Posts Tagged ‘Bergson

29
Nov
08

Bergson’s Creative Evolution

Henri Bergson
Creative Evolution
Area: Rhetorical and Critical Theory

•    Hence should result this consequence that our intellect, in the narrow sense of the word, is intended to secure the perfect fitting of our body to its environment, to represent the relations of external things among themselves— in short, to think matter. Such will indeed be one of the conclusions of the present essay.
•    In fact, we do indeed feel that not one of the categories of our thought— unity, multiplicity, mechanical causality, intelligent finality, etc.—applies exactly to the things of life: who can say where individuality begins and ends, whether the living being is one or many, whether it is the cells which associate themselves into the organism or the organism which dissociates itself into cells? In vain we force the living into this or that one of our moulds. All the moulds crack. They are too narrow, above all too rigid, for what we try to put into them.
•    True, it hurtles in its course against such formidable difficulties, it sees its logic end in such strange contradictions, that it very speedily renounces its first ambition. “It is no longer reality itself,” it says, “that it will reconstruct, but only an imitation of the real, or rather a symbolical image; the essence of things escapes us, and will escape us always; we move among relations; the absolute is not in our province; we are brought to a stand before the Unknowable.”—But for the human intellect, after too much pride, this is really an excess of humility.
•    Intellectual knowledge, in so far as it relates to a certain aspect of inert matter, ought, on the contrary, to give us a faithful imprint of it, having been stereotyped on this particular object. It becomes relative only if it claims, such as it is, to present to us life— that is to say, the maker of the stereotype-plate.
•    On other paths, divergent from it, other forms of consciousness have been developed, which have not been able to free themselves from external constraints or to regain control over themselves, as the human intellect has done, but which, none the less, also express something that is immanent and essential in the evolutionary movement.
•    This amounts to saying that theory of knowledge and theory of life seem to us inseparable. A theory of life that is not accompanied by a criticism of knowledge is obliged to accept, as they stand, the concepts which the understanding puts at its disposal: it can but enclose the facts, willing or not, in pre-existing frames which it regards as ultimate.
•    a theory of knowledge which does not replace the intellect in the general evolution of life will teach us neither how the frames of knowledge have been constructed nor how we can enlarge or go beyond them. It is necessary that these two inquiries, theory of knowledge and theory of life, should join each other, and, by a circular process, push each other on unceasingly.
•    In the first chapter, we try on the evolutionary progress the two ready-made garments that our understanding puts at our disposal, mechanism and finality; 1 we show that they do not fit, neither the one nor the other, but that one of them might be recut and resewn, and in this new form fit less badly than the other.
•    In order to transcend the point of view of the understanding, we try, in our second chapter, to reconstruct the main lines of evolution along which life has travelled by the side of that which has led to the human intellect.
•    The intellect is thus brought back to its generating cause, which we then have to grasp in itself and follow in its movement. It is an effort of this kind that we attempt— incompletely indeed— in our third chapter.
•    A fourth and last part is meant to show how our understanding itself, by submitting to a certain discipline, might prepare a philosophy which transcends it.

31
Oct
08

Wiener’s Cybernetics

Norbert Wiener
Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine
Area: Digital Media
Intro

