24 Jul 2009

Memory Embodily. §56, Matter and Memory. Bergson

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Memory Embodily

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

§56 So there are different planes of memory; the largest includes all our past, and is the plane of dream

Previously we discussed what happens when we attend to a perception: an image is sent to our minds. And at the same time our mind projects upon our sensation a similar remembered image. Then, like a feed-back loop, the projected image contracts with the original, and sends a new modified image back into the loop, which creates a new perception, and so on. These loops continue billowing outward.

All our recollections taken together make-up our whole course of existence. Altogether they constitute “the last and largest enclosure of our memory.” (129bc) These memories from throughout our life are only evoked “by chance, either when an accidentally precise determination of our bodily attitude attracts them, or when the very indetermination of that attitude leaves a clear field to the caprices of their manifestation.” (129cd, emphasis mine)

The outermost envelope of memories contracts upon the innermost ones, and cycles back into the system of recollection.

this outer-most envelope contracts and repeats itself in inner and concentric circles, which in their narrower range enclose the same recollections grown smaller, more and more removed form their personal and original form, and more and more capable, from their lack of distinguishing features, of being applied to the present perception and of determining it after the manner of a species which defines and absorbs the individual. (129-130, emphasis mine)

cette enveloppe extrême se resserre et se répète en cercles intérieurs et concentriques, qui, plus étroits, supportent les mêmes souvenirs diminués, de plus en plus éloignés de leur forme personnelle et originale, de plus en plus capables, dans leur banalité, de s'appliquer sur la perception présente et de la déterminer à la manière d'une espèce englobant l'individu. (110)

Eventually the contracted perception will be modified so much to suit previous perceptions that there will be little more ways for it to continue to transform: “there comes a moment when the recollection thus brought down is capable of blending so well with the present perception that we cannot say where perception ends or where memory begins.” (130a) When this happens, our memory stops cycling images, and instead “follows regularly, in all their details, the movements of the body.” (130a)

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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