27 January 2009

Existential Musings, II

Our reading consisted of selections from Husserl's Phenomenology: Eternal Time Conscious, some of which is available on Google Books. I found myself arguing less with this selection than with the previous one.

“the duration of the sound apprehended in the now … constantly sinks back into the past and an ever new point of duration enters into the now or is now” Very nice, very zen. Recognition that this instant, this moment, is all we ever directly perceive.

“the further we withdraw from the now, however, the greater the blending and drawing together” The further we get from a particular moment, the more it blends into all the other moments surrounding it, blends in. For ordinary moments, perhaps, yet some moments can be brought to mind nearly as clearly as they were in the instant of experience. So there’s something missing in this formulation.

“the way in which we are conscious of it [the immanent Object] as actually present or as past” What about memory-objects that are so vivid that they almost seem to be present? What about hallucinations that occur in the present?

Interestingly, he hits on the idea of a time-cone, albeit from a different direction (and intention) than that of relativity (i.e. that our sphere of experience is limited by the speed of light, as is our sphere of influence: events can only radiate out from us at the speed of light): “every subsequent phase of running-off is itself a continuity, and one constantly expanding, a continuity of pasts.” Tangent: What is the speed of time? What do I even mean by that? Er, what determines how fast time passes? We know that gravity can slow time, as can any massive grouping of energy or mass. Yet in the near-absence of mass and energy, time doesn’t seem to speed up to infinitely fast: the opposite of it seeming to stop at the event-horizon of a black hole. Would it go to infinity in the complete absence of mass or energy or space? Would that mean nothing happening or everything happening all at once? Or something else entirely that I can’t begin to imagine?

“Since a new now is always presenting itself, each now is changed into a past, and thus the entire continuity of the running-off of the pasts of the preceding points movie uniformly ‘downward’ into the depths of the past.” Not to the Chinese. The Chinese language has the past “above” and the future “below.” So you descend through time, and the past rises behind you, as if going down a staircase. To be honest, I’ve tended to think of it more as flat, just moving straight along an axis in the t-direction. I wonder if the Chinese would want to orient the t-axis vertically, with the future down…

“It is not true that lengthwise along the flux each earlier retention is merely replaced by a new one, even though it is a continuous process. Each subsequent retention, rather, is not merely a continuous modification arising from the primal impression but a continuous modification of the same beginning point.” This is good. It is a good description of the way that memories can alter as they are maintained. At least, I’m assuming that “retention” is to be interpreted as “retention of a previous now”, i.e. “memory.”

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