•    The mathematician need not have the skill to conduct a physiological experiment, but he must have the skill to understand, criticize, and suggest one
•    Example: Picking up a pencil
o    Unless we’re anatomists, we don’t know the muscles, etc. used in performing the act
o    Doesn’t prevent us from doing so, it’s simply an unconscious movement
•    Cybernetics: influence of mathematical logic
o    Liebniz: universal symbolism and a calculus of reasoning
o    Like his predecessor Pascal, Liebniz was interested in the computing machines of the mental
•    Gestalt: perceptual formation of universals
Chapter One: Newtonian and Bergsonian Time
•    Using Newtonian laws: all we can predict at any future time is a probability distribution of the constants of the system, and even this predictability fades out with the increase of time
o    Time is perfectly reversible: asymmetrical past and future
•    Within any world with which we can communicate, the direction of time is uniform
•    The individual is an arrow pointed through time in one way and the race is equally directed from the past into the future
•    Bergson emphasizes reversible time of physics and irreversible time of evolution and biology
•    Vitalism has won to the extent that even mechanisms correspond to the time-structure of vitalism
43: “To sum up: the many automata of the present age are coupled to the outside world both for the reception of impressions and for the performance of actions.  They contain sense organs, effectors, and information from the one to the other.  They lend themselves very well to description in physiological terms.”
Chapter Eight: Information, Language, and Society
•    We are too small to influence the stars in their courses, and too large to care about anything but the mass effects of molecules, atoms, and electrons
Chapter Nine: On Learning and Self-Producing Machines
•    Two powers characteristic of living systems:
o    Power to learn: capable of being transformed
o    Power to reproduce themselves: multiply one’s likeness
•    Can man-made machines learn and reproduce themselves?

