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Reading Husserl’s Time-Diagrams from 1917/18

Article in Husserl Studies · January 2005

DOI: 10.1007/s10743-005-6403-2


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James Dodd
The New School


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Please cite: James Dodd, “Reading Husserl’s Time-Diagrams from 1917/18,” Husserl Studies 21
(2005): 111-137.

Reading Husserl’s Time-Diagrams from 1917/181

James Dodd
New School University

§1. Introduction
In his reflections on inner time consciousness written in the years 1917-1918,
Husserl makes use of an illustrative device he apparently developed in fits and
starts between 1905-19112: the so-called “time-diagram.” It proves to be an
important instrument for several of the texts published in Husserliana XXXIII, in
particular Text Nr. 2: “Die Komplexion von Retention und Protention.
Gradualitäten der Erfüllung und das Bewusstsein der Gegenwart. Graphische
Darstellung des Urprozesses”. More, the diagram appears in these texts in a much
more refined and complete manner than anything found in Husserliana X, which
in turn allows us to sharpen a number of questions that had already arisen with
original 1928 publication of Husserl’s 1905 Zeitvorlesungen.
The very employment of a diagram in the analysis of time consciousness is
itself a source of questions. And this is not only due to the concern that spatial
A version of this paper was presented at the June 2003 meeting of the Husserl Circle at Fordham
University. Many thanks to the members of the Circle for their comments and suggestions.
See Hua X, §10 and Text Nr. 53, p. 365. See Hua X, Text Nr. 27 for earliest (1904) use of
diagrams. The diagrams in the 1928 edition of Husserl’s lectures apparently date from 1911 (See
Hua X 410, “Textkritische Anmerkungen” to §§8-10; cf. the figures on Hua X 365, from Text Nr.
53). Also cf. the discussion on these early diagrams in Alexander Schnell, “Das Problem der Zeit
bei Husserl,” Husserl Studies 2002. Schnell’s article provides a close reconstruction of Husserl’s
use of time diagrams in light of the developments of his analyses of inner time-consciousness from
1904 until 1918. By contrast, the main focus here will be on only one part of this story, i.e., the
use of the diagrams in the Bernau Manuscripts from 1917/18, and their relation to the diagrams
reproduced in the 1928 edition of Husserl’s Zeitvorlesungen.

2 James Dodd

representations in principle threaten to undermine a coherent understanding of the

nature of time, a concern the classic formulation of which is found in Henri
Bergson’s 1889 Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience. There is also
the more general issue of Husserl’s frequent metaphorical use of concepts from
mathematical analysis, such as the differential and the continuum, and above all
the fact that the time diagram is strongly reminiscent of the Cartesian coordinate
plane. Given Husserl’s background in mathematics, including his work as an
assistant to Weierstrass in the 1880’s, it would be a mistake to dismiss this feature
as mere coincidence; clearly many of these texts are inspired by the revolution in
analysis that took place during the previous century, culminating in the work of
Husserl’s friend Georg Cantor.
It is also useful to emphasize this link with analysis, because not only does it
allow us to mark the difference between Husserl and Bergson with respect to the
problem of time, but it also serves to introduce an important aspect of Husserl’s
approach. Bergson’s demarcation of the lived passage of consciousness as a pure,
qualitative multiplicity is set up in such a way that excludes its description in a
language of “points,” even “continua,” if by using such language one is seeking to
fix a representation of the continuity of duration by adopting a perspective
governed by the fixed simultaneity of points taken to be definitive of its extremes.
If the genuine theme for a reflection on time’s passage is a pure qualitative unity
of consciousness, then to adopt a perspective grounded in a rigid schema of
countable simultaneities, or an image of quantitative multiplicities, corrupts
reflection and obscures the theme from the start.
For Husserl, however, in some way the opposite is the case. Not because
consciousness is an example of a quantitative multiplicity, but because a
reflection on the lived passage of consciousness is always already a reflection on
the order and structure that belongs to a kind of distance, which in turn is not
necessarily exhausted by the notion of a qualitative interpenetration of concretely
unfolding time.3 To be sure, this is not the distance between positions fixed within

Space, in other words, should not be completely out of the picture. Cf. Merleau-Ponty: “In order
to arrive at authentic time, it is neither necessary nor sufficient to condemn the spatialization of
time as does Bergson. It is not necessary, since time is exclusive of space only if we consider
space as objectified in advance, and ignore that primordial spatiality which we have tried to
Reading Husserl’s Time Diagrams 3

a representation of a homogenous space, such as the Cartesian coordinate plane,

where all positions are simultaneous, all intervals static, but rather that distance
between positions which appears only thanks to a non-simultaneity expressed
using the temporal designations of past, present, and future. Even if this distance
expressed by these designations cannot be represented as, or reduced to, an
interval simultaneous with the positions it separates, it is nevertheless a distance,
thus something that can be symbolized, or illustrated in a manner that is at least
comparable to spatial distance. Thus for Husserl, contra Bergson, the self-
givenness of “living” consciousness is understood in terms of an opened distance,
though of a particular kind, one that resists the static representation of spatial
coordination, but which is not for all that completely indifferent to the
representational capacities of spatial coordination. And again, it is the radical new
approach to thinking about the different senses of “distance” found in the
continuum, for example in the work of Dedekind, which represents one of the
sources of inspiration for Husserl’s analysis of time.
Yet this is not to say that Husserl applies modern mathematical methods to
solve the problem of time. The phenomenological passage of the moment with its
retentions and protentions will not be modeled on a Dedekind cut, nor will the
juxtaposition of the originary now with the horizons of retentional and
protentional contents be described in the language of non-denumerable sets.
Nevertheless, these ideas are an inspiration for the unique development of the
descriptive resources necessary for a phenomenology of time, in that they pioneer
an understanding in which something as apparently homogenous as “continuity”
can harbor surprisingly counter-intuitive properties (e.g. being a set denumerable
by a proper subset of itself). Modern analysis is a source of inspiration for
Husserl, I would argue, because the problem of time-consciousness is equivalent
to the problem of understanding the nature of a peculiar kind of distance that
harbors its own rather counter-intuitive properties. More specifically, the issue has
to do with the kind of distance that belongs to, and makes possible, the self-

describe, and which is the abstract form of our presence in the world. It is not sufficient since,
even when the systematic translation of time into spatial terms has been duly stigmatized, we may
still fall very short of an authentic intuition of time.” Phenomenology of Perception, trans. Colin
Smith (London: Routledge, 1962): 415fn.
4 James Dodd

manifestation of intentional consciousness itself; and it is precisely the intentional

structure of inner time-consciousness that Husserl is attempting to illustrate with
the use of the time-diagram.
My purpose here will be to attempt to highlight the specific sense of distance
at work in Husserl’s use of the time-diagrams. The first step will be a
consideration of how the diagrams are used in the Zeitvorlesungen to address the
question of the phenomenality of time (§2). The result of these considerations will
highlight the importance of understanding the relation between protention and
retention, something towards which Husserl makes a number of interesting
advances in the Bernau manuscripts of 1917/18, and which leads to a revision of
the original time-diagram (§3). The advances with respect to understanding the
relation between protention and retention in turn raise the important issue of the
status of the phenomenological “now.” This will lead us to a proposal for an
interpretation of the horizontal axis (§4). This interpretation of the horizontal axis
will in turn highlight the central importance of the theme of evidence and
intentional fulfillment in the problem of time, and how this relates to the
contentious issue of the self-manifestation of transcendental consciousness. Each
of these steps will take us closer to a manner of “reading” Husserl’s time-
diagrams by making use of the particular sense of distance peculiar to the unity of
subjective time.

