Friday, July 02, 2010

Knies, Kenneth. Review of Nicolas De Warren, HUSSERL AND THE PROMISE OF TIME. NDPR (June 2010).

De Warren, Nicolas. Husserl and the Promise of Time: Subjectivity in Transcendental Phenomenology. Cambridge: CUP, 2009.

The topic of de Warren's study, inner-time consciousness, is hardly discussed in phenomenological circles without an invocation of its "notorious difficulty." Indeed, Husserl never ceased returning to what he himself often called the most difficult of all phenomenological problems. The difficulties of time-consciousness, moreover, do not concern a particularly vexing topic within a defined field and method of philosophical research. As de Warren's title indicates, the very promise of phenomenology as transcendental philosophy hinges upon its ability to describe the concrete experiencing in which all possible domains of transcendent being are displayed. This experiencing is itself temporal in its nature or "sense of being" (30). Coming to terms with the difficulties of time-consciousness is thus necessary if descriptions of phenomenologically defined themes are not to remain ignorant of the most basic structures inherent in experience itself. This task that Husserl has bequeathed to his followers is complicated by the fact that his on-going efforts to understand time not only trace a course of self-criticism but also attain a dizzying level of abstraction and diagrammatic modeling. The danger is that engaging the analytic difficulties of Husserl's account will empty the time problem of its profundity. The question that was to lead phenomenological investigation into the most intimate core of subjectivity would instead occupy the mind with logical constructions and conceptual puzzles that fail to resonate with our unceasing sense of ourselves as living through time.

Phenomenologists, historians of modern philosophy, and philosophers of time should all benefit from de Warren's confrontation with the difficulties of time-consciousness. De Warren's study operates with an impressive density of insight at multiple levels. It explains the methodological importance of time-consciousness for Husserl's philosophical program. It clearly presents the historical developments in the questioning of time most relevant to Husserl's inheritance of the problem from Brentano. It identifies the special difficulties posed for phenomenology by the question of time, and traces one path along which Husserl made progress in resolving them. Finally, it indicates how Husserl's mature understanding of time contributes to an account of inter-subjectivity and genesis within a transcendental framework. In all of this, de Warren confronts the complexity of Husserl's descriptions without losing sight of the fact that they are meant to answer to and make comprehensible our rich awareness of being in time. This book is a bold traversal of territory scouted and surveyed by pioneers like Bernet, Brough, Held, Lohmar, Kortooms, Sokolowski and Zahavi. It is not simply an exercise in Husserl scholarship, but an original "take" on what Husserl was grappling with in thinking about time. Its lack of encyclopedic breadth in its treatment of Husserl is more than made up for in its direct articulation of a compelling, if contentious, philosophy of time. . . .

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