17
Jul
08

Deleuze’s Cinema 2: The Time-Image

Deleuze Cinema 2: The Time-Image
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies
Introduction
•    Time is out of joint
o    Derrida in Specters
o    Movement is subordinated to time
•    The body no longer moves: it’s the developer of time, it shows time through tiredness and waiting
•    What is present is not the image itself, but what the image represents
•    Recollection is only a former present
“The Crystals of Time”
Critical moments in the text
•    “There is no virtual which does not become actual in relation to the actual, the latter becoming virtual through the same relation: it is a place and its obverse which are totally reversible”
•    72: “the monsters in Freaks are monsters only because they have been forced to move into their explicit role, and it is through a dark vengeance that they find themselves again and regain a strange clarity which arrives in the lightning to interrupt their role”
•    72: “the virtual image of the public role becomes actual, bit in relation to the virtual image of a private crime, which beceomes actual in turn and replaces the first image.”
•    Is it the dead who belong to us, or we who belong to them?
•    “Time is money: art had to make itself international industrial art, that is, cinema, in order to buy space and time as imaginary warrants of human capital”
•    An image has to be present and past, still present and already past
o    The past coexists with the present it was
•    Bergson: We are interior in time
•    Kant: time as the form of interiority, in the sense that we are internal to time
•    Proust: We are internal to time, which divides itself into two, make sthe present pass and the past be preserved
1)    68: “In Bergsonian terms, the real object is reflected in a mirror-image as in the virtual object which, from its side and simultaneously, envelops or reflects the real: there is not ‘coalescence’ between the two. There is a formation of an image with two sides actual and virtual.
2)    69: Two problems that arise for Deleuze: 1—what are these consolidates of actual and virtual which define a crystalline structure? 2—what is the genetic process which appears in these structures?
3)    70: Exchange—“the mirror-image is virtual in relation to the actual character that eth mirror catches, but it is actual in the mirror which now leaves the character with only a virtuality and pushes film back out-of-field. […] when virtual images proliferate like this, all together they absorb the entire actuality of the character, at the same time as the character is no more than one virtuality among others.”
4)    70: Principle of indiscernability reaches it peak: a perfect crystal image where the multiple mirrors have assumed the actuality of the two characters.
5)    72: “We no longer know which is the role and which is the crime”
6)    73: “This is the circuit of two virtual images which continually become actual in relation to each other, and are continually revived.”
7)    74: “The crystal is expression.  Expression moves form the mirror to the seed.  It is the same circuit which passes through three figures:
a.    actual/virtual
b.    limpid/opaque
c.    seed/environment
In fact, the seed is on the one hand the virtual image which will crystallize and environment which is as present amorphous; but on the other hand the latter must have a structure which is virtually crystallizable, in relation to which the seed now plays the role of actual image.
8)    78: “The cinema confronts its most internal presupposition, money, and the movement-image makes way for the time-image in one and the same operation.”
9)    78: “The film is movement, but the film within the film is money, it time.  The crystal image thus receives the principle which is its foundation: endlessly relaunching exchange which is dissymmetrical, unequal and without equivalence, giving image for money, giving time for images, converting time, the transparent side, and money, the opaque side, like a spinning top on its end.
10)    79: It is clearly necessary for it to pass on for the new present to arrive, and it is clearly necessary for it to pass at the same time as it is present, at the moment that it is the present.  Thus the image has to be present and past, still present and already past, at once and at the same time.  If it was not already past at the same time as present, the present would never pass on.  The past does not follow the present that it is no longer, it coexists with the present it was. The present is the actual image, and its comtemporaneous past is the virtual image, the image in a mirror.
a.    Bergson’s ‘paramnesia’: recollection of the present
11)    79: “The virtual image in the pure state is defined, not in accordance with a new present in relation to which it would be (relatively) past, but in accordance with the actual present of which it is the past, absolutely and simultaneously.
12)    80: “It is the virtual image which corresponds to a particular actual image, instead of being actualized, of having to be actualized in a different actual image”
13)    81: “Since the past is constituted not after the present that it was but at the same time, time has to split itself in two at each moment as present and past, which differ from each other in nature, or, what amounts to the same thing, it has to split the present in two heterogeneous directions, one of which is launched towards the future while the other falls into the past.  Time has to split at the same time as it sets itself out or unrolls itself: it splits in two dissymmetrical jets, one of which makes all the present pass on, while the other preserves all the past.  Time consists of this split, and it is this, it is time, that we see in the crystal.”
14)    82: Bergson on time: “the past coexists with the present that is has been; the past is preserved in itself as past in general (non-chronological); at each moment time splits itself into present and past present that passes and past which is preserved…duration is subjective.”
15)    83: The actual image and the virtual image coexist and crystallize; they enter into a circuit which brings up constantly back from one to the other; they form one and the same ‘scene’ where the characters belong to the real and yet play a role.”
16)    87: ”What we see through the pane or in the crystal is time, in its double movement of making presents pass, replacing one by the next while going towards the future but also of preserving all the past, dropping it into an obscure depth.”
17)    96: “This is the idea, or rather the revelation, that something arrives too late.  Caught in time, this could perhaps have avoided the natural decomposition and historical dismantling of the crystal-image. […] This something that comes too late is always the perceptual and sensual revelation of a unity of nature and man.  Thus it is not  a simple lack; it is the node of being of this grandiose revelation.  The ‘too-late’ is not an accident that takes place in time but a dimension of time itself.
Tying it all together
