a perceptual givenness
are the intended horizons pertaining to that particular givenness, which are
co-intended by perception itself. These co-intendings are not, however, to be
explained with reference to a predicative intentionality that arises out of a
higher-level perception and thus cannot itself provide more than a hint about
its own lineage. Judgmental predication is a distinctly new form of thetic
intentionality that brings a level of exactness and publicness by introducing
categorial form and assertion into discourse; perception remains of necessity
more private and indeterminate than judgment, but, as I have shown, not in a
way that is completely lacking in determination or that impedes progress in
Wittgenstein has a helpfulalthough potentially misleadingexample that
is relevant in this context. Wittgenstein calls our attention to the fact that
With the concepts of Sinnstiftung and Sinnubertragung we rely upon two of three senses of
apperception in Husserl distinguished by Holenstein (1972, p. 136).
Merleau-Ponty (1962, p. 34).
Already in the Investigations Husserl claims the term apperception may be misleading if
contrasted with an allegedly different phenomenon of perception: The term apperception is
unsuitable despite its historical provenance, on account of its misleading terminological opposition
to perception; apprehension would be more usable. (Hua XIX/2, p. 622/741)

108 Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118

exclamations are not simply names, but can be elliptical for expressions that
aim to express a state of affairs:
I look at an animal and am asked: What do you see? I answer: A
rabbit.I see a landscape; suddenly a rabbit runs past. I exclaim A
rabbit! Both things, both the report and the exclamation, are expres-
sions of perception and of visual experience.... But since [the exclama-
tion] is the description of a perception, it can also be called the
expression of thoughtIf you are looking at the object, you need not
think of it; but if you are having the visual experience expressed by the
exclamation, you are also thinking of what you see.61
This notion of thinking is analogous to that intentionality which in Husserl is
constitutive of noematic sense. To say that the thinking puts a certain slant on
our experience of the rabbit is also to imply that the thinking gives a sense to
the object-as-experienced-by-me at a certain time. Were the same rabbit to
reappear out of the woods on the next day, it would do so as the rabbit-
experienced-by-me-as-darting-across-the-landscape-yesterday. The latter for-
mulation is a clumsy way of reporting what is perhaps expressed more vividly
in the exclamation A rabbit! What is expressed thereby is not the linguistic
form, nor even words, but rather the intuitive experience of the speedy rabbit
as it struck me in a new, curious, or funny way. The example is helpful in that
it dramatizes that element of sense-constitution which is involved even in the
most ordinary perception. The example is misleading, however, in its reliance
upon a notion of a perception of a rabbit that is not in principle accompanied
by a thinking, i.e., a sense-constituting process. To see anything as a rabbit
is already to be thinking about its quality of being a rabbit and not, say, a
duck. Thinking is itself not a judgment, but a structured way of perceiving an
articulated presence in the world. The Wittgensteinian notion of thinking is
really the Husserlian awareness of sense, a sense which is always being
reconstituted in a determinately indeterminate way in experience. As Husserl
puts it, the subjective activity which has been realized remains attached to
the object qua intentional.62

Awakening, motivation, and induction: Husserls transition to a genetic

history of consciousness

There is a teleological standpoint from which Husserl analyzes intentional life

as a universal active synthesis. Every synthetic grasp of an object as a unity
within a multiplicity implies a horizon of not-yet-completed, possible syn-
theses of the same object. The transcendence of an object as a synthetic unity
of sense implies that the determinate sense that has accrued at any particular

Wittgenstein (1958, p. 197e).
EJ, p. 137/122.

Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118 109

time is always further determinable in an infinity of further determinations.63

It is particularly in the realm of scientific research that a theoretical interest in
nature is ever aware of the exhaustive determination of nature as an asymp-
totic telos that is never to be fully reached. This telos is not, however, to be
explained naively by quasi-ontological assertions that postulate, for example,
that the world is always larger than any of our attempts to explain it. The
further determinability of nature is rather analyzable in a phenomenological
critique of reason as a necessary feature of our synthetic way of experiencing
nature.64 From the imperfection of any current state of knowledge Husserl
draws a teleological lesson about the ceaseless striving of knowledge after a
perfectly adequate synthetic fullness that is never to be had:
The teleological function of the constant imperfection of knowledge,
teleological function of the imperfection of all striving. . . . Striving, that
prevails in all life of consciousness, and its lawfulness that is in itself
teleological, the most real of all forces; it is the force of motivation and it
proceeds necessarily towards satisfaction.65
The transcendence of the past to what is present implies another teleology of
conscious life, one that is not directed synthetically toward future, ever more
determinate sense but one that governs the continued effectiveness of past
experience as a synthetically operative conditionality of present experience.
Perceptual experience in the prescientific or pretheoretical life-world does not
normally require an active synthesis of present experience with past experi-
ence of the same object. Things are usually experienced as already unified for
us on the basis of a synthetic link with past experience. There is an important
condition of possibility for a synthetic grasp of a unity within a multiplicity of
experiences, past, present, and future: the uniformity or coherence of our
experiences on a recurrent basis. Uniformity of experience implies the con-
tinued validity (Fortgeltung) of past sense determinations that is operative in
any present experience. Continued validity implies a subjectively operative
sense with which an object is already loaded, whether we are explicitly
aware of that sense or not.66 The uniformity of experience is of course an

On Husserls concept of teleology as the determination of the present by the future and the
transcendence of the now by the not-now, see Mensch and Richard (1996, pp. 8283 and 9798).
Here Mensch also argues that perception is not a matter of some kind of connection between an
object and a mysterious third realm of sense that referentially bridges the gap between subjective
meaning and the object. Perception should be analyzed rather as a matter of consciousness and the
determinable, intelligible senses with which it deals.
Thus Brentano failed to see the teleological function of consciousness for the synthetic
achievement of truth on the part of reason (Hua IX, p. 36). Bernet argues that instead of an
ontological meaning, Husserls notion of perceptual synthesis implies an ethical demand of
absolute responsibility; see Bernet (1979, pp. 119132). See also Hua V, p. 153.
Ms. A VI 30, p. 123b: On teleology in Husserl see Strasser and Stephen (1989, pp. 217235). See
also Bernet (1978, pp. 251269). On the expression Teleologie der Erfahrung see De Almeida
(1972, pp. 220ff). On the concept of teleology in the late Husserl, see English (1998).
On the notion of habitualities as accounting for continued validity, see Bergman and Hoffmann
(1984, pp. 281305).

110 Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118

indeterminate uniformity; often the exception gradually becomes the rule.

Just as the present is conditioned by the past, the past is also under the
influence of the present due to the synthetic nature of sense-formation. No
sense from the past possesses a sacred aura of immutability, except perhaps in
a very subjective, psychological sense.67
According to Rudolf Bernet, progress in perceptual determination is the
key notion that allows Husserl to establish the relation between the partiality
of perceptual appearance and its intrinsic relation to the wholeness of the
object intended through the perception. Only the experience of having ones
cognitive interest progressively satisfied in further perception, and not a
derivation from the objectively determined side of a thing, can establish
phenomenologically the sense of a thing-in-itself as a teleological limit con-
cept.68 It would make no sense to say that some know an object better than
others, or that some discriminate certain features in the environmentnatu-
ral, artistic, athletic, etc.better than others, if every perceiver always had to
start from scratch and actively reconstitute sense from the beginning. Herbart
made a similar point in the mid-nineteenth century in the context of his
doctrine of apperception:
The apperceiving noticing, which presupposes the reproduction of an
older mass of representation (Vorstellungsmasse), is most well known
and conspicuous to the masters of every art and science, who immedi-
ately feel the errors committed against the rules. How the bungler of
language cuts into the ear of the purist! How discord offends the musi-
cian! Or how an offense goes against the politeness of the man of the
world! How fast is the progress in a particular science for someone in
whom the beginning principles were so sharply ingrained, such that these
principles can be reproduced with the greatest of ease and determinacy;
by contrast, how slow and unsure are the beginnings themselves learned,
if the even simpler elementary representations that belong to them were
not predisposed.69
In perception, there is certainly a physiological stimulation of sense organs,
but there is also a certain non-physiological stimulation of acquired discrim-
inatory capacities, or perceptual dispositions, as the early Husserl put it.
The residue of past sense-determinations can be reproductively (actively)
reawakened through a presentifying memory, but more often this residue is
passively reawakened due to the retentional structure of immanent time.
Perhaps an example that trades on the literal meaning of Weckung will help to
illustrate the difference.70 Contrast waking up in bed at home to waking up in

