Dr. Louis N. Sandowsky
Time and the Constitution of the Self
Autumn Semester – 2002-2003 – MA
We all know what time is until we begin to talk about it. The most significant philosophers of the Occident have flexed their intellectual muscles over the problem of time and its articulation. This course charts the various forms of temporal discourse that have evolved from the pre-socratics to the contemporary era of Husserl, Heidegger, and Einstein.
Similarly, we all know what we mean when we make reference to the Self – or do we? The old conception of the ‘essential’ existence of a monolithic “I” that is presupposed by any act of consciousness fails to take into account the temporality of its constitution. The contemporary shift from the ‘essential’ viewpoint to that of a ‘genetic’ account of the structuration of the Self through time focuses on the pre-conditions of its possibility. This presents us with the thought of the Self as a function of a unity of a life history / memory – a style of Being-in-the-world – where the temporalization of consciousness at a pre-egological level is that which always already precedes the Self as the primordial condition of its possibility.
The two issues of time and the constitution of the Self are really two facets of the same issue – where the consciousness of temporality is its own temporalization.
This series of lectures and seminars will focus on Edmund Husserl’s ground-breaking writing on the temporal constitution of experience: The Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time. As well as discussing the necessary conditions of the possibility of the constitution of linear time – which must always be presupposed by any discourse on the Self ‘as that which abides through time’ – the aim of this course is to facilitate awareness of the pluri-dimensional and non-linear temporalities that are also in operation. The unity of the Self is constituted by vertical (linear) and horizontal (non-linear) relations by which the “I” relates to itself through time as the same but non-identical – since the continuity of the Self is also structured through the tracing out of radical discontinuities. Such a form of unity actually bears more resemblance to a community rather than to the trace of a monolithic entity. It is along these lines that existentialism and deconstruction have made enormous contributions to contemporary philosophical discourse on Time and the Self in terms of the alterity that always already inhabits oneself. In this regard, the work of Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Buber, Emmanuel Levinas, and Jacques Derrida will come under discussion.
1. Two written assignments (in English). Each essay must be approximately five pages in length. It is possible to present a seminar paper, which will count as one of these assignments.
2. One research paper (in English) – approximately ten pages in length. Material may be utilized from the first two papers.
The two three-page assignments can total one third of the course credits.
The final research assignment carries the most weight.
The main text, On The Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time, by Edmund Husserl, is in the reserved section of the library (shmurim). It is also available as an electronic text (for which access numbers will be provided). I will provide most of the other reading material as the course progresses, or it will be available for photocopying. Other selections of texts may be provided by e-mail.