1)    What does Deleuze mean by crystals?  Something that is crystallized is simultaneously solid and reflective—just as time is passing and present, present and future.
2)    The crystal is the mirror that reflects the virtual image back to the actual image.  Thus the roles are reversed: even though the actual is seeing the virtual, that reflection is then the actual, not the virtual since this is the only representation the actual will be able to ‘see’
3)    There are three formations of time: present, past, and future.  However, these three are not that seamless.  There is a coexistance, an exchange between them: the present becomes past as it is also becoming future.  The past and the future have this ‘intermediary’ of the present.  There is a reliance of all time on other time.
“Peaks of Present and Sheets of Past”
Critical moments in the text
•    The crystal reverses time’s subordination to movement
•    Memory is not in us—we move in a Being-memory
o    The past is a pre existence, and already-there
•    Time – past  language – sense   thought – idea
•    St. Augustine: present of the future, of the present, and of the past
•    Nietzsche: suppress your recollections or suppress yourselves
1)    98: The crystal reveals a direct time-image, and no longer an indirect image of time deriving form movement.  It does not abstract time; it does better: it reverses its subordination in relation to movement.  The crystal makes visible the hidden ground of time, its differentation into to flows: presents which pass and that of pasts which are preserved.  Time simultaneously makes the presents pass and preserves the past in itself.
2)    98: “It is the same as with perception: just as we perceive things where they are present, in space, we remember where they have passed, in time, and we go out of ourselves just as much in each case.  Memory is not in us; it is we who move in a Being—Memory”
3)    99: “the coexistence of circles” […] “Between the past as pre-existence in general and the present as infinitely contracted past there are all the circles of the past” […] “But they succeed each other only from the point of view of former presents which marked the limit of each of them.  They coexist from the point of view of the actual present which each time represents their common limit or the most contracted of them.”
4)    99: Bergson: time-image → language-image → thought-image
5)    100: “If the present is actually distinguishable form the future and the past, it is because it is presence of something, which precisely stops being present when it is replaced by something else.
6)    100: “it is an empty time that we anticipate recollection, breakup what is actual and locate the recollection once it is formed”
7)    100: St. Augustine
a.    present of the future
b.    present of the present
c.    present of the past
8)    101: Robbe-Grillet: “In his work there is never a succession of passing presents, but a simultaneity of a present of past, a present of present, and a present of future which make time frightening and inexplicable”
9)    105: “The coexistence of sheets of virtual past and the simultaneity of peaks of deactualized present, are the two direct signs of time itself.”
10)    108: “The term baroque is literally appropriate.  In this freeing of depth which now subordinates all other dimensions we should see not only the conquest of a continuum but the temporal nature of this continuum”
11)    109: “And here again cinema is Bergsonisn: it is not a case of psychological memory, made up of recollection-images, as the flashback can conventionally represent it.  It is not a case of succession of presents passing according to chronological time.  It is a case either of an attempting to evoke, produced in an actual present, and preceding the formation of recollection-images, or of the exploration of a sheet of past from which these recollection-images will later arise.  It is an on-this-side-of and beyond of psychological memory.  These two extremes of memory are presented by Bergson as follows: the extension of sheets of past and the contraction of the actual present.”
12)    112: temporary states of permanent crisis
13)    117: “an architecture of the memory such that it explains or develops the coexistent levels of past rather than an art of peaks which implies simultaneous presents […] the disappearance of the centre or fixed point.”
14)    123: Bergson: distinction between the ‘pure recollection’ which is always virtual and the ‘recollection image’ which makes it actual only in relation to a present. Pure recollection should definitely not be confused with the recollection-image which derives from it.”
15)    123: “When I take up position on such a sheet, two things can happen: either I discover there the point I was looking for, which will thus be actualized in a recollection-image, but it is clear that the latter does not posses in itself the mark of the past which it only inherits; or I do not discover the point, because it is on a different sheet which is inaccessible to me, belonging to a different age.”
16)    125: “If feelings are ages of the world, thought is the non-chronological time which corresponds to them.  If feelings are sheets of past, thought, the brain, is the set of non-localizable relations between all these sheets, the continuity which rolls them up and unrolls then like so many lobes, preventing them from halting and becoming fixed in a death-position.”
17)    125: Renais: “something ought to happen around the image, behind the image and even inside the image.  This is what happens when the image becomes time-image.
Tying it all together
1)    Deleuze is concerned with time and images and how these two interplay and confuse (?) time.  We know from the previous chapter that time is based on three moments, and these are easily confused in cinema because the director is concerned with the image, and can play with time as a specific entity.  If time in the film becomes meaningless, where the time lies is easily misunderstood, or even dismissed.
2)    We ‘expect’ cinema to be ordered chronologically, but because the directors are curious about time, too, this is not always the case.
3)    Deleuze examines permanency and time and their layers:
a.    there are temporary states of permanent crisis
b.    a disappearance of a fixed point
c.    if the circles are all coexisting, then maybe there is no permanence excepting of the immediate past upon which the present must rely
Questions about the text/larger context
1)    Why are we seeing the division of time into two (presents of pasts and pasts which are preserved) and the three (presents of past, present, future): how are these different, similar, work together?
2)    Discussion question: “A distinction is always made between the real and the imaginary, the objective and the subjective, the physical and the mental, the actual and the virtual, but that this distinction becomes reversible, and in that sense indiscernible”  How is the distinction always made: isn’t it twisted sometimes?  What about in the previous chapter?

