6 Jan 2012

Rescuing Your Past. Ch.3.4 of Williams' Gilles Deleuze's Philosophy of Time

summary by Corry Shores

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Rescuing Your Past

James Williams'

Gilles Deleuze's Philosophy of Time:
A Critical Introduction and Guide

Chapter 3: The second synthesis of time

Part 4: How to save all the past for us?

What does saving your pure past got to do with you?

Whenever we remember a past moment, we are not remembering it perfectly. In a way, we are continually recreating our past. But this in a way keeps it alive and relevant to our present experiences.

Brief Summary

If we want to save the pure past, we cannot use representation and we cannot consider it as the present it once was. We can save it by reliving it creatively, and this happens through forgetting. Because we forget the past as it was when it was present, we continually recall and relive it as different.

Points Relative to Deleuze:

We recreate the past in recollection.


Our past is in continuous flux. But how should we act then? And if we cannot adequately represent our past, do we have any responsibility to it? Such practical questions lead Deleuze to a third synthesis of time. (76b)

Deleuze wonders how we may penetrate the pure past without reducing it to the former present that it was or to the actual present happening now, in related to which it is past. "How to save it for us?" (Deleuze qtd 76c)

To address this matter, Deleuze shifts from Bergson to Proust. Proust
"through his study of reminiscence, has shown how the past can be saved for us without reducing it to representations of a former age or to representations of our age (the past as how it could be). Instead, the past is given ‘as it was never lived, as a pure past revealing its double irreducibility to the present that it was, but also to the actual present that it could be, in favour of a telescoping of the two’ (DRf, 115)." (77c)
Thus "Reminiscence shows that the past is lost and forgotten as a past present. It accepts it." (77c) But also, reminiscence takes both the past and present representation together, and makes a third image, and in this way saves the past. "It is in this special kind of forgetting and recreating that the past is lived with in forgetting." (77cd)

We can save the past because it is a necessary process for present moments to pass. And we can save it in how our forgetting recreates it in the present. (77d) "Only as a recreation of past presents | as forgotten, as in need of being lived differently, can the past be saved for us." (77-78) Yet the pure past "what we must create with, it does not show us how." (78a) For this we need a third synthesis. Deleuze's explanation of how Eros allows us to penetrate Memory takes him to the third synthesis. (78ab)

Williams, James. Gilles Deleuze's Philosophy of Time: A Critical Introduction and Guide. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011.

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