§2. The Phenomenality of Time

The first step is to consider the question of how to read the time diagram as it
appears in §10 of the Zeitvorlesungen in Husserliana X. There are two
fundamental aspects of the analyses in §§8-10 that should be emphasized before
turning to the diagram itself:
(a) The first is Husserl’s argument that time only appears “along with”
a time-object.4 This is equivalent to saying that time appears only with the
appearance of something that fills time. It is this “filled time,” or “object
in its duration,” that Husserl calls a “time-object.” This, as Husserl

Hua X 22:28-23:3.
Reading Husserl’s Time Diagrams 5

emphasizes, represents a “special sense” of the idea of a time-object,5 to

be distinguished, presumably, from Meinong’s conception of temporally
extended (or “distributed”) objects6: the point here is to shift away from a
focus on the temporal characteristics of different kinds of givens (e.g.,
“color” vs. “melody”), to the temporality that is manifest in the appearing
or phenomenality of the given.
(b) The second point is the fact that the focus in §§8-10 rests squarely
on immanent time-objects, more specifically, sensations. The point of
departure is thus not the appearance of transcendent objects insofar as they
“fill time,” but the appearance of immanent objects, insofar as they “fill
time.” This focus is in fact a serious source of confusion, for despite
appearances, it does not really leave behind the problem of transcendence.
In the end, the point of departure in these analyses is the appearance of a
sensation, which to be sure is to be understood as an immanent time-
object, but it is one that is immanently contained in a lived experience
thanks to which a transcendent time-object is constituted. Thus even if the
“object” under consideration is no longer the transcendent thing in the
givenness of its duration, it is the lived experience, in the givenness of its
duration, in which the transcendent thing in the givenness of its duration is
articulated. In the case of a sensation, the “immanent time object” in
question is an articulated givenness that is at the same time an articulation
of a givenness that is not “its own.” Or to use the language of the
Logische Untersuchungen, it is the unity of the “appearance” or
“consciousness” of objective time, itself given to itself as an object-unity
of inner consciousness.7

Hua X 23:4-6.
Cf. Alexis Meinong, “Über Gegenstände höherer Ordnung und deren Verhältnis zur inneren
Wahrnehmung”, in: Zeitschrift für Psychologie und Physiologie der Sinnesorgane XXI (1899):
248. Also cf. the discussion in Hua X, Texte 29-33.
Why is the problem of time posed in just this way? The key may very well be difficulties that
had already emerged in the VI. Logical Investigation, in particular with respect to the coherence of
the use of inner perception in addressing two key issues: (1) the question of the cogency of the
notion of “categorial representation,” or whether there is a presentational basis for categorial
intuitions parallel to sensations in sensuous intuition; and (2) the expressivity of non-objectifying
6 James Dodd

The result of these two aspects taken together is that the sense in which these
immanent time-objects “appear” is not really free and independent of the sense in
which transcendent (or objective) time-objects appear; the former appear only to
the extent to which they are likewise laden with the appearances of the latter.
Immanent objects are articulated at all, thus manifest, only to the extent to which
they play a role in the articulation of transcendence. This does not undermine the
distinction, it only situates it. Thus it may be the case, as Husserl himself
emphasizes, that to perceive an appearing object is not the same as to perceive an
object in its appearing, and thus that, at least for the sake of analysis, we may
focus on the latter as our principal theme;8 but that does not change the fact that to
perceive an object in its appearing surely involves, at the very least, the prior
perceptual theme of an appearing object. Yet this situatedness is not without its
tensions, for it is structured in such a way that, for example, phenomenological
reflection can move only from what is given to its givenness; one cannot, in
reflection, move through to the given from an original perception, or originary
thematization, of its givenness, or the “given its appearing.” The course or
passage through givenness must already be marked out in an accomplishing
experience, prior to reflection.
This tension, perhaps quite manageable in principle, nevertheless leads
directly to a curious difficulty in understanding just what the time-diagram
introduced in §10 is supposed to represent. For already on the level of the
immanent object, when one speaks of the structure or order of its passage, one is
already being guided by what is being made present in that structure or order of
passage, understood as an intentional structure. This is because the immanent
order of passage is not an object arrayed alongside of what it presents to
consciousness, but the very presentation of what it presents, taken as such; the
sense of its passage is the sense of the unfolding of the accomplishment that it is,

acts. The problematic character of inner perception, which is used at Hua XIX/2 708:3-9 to form
the basis for categorial representation and at XIX/2 749:1-6 the content for the expressions of non-
objectifying acts, threatens both to undermine the consistency of categorial intuition as well as the
delimitation of the scope of the logical in terms of the class of objectifying acts. Thus it is of no
surprise that, by 1904/5, Husserl is very concerned with the problem of the phenomenality of
consciousness taken as an immanent sensuousness.
Hua X 23:6-13.
Reading Husserl’s Time Diagrams 7

which is an intentional accomplishment that terminates in the givenness of the

presented. There is thus an inherent difficulty in keeping the levels of
presenting/presented separate in any graphical representation. This difficulty
becomes even more acute when Husserl argues for the appearance of this
“presentation, taken as such”9 itself, which is meant to indicate the immanent
phenomenality of lived experience as temporal passage. For here Husserl is not
only straining the notion of what it is to be an objective theme of consciousness,
but a “content” of consciousness in general, an adventure that has inspired a
number of interesting debates about the transcendental presuppositions for such a
The resulting ambiguity of the diagram could be summed up in the question:
does it represent the unity of the temporal passage of lived experience, taken as
such, thus the unity of an intentional accomplishment? Or does the unity in
question belong to a passage at a level of consciousness in which this
accomplishment of lived experience, in its sense of passage, is itself articulated?
Is it the passage of lived experience, or a consciousness of this passage; the unity
of an intentional accomplishment, or the manifestation and thus consciousness of
a unity of intentional accomplishment?
This very fine (and perhaps untenable) distinction between the immanence of
a lived experience and the immanence of its self-manifestation easily collapses in
the diagram. For in the diagram, the immanent sensation is being considered as a
time-object in a special sense, one that excludes a description of it as an
objectified correlate of an act of consciousness. Whatever manifestness
immanence has for consciousness, it is one that is constituted thanks to a
phenomenality that is ultimately rooted in the passage of constituting
consciousness itself, and not in some inwardly placed objectified surrogate for its

This is how I would gloss Hua 25:35-26:1.
See Dan Zahavi, Self-Awareness and Alterity (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2000),
Chapter Five, “The Temporality of Self-Awareness,” where he argues against the interpretation of
Robert Sokolowski and John Brough that lived experiences (Erlebnisse) can be given “in”
absolute time-consciousness only qua constituted “objects” of a certain order. Cf. Robert
Sokolowski, Husserlian Meditations (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1974) §§60-61.
8 James Dodd

Let us consider this point more closely. The diagram represents the modes in
which the duration-unity of the immanent temporal object “runs off,” as Husserl
describes it; the time-object, or “appearance,” is thus cast in terms of a givenness
articulated in these running-off modes.11 Thus the time-object, the immanent
sensation, is not being described in terms of its temporal extension as such, but
rather in the terms in which this temporal extension appears thanks to the
perspective that belongs to the concrete consciousness in which it unfolds.12 The
diagram is thus meant to illustrate the “way” or “manner” in which the unfolding
of time unfolds through a graphic representation of the inner perspective
consciousness has on the temporality of its own object-saturated intentionality.
Husserl appends two warnings in these sections where he introduces this
notion of “running off phenomena” or “running off modes.” The first is that these
modes should not be identified as consciousness itself. They belong to
appearances, and it is within the fold of phenomenality that they should be
thought. If we are to relate them to consciousness, is can only be in terms of the
sense in which consciousness itself is manifest within this fold. The point is not to
trace phenomenality back to an originating structure, but rather, and in some ways
contrary to a basic thesis of the Logische Untersuchungen, to fix a description of
the manner in which “appearances” (whether qua hyle or full fledged lived
experiences) themselves “appear.”13