12
Jul
08

Bergson’s Matter and Memory

Bergson, Matter and Memory
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies
Content
Intro
• 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?

Conclusion
•    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

01
Jul
08

Some talking points on the digital

MERLIN DONALD
Merlin Donald’s term, “external memory devices,” or EMDs henceforward. Until called upon, EMDs remain suspended and retain the exact information one uploaded onto the device. The increasing utilization of EMDs suggests that our bodies are not enough.
VILEM FLUSSER
Vilem Flusser argues for a distinction between cultural memory and genetic memory, noting that the former is, “is shorter than genetic memory, and even less trustworthy” because the individual re-remembers an event over time (397). Electronic memories are simulations, within inanimate objects, of the memory functions of the human brain. Even though EMDs only simulate memory, they do not disregard all other aspects of the brain. EMDs do indeed exaggerate memory, but rely upon computers (or, the “rest” of the brain) to function properly.
COLLECTIVE MEMORY AND PROGRESSION
A crucial distinction between personal memory (storage apparatuses) and collective memory (libraries) is the notion of progression. Whereas collective memory is themed knowledge, we place ideas that are important to ourselves in our EMDs.
Collective memory entails privileged access to particular places, but personal memory is not limited in this sense, as EMDs only demand an internet connection or a USB port. Simply, personal memory is individualized.

DELEUZE’S THEORY OF TIME (NOT NECESSARILY DIGITAL)

