University of Tasmania
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Dis-jointed time : a Husserlian phenomenology of the shared world

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posted on 2024-04-03, 04:19 authored by Gabrielle Mardon

This thesis uses Husserl’s phenomenology to demonstrate the complexity of the temporal structures of world constitution and being-together. To attend to this aspect of Husserl’s work, I begin at his defence against the charge of solipsism. In Chapter 1, I show that the concern over solipsism is misguided, but here emerges a different concern that is under-addressed in contemporary scholarship: the problem of exclusion of certain membership groups from the intersubjectively co-constituted objective world. It derives from Husserl’s account of empathy, which is necessary for co-constitution of the shared world and has important, yet overlooked, temporal dimensions.
In Chapters 2 and 3, I elaborate these temporal dimensions of empathy and world constitution. I begin with ‘protention’, ‘retention’, and ‘the primary impression’ in the apperception of other subjects, then turn to the forms and functions of empathy, which is an embodied and dynamic encounter with other subjects in time. An interesting aspect of Husserlian empathy is that it normally involves asymmetry. However, Husserl puts limits on what counts as a ‘normal asymmetry’. While normal subjects pair in empathy and constitute the shared objective world, abnormal others – such as animals, children, ‘mad’ people, and ‘brutes’ – are excluded. Normative exclusion of certain membership anomalous groups (especially racial groups) is clearly problematic. However, before this issue can be addressed, more must be said about the co-constitution of the shared world.
Time and empathy are equally important here. Empathic pairing involves mutual perception of each other as temporalising subjects, with whom a shared world is secured. But mutual perception also needs to bring about a sense of a shared historical world that extends to a past and future beyond our finite lives. Empathy and time, together, secure a ‘we’ that shares a common world, one that accommodates our embodied living together through time. This ‘we’ is always historical and contextually laden. It ongoingly plays a role in our empathic pairing.
Hence, it is clear why exclusion from the time of the world of some normatively abnormal membership groups – for instance, the ‘brutes’ to whom Husserl refers (which gestures to colonised subjects) – is problematic. Chapter 4 focuses on the world-fragmentation that is brought to light by critical race scholars as a troubling consequence of exclusion, where the very possibility of sharing in the common world is at issue. Much important work has been done to give a contextual phenomenology of racialisation, but this literature has predominantly focused on embodiment and spatiality, with less focus on temporality. Nevertheless, there are in-roads in this literature that can inform a systematic account of the temporal dimensions of a contested sociality. I argue that, when we connect Husserl’s framework with lived experiences of racialisation, a shared world comes into focus that is best described as dis-jointed. I propose a conceptual distinction between ‘objective time’ and ‘world-time’ to navigate the dis-jointed sharing of the world.
The concluding chapter focuses on dis-jointedness. This term names the temporal condition of being in a shared world with others, in which lived experiences of fragmented time on the one hand, and a common world-horizon on the other hand, characterise the phenomenal structure of the world. (In this case, it is an enduring world still shaped by colonial racism.) By reworking the Husserlian account of time and world-constitution to highlight dis-jointedness as a historical production, we arrive at a fuller picture of the constitutive components of a world in common, which includes the time of subjects who are ‘othered’. In offering a thorough phenomenological account of the constitutive components of the shared world, I warn of the consequences of fragmentation by the beneficiaries of colonisation: that is a deflection of responsibility by the coloniser for our worlds still made by racist habits, narratives, and norms, interoperating through time spent with others.



  • PhD Thesis


262 pages


School of Humanities

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