The passage I am referring to here still reflects some hesitation with respect to the Auffassungs-
Auffassungsinhalt schema: the time object under consideration is not the lived experience
(Erlebnis) as a whole, but rather only its hyletic components. To the extent to which this schema
remains in effect, Erlebnis and Erscheinung remain at least potentially quasi-distinct, if we take
Erscheinung to refer to the hyletic component alone, and an Erlebnis as an apprehension of an
appearance that is directed towards what is given in the appearance (das Erscheinende). The result
of rejecting the schema, in my view, is that Erscheinung is no longer a distinct component or reell
content of Erlebnis, or even a “level” within the same, but a title for the constitutional
accomplishment of the latter.
These reflects the two options Husserl presents in the first paragraph of Hua X, §9.
Cf. XIX/1, 360:3-4. Here is the passage in Hua X (27:4-10): „Diese Erscheinung ‚Objekt im
Ablaufsmodus’ werden wir nicht Bewusstsein nennen können (so wenig wir das Raumphänomen,
den Körper im Wie der Erscheinung von der oder jener Seite, von nah oder ferne, ein Bewusstsein
nennen werden). Das ‚Bewusstsein,’ das ‚Erlebnis’ bezieht sich auf sein Objekt vermittelst einer
Erscheinung, in der eben das ‚Objekt im Wie’ dasteht.“ Again, it is perhaps the case that this
Reading Husserl’s Time Diagrams 9

The second warning is that these appearances of appearances are called

appearances only in an equivocal sense:

Für die Phänomene, welche immanent Zeitobjekte konstituieren,

werden wir nun die Rede von “Erscheinungen” lieber vermeiden;
denn diese Phänomene sind selbst immanente Objekte und sind
“Erscheinungen” in einem ganz anderen Sinne. Wir sprechen hier
von “Ablaufsphänomenen” oder besser noch von “Modis der
zeitlichen Orientierung”, und hinsichtlich der immanenten Objekte
selbst von ihren “Ablaufscharakteren” (z.B. Jetzt, Vergangen).14

This passage allows us to sharpen the inherent ambiguity of the time diagram
noted above. The structure being distinguished can be taken to be either
(1) The temporal modes which orient consciousness towards the
appearance of the immanent sensation (“Modis der zeitlichen
Orientierung”), or
(2) The stamp this orientation leaves on the appearance of the
immanent sensation (“Ablaufscharakteren”).
In the 1928 edition of the Zeitvorlesungen, it is not altogether clear what this
difference amounts to. However, using the language of the 1917 Bernau
manuscripts, this could perhaps be rephrased as the difference between what
Husserl calls the originary process (Urprozess) of consciousness and the shape
that the passage of a lived experience takes thanks to the structure of this
originary process, thus reading (1) as an early and important point of departure for
the theme of the self-manifestation of absolute time consciousness.
This way of reading Husserl’s text could perhaps be brought to bear on the
passage at the end of §9, where Husserl highlights what he calls a “double sense”

passage is compromised by the Auffassung-Auffassungsinhalt schema as well, yet it could also be

taken to hold true for those moments when Husserl expressly abandons the schema. For the point
could still be: the manifestation of the intentionality of consciousness is not identical with the
manifestation of consciousness as such, as if the appearance of the latter were both necessary and
sufficient to secure the appearance of the former. The reverse is arguably the case.
Hua X 27:18-24.
10 James Dodd

of intentionality.15 The point in this passage is not that there is an interweaving of

two types or levels of intentionality in the consciousness of time, but that there are
two possible immanent perspectives characteristic of the one intentional
accomplishment of inner time consciousness. One perspective is a reflection on
that singular relation of the appearance to what appears, or the classic
phenomenological relation between the intentional object and the lived experience
in which it is constituted. The relation is intentional, that is, the lived experience
articulates the given, and the given is a theme precisely within the limits of the
sense of its being articulated. More, this perspective is intrinsically temporal, in
that this articulation, or lived experience, is characterized by reflection in terms of
the modes of time (present, past, and future); it is characterized as something that
unfolds in time, which should not be confused with the feature of simply filling
time. Lived experience has a duration, it fills time, thus it can be considered a
time-object; but as an articulation, it accomplishes what it does only within the
“flowing” of these modes of passage. These modes are not reducible to the mere
filling of a pre-posited span of time, which means that they are in no way external
to the accomplishing presence of the lived experience, even if they are in a sense
external to the resulting unity of its duration, which can be taken merely as filled
sequence of moment-positions.
The second perspective arises from the idea that these “running-off
characters” are not only features intrinsic to the structure of the lived experience
as an immanent time object, but that they have, as correlates, an awareness of
their “source” or “origin.” In contrast to the first perspective, this is not an
awareness constituted by a reflection, but belongs to the inner sense of the lived
experience itself. The idea is that not only does the accomplishing movement of a
lived experience lend itself to consciousness by way of reflection, but also that it
lends itself to a non-reflective manifestation within a consciousness that belongs
to its very passage.
However, we need to be cautious about just what this non-reflective

„Offenbar muessen wir die Rede von der “Intentionalitaet” als doppelsinnig erkennen, je
nachdem wir die Beziehung der Erscheinung auf das Erscheindende im Auge haben oder die
Beziehung des Bewusstseins einerseits auf das <<Erscheinende im Wie>>, andererseits auf das
Erscheinende schlechthin.“ Hua X 27:11-15.
Reading Husserl’s Time Diagrams 11

awareness is an awareness of. The notion of perspective is perhaps the best guide:
when I realize that the manner in which something appears is a function of
perspective, say that when I approach my garden from the south side, the
flagstones on the east side will appear to converge around the marigolds thanks to
a particular perspective, I do not shift from a consideration of the appearance of
the garden to another dimension called “perspective.” All I do is shift focus to the
given sense that this manner of appearance is intrinsically linked to the arc of a
process of manifestation, grasped from “within” the appearance, in the unity of its
happening. Perspective is not an origin that stamps the given with certain features
from a position somewhere on the margins of its manifestation, but is already “in”
it, though for all of that not really completely “of” it. The way or manner in which
the flagstones appear is not itself a perspective; the perspective belongs instead to
the process of making the stones appear in the way that they do, coming from the
south side of the garden. Their “look” carries the sense of coming from
somewhere, precisely “from” a place traced by, and visible within, the arc of my
approach, but without showing this arc of manifestation to me.
Husserl’s argument, then, is that consciousness is not only consciousness of
the immanence of lived experience from the perspective of the time modi, but that
it is consciousness of this perspective as well. Consciousness is conscious of
where it is coming from, or at least that it is coming from somewhere, thanks to
which the objects given to it are given the way that they are. In this way, we can
say that in the “how” of the appearing of an immanent object in its duration there
is implicit a givenness of the intentionality of consciousness itself; in the “how”
of the temporal manifestation of the object, there is an awareness of the passage
through which this manifestation moves, or unfolds. In short, implicit in every
lived experience is the living through of that experience as its “origin.”16
In his manuscripts Husserl occasionally invokes the Brentanian notion of a
distinction between a “primary” and “secondary” object of consciousness to
describe the implicit givenness of living-through (Erleben) in a lived experience
(Erlebnis), but it is clear that once again the parameters of the very notion of
“object” are here being challenged in a way that was not the case in Brentano’s

Cf. Text Nr. 4 (Hua XXXIII) where Husserl experiments with different ways to re-interpret the
original notion of “zeitliche Orientierung” in terms of “Zeitperspektiven.”
12 James Dodd

