Protention (philosophy)

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For Edmund Husserl, protention is the expression for an intention of the consciousness , which in a flow of experience of temporal objects, e.g. B. a melody, an expectation of the future. It forms with the current perception , which as a primal impression, z. B. a tone, and with the retention a unit. The content of the protention is still undetermined and only conscious.

Protention from Edmund Husserl

Nude construction of a temporal object (C major scale)
C major scale analogy

Our everyday life is largely based on a "measurable objective" world time . Seen phenomenologically, however, the validity of objective time must be bracketed by an epoch . The question then arises how time is constituted in consciousness. Temporal objects are required for such examinations. Like his teacher Brentano , Husserl chose listening to a melody as an example.

During perception, the entire melody, type and sequence of tones becomes conscious in immanent time in an act continuum, that is, the sequence of original impressions and retentions. As a correspondence to the past, present and future triad , there is an expectation of a future act in which a similar missing link is expected, in the form of protention , the content of which is not defined, comparable to the perception of a yellow phase at a traffic light . In this situation, a change is expected, which can, however, include a red phase, green phase or continuous flashing phase or shutdown. Protentions are a specific form of anticipation. Retention and protention are dependent moments that take place at the same time and are based on a primordial impression. From a dynamic point of view, one can say that the now perception of a note in a melody is the fulfillment of a past protention. Only through protention and retention can a sequence of tones become a melody experience.

At the memory of one part melody that the idea is called again, you experience what is perceived again in the imagination , the whole time extended field of perception, including primordial impression, retention and protention is reproduced in objective time. The remembered melody is structurally identical to the perceived melody, but the phenomenological quality of the acts is not. Recollection lies in the freedom of the subject, retention and protention belong to the passive synthesis of the act of perception.

The melody of the C major scale in perception and memory is comparable to a matryoshka plug-in doll. Each puppet corresponds to a note of the scale, is an original impression with the protention, i.e. the expectation that another note will follow or another puppet will be included. In the next sound experience, the previous sound becomes a retention. The smaller pupae correspond to retentions that were once protentions. The smaller the doll, the longer the retention of a tone in the temporal order. This relationship between the “sinking” of sensation retentions over time is usually represented by a graph .

Brain research and communication

The planning brain areas play a central role in the process of understanding. The well-understanding listener anticipates the speaker (cf. adaptive filtering ). This brain activity preceding 1.5 to 3 seconds can be measured, and the greater the correlation between listener and speaker, the better it is understood. "Happy communication is therefore not a purely passive reception, but active planning in advance of the meanings expressed by the speaker in the immediate future by the listener, [...]".


  1. Intention: experience that can establish fulfillment relationships
  2. Original impression: also original presence; Now phase awareness
  3. Act: intentional experience
  4. Anticipation: Generic term for all types of anticipation of the future
  5. Moment: Individual moments are essentially tied to something underlying

See also


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d Dictionary of phenomenological terms. Edited by Helmut Vetter Felix Meiner Verlag Hamburg 2004 ISBN 3-7873-1689-2
  2. ^ Dan Zahavi - Husserl's phenomenology. P. 87; see literature
  3. ^ Dan Zahavi - Husserl's phenomenology. P. 88 diagram 2 ; see references
  4. Manfred Spitzer - Mind & Brain: Communication. Speakers, listeners and their brains. (2012) [1] Zeitschrift Nervenheilkunde 4/2012, Schattauer 2012, p. 281