Deleuze states that, “time simultaneously makes the present past and preserves the past in itself” (98).
BERGSON’S THEORY OF TIME (NOT NECESSARILY DIGITAL)
According to Henri Bergson’s essay, “Of the Survival of Images,” time is a constantly formed and reformed trinity: past, present, and future. We simply “define the present in an arbitrary manner as that which is, whereas the present is simply what is being made” (Bergson 149-150). This is the critical illusion of time according to Bergson—the present is ‘being made’ as it is at the same time disappearing.
Bergson designates three important processes through which one can examine time and, ultimately, one’s personal history: pure memory, memory-image, and perception. Just as the past/present/future trio function only as a result of each other, “perception is bound to expel the memory-image, and the memory-image to expel pure memory” (Bergson 134).
DERRIDA/HAUNTOLOGY
Derrida calls this recurrence “hauntology,” defining it as, “repetition and first time, but also repetition and last time, since the singularity of any first time, makes of it also a last time. Each time it is the event itself, a first time is a last time” (10).
STELARC/PROSTHETICS/REPLACEMENT
As Stelarc admits in, “Prosthetics, Robotics and Remote Existence: Postevolutionary Strategies,” “evolution ends when technology invades the body” (591). Arguing for the need to begin thinking about our future selves, Stelarc suggests that we should replace parts of the body as they fail, rather than temporarily repairing the body with modern medicine.
DOYLE
“The body need no longer be repaired but simply have parts replaced. Something other than the present, something yet to come, insures the cryonic body,” the body in suspension, too, risks the possibility of never being resuscitated (Doyle 65).
VANDICJK: MEDIATED MEMORIES
Van Dijck argues that memories are never stable over time, and how we choose to remember them and the technologies that we use to recall such memories are actually the concerns. In chapter three, van Dijck shows how some Alzheimer patients are utilizing blogs and lifelogs to record their deteriorating memories. Although van Dijck argues that memories are never stable, Alzheimer blogs are functioning in the exact opposite way by storing memories so that they become stabilized. Also, the shared experience between the blogger and the blog reader further compliments the notion of collective digitized memory. This specific type of collective memory suggests that the Alzheimer blogger will experience her own memory as though it is not actually hers. Moreover, while the disease actively deteriorates the mind, the Alzheimer blogger is actively posting to suspend his memories in order that he, his family, and others who may be experiencing similar deterioration can return to these memories knowing they will be constant and unchanged.
LEROI-GOURHAN: GESTURE AND SPEECH
Extending the brain with the development of exteriorization
Today, we are dramatically externalized, so much so that our physical memories are under worked and reliant upon outside sources. However, Leroi-Grourhan views externalization as a “logical stage of evolution,” as noted in the following:
“These machines […] reflect a logical stage in human evolution. As with hand
tools the process whereby all implements came gradually to be concentrated outside the human body is again perfectly clear: Actions of the teeth shift to the hand, which handles the portable tool; then the tool shifts still further away, and a part of the gesture is transferred from the arm to the hand-operated machine” (245).
By looking at Leroi-Gourhan’s argument for extending our bodies, it appears that technologies have always encouraged the expanding of the brain in one fashion or another. Currently, we are experiencing the ability to “store” our brains: “evolution has entered a new stage, that of the exteriorization of the brain, and from a strictly technological point of view the mutation has already been achieved” (252). Compared to the reformation of the skull to hold our physical brains, this mutation of which he speaks occurred rather immediately. Consequently, we are externalizing the self with more frequency and relying upon a stored, technologized memory. It should be noted that while Leroi-Gourhan refers to encyclopedias and punch-card indexes, he was indeed able to see where externalization is heading.
Memory is becoming individualized, rather than group oriented
One might argue that with the prevalence of externalized memory, a collective memory is replacing our individual memory. However, I believe that it is the reverse that is occurring: because a collective memory is no longer necessary, our memory is strictly individualized. Real memory of specific, collective, survival behaviors that were passed on through a group are no longer necessary for the species to endure. We simply store the information that we need and seek out only what we deem important. Perhaps, then, the next step in externalized evolution is maintaining a certain technical savvy-ness—if one does not have the means (economic, knowledge or otherwise) to externalize, you will not evolve.
HAWHEE: BODILY ARTS/MUSCLE MEMORY
Hawhee’s detailing of ancient gymnasia perfectly illustrates the interrelation of mind and body training. Both types of training are initiated through a seeking out, a dedication to becoming, which is initially motivated “by a concomitant submitting: active submission is thus a necessary first step for transformation” (87). This transformation is a recognition that the individual wants to become something more, something other than his/her natural self. Only through the 3Rs (rhythm, repetition, and response) can one remold his/her current nature, thus forming new habits, or a “second nature,” that “become so ingrained in a person they become almost instinctual responses and most closely approximate a ‘natural’ response” (95). This sounds quite like the flatterer who “has no principles in him, and leads not a life properly his own, but forms and moulds it according to the various humors and caprices of those he designs to bubble, is never one and the same man […] like the water that always turns and winds itself into the figure of the channel through which it flows” (5). Interestingly, Hawhee calls upon Heraclitus’ saying ‘it is not possible to step twice into the same river’ during her discussion of cyclical differentiation, the notion of simultaneous combination and scattering (141). We can see cyclical differentiation represented in both the flatterer and the trainee, for both are learning new skills while abandoning the older ones.