Psychologie. For Husserl, the presence of consciousness within its own

intentional accomplishments is inseparable from its being content-laden; thus the
“object” mapped out by the time-diagram is not lived experience itself as a
secondary object co-given within the consciousness of a “primary” object, but
rather that aspect of consciousness in its presentive-articulate mode that we can
describe using the notions of perspective or orientation. This has a further
consequence that, if one were to think of the time-diagram as a schema of a
synthesis, then it must be understood as a formal schema in a very particular
sense—it is not the form of an act, but rather the form of the “acting” that is
necessary in order for any “act” to be accomplished. The “form” at issue here is
that of temporal passage. But that passage takes this form is also something given,
intuitively present to consciousness; it is in this sense that Husserl claims that the
originary process is aware of itself “as” a process.17
Let us now turn to the diagram itself, and some of the basic insights that
Husserl is attempting to illustrate. First is the claim that what passes is, without
exception, a “now”; following Brentano, such passage is understood as a
modification: the now-given is modified into a past now-given. This means that
the “past” is not outside of consciousness, but is contained in a consciousness that
has shifted course, so to speak, from the present to the past, and does so
continuously. However, against Brentano and following the essay by William
Stern that plays such a prominent role in §7 of the Zeitvorlesungen, how the past-
now-given is contained in consciousness is not explained by arguing that it is
bound to the presently now-given in an act of originary association, which fuses
together a multiplicity of contents along with a genuinely given, perceptive
“now.” Striving to break free of what Stern had called the “dogma of
momentariness,”18 Husserl argues that the past modified presentation of the given
is not reproduced in the present-now, but continues to be modified in the space of
a past marked off by a different mode of simultaneity to that of the present
moment and its “contents.” The repeated modification of a “now” into an ever
more distant past represents a continuous progression that is not identified with a

Cf. Hua XXXIII 29:3-16.
William Stern, “Psychische Präsenzzeit,” in: Zeitschrift für Psychologie und Physiologie der
Sinnesorgane” XIII (1897): 330-331.
Reading Husserl’s Time Diagrams 13

“present” act of consciousness that fuses the real with the irreal. In other words,
the intentionality in which the past is articulated, and the intentionality in which
the present is given, are not coordinated within a total-act of consciousness that
could be said to be “now” in the sense of inhabiting the same moment.

Figure 1

Thus instead of the Brentano-inspired diagram (Figure 119), where the irreal
or “non-genuine” perceptual presence of the elapsed moments (A-B-C-D) of a
duration is indicated by their being placed along the vertical axis at an angle of
ninety degrees, thus expressing the idea that their sense is encapsulated within the

This is a version of a diagram that can be found in Carl Stumpf, “Erinnerungen an Franz
Brentano,” in: Oskar Kraus, ed. Franz Brentano. Zur Erkenntnis seines Lebens und siner Lehre.
(München: Beck, 1919): 136. Cf. the discussion in Toine Kortooms, Phenomenology of Time.
Edmund Husserl’s Analysis of Time Consciousness (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 2001): 28-38. Also, I am
particularly indebted here to Nicolas De Warren’s discussion of these issues in his The Promise of
Time: Time-Consciousness and the Breakthrough of Phenomenology, Chapter 2: The Conduit of
Inheritance: Brentano and Stern”. (Dissertation: Boston University, 2001).
14 James Dodd

limits of their fusion as contents of a single “now,” Husserl adopts a diagram

where the continuing perceptual presence of the elapsed moments extends not
along a vertical set at 90º, but at a diagonal set somewhere less than 90º,
indicating a span of so-called “presence-time” (Stern’s “Präsenzzeit”). This is the
role of the oblique line in the time diagram as we find it in §10 of the time-
lectures in Hua X (Figure 220): it indicates not the sense of time constituted within
the confines of a moment, but the progression of a constitution of the sense of
passage of which the mode of the “moment” is only an element, or structural
contribution of an intentional accomplishment that spans a progression. Husserl
often uses the language of “adumbrations” or “profiles” (Abschattungen) to
describe this span of temporal manifestation: the mode of the present moment
“presents” the past within a continuity of profiles arrayed in consciousness, and
which includes the contributions to profiling represented by “past” moments. The
past is thus on par, in a specific sense, with the present in a way that is expressly
rejected by Brentano. In other words, the “past” is present in the “now,” thanks to
the fact that its intentional accomplishment is in a temporal continuity with the
intentional accomplishments of past moments.,

Figure 2

Thus in the diagram from §10 of the Zeitvorlesungen (Figure 2), the series
AE is as it were “shadowed” by a progressively “sinking” past AA′, with which it
is nevertheless in constant contact, and in a two fold sense: First, (a) the continued

Hua X 28:figure.
Reading Husserl’s Time Diagrams 15

presence of AA′ amounts to a direct contribution to the intentional function of the

present moment as the form in which consciousness is consciousness of the past,
in that every “new” consciousness of the past, or every new profile of its
givenness, is in an immediate continuity with every “past” consciousness of the
past. Second, (b) every new profile or consciousness of the past modifies the
entire continuum, which as modified is said to “sink” further into the past. Each
phase, each element of the continuum is thus a structural element in the
accomplishment of the intentional modification of every other, without exception.
It can already be seen that the way metaphors of distance will be employed
here is essential, since what Husserl means by “sinking” into a past opened by the
“intentional modification” of a continuum of nows will be a key component of
any description of the intentionality that belongs to the originary process of
absolute consciousness. But before commenting on the distance that belongs to
the intentionality of time, let us first call attention to the second diagram Husserl
presents in §10, just below the one reproduced in Figure 2 above. This second
diagram (Figure 3) is important, because it underscores something already
emphasized above, namely that the structure of intentional consciousness in
question must be considered as intrinsically content laden.

Figure 3

Moreover, the diagram in Figure 3 points forward to an important set of

considerations. Just how dependent on the givenness of the given is the givenness
of consciousness to itself as originary process? (Here we can recognize the
importance of the doubts that Dan Zahavi has raised with respect to the
16 James Dodd

interpretation of this presence as something that takes the form of an “object.”21)

To what extent is the givenness of consciousness phenomenologically absorbed in
the givenness of the passage of a “now,” which is always already laden with
content, or the now in which the object is present in the sense of “filling” it? Are
those dotted lines in the diagram empty of givenness, both of the givenness of
intentionality and of the objectivity of the intended? Can they be properly read
only with a look to the possibility of an object-presence, which would then be the
same as the presence of the intentionality in which the object is articulated? Or,
putting the alternative somewhat crudely: if the duration or temporal elapsing
symbolized by the strip bounded in solid lines (and forming the fixed polygon)
has “elapsed,” must not intentionality itself somehow “come after,” not in the
sense of a given object, but in the sense of a present-potentiality of “another”
consciousness of a duration of a given? And if so, that is, if this potentiality is
itself already a kind of “given”, then must not this intentional structure itself,
even as an immanent object, already be considered as “filled”—even where it is
as the same time being understood as “empty” (of objects)?