See Carr (1974, p. 75). The sense that had once accrued to the old sandlot baseball field or the
old hometown grammar school in our childhood is not immune to revision when we revisit those
sites as adults, much as we might like to continue to dwell in nostalgia.
Bernet et al. (1993, pp. 116130).
Herbart (1968, vol. 2, p. 201).
The example is borrowed from Lanei Rodemeyer.

Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118 111

bed at a hotel. In the latter case, one often undergoes a bit of momentary loss
of ones bearings as one looks around at the odd furniture, the curiously large
mirror, the unsettling angle at which the morning sun streams across the room.
To re-establish the sense of where one is it is often necessary to recall to
oneself, to live through again in a reproductive memory, the events of the
previous night: driving on the highway, experiencing the sights and sounds of
the new city, having dinner with an old friend, checking into the hotel. Only
then is ones orientation to the new surroundings re-established as one
becomes aware of the synthetic connection between last nights activity and
this mornings situation. When one wakes up at home, however, it is not
normally the case that one needs to re-establish a sense of orientation; it is
passively there for one on a preconstituted basis. At home, there is normally
no need to recall the events of yesterday or of last week in order to be able to
stumble in the dark to the kitchen and almost blindly reach for the coffee
machine to turn it on; one is already oriented due to the retentional structure
of experience. But even this active remembering is possible only on the basis
of the associative awakening which has already taken place; the awakening
itself is an event which always occurs passively.71
There is an interesting question to pose at this point: How many nights does
one have to spend at a hotel before a reproductive memory is no longer
necessary to re-establish sense? While answers may vary from individual to
individual, it does seem possible to construct a general answer to the question.
For example, it would probably take less time to re-establish ones general
orientation for someone who is used to sleeping overnight in hotels, for
example, a traveling businessperson or a jet-setting world tourist. Such a
person generally knows how hotels look in the morning upon awakening,
from the cheapest budget hotel to the most luxurious hotel. The seasoned
travelers habitual awareness of certain parameters to hotel disorientation
conditions the less extreme nature of her re-orientation process on any par-
ticular occasion. Starting in Ideas II, the phenomenon of Weckung is treated in
the context of transcendental phenomenology as a kind of non-causal stimulus
that brings the past to bear on the present in a way that is not necessarily
active or reproductive. It is to this analysis that I now turn.
In Ideas II, Husserl discusses the psychophysical causal stimuli that are
correlated to physiological receptors in what he calls the sensory soul.
Association is the general name for the mechanical lawfulness that governs
the habitual and instinctive ways in which the sensory soul reacts to certain
external stimuli. The sensory stimuli condition the very appearance of sense
impressions: The real process outside acts causally on me as a reality: the
falling of the hammer disturbs the air, the disturbances stimulate my organs of
hearing, etc., with the consequence that there is produced in me, as real Ego,
the noise (Hua IV, p. 233/245). Along similar lines, Husserl begins to develop

The example conforms to the point made at EJ, p. 210/179. This passive awakening is described
by Husserl as something that comes to mind retentionally (retentionaler Einfall) in Hua XVII,
Appendix II, 3a; see also Lohmar (1998, p. 251).

