Bergson’s Matter and Memory

Bergson, Matter and Memory
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies
• Relation of sprit and matter through memory
• Image: <representation but >thing
o An existence placed halfway between these
• Where do objects exist: independently of or only in the consciousness?
• There’s a dissociation between existence and appearance
• Thought: mere function of the brain and the state of consciousness as an epiphenomenon of the brain –or- Are the mental and brain states two different versions?
• Memory is the intersection of mind and matter
• The classical problem of the relations of soul and body is centered upon the subject of memory of words
o Ex: Complex thought → breaks itself into images → then, these images are pictured through the movements of how they would be acted out in space
• This is what the cerebral state indicates at every moment
• The relation to the mental to the cerebral is not a constant (simple) relation
“Of the Survival of Images”
Critical moments in the text
• 133: Three processes—1. Pure memory 2. Memory-image 3. Perception
• 134: perception is bound to expel the memory-image to expel pure memory
• 135: Strong states: supposed to be set up my us as perceptions of the present weak states: representations of the past
• 135: The error of associationism: “placed in the actual, it exhausts itself in vain attempts to discover in a realized and present state the mark of its last origin, to distinguish memory from perception, and to erect into a difference in kind that which it condemned in advance to be but a difference of magnitude. To picture is not to remember.
• 136: a remembered sensation becomes more actual the more we dwell upon it, that the memory of the sensation is the sensation itself beginning to be.
• 140: sensation in its essence, extended and localized; it is a source of movement. Pure memory, being inextensive and powerless, does not in any degree share the nature of sensation. That which I call my present is my attitude with regard to the immediate future; it is my impending action
• 142: “How comes it then that an existence outside of consciousness appears clear to us in the case of objects, but obscure when we are speaking of the subject?
• 145: “When a memory reappears in consciousness, it produces on us the effect of a ghost whose mysterious apparition must be explained by special causes. The adherence of this memory to our present condition is exactly comparable to the adherence of unperceived objects to those objects which we perceive; and the unconscious plays in each case a similar part.
o Think: Derrida’s hauntology
• 146: “Our memories form a chain of some kind”
o 147: form a part of a series
o 147: elements determine each other
• 147: Existence, in the empirical sense of the word, always implies conscious apprehension and regular connection
• 148: “But how can the past, which by hypothesis, has ceased to be, preserve itself?”
• 149: “Nothing is less than the present moment, if you understand by that the indivisible limit which divides the past from the future. When we think this present as going to be, it exists not yet, and when we think it as existing, it is already past”
• 149: “Your perception, however instantaneous, consists then in an incalculable multitude of remembered elements; in truth every perception is already memory. Practically we perceive only the past, the pure present being the invisible progress of the past gnawing into the future.”
• 156: resemblance v. generality
• 161: “unceasingly going backwards and forwards between the plane of action and that of pure memory”
• 164: choice of memory
• 166: “each recollection is a fixed and independent being […] what we have to explain, then, is no longer the cohesion of internal states, but the double movement of contraction and expansion by which consciousness narrows or enlarges the development of its contents.”
• 167: association of simplicity v. association of contiguity
• 173: everything depends on cohesion
• 176: “so that memory, finding nothing to catch hold of, ends by becoming practically powerless; now, in psychology, powerless means unconsciousness.
Tying it all together
• It seems like Bergson is concerned with a progressive memory whereas Deleuze is more so focused on the coexistence of thoughts and their reliance upon each other to form new ones. Deleuze says that each thought replaces the previous (coexistence the present is at both times becoming past and future); Bergson as progressive because there is a reliance on a past thought to form the present one.
• For Bergson, perception pushes memory through the past and retains itself in the present
• Bergson seems more concerned with a personal present: I guess that’s all we can really know, especially with conflicting histories. Benjamin states that we can only ‘historicize’ if we forget about the present (its effects).
o What about Jameson here—historicizing the past only in the present
• Consciousness: subject v. object
• We perceive only the past—here Bergson again differs from Deleuze
Questions about the text/larger context
• Is it the present that summons action? Are we ‘doing’ for future purposes?
• 143: “It is supposed that consciousness, even when linked with bodily functions, is a facuty that is only accidentally practical and is directed essentially toward speculation.” What does Bergson mean by accidental? Is it accidental because we’re never in the moment, that it just occurs?

•    Neither in perception or memory does the body contribute directly to representation
•    Memory and perception are turned to action
•    Consciousness is neither subjective (it is in things, not me), nor relative (the relation btw. The ‘phenomenon’ and the ‘thing’ is not that of appearance to reality, but part of the whole).
•    232: “Everything will happen as if we allowed to filter through us that action of external things which is real, in order to arrest and retain that which is virtual: this virtual action of things upon our body and of our body upon things is our perception itself.”
•    Our perception indicates the possible action of our body on others
o    Our bodies are capable of acting on itself and others
•    External bodies: separated by space
o    When distance is nil—the body is our own and it is real
•    No longer a virtual action
•    Interiority => affective sensations => subjectivity
•    Exteriority => images => objectivity
•    Pass from perception to memory, abandon matter for spirit
•    Theory of memory: both theoretic consequence and experimental verification of pure perception
•    Pure perception: present object / Memory: absent object
•    Double thesis:
o    Memory is only a function of the brain, there’s only a difference of intensity between perception and recollection
o    Memory is something other than a function of the brain and there is not merely a difference of degree, but of kind, between perception and recollection
•    Recognition: past and present come into contact
•    Recollection is only weakened perception, then perception is something like an intenser memory
•    Memory: not a regression from present to past, but a progression from the past to the present
•    240: “But the truth is that our present should not be defined as that which is more intense: it is that which acts on us and which makes us act; it is sensory and it is motor—our present is, above all, the state of our body.  Our past, on the contrary, is that which acts no longer but which might act, and will act by inserting itself into a present sensation from which it borrows the vitality.
•    Memory => Mind   Perception => Matter


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