it is of the essence of time to be not only actual time, or time which flows, but also time which is aware of itself … the archetype of the relationship of self to self”

What does he mean by 'essence'? Is it the to my mind pretty unphilosophical claim that we can't imagine a time apart from becoming self aware? How, if at all, does this link to the idea of visibility?

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    Having had a short look over the linked article, isn't it just working out that since time is the basic form of phenomenology itself (of any "experience" at all, as already Kant pointed out), it is time that is the very form (archetype) of subjectivity? And subjectivity is to some extend self-reflexivity. Essence would then mean something like "at the very core" or "inner nature" or, more kantian, "analytically included". But since I do not know Merleau-Ponty very well, I leave these thoughts as a comment.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 22:18
  • I don't think here, that the word essence is being used in any technical sense, but in its conventional, dictionary sense of being something crucial; and he's saying its crucial to view time in two ways - objectively, and subjectively. Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 4:58

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Merleau-Ponty is a phenomenologist so his received view is "essence" in a Husserlian sense, as the ideal core of an intentional object, see What does Husserl mean by essences? However, he is also an existentialist, so Husserl's essentialism is revised along the lines of "existence precedes essence", see Bauer's Phenomenology of the Essence and Appearance in Merleau Ponty.

"The classical essence as Husserl’s description as being constituted by the mind in noetic noematic frame is replaced by contemplative awareness and non conceptual thought... Essence can be the very presence of the thing appearing. There can be the representation of the thing and there can be the appearing of thing. Representation is only one form of knowing. Representation is not experiencing the essence of what is."

So in the OP quoted passage the essence of time is seen as its direct presence to self, non-interpretive self-awareness, the "archetype of the relationship of self to self". In this view Merleau-Ponty is indebted to Bergson's analysis of time as qualitative duration opposed to the mechanical time of physics, which he saw as contaminated by spatial notions. In this regard Bergson's conception is quite close to Husserl's "time-consciousness", see Husserl and Bergson on Time and Consciousness. However, Husserl interpreted such self-aware presence as a "noetic" (experiential) component of the intentional act rather than as a part of its "noema" (purified object, essence), unlike Merleau-Ponty.

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