§3. The “Interweaving” of Protention and Retention

As is clear from the question posed above, the diagrams found in Hua X
already anticipate the issue of the manner in which protention is structurally
coordinated with retention. Even on the terms set forth in the development of
Husserl’s reflections up until 1911, it is clearly not enough to say that protentions
have the same or similar structure as retention, since the problem that is beginning
to suggest itself here is that retention is only what it is thanks to an as yet
specified relation to protention, and vice versa. If so, then the intentional essence
of time consciousness would not merely be a question of the distance that
emerges between the “new” now and the sinking of the retentional continuum, but
would perhaps more importantly concern another dimension of non-simultaneity
structuring the temporal field that asserts itself all along the
retentional/protentional axis. For what the dotted line in the second diagram
suggests is not merely the elapse of a content-laden consciousness, but also the
See in particular §2 of Text Nr. 6 in Hua XXXIII.
Reading Husserl’s Time Diagrams 17

self-projecting of a protentional or advance consciousness which, within the

retentional order itself, in a sense already appears—not as the object-given, but as
an aspect of the given consciousness qua originary process of manifestation. The
thesis would then be that the consciousness of which we are conscious in our
consciousness of time has always already taken the form of an advance
consciousness (Vorbewusstsein); the sense of the passage of consciousness, in
other words, already expresses a sense in which consciousness is “ahead.”22
Consciousness is aware of its own passage in part by anticipating it; thus there are
not two processes occurring simultaneously, for which we could use two
diagrams; rather there is one process, the “Urprozess,” which in every phase has a
protentional and retentional aspect.
In the Bernau manuscripts of 1917/18, Husserl supplements the older
analyses with an explicit discussion of the blending (Ineinander) of protention
and retention, now expressly presented as a double-dimensionality of the entire
originary process. He illustrates this discussion with a simple extension of the
same basic diagram-scheme found in §10 of the Zeitvorlesungen. First, Husserl
emphasizes that the oblique section (Querschnitt) not only represents the
continuous modification of a past-now sinking into the past qua retention, but
insofar as each of its phases sounds off, so to speak, an increasing depth of the
past, this same progression is also to be understood as a protentional directedness
that can be taken to be represented by the same downward direction followed by
the retentional modification. “Sinking,” in other words, is also to be understood as
an anticipation, or forward-looking. To illustrate this, Husserl begins with the
diagram reproduced in Figure 4:23

Again, I must cite De Warren’s excellent study (“The Promise of Time”), where he
demonstrates that this notion is already implicit in the analyses found in the manuscripts of Hua X.
See in particular p. 405. For a contrary opinion, see Schnell, “Das Problem der Zeit bei Husserl,”
who argues (pp. 103-105) that the constitutive function of the protentiality of the stream is not
recognized until 1917. Cf. Text Nr. 1 in Hua XXXIII, “Das Ineinander von Retention und
Protention im Ursprünglichen Zeitbewusstsein. Urpräsentation und Bewusstsein der Neuheit,”
cited by Schnell in this context.
Txt Nr. 2, Hua XXXIII 21:figure
18 James Dodd

Figure 4

Setting aside for a moment any Bergsonian worries that might arise given the
following turn of phrase, let us say that an event has elapsed from E1 to E2, and
that we stand at E2. In retentional consciousness, this passage from E1 to E2
“continues” with each coming moment—or better “will” continue, given the
emergence of a series of new phase continua (illustrated by the vertical lines),
each of which will be said to be generated by the coming now-points (Ek>E3)
along the EE axis.
There are two aspects of this that needs to be emphasized. First, (1) from our
perch at E2, intentionality is manifest as a tendency towards E3E4…Ek, but in a
particular sense. It is not the emergence of the series E3E4…Ek as such that is
protended, but rather the further or continued sinking into the past of the
retentional continua already present at E2. Or, in other words, what is protended is
the increase of distance (“sinking”) that will be accomplished at E3E4…Ek.24
Second, (2) Husserl’s description of the intermingling of protention and retention
in texts from 1917 suggests reading each vertical line not only in terms of the
demarcation of a horizon of retention (where each moment along the EE axis has
its own phase continuum of pasts), but also as the horizon of protention. The
infinity of phase-points illustrated by the vertical axis is thus given the double

Cf. Dieter Lohmar, “What do Protentions Protend?” in: Philosophy Today 46 (2002): 154-167.
Lohmar suggests using the term “R-Protentions” to designate this sense of protention.
Reading Husserl’s Time Diagrams 19

function of indicating the phase-continua of both retentional and protentional

But if the verticals indicate not only the horizon of the originary process in
which the past is articulated, but the horizon in which the sense of the future as
articulated as well (the future sinking away of the past, so to speak), then there is
no reason not to extend them above the EE axis, indicating a parallel set of
modifications occurring “before” any new, originary “now.” For the point in
arguing that the verticals have a double significance is not the same as saying that
there is no difference between the future and the past. Instead, the point is to
imply that there is no absolute difference between the two. They belong, in a
sense, to one another, and at every moment, in the sense that to every moment,
even moments that are “past,” there is always a relative pastness and futurity at
work (re-tended and pro-tended, if not in-tended). This is part of the awareness
immanent in the passage of any duration—the coming, “further” passage of what
has passed.
This is equally true for a given phase that is “not yet,” but not in the same
sense. The future that is relevant to an already elapsed duration, signified as a
horizon by the dotted lines in Figure 4, is very different from the future relative to
the now that has not yet elapsed, whether it be E2 itself or the not-yet designated
E3. In other words, we need to make a distinction between the future that belongs
to every past, and the past that belongs to every future; in turn, when we trace
these “running-off” characters to the orientation thanks to which they mark
immanent lived experience, then we must characterize this orientation as a double
perspective on temporal duration.
Thus the extension of the vertical lines above the horizontal axis is not a
designation of an indifference of the double continuum of future and past
enmeshed along the vertical axis to the originary now along the horizontal.
Instead, the extension enables Husserl to in effect symbolize the radical
discontinuity between this double-enmeshed horizon of future and past thanks to
an originary now marked by the horizontal axis. Consider the following diagram
(Figure 5) that Husserl presents, after with the one reproduced above, as the
“complete” version.25
Hua XXXIII 22:figure
20 James Dodd

Figure 5

The retentional continuum E1 (the lower oblique E1E1, or [E1]26), as a

continuous modification active across the retentional horizons of E2 and E3 (and
thus “simultaneous” with [E2] and [E3]), is at the same time a protentional
consciousness. For example, at E2 protention is an advance consciousness, within
retention, of its own further passage, thanks to the modification at E3. If so, if the
protention of a passage-phase at E3 belongs to the retention of E1E2 (symbolized
as E31E32), then E3 “already” lies ahead on the horizon demarcated by the vertical
line. But that means that E3 lies “ahead” for retentional consciousness not in a
“horizon” fixed by the series EE, thus not in terms of a distance that opens up
between the occurrence of new nows in their very originality. The result is that
the “now” in its originality will always have the sense of being separate, its

Lohmar (“What Do Protentions Protend?”) suggests modifying the symbols designating the
oblique lines by adding parentheses, thus avoiding confusion with the symbols for points along the
EE axis. Thus the oblique E1E1 could be expressed [E1].
Reading Husserl’s Time Diagrams 21

distance from all the other elements in the time-continuum marked off by the
horizontal line to which no intrinsic protentionality, or retentionality, belongs;
reading the diagram, when we look to the horizon of the past, we look down;
when we look to the horizon of the future, we look up; and when we look to the
flow from future to past, we look askance, never left to right along the EE axis.
The symbolization of the horizon opened up within the intentional structure to
which the presence of the past itself belongs, and in accordance with which
consciousness is not only open, but oriented towards a “not-yet”, is thereby
limited to an extension of the vertical lines. E3, in its mode of being “not yet” or:
the not yet “filled” intention of the “next” which “will be” filled by E3, is
accordingly symbolized in the diagram by E′3 (Figure 5).
This means that advance consciousness (Vorbewusstsein) with respect to E3
is not really oriented, in an intentional sense, towards E3 in its pure individuation,
represented by the originality of the nows symbolized by the horizontal axis-
continuum, but then again nor it is it really oriented towards E′3 as such. Rather, it
is oriented solely towards the continuing passage of E1 in its modification as [E1]
(also, but in a different sense, in continuity with that of [E2]), an aspect of which
involves the “falling” or “sinking” of E3 thanks to it being immediately modified
retentionally in its very emergence along the horizontal axis. The “falling” or
“sinking” from E’3 to E3 is the “protentional” manifestation of the very becoming
past of E3, thus of the continuous modification-in-generation of the elapsed phases
E1E2. But this means that the becoming present of E3 threatens to be obscured,
precisely as the result of a deeper understanding of the interrelatedness of
protention and retention. This leads us to the necessity of a reflection on how to
read the horizontal axis EE.
§4. Interpretation of the Horizontal Axis
There are in fact two aspects of the intentional structure of inner time
consciousness that together lead to the question about how to interpret the
horizontal axis. First, (1) if every phase of the flow is an intermingling
(Ineinander) of retention and protention, then clearly the difference between past
and future marked by the horizontal axis does not correspond to the difference
between protention and retention, as has already been shown above. The “now”
along the horizontal axis is not a site where consciousness accomplishes two
22 James Dodd