112 Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118

a theory of the immanent lawfulness of the ways in which perceiving subjects

are responsive not simply to physical stimuli but at the same time to meaning
in the perceptual field. There are, for Husserl, structures that guide the flow of
appearances for a particular perceiver in a way that make those appearances
pregnant with meaning, without, however, being made fully explicit.72
Perceptual meaning is correlated to the responsiveness to meaning of the
particular perceiver who has certain dispositions or tendencies that have built
up over time. Husserl clearly distinguishes between the habitual dispositions
of the empirical ego that form the subject matter for association psychology
and those dispositions which form the subject matter of the phenomenology of
the personal ego. The latter dispositions are called motivations and are gen-
uinely intentional relations between what appears in the appearance and how
it appears to the ego (Hua IV, p. 218/22930).
Husserl introduces the notion of motivation in Ideas II as a condition of
possibility of attention. In order for one to turn toward an object in an
attentive way, there must be a stimulus exercised by the object that arouses
an interest and a tendency to turn towards it. The object must want to be an
object of advertence; it must attract the ego, knock at the door of con-
sciousness and draw it near to itself (Hua IV, p. 220/231). This stimulus is not
a causal but a motivational stimulus between subject and object that is best
described as an intentional attraction. The objects that exercise an intentional
stimulus are not, however, the same as the real, physical objects in the natural
world embedded within a deterministic framework of natural causality. Of
course, they are not entirely different from the latter, either. Intentional
stimuli are the objects as experienced by consciousness in a meaningful way.
Thus, the object stimulates intentionally in virtue of its experienced (erlebte),
apperceived properties, as, for example, an object of value or of pleasure (Hua
IV, pp. 21617/228). Physiological processes do not motivateonly that which
is intentionally included in ones conscious experiences, i.e., the noematic
strata built upon an object through past experience, can motivate (Hua IV,
p. 220/23132, p. 231/243). The intentional relation between noematic sense
and a new noetic ray of attention directed at the present bearer of the
noematic sense is a functional dependency of a presentation upon a past
presentation which is not the same as the dependencies of subjective
appearances ... on real Objectivities that are posited or received as real (Hua
IV, p. 227/238). The meaning of the motivational stimulus is always the after-
effect (Nachwirkung) of an earlier institution of noematic meaning.73
Nevertheless, the overlaid mental or spiritual meaning that is given to the
sensuous appearances fuses with them into a unity, instead of just being
bound with them side by side. The apperceptive surplus is therefore not to be
understood along the lines of a physical relation of parts outside of parts: The

See Merleau-Pontys use of the Husserlian notion of motivation in his criticism of empiricist
association psychology in Merleau-Ponty (1962, pp. 4850).
Ms. A VI 25, p. 12a: We can call the after-effect of an earlier consciousness on a later
consciousness a motivation relation.

Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118 113

spiritual is not a second something, is not an appendix, but is precisely ani-

mating; and the unity is not a connection of two, but on the contrary, one and
only one is there (Hua IV, p. 239/251). The theory of motivation thus builds
on Husserls earlier claim that there may be an a priori meaning to the term
association, insofar as it is an eidetic necessity that the nexus of perception
that pertains to every experience is experientially determined (Hua X, p. 106/
The need for the phenomenological notion of motivational causality was
already clear as a result of Husserls earlier argument that the contents of
the perceptual field never manifest themselves for attentive consciousness
except as bearers of rays of apprehension (Auffassungsstrahlen) (Hua X,
p. 105/110). These rays of apprehension constitute the infinite nexus of the
complex perception as a set of empty and filled intentions. Husserl had put the
same point earlier in Brentanos terminology of authenticity in the context of
the analysis of the perception of a physical thing: Yet the authentic
appearance and the inauthentic are not separate things; they are united in the
appearance in the broader sense (Hua XVI, p. 50/43). Thus, perception is
never a blank, empty staring at something completely new:
Experienceableness never means a mere logical possibility, but rather a
possibility motivated in the concatenations of experience. This concate-
nation itself is, through and through, one of motivation, always taking
into itself new motivations and recasting those already formed. With
respect to their apprehension-contents or determination-contents, the
motivations differ, are more or less rich, are more or less definite or
vague in content depending on whether it is a matter of physical things
which are already known or completely unknown, still undiscov-
ered or in the case of the seen physical thing, whether it is a matter of
what is known or unknown about it. (Hua III/1, p. 101/1067)
Husserl had consistently argued that all possibilities for the fulfillment of an
empty intention are predelineated (vorgezeichnet) in advance; now the more
or less determinate predelineation of any empty intention is conceived as a
motivated one (Hua III/1, p. 102/107). The apprehension of a thing is a web of
immanent motivations that are built from intentional rays, empty and filled.
These motivations run or refer back and forth, they are fulfilled or remain
open (Hua IV, pp. 22425/236).
The theory of motivational causality helps to specify further the nature of
what Husserl had in the sixth Logical Investigation called the empty intention,
i.e. the intention that means its object in its absence. In the lecture on Thing
and Space, Husserl had pointed to the empty intention merely as the absence
of intuition:
The clear result of these considerations is therefore that inauthentically
appearing moments of the object are in no way presented. Perception is,
as I also express it, a complex of full and empty intentions (rays of
apprehension). The full intentions or full apprehensions are the

