Posts Tagged ‘Consciousness


Donald’s A Mind So Rare

Merlin Donald
A Mind So Rare: The Evolution of Human Consciousness
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies
Chapter 7: The First Hybrid Minds on Earth

•    The minute you embed a brain into a cognitive community, you change what you must do in order to remember, think, and represent reality
•    The relationship between consciousness and culture is a reciprocal one
o    Immersion in culture that defines our human modes of consciousness
•    Subdivided working memory into self and other
o    Even in simple two person interaction, it’s important to control and monitor the attention of the other person
Chapter 8: The Triumph of Consciousness
•    The literacy brain is a cultural add-on to the normal pre-literate state of the brain
•    Literacy skills are the response to the invention of external symbols
•    Symbolic technology allows readers to think thoughts that were previously impossible for them to conceive
•    The mirror arrangement also changes the reflective power of the conscious mind, because the external memory field gives working memory a much more solid display system for representations
•    Our most challenging symbolic representations deliberately exceed capacity
o    Ex: Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel plans
302:  “The most important of these is literacy.  Literacy skills change the functional organization of the brain and deeply influence how individuals and communities of literate individuals perform their cognitive work.  Mass literacy has triggered two kinds of major cognitive reorganizations, one in individuals and the other in groups
309: “Although this arrangement constitutes a very ordinary work environment in our highly literate society, it is an extraordinary historical development because it changes the long-standing relationship of consciousness to its representations.  We can arrange ideas in the external memory field, where they can be examined and subjected to classification, comparison, and experimentation, just as physical objects can in a laboratory.  In this way, externally displayed thoughts can be assembled into complex arguments much more easily than they can in biological memory.”
311: “The external memory field is not just another sector of working memory.  IT taps directly into the neural networks of literacy, located in brain regions that are distinct from those of working memory.  Working memory and the external memory field thus complement each other, and this allows the brain to exploit their distinct storage and retrieval properties.  This gives awareness a much richer structure.”
316:  “The external memory field is really a sort of Trojan Horse into the brain, a device that invades the innermost personal spaces of the mind.  It can play out cognitive instrument, directing our mind toe predetermined end states along a set course.”


Burgin’s In/Different Spaces

Victor Burgin

In/Different Spaces: Place and Memory in Visual Culture

Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies

·   To return is not necessarily to repeat, provided we approach the place we know by a different road

11: “Louis Althusser’s influential definition of ideology as ‘a system of representations’ had undermined the traditional Marxist theory of ideology.  No longer a ‘false consciousness’ (a dependent epiphenomenon of the political economy), ideology was theorized as a ‘relatively autonomous’ sphere of political struggle.  ‘In truth,’ Althusser wrote, ‘ideology has very little to do with ‘consciousness’ … It is profoundly unconsciousness


Sobchack’s Carnal Thoughts

Vivian Sobchack

Carnal Thoughts: Embodiment and Moving Image Culture

Area: Digital Media


·                  Embodied existence ‘in the flesh’ lays the concrete foundations for a materialist – rather than idealist – understanding of aesthetics and ethics

·                  The body and consciousness is an irreducible ensemble

1: “The major theme of Carnal Thoughts is the embodiment and radically material nature of human existence and thus the lived body’s essential implication in making ‘meaning’ out of bodily ‘sense.”

2: “The focus here is on what it is to live one’s body, not merely look at bodies—although vision, visuality, and visibility are as central to the subjective dimensions of embodied existence as they are to its objective dimensions.  In sum, the essays in CT foreground embodiment—that is, the lived body as, at once, both an objective subject and a subjective object: a sentient, sensual, and sensible ensemble of materialized capacities and agency that literally and figurally makes sense of, and to, both ourselves and others.”

2:  “Don Idhe characterizes existential phenomenology as “a philosophical style that emphasizes a certain interpretation of human experience and that, in particular, concerns perception and bodily activity.”

3: “Contemporary scholars tend to ‘study the body and its transformations while still taking embodiment for granted,’ but ‘this distinction between the body as either an empirical thing or analytical theme, and embodiment as the existential ground of culture and self is critical.’ Hence the need to turn our attention from the body to embodiment.”

Chapter 5: Susie Scribbles: On Technology, Techne, and Writing

·                  Today we write with technologies we differently incorporate into our bodies and our experience of writing

·                  Five key features that inform activity and production of writing

à           Directness: suspension in time and directness in space

à           Uniformity: whether letters are shaped by hand or pre-formed

à           Speed: potential speed of transcription relative to other tools

à           Linearity: the extent to which the tool allows the user to jump around in a text

à           Boundedness: limits on the frame size of a particular writing and reading surface

·           Pen and ink are more thoughtful—the marking is a permanent commitment

à           Not so much technologically challenged as temporally challenged

110: “Which is to say that writing is as much about mattering as it is about meaning.  Making things matter, however, requires both a technology and a technique.”

111:  “These five features all ‘relate to the handling of space and time both by the tool and by the writer, and, since, as phenomenologists argue, such relationships are fundamental to our structuring of experience, it is hardly surprising that they may be experienced as transforming influences.”

132:  “Heidegger reminds us, technology consists not merely of objective tools, nor is technique merely their objective application.  ‘Technology is…no mere means,’ he tells us.  ‘Technology is a way of revealing.’ Thus, he returns us to the Greek notion of techne: ‘the name not only for the activities and the skills of the craftsman, but also for the arts of the mind and the fine arts.  Techne belongs to bringing-forth, to poiesis; it is something poetic.  Furthermore, techne is a way and manner of knowing.  Making, bringing forth, and revealing are integral not only the existence of matter but also to why and how some ‘thing’ is known and understood as ‘mattering.’”


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

January 2019
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