separate acts, one projecting a future and the other a past; the “now,” in other
words, is not an origin in the sense of a position from which consciousness
projects various structures of protentional and retentional continua. These
modifications are instead continuously accomplished along the oblique lines set
against the horizon indicated by the vertical lines, themselves marking off the
continua of the former continua. All the action seems to be taking place in these
continua of continua, to the extent that one could even argue that nothing is
accomplished by intentional consciousness in the dimension of the flow marked
off by the now-points arrayed along the horizontal line, that the past and the
future have their own presence in a time and in a consciousness that functions, in
a way, always just “outside” of the originary now. However tempting this
argument may be, it is in fact misleading: the originary nows along the horizontal
make all the difference in the world, even when, and perhaps especially when,
Husserl moves away from the conceptual constraints characteristic of a narrow
conception of hyletic contents (Urimpressionen). But what difference does a now
make, in the consciousness of time?
Second, (2) the tendency-consciousness (Tendenzbewusstsein27) towards the
“now” has a structure mediated by the flowing of the past. Thus if the horizontal
line is meant to play a role in illustrating the constitution of the “one after the
other” basic to every succession, then it does this not by fixing each now-point
along a horizontal continuum of nows that would represent a forward moving
unity. It cannot, since each now along the horizontal axis does not remain on the
horizontal axis, but is fixed into a “one after the other” only to the extent to which
it has “fallen away” from the horizontal axis that symbolizes its own emerging
presence. Put another way: the presence (or the consciousness of) a now comes
“after” another now (in an order) only once (which is immediate) it is assimilated
into the phase continuum (thus modified) the horizon of which is represented by
the vertical line. There is thus no true “one after the other” of the originary nows,
if by that we mean a kind of ordering of elements: if we stand at E2 in Figure 5,
there “is” no E1 “before,” all “befores” in time “are” only as non-originary
presences, thus the E1 in the mode of “before” is symbolized as E12, or “E1 at E2.”
There is a sense here in which the originary nows along the horizontal have a kind
Hua XXXIII 25:24.
Reading Husserl’s Time Diagrams 23

of shadow existence, for whatever order of succession appears, it is only thanks to

the relating of each emergence of a new now along the horizontal axis “against” a
horizon of retention-protention symbolized by the vertical axis.
Here the mathematical metaphors of convergence or approximation suggest
themselves: “at every moment” along the horizontal, a “now” emerges in
consciousness against a horizon, or neighborhood of elements through which
consciousness approaches the now as a kind of limit. The emergence of the now is
that towards which consciousness converges by integrating it, or tracking out a
path thanks to which it converges towards the now from the perspective of its
“before” and “after”; yet the process is infinite, in that the integrated-now is
refreshed by moving away from the horizon of its own emergence. It is as if
consciousness, at every moment, looks away from the new now precisely in order
to set it against a horizon, but when it looks back again it does not find the
assimilated now arrayed along next to its predecessor, but a “new” now that must
again be brought closer precisely by looking away towards a horizon—and so on
ad infinitum. Thus the language of “differentials”: each now (anywhere in the
diagram) can be metaphorically illustrated by invoking the infinitesimal change of
a variable—provided we have a good grip on what kind of “change” we are
talking about here.
Both (1) and (2) in fact lead us directly to the issue of the kind of change
represented by the “now” along the horizontal line. In general, as is the case
anywhere in the diagram, the transition along the horizontal axis is a transition
(Übergang)—thus the differential at issue here is that of the transition of the now
to its own being-just-now. Time-transitions are structured within what Husserl in
the Bernau texts calls the originary process (Urprozess); any given phase of the
process Ux is positioned within an infinite continuity of such transitions. This is in
essence what protention ultimately leads to: not the intention of the next moment
as a stable object of apprehension, a “given,” but of the next transition of one
phase to another, and implicitly of the entire continuum as such. But in a very
particular way: namely, in accordance with the manner in which the continuum is
itself generated or “run-through” (abgelaufen). This is the real issue, which the
talk of differentials should not be allowed to obscure, i.e. the question of how
consciousness passes through an ordering, and not merely the question of the
24 James Dodd

given “objective” structure manifest in this order, or even this order itself as a
structure of “objective time” that could be described along the lines of real-valued
In §4 of Text Nr. 2 published in Hua XXXIII, Husserl walks through a step-
by-step construction of the time-diagram that illustrates the point I wish to
make.28 He begins by ignoring the particular structure of any given process-phase
Ux,29 instead indicating with a series of parallel lines the bare transition from one
Urprozess-phase Ux to another Uy (Figure 630).

Figure 6

This designates what Husserl calls a fundamental property (Grundeigenheit)

of the originary process (U), namely, that each phase is ordered in accordance
with a continuity of transitions from which it emerges and into which it passes. It
is clear that the effect of ignoring the particular structure of each phase also
obscures the manner in which the transition from phase to phase occurs;
nevertheless, the focus in this first step is to evoke a protentional series of
transitions in abstracto, or that implicit tendency of consciousness, intrinsic to
each of its phases, to move on to a “next” from a “before.”
This bare transition to a “next” is not yet the unity of the passage of time, but
Hua XXXIII 30:28-34:17
Hua XXXIII 31:10-11.
Hua XXXIII 31:diagram
Reading Husserl’s Time Diagrams 25

it does underpin any ordering of phases in terms not so much of an “earlier” and
“later” as a “coming” and “going.” On this level of the diagram, the mathematical
metaphor of the projection of the plane is meant to evoke not so much the sense of
the ordering of a series (of points/nows) as the tracing of a surface; more, the
metaphor is meant to bring the theme of fulfillment (Erfüllung) expressly into
play.31 The second step in the construction of the diagram is to emphasize that this
tracing out of a geometrical surface is fixed and irreversible, or that it arises only
in the wake of a transition from one process to another, where each Ux at every
point unambiguously shifts over into Uy. This unambiguous shifting of Ux to Uy,
the traditional “arrow of time,” where nothing is left behind and nothing is not in
transition, is emphasized by the downward sloping diagonals that represent the
“sinking” of each phase into the “next” (Figure 732):

Figure 7

Hua XXXIII 30:34-31:5: “Erfüllung heisst hier ‘im Sinne einer Tendenz kommen.’ Und zwar ist
Tendenz hier ein Bewusstseinsmodus, und das im Sinne der Tendenz Kommende, Eingetretene ist
als das im Buwusstsein selbst bewusst und ist seinerseits wieder Tendenz auf ein ‘Kommendes’.
Da ist jede Phase Intention und Erfüllung ins Unendliche.”
Hua XXXIII 32:figure.
26 James Dodd

