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Within that frame the analysis of memory serves the purpose of clarifying the problem. Ribot claimed that the findings of brain science proved that memory is lodged within a particular part of the nervous system; localized within the brain and thus being of a material nature.

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Bergson was opposed to this reduction of spirit to matter. Defending a clear anti-reductionist position, he considered memory to be of a deeply spiritual nature, the brain serving the need of orienting present action by inserting relevant memories. The brain thus being of a practical nature, certain lesions tend to perturb this practical function, but without erasing memory as such.

The memories are, instead, simply not 'incarnated', and cannot serve their purpose. Bergson distinguishes two different forms of memory. On the one hand memories concerning habitude, replaying and repeating past action, not strictly recognized as representing the past, but utilizing it for the purpose of present action. This kind of memory is automatic, inscribed within the body, and serving a utilitarian purpose.

Bergson takes as an example the learning of a verse by rote: Recitation tending toward non-reflective and mechanical repetition. The duration of the habitual recitation tends toward the regular and one may compare this kind of memory to a practical knowledge or habit. It is of a contemplative and fundamentally spiritual kind, and it is free.

This is true memory. Bergson takes as his example the remembrance of the lesson of learning the same verse, a dated fact that cannot be recreated. Pure memory or remembrance permits the acknowledgment that the lesson has been learned in the past, cannot be repeated, and is not internal to the body.

Bergson accused classical metaphysics of misrepresenting its assumed problems, and being guilty of posing secondary problems as being principal. The problem posed by Bergson was thus well known, but he redefined the way of posing it. Each of his four main works follow the same principle — responding to a precisely posed problem; in Matter and Memory , Descartes's problem of spirit and body — stated as being two substances with different attributes. Descartes's fault lies in defining matter and memory as substances or res , thus not separating them distinctly. Bergson really does distinguish the spirit from the body, but as opposed to in Descartes's classical philosophy the distinction resides in the temporal domain, not in the spatial.

The spirit is the abode of the past, the body of the present; the soul or spirit always anchored in the past, not residing in the present; lodged in the past and contemplating the present. To have or take consciousness of anything, means looking at it from the viewpoint of the past, in light of the past. Contenting oneself with reacting to an external stimulus means being unconscious of the act; an existence within the sheer presence of the body. Bergson's treatment of epistemology also leans heavily on the notion of dissociation.

Hence a thesis and an antithesis that it would be vain for us to try logically to reconcile Having dealt as much as we can with how difference translates itself in Bergsonian terms, the second part of this essay will turn to examine the relationship between difference and another favourite theme of postmodern philosophy, the im possibility of perception.

The apparently objective space and time that science works with express, in an abstract form, the double work of solidification and of division which we effect on the moving continuity of the real in order to obtain there a fulcrum for our action, in order to fix within it starting points for our operation, in short, to introduce into it real changes.

They are the diagrammatic design of our eventual action upon matter.

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Bergson seems to be simultaneously saying that: 1. It is the status of this system of objective images that has been problematised: does it exist for itself and before my action upon it or is it a purely derivative product of my body's activity upon a moving reality which evades the scientific gaze? He thus constructs a perception that belongs neither to any subject, nor any body-subject, but instead to a supposed mathematical point perfectly mirroring the universe surrounding it.

All that is given is what interests our perspective, even though it is a perspective constituted by a body without extension. Simply because it has to be located, perception cannot fail to be perspectival and as such, cause the suppression of any supposed objective reality. This is surely the meaning of Bergson's famous critique of simultaneity. The world can only be experienced piecemeal through the succession of its various aspects, not all at once in a simultaneous vision.

It defines the difference between solipsism and good sense. Objectivity exists, but it is not as we might think it to be: it is less an entity than an aspiration, an attitude towards entities.

Henri Bergson

Indeed, there are themes in his writing which seem to lead us to a new view of not only perception, but of an immediate objective present itself. The aim of the final part of this essay will be to bring to light Bergson's dissipation of this notion of the present. Yet the response then could always have been that the Essai only outlaws simultaneity from areas in which consciousness is implicated: the notion is nevertheless retained in the category of pure space,71 and with that, a foothold is also salvaged for the present.

Yet without going into the debatable status of space in the Essai,72 a cursory reading of Bergson's other writings soon offers evidence indicating that the present as such also lies on uncertain ground. Bergson's present is problematised simply because the singularity of its various co-referents, perception, the body, or the material world, have themselves already been dispersed amongst a diverse range of forms.

But Bergson actually amplifies the issue even more with a number of puzzles concerning the present. The first concerns the distinction between immediate and mediate memory.


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Bergson finds it illegitimate. There can only be a difference of degree and not of nature between the retention of the short-term and long-term past, for it would be no more mysterious were we able to retain a life-time's experience of the past than it is to be able to retain twelve seconds of it.

But it is so because I want to limit the field of my attention to my sentence. This attention is something that can be made longer or shorter, like the interval between two points of a compass. The distinction we make between our present and past is therefore, if not arbitrary, at least relative to the extent of the field which our attention to life can embrace. A recent commentary on Bergson has placed great emphasis on the importance of particularity and situation in his thought.

The appearance of such a disintegrated present in Bergsonism also comes to light in his second enigma concerning this temporal dimension.


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As part of an argument challenging the reduction of memory to its physiological basis, Bergson outlines the following problem. Of each of them we can as well say that its object is disappearing all along: how, then, could the recollection arise only when everything is over? It may be that Bergson's initial solution was only the other half of an antinomy concerning memory.

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On the one hand, if there is any temporal lag between a perception and its memory, the perception will not have been remembered in its entirety. But as any part lost of a perception is itself a perception, this is as much as to say that certain consciously perceived experiences not only will not but cannot ever be remembered.

As far as we know, however, there is no evidence to believe that this is true, or even could be true. On the other hand, to avoid such an outcome one must suppose that memory is formed simultaneously with perception. Yet if this is the case, then the present must have the mysterious ability to duplicate itself at once into both a perception and a memory of the present. Conclusion Though Bergson does not forsake the language of presence entirely, it is so transformed in his hands as to have lost nearly all of what counts officially as its modernist significance. Of course, the terminology Bergson uses of pure perception, the present, and objectivity will never ease the way for a postmodern interpretation of his thought such as the one sketched above.

Yet when we look to this content, what do we find? Bergsonism must be transparently and intentionally postmodern if it is to be postmodern at all. Bergson's is clearly one of them. The formal issue is the fact that Bergson rarely writes about truth in any sustained fashion, so his views would have to be reconstructed with the aid of materials whose significance is very much implicit and not wholly unambiguous either.

FB2 2. Matiere et memoire: Essai sur la relation du corps a lesprit (French Edition)

Scott-Fox and J. Harding Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, , p. Bergson wrote of differentiation before Deleuze makes him speak of it. Translated by F. All references to Bergson's work will be to the English translations with the pagination of the French text in Oeuvres henceforth in square brackets after the English pagination. Translated by Mabelle L.

Page references for both the English paperback and hardback editions of The Creative Mind are given as their paginations are different: the paperback reference will follow the hardback after a slash. See for example, Bergson, Creative Evolution, p.

Matière et mémoire : Essai sur la relation du corps à l'esprit

Andison and J. Barnes London: Methuen, , p. Vrin, p. Gregory, ed. Translated by R.