114 Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118

authentically presentational ones; the empty are precisely empty of any

presentational material. They actually bring nothing to presentation,
although they have their direction toward the relevant moments of the
object. (Hua XVI, p. 57/48)
The empty intention is of course oriented toward the immediate future in a
more or less determinate way. One knows in advance more or less what one is
looking for, before one finds it; knowledge is generally not serendipitous. Only
thus could one explain the phenomenon of fulfillment as the correspondence
of the object found with what was meant before it was found: Knowledge is
the consciousness of the agreement between an empty anticipatory belief . . .
and the corresponding experience which gives at first hand the object of this
belief.74 Every empty intention, understood as apperception, offers a
guiding line for the confirmation, in the course of experience, of the inten-
tional nexuses (Hua IV, p. 274/287). If someone is said to have a certain
intuitive flair (Intuition), that person has a capacity that is different from other
perceivers not in kind, but only in degree. For every perception has the quality
of being a presentiment (Vorahnung), a pre-seeing without seeing, an
obscure, specifically symbolic, often ungraspably empty, premonition (Hua
IV, p. 274/286).

The inductive role of experience in conditioning the apperceptive surplus

The ordinary notion of motivation is its occurrence ... in the sphere of

position-taking of the active, spontaneous ego. This motivation is the
causality of reason that corresponds to the ordinary usage of the word
motive as a justification or a ground of human action. The broader notion of
motivation signifies the habitual connection of experiences in the deep
grounds of association and apperception. (Hua IV, 224/235) This habitual,
passive motivation is described as the native soil of reason insofar as it
conditions the meaning of the flow of appearances and any subsequent
articulation thereof:
We can now also say: Passive motivation is the native soil (der
Mutterboden) of reason and has as such receptivity for the intellectus
agens and the subject of active reason. . . . Passive motivation is thus
precisely potential reason, for what the intellectus agens discloses is
already laid in the native soil. Only the intellectus agens can activate
potential reason and grant to it the form of authentic reason.75
Here we see a further development in the notion of the re-actualization of
potential intentionality. Rational motivation is that phenomenon whereby the
subject has grounds for bringing a sequence of appearances to manifestation
in a more explicit, more public form. On the one hand, the structure perceived
EJ, p. 341/283.
Ms. A VI 25, p. 15a.

Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118 115

can be brought to a categorial articulation in a judgment for which the ego

can then be held responsible. On the other hand, the value-quality that
motivationally provoked an attentive response on the part of the acting
subject could serve as the ground for a voluntary action. In both cases the
subject is taking responsibility in a publicly accountable way for the ways in
which things already appear to her.
A motive often serves as the answer to various questions, for example: Why
does this object remind me of another? Why does this object appear to me in a
curious way? Why does this object strike me at first glance as annoying? In
many cases, one can pinpoint the actual motive by virtue of a reproductive
memory; I might say, for example, that pumpernickel bread strikes me as
unpleasant at first glance because I was forced to eat it as a child. But it
is often the case that the motive is unperceived; though the motivation is
indeed actually present in consciousness ... it does not stand out; it is
unnoticed or unnoticeable (unconscious) (Hua IV, pp. 22223/234). The
most primordial form of hidden motivation is the unconsciously motivated
sequence of temporal modes in internal time-consciousness. This motivation is
operative even in the case where it is impossible for a subject to find a
manifest motive for the sequence of appearances, e.g. when I see the night
sky lit up by a meteor shower or hear quite unexpectedly the crack of a whip.
It is the regular sequence of the temporal modes that accounts for the unity of
conscious life within which an unexpected or apparently unmotivated event
has sense as unexpected.76
The general law of motivation is: The givenness of the similar motivates
the givenness of what is similar (Hua IV, p. 225/237). The lawfulness of both
active and passive motivation thus has the character of induction.77 Motiva-
tional force is stronger or weaker to the extent that similarity is perceived; the
perception of similarity is itself a function of the inductive force of experience.
In the Gottingen lectures on epistemology, Husserl referred to the context of
experience, within which any particular experience has sense, as inductively
The weight of experience is greater to the extent that the context of
experience, in which the pertinent individual experience is ordered, and
indeed ordered without contradictionand thus is interwoven ever more
with its neighbors in the sense of a confirming harmonyis more
extensive. (Hua XXIV, p. 347)
The weight of experience grows in proportion to the number of similar cases
that are experienced and thus accounts for the harmoniousness of experience
(Hua XXIV, p. 353). The weight of experience can itself be a source of
justification in determining what one should believe in the case of conflict

Hua IV, pp. 22728/239; see also Hua XI, 386.
But even the position-takings themselves are subject to inductive rules: with each position-
taking, there develop tendencies to take up the same position under similar circumstances, etc.
(Hua IV, 280/293).

116 Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118

between two perceptions based on the same sensible given: that apprehension
is determined which with the unity of the entire actual perception merges
into a comprehensive total perception and contributes to the force of the
mutually founding belief intentions (Hua XXIII, p. 48). The weight of
experience is always a weight of intentions; indeed it is the concept that
expresses the pre-history of intentions.78
To every apperception, then, there belongs the inductive force of
experience: Perception thus intends more that what it itself authentically
gives, and this co-intended More, as constantly and necessarily
co-determining the perceptual sense, is called here apperceived. . . . In
fact, this co-intending characterizes the original induction that belongs to
Induction is primordially not a logically inferring process . . . but rather
a process of predelineation or cross-referenceinductionthat
belongs to the domain of experience itself and the certitude about being
that is acquired from experience.80
The apperceptive surplus that is characteristic of every perceptual intention
functions therefore in an anticipatory way that is itself conditioned by expe-
rience. The core meaning of genetic phenomenology is apparent at this very
point: An intention and its correlative content are what they are due to their
particular history. We see here that Husserl has now given an intentional
explanation to what was treated merely as a feeling in the Logical Investi-
gations, as in the following statement: If I see an incomplete pattern, e.g. in
this carpet partially covered over by furniture. . . , we feel as if the lines and
coloured shapes go on in the sense of what we see. (Hua XIX/2, p. 573/700)
We can now confirm that the sense spoken of here consists of those
empty rays of apprehension, those supplementary intentions, which serve
as the guiding lines for confirmation. It is a sense that belongs to the
noematic sense of the object precisely because of the experience one has
had with objects like rugs, furniture, and things covering other things.
The dynamic synthesis of fulfillment of an empty intention presupposes the
object being given exactly as it was meant in an empty intention; only then can
there be a correspondence of sense. What can ever be meant in an empty
intention is conditioned by what one expects to find. What one expects to find
is itself conditioned by what one has found to be the case in the past. There is
here a dialectic between past experience and future expectation, whereby
each mutually conditions the other. Where the accumulated and anticipated
sense of past and future intentions merge is of course in the dynamic present
of perception.

See Lohmar (1998, pp. 223224).
Ms. B I 10 I, 14, cited by Aguirre (1970, p. 152n. 24).
Ms. A VII 11, 107, cited by Holenstein (1972, p. 35).

Husserl Stud (2007) 23:83118 117


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