But why “sinking”? Initially, this need have no other significance than the
emphasis on the transition itself: “Was dieses Sinken besagt, darauf kommt es
zunächst noch nicht an, es mag zunächst nur eine Eindeutigkeit der erzeugenden
Zuordnung besagen.“33 It takes on greater significance, however, once the
horizontal axis is introduced. Why? Because it is the contrast between the
horizontal and the oblique lines that symbolizes the unique sense of distance that
belongs to time, and not the fixed order of transitions that constitute the
continuum of phases Ux, thus not the contrast between the horizontal and the
More precisely: the manner in which the transition from Ux to Uy takes place
excludes, thanks to the inner structure of each phase Ux, the possibility
considering time-transitions as a kind of change that could be modeled via an
operation of a one-to-one mapping of points that would canvass a uniformly
continuous plane of continua projected by the verticals. I would suggest that even
if it is a transition that can be likened to a differential, the point where the
metaphor of differential fails is precisely this inner resistance of the transition of
time to be captured by a function. This is for the simple reason that the transition
from one phase to the next does not simply take place from one process to
another; instead, all transitions of time phases move both towards and away from
a “now” that occupies no position definable in separation from this approach and
recession of movement.
It is only in its simultaneous coming towards and moving away from the now
that a process Ux “goes over” to Uy, Uz, … Un. There is thus a sense of distance
built into this tendency of protentionality, but it is one that is best described as a
peculiar kind of density within the passage of the given (its “fulfillment”). The
recognition of this phenomenological density of temporality underpins a specific
way of reading the diagram: when each additional phase Ux marks off the
flowing-off of a later, this “later” is to be read primarily in the sense of a
“deeper,” that is, submerged deeper in the density of the manifestation of the flow
itself. The consciousness of the moment is precisely the appearance of this
submersion in the depth of time, which is also a kind of disappearance. What is
“later” is thus further away, but not in the sense of, for example, being located
Hua XXXIII 32:1-3.
Reading Husserl’s Time Diagrams 27

two or three units away from the origin, but in the sense of having “sunk” into a
depth of temporalization that belongs to its intrinsic phenomenality. Here we need
to guard against our habitual way of navigating the Cartesian coordinate plane,
even as it remains strongly associated with the diagram; for progression here does
not signify tracing a course each moment of which has a punctile “address” on the
plane, but rather the increase of a modification that can be adequately described
only if we take into account other, intuitive qualities of space that are not
necessarily evident when charting out positions on the surface of a two-
dimensional grid.
The distance in question here is thus not at first related to the fact that time is
something distributed across a plenum of differentiated quanta. It is originarily a
depth of the temporal, before it is a span of the temporal; a density before a
distribution. Above all, the difference between the “now” of any given moment
and the “then” (or “not yet”), that peculiar phenomenological differential that
charts this sense of passage into depth, does not have its origin in the fact that the
sense of the passage of time is dependent on its representation in a space
conceived as a plenum of mutually external but immobile points. Again, as long
as it is read properly, Husserl’s time-diagram is not susceptible to Bergsonian
objections; space is here brought into play just enough to evoke the sense of depth
that belongs to time, and the difference (thus distance) that is basic to its structure.
The origin of this differential lies, not in the representability of passage, but in the
structure of the originary now itself. This structure is not itself schematized in the
diagram, but rather involves our sense of the difference that a particular mode of
being “now” (the present now, the now-now) makes in our apprehension of the
flow of time, and in turn how that sense of passage leads us to read the projection
of the plane “mapped out” by the diagram.
The question how the originary now plays the role of source point with
respect to the depth-distance of time leads us to point (2) above. As origin, the
originary now is not as such already a part of the order of transitions; it comes, in
a sense, from the “outside”; it is something that itself does not have depth, which
precisely marks its status as “new.” The originary now thus understood can be
considered as part of the structured generation of the plane only thanks to a two-
fold modification: first, as a falling away from itself, or the retentional
28 James Dodd

modification of the now, in which it attains temporal density, thus phenomenality;

second, as a falling towards itself, or the protentional modification of the now,
which constitutes a second dimension of the density of its temporalized
phenomenality. The “originary now” is thus that towards which the protentional-
retentional continuum “falls,” as well as that away from which it “passes,”
charting the course of two different branches of the same originary process that
are mirror images of each other.
It is crucial to emphasize that this makes sense only if we read the diagram in
terms of the inner structure of the gradation of fulfillment, or the movement from
empty (Leere) to fulfilled (Fülle), something that is in turn inseparable from the
theme of the manifestation of the object-content of intentional consciousness.
Time represents the formal structure of phenomenality as such, but the diagram
indicates this structure only from the perspective of the interpenetration of
phenomenality and intuitivity (Anschaulichkeit) in the manifestation of a given,
appearing object. Whatever the intuitive manifestation of time-consciousness may
be, it is still that of a consciousness achieving the appearance of that which is
other than consciousness.
It is for this reason—or, better put, because of this ambiguity—that Husserl
in Text Nr. 2 is able to employ the language of “core-density” (Kernhaftigkeit)34
to describe the structural character of the originary nows arrayed along the
horizontal axis of the diagram. Each orginary now-moment represents (a) an ideal
limit of a density that sets into relief the empty distance, or negative density that
must be traversed by a continuum of protentional modifications in order to reach
it, while at the same time (b) increasing the distance “into which” it enters as the
core-moment of a modified manifestation in the transition from one phase Ux to
the next. The role of the nows along the EE axis is thus to express, or rather to
highlight the sense of the “emptiness” (Leere) of the future as well as that of the
past, and it does this insofar as we read it as a symbolization of a given externality
of the moment with respect to both. A notion of evidence or fulfillment (Fülle) is
in turn captured precisely by emphasizing an externality at work in the sense of
time, in that temporal modifications are taken to be the formal structure of any
progression from “empty” to “full,” and away again. The advantage of first
Hua XXXIII 32:6-26.
Reading Husserl’s Time Diagrams 29

emphasizing the intermingling of retention and protention in such a way that

threatens to lose the sense of the now, is that it enables us to emphasize that this
externality represented by the horizontal axis is not a separate order of passage,
but qualitatively assimilated into the sense of the passage of time, as a kind of
invisible proto-event that forms the basic style of time’s passage from out of and
into the emptiness of its very emergence. The originary now, to put it figuratively,
lays the tracks of the evidence of time in the emptiness that belongs to its primary
The core density of the moment is thus the very basis for the meaning of
time, it is the fundamental ground or datum upon which the intentionality of time-
consciousness is built, the continuously renewed substratum of every “act” of
consciousness in which time is meant--which includes every act of consciousness.
Thus even if it is the case that, strictly speaking, “the moment” belongs to time
only once it has been assimilated, that does not mean that it is not meant as
something “other” than its being-assimilated or modified. It is in fact solely meant
as being other; to be sure, it has the function of a basis or core for the meaning of
the moment, but it can never simply be a kind of first step in a series of
homogenous steps that make up a series. It thus represents a kind of originary
perception that is only what it is when it forms the superseded basis for a higher
order perception; it is an originality that is never separate and independent, an
externality that is never outside.
The originary now is discernible, in short, only from within a formal pattern
thanks to which the phenomenality of time is generated in the manner of a
“plane,” and it is symbolized as a horizontal line cutting through the “middle” of

We should note here the interesting fact that, as can be seen in the recently published revisions
to the VI Logische Untersuchungen (see Hua XX/1, Logische Untersuchungen. Ergänzungsband.
Erster Teil), the theme of “Leerheit” (also Leervorstellungen, Leermodifikationen) plays a very
conspicuous role, both in the transition from the second chapter of the VI LU and within the third
chapter itself. See in particular Text Nr. 3, “Überarbeitete und erweiterte Druckfahnen des zweiten
bis vierten Kapitels (Juli-August 1913),” §§16-19. It is in these revisions, more so than the Ideas,
that one can see the impact of Husserl’s reflections on time on his conception of evidence and
evident givenness, something that is even more evident in Hua XI, Analysen zur passiven
30 James Dodd

the plane (Figure 836):