The flatterer, whose “second nature” is based solely on imitation, is unlike the ancient ‘gym rat’ in the sense that the latter has “the desire to become something else” permanently (97). Instead, the flatterer is never completely transformed, but only performs as someone based upon his/her situation. The athlete—and here I use athlete to recognize the training of both the mind and the body—has the potential for self-improvement and true change through his/her training. In order “to make oneself capable of training,” self-control is the necessary component of self-improvement; therefore “the transformative work of practice relies upon the readiness, the submission, the painful subjection’ for the athlete’s total transformation (146). Only others motivate the flatterer, whereas the self motivates the athlete.
ISOCRATES
Turning to Antidosis, Isocrates notes at the start that we are “not to form opposite
judgements about similar things” (1). From Hawhee, we have learned that the body and mind were not trained separately, but rather informed the other through similar training styles (the 3Rs). Speaking on the gymnasium, Hawhee notes, “the inculcation of such knowledge in a crowd heightens the embodied nature of such learning, as the space of the ancient gymnasium emerged as a network of forces” (128). This “network of forces” can be compared to Isocrates’ “similar things”: the physical space representing the convergence of mind, body, sophistry, and athleticism.
FOUCAULT: DISCIPLINE AND PUNISH/ LOSING THE BODY
Foucault notes that the panopticon is the “perfect exercise of power” for several reasons, although most significantly “because it can reduce the number of those who exercise it, while increasing the number of those on whom it is exercised” (206). The panopticon, just as the parked police car, does not need a physical body behind it to instill a sense of control. Because any of the prisoners may be watched at any time, simply the possibility of being watched should be enough to maintain order. Further, Foucault says that, “because without any physical instrument other than architecture and geometry, it acts directly on individuals; it gives ‘power of mind over mind’” (206). The panopticon’s strength lies within the ‘power of mind over mind’ since it is the prisoner’s mind that is being controlled. One could assume that no one is ever looking, but one assumes that one is always looking, without ever knowing which is true at any given time. Becoming posthuman, or becoming body-less, is previewed by the panopticon. Some sort of actual human presence is not necessary for the panopticon to function—it is self-sufficient. This self-sufficiency is not the issue though, but rather that human presence is no longer needed. We are in a time when we can be absent and present concurrently (i.e. on dating websites, blogs, and myspace and youtube postings). Just as the prisoners did not know when they were being watched, no one knows when we are ‘available,’ as the webpage, posting, etc. stands in for us even when we are offline.
ROTMAN: GESTURO-HAPTIC
“[…] force-feedback devices are enabling varied forms of haptic actions at a distance. These range from the simulated handling of molecules by research chemists and telesurgery effected through visually enhanced feedback loops, to cross-planetary arm wrestling, and the inevitable attempt to realize sex-at-a-distance, or teledildonics (“Corporeal” 431).  If ‘avatars sexing other avatars’ enables an actual feeling, how are the lines of private and public redistributed? And further, is there a private self anymore if public actions (i.e. the sexing avatars’ deeds) are responsive to and received by the lone, haptic recipients? As Brian Rotman notes earlier in “Corporeal or Gesturo-haptic Writing,” this results in “a form of transposed physicality,” where we can be both ‘here’ and ‘there’ simultaneously (430). Although because ‘sex- and arm-wrestling-at-a-distance happens’ here and there, the haptic response seems to suggests that there is no ‘there,’ anything that is being felt is only happening ‘here.’ To explain, even though I might be tele-arm-wrestling someone else across the globe, the only sensation I am feeling is their presence back on me. The action is only taking place for me ‘here’; I am exerting strength, but I don’t feel it there (where my opponent is ‘located’). There is a supposed ‘there’ (with which I am supposedly interacting), but since I do not feel my actions, the only ones that ‘count’ are the ones being received. The tele-arm-wrestling is transpiring in two separate places, and the same event is identical and separate.
To add to this, Rotman says in “Going Parallel” that “the I/me unit is disintegrating, the one who says ‘I’ is no longer singular, but multiple: a shifting plurality of disbursed, distributed and fragmented personae” (60). To return to the above example, the tele-arm-wrestling “I” materializes in two locations at once, creating two copies of the same action. The idea of “copies” is an interesting thread, as the transported self is not necessarily a reproduction, but is the same action And, MMOGs such as Second Life foster this distribution and fragmentation of the individual—there (in Second Life’s virtual world), one can be both “serial” and “parallel”; behind the computer is one “operator” with the ability to create multiple selves “doing many things at once” (“Going” 57). In this life (and I am not referring to reincarnation here, but distinguishing our lives from virtual ones), one can be a starving grad student, while at the same time have enough Linden Dollars to consistently devote to groceries in Second Life. Also in Second Life, we are able to foster our “alters” by creating various personae; there we can create “The Angry One” and “The Innocent Child” while we, “The Actual One” maintains control over all of them. What I find most interesting about MMOGs such as Second Life is that they still require an actual person to foster action. They are not, to borrow Varela’s term, “selfless selves” (“Becoming” 6). Although limiting, one can play MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft by oneself, while Second Life would not exist without involvement from other people (actual ones, not their avatars).




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