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Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology 12.3 (2005) 195-198

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Implicit and Explicit Temporality

implicit/explicit temporality, embodiment, intersubjectivity, desynchronization, melancholia, schizophrenia

Since Minkowski (1970), Strauss (1966), v. Gebsattel (1954), and Tellenbach (1980), temporality has been a main subject of phenomenological psychiatry. Drawing on philosophical concepts of Bergson, Husserl, and Heidegger, these authors have analyzed psychopathologic deviations of time experience, mainly from an individual point of view, for example, as a slowing down or inhibition of lived time in depression or obsessive–compulsive disorder. Their analyses are still most valuable today, but may be carried further by introducing concepts such as embodied and intersubjective temporality into psychopathology. Martin Wyllie (2005), by opening up a wide scope of temporal phenomena and related concepts, makes a laudable effort to contribute to such a progress.

In my commentary, I would like to propose a distinction that is suggested by much of Wyllie's analysis and may shed further light on psychopathology, namely between implicit and explicit temporality. If we look at a child while obliviously playing with his toys, lost to the world, we may assume that there is no sense of the time passing. Lived time runs with the movement of life, implicit in the child's experience of being engaged in his play and directed toward his goals. It "unfolds through the processes of bodily activity" (Wyllie 2005). Future and past do not stand out against the pure presence of "becoming." This implicit mode of temporality is retrieved every time that we are absorbed in what we are doing, and may even reach the climax of "flow experiences" (Csikszentmihalyi 1988) where the sense of time is lost in unimpeded, fluent performance.

However, this changes when a gap arises between need and satisfaction, desire and fulfillment, or plan and execution. Now the future appears as a "not yet" or "yet to come," experienced as the temporality of awaiting, striving, or longing for. Time is felt as passing by and refusing the desired fulfillment; it becomes conscious or explicit. A similar gap arises between the present and something irretrievably lost, bringing the past to consciousness as a "no more." Again time is experienced explicitly, but now as moving on relentlessly and separating us from the lost object. The gap to the past may not be bridged any more: this is the temporality of missing or mourning. In both cases, explicit time arises as a negation of implicit or lived time (here my use of the term is a bit divergent from Wyllie's); it is experienced as a "not yet" or "no more," often with a component of displeasure or suffering (Fuchs 2001a, 2003).

"Implicit" versus "explicit time" thus come near to another distinction well known in phenomenology, namely between the "lived" and [End Page 195] the "corporal body" (Leib versus Koerper). The first term refers to the body functioning in the tacit mode, as the medium of everyday performance. The second term points to the body as turning into the object of attention, for example, when it puts up resistance to our purposes, or is used as an instrument deliberately (Fuchs 2001b). In fact, implicit temporality and tacit performance of the body are nearly synonymous: Lived time may be regarded as a function of the lived body, opened up by its potentiality and capability. The more we are engaged in our tasks, the more we forget time as well as the body; we are, as it were, "inside time." On the other hand, in explicit temporality the body often appears in the corporal or explicit mode as well. For example, when falling ill, we experience our body no more as a tacit medium but rather as an object or obstacle, while we notice the slowing down of time and may even feel excluded from the movement of life. Thus, embodiment and temporality have a parallel background–foreground structure.

I now try to carry these considerations further by including the intersubjective dimension of time. In an earlier paper, I describe the attunement of the living being to its environment as a continuous synchronization on the biological as...


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