On the Mind's Pronouncement of Time

This essay contests the standard historical comparison that links Husserl’s account of time-consciousness to the tradition by way of Book XI of Augustine’sConfessions. This comparison rests on the mistaken assumption that both thinkers attribute the soul’s distention and corresponding apprehension of time to memory. While true for Augustine and Husserl’s 1905 lectures on time, Husserl concluded after 1907 that these lectures advanced the flawed and counter-intuitive position that memory extends perception. I will trace the shortcomings of Augustine’s and Husserl’s conflation of memory with perception. After developing Husserl’s maturely articulated distinction between memory and retention from 1911, I suggest chapters 10–14 of Aristotle’s Physics IV as a more apt anticipation of this second, more adequate half of the Husserlian story. A reconstruction of Aristotle’s definition of time as “the number of movement,” one that privileges the activity of “the mind pronouncing that the ‘nows’ are two,” intimates Husserl’s distinction between memory and retention. For Aristotle, the soul’s recognition of the ‘nows’ as two depends not on memory, but on the soul’s intentional activity of counting, itself dependent on the ability to, as Aristotle writes in his Metaphysics, “grasp mentally and [have] already grasped” at the same time
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