21 Jul 2009

De-Contracting Successions. §46, Matter and Memory. Bergson

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De-Contracting Successions

Henri Bergson

Matter and Memory

Matière et mémoire

Chapter II

Of the Recognition of Images. Memory and the Brain

Chapitre II

De la reconnaissance des images la mémoire et le cerveau

§46 Thus memory-image and motor habit are distinct in kind, though they may coalesce in life. Reasons why a thorough study of recognition is necessary.

Previously, Bergson distinguished two types of memory: motor habit and memory image [see §40 where Bergson explains the difference between embodied habits and remembered representations.] Philosophers so far have confused the two. For this reason, they presume that some part of the brain is the basis both for our motor habits as well as for our conscious images. But really we need to isolate the “memory which retains and sets out the successive repetitions side by side in the form of memory images” from “the habit which is perfected by use.” (104b, emphasis mine)

Yet, these two types of memory are always found together. So we must sort-out from within this intermediate state “the part which belongs to nascent action, that is to say of the brain, and the part of independent memory, that is to say of memory-images.” (104d) On the one hand, the intermediate memory states are motor habits that are involved in present perceptions. While on the other hand, they are images that reproduce past perceptions.

Often times we notice something in the present that causes us to recall something from the past. The concrete process “by which we grasp the past in the present is recognition.” Bergson will now study this topic.

Images from the English translation [click to enlarge]

Images from the original French [click to enlarge]

Bergson, Henri. Matière et mémoire: Essai sur la relation du corps à l'esprit. Ed. Félix Alcan. Paris: Ancienne Librairie Germer Bailliere et Cie, 1903. Available online at:http://www.archive.org/details/matireetmmoiree01berggoog

Bergson, Henri. Matter and Memory. Transl. Nancy Margaret Paul & W. Scott Palmer. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2004; originally published by George Allen & Co., Ltd., London, 1912. Available online at:http://www.archive.org/details/mattermemory00berg

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