Figure 8

The originary now is an optimum of core-density (Kernhaftigkeit); the

distance of time is thus described as an effect of a variable density of the moment,
again highlighting the central importance of the concept of modification in
understanding the sense of time as passage. More specifically, the priority of
retentional modification is not challenged by the originary character of the now,
but is in fact re-confirmed by it. If we think of density as potential distance, then
this is in fact what is being brought out by the modification of retention: the latter
realizes the assimilability of the former into the order of time precisely by
realizing its potential for appearing across, or as, a distance. More: the living
future of the living present (the half-plane above the horizontal), as that which
“descends” towards the horizontal, an emptiness animated by an optimum of
density that shows the future for the lack that it is, nevertheless remains the limit
of the "just ahead" advance horizon of the past. The maximum of protentional
proximity is in this way identical with the minimum of the separation, or removal
(Entfernung) of the past. Husserl tries to illustrate this structural feature of the
originary now in the diagram by thickening the oblique lines to indicate the status
of the horizontal axis as the maximum of proximity and the minimum of distance,

Hua XXXIII 33:figure.
Reading Husserl’s Time Diagrams 31

or a point that structures a double process of filling and emptying (Figure 937).

Figure 9

To again recall the important thesis of the intermingling (Ineinander) of

retention and protention mentioned above, the sense of past marked off by the
lower half of the plane is no longer simply read as a field of retentionally
modified phase-continua, nor is the sense of the future marked off by the upper
portion simply that of protentionally modified portions of the same. Instead, the
separation of these planes mark off a special sense of perception made possible by
the function of the originary now as maximal/minimal point of approximation and
separation (Annährung und Entfernung38). This perception is unique, because it is
not something that asserts itself above its own modification, but rather belongs to
it in an inextricable sense: for in a way the modifications of retention and
protention can be said to realize the very phenomenality of the moment. That is,
the phenomenality of the moment is first made actual—and in that sense,
“perceived”—precisely in the movement of its double modification. Or, to return
to the language of core-density, it is almost as if the moment, precisely in its
density, is only something present in consciousness in the continuous approach
then dissipation of this density--thus in that sense fixing the manner in which,
internal to the dynamic of presence, and making it a dynamic as such, is a kind of
distance or externality that belongs to the immanence of time itself, and which is
Hua XXXIII 44:figure.
Cf. Hua XXXIII 44:4-8.
32 James Dodd

indicated here in the diagram by the structural division or separation of the upper
and lower plane.39
This bears directly, of course, on the phenomenological problem of intuition,
or how to describe the manner in which intuitivity is manifest in consciousness. If
the notion of core density along the horizontal axis implies a kind of compressed
distance (or the compression then decompression of emptiness), then it is
questionable whether this can any longer be meaningfully illustrated by invoking
the notion of a differential, or at least by relying on such a comparison, which the
mathematical baggage of these diagrams tends to promote. What needs to be
brought to bear is a description of the compressed distance of a living proximity,
one that is more akin to Descartes’ conception of clarity in the Regulae than to
anything that one can find in the physics of motion. In Descartes, clarity is the
essence of manifestation as proximity, as being brought "closer" to the mind. For
a given to be brought closer within the sphere of res cogitans means that it
exercises a grip, that it is a vivacity that "takes hold" of consciousness, fusing the
various into the unity of a focus. And for Descartes, such clarity or intuitus takes
place within the figure of the moment, which effectively compresses all the
"distances" that amount, ultimately, to unclarity.40
Something similar is the case for Husserl, but with an important difference:
the living present is not itself a "place" where clarity has taken root in
consciousness thanks to the exclusion of distance; nor is the living present a
sphere of clarity that stands as an exception to a distance that belongs to unclarity.
The originary moment is, instead, the original tension of distance that, opening up
or unfolding the protentional-retentional continua of Ux, first constitutes the
intuitivity of a lived experience as such. It is, in other words, only as a streaming
that intuitivity has any root in consciousness; proximity here is fixed solely in
terms of a tendency, and not in terms of a terminus that would represent an
arrival. Or rather, the arrival is in the “living present,” which is illustrated by the
entire diagram. The future does not stop at the moment, for its very arrival is
already falling away, as a “coming and going” that does not refuse clarity its

Cf. Hua XXXIII 44:11-27.
Cf. Rule 7 in Descartes, Regulae ad directionem ingenii, in: Ouevres de Descartes, vol. X, ed.
Adam and Tannery (Paris: Vrin, 1964-76).
Reading Husserl’s Time Diagrams 33

place, but precisely constitutes it.

This point also takes us to at least one of the limits of the diagram, which
Husserl attempts to surpass in §5 of Text Nr. 2 by introducing a third dimension,
precisely to illustrate more suggestively the role of the horizontal axis. Imagine,
Husserl says, that we fold the paper at the horizontal EE and suspend it over the
surface of the paper; the horizontal is now a cusp, over which the transition from
Ux to Uy is played out. The increase or maximalization of the future is indicated
by the Ux continua climbing up one half of the folded diagram, and the emptying
modification of retentionality (Entleerung) is indicated by the sinking down of the
opposite side (Figure 1041):

Figure 10

In a way, Husserl’s use of the diagrams as an illustrative device for his

reflections on time reach their apex with this version of the diagram. And it is
interesting to note that the usefulness of this version is not so much to illustrate an
order or a pattern, but to highlight the insight that the order and pattern of
temporality is manifest only thanks to a lived tension that animates the entire

Husserl does not actually produce a diagram in §5, he only provides a description (Hua XXXIII
34:31-35:17). This diagram is reproduced from Schnell, “Das Problem der Zeit bei Husserl,” p.
34 James Dodd

structure.42 Again, one needs to read the diagram “dynamically,” but more: one
also needs to recognize that the fundamental phenomenological character of the
temporal flow, its characteristic mode of manifestation, is the lived tension of the
passage of an order, not the being-ordered itself. It is for this reason that time
presented itself to Husserl as the best candidate for the self-manifestation of
consciousness: the ordering of past-present-future as a phase-continuum is not in
and of itself the manifestness of time, but the lived tension of its passage, the
upsurge of its movement, the being-lived-through (Erleben) of whatever order
may otherwise belong to time. If the ordering of past-present-future were
sufficient to capture the experiencing of time, then time would simply be the
content of a representation, the object of a thought; its sense, however, is
intimately linked to the apprehension, the “perception,” of not simply what-is-
thought, or even perceived, but the perceiving of the perception, the thinking of
the thought.
Here we will close with the following quote from §7 of Text Nr. 2 in Hua
XXXIII, which strongly suggests that the key issue is precisely an appropriation,
and refinement, of the notion of an immanent perception to do justice to this inner
apprehension of the temporal flow:
Das Bewusstsein ist und ist als Fluss, und es ist Bewusstseinsfluss,
der sich selbst als Fluss erscheint. Wir können auch sagen, das
Sein des Flusses ist ein Sich-selbst-“Wahrnehmen” (wobei wir das
aufmerksame Erfassen nicht mit zum Wesen des Wahrnehmens
rechnen), in welchem das Sein des Wahrgenommenen immanent
beschlossen ist. Wie das möglich und zu verstehen ist, das ist ja
das grosse und beständige Problem diser Abhandlung gewesen.43

Cf. Schnell, “Das Problem der Zeit bei Husserl,” p. 113, where, in discussing this diagram, he
suggests the notion of a “Spannungsfeld”.
Hua XXXIII 44:20-27.

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