Thursday, January 8, 2009

Aimless Reading: The B's, Part 10

Matter and Memory
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Bergson, Henri
Matter and Memory

Purchased for a course with Elizabeth Grosz when I was in graduate school. Elizabeth Grosz is hands down the best lecturer I have ever had the pleasure to witness. Her classes were filled to the brim with people like myself who came just to listen to her unravel the complex layers of her thought. She was awe-inspiring, both because of her originality and because of the unbelievably high level of clarity and organization with which she was able to present her arguments.

The only downside to this is that I remember her arguments much more clearly than I remember the actual books read in the course, so thoroughly and skillfully did she weave the arguments of these books into her own thought. I guess that is the mark of a great thinker.

The course was called something like, "Being and Becoming," and it focused on Darwin, Nietszche, Bergson, and Deleuze. It began with a re-reading of Darwin that then tied in the concept of the eternal return with evolution, and then with Bergon's creative evolution and the duree. I don't think I could reproduce her argument at 7:55 in the morning, so this brief sketch will have to suffice. 

Actually -- having just typed out the quote that follows, I am now recalling part of Bergson's argument in this book: that there is, in essence, no past. What we call "the past" is actually still extant and present, only lost among the ever accumulating details of time. Thus, when we recall the past, we are actually in the past. This almost made my head explode trying to imagine it.

Here's something I underlined from the book:

So we shall sum up the preceding paragraphs and say that the past appears indeed to be stored up, as we had surmised, under two extreme forms: on the one hand, motor mechanisms which make use of it; on the other, personal memory-images which picture all past events with their outline, their color and their place in time. Of these two memories the first follows the direction of nature; the second, left to itself, would rather go the contrary way. the first, conquered by effort, remains dependent upon our will; the second, entirely spontaneous, is as capricious in reproducing as it is faithful in preserving. The only regular and certain service which the second memory can render to the first is to bring before it images of what preceded or what followed situations similar to the present situation, so as to guide its choice: in this consists the association of ideas. There is no other case in which the memory which recalls is sure to obey the memory which repeats. Everywhere else, we prefer to construct a mechanism which allows us to sketch the image again, at need, because we are well aware that we cannot count upon its reappearance. These are the two extreme forms of memory in their pure state.

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