We *perhaps* have access to the truth of our past. If we reflect on the incredibly complicated behavior of animals (even lower animals) then we realize that we may or may not have access to the truth of our past. There are a few considerations when thinking about animal memory:

1) Neural, not genetic — genetic programming concerns gene manipulation, but all complex behavior (‘instinct’) must be neurally programmed — even if the animals don’t have parents which it can immitate. “Mother nature”, in its original sense, refers to the way in which animals lacking a mother (some birds, insects, frogs, or various orphans) are guided nonetheless by a nature that acts in a motherly role. It speaks of the indispensability of motherhood to all maturation, since –despite sloppy thinkings to the contrary — instinct cannot be transmitted genetically, but must be reprogrammed in each individual case onto the infant mind.

2) Behavorial convergence — Of course we may not know the exact structure of the minds of animals. Certainly, we aknowledge that, though many animals have minds and think, they probably don’t share any similarity in concepts (however we want to define this, neurologically) despite similarities in behavior, eg, motherhood. In fact, its quite possible that there is a great degree of interspecies variation in ‘concepts’ as well — why not? — despite great convergence in behavior. These two facts together mean that we need to construct an explanation for a mode of programming that differs radically in ‘concepts’ but that would nonetheless gravitate towards certain ‘expectations’. (Yes, I insist on using the word ‘concepts’: there is no thinking without conceptual thinking — similarities, differences, metaphors, and so on — even in insects — these are fundamental neural processes that can be reproduced in abstract neural networks.)

This is great, this means that we can draw a straight line between, say, the complex reproductive behavior of the jewel wasp to the way in which Marlow anticipated Kurtz in Africa, that ‘motherly jungle’ (Something to the effect of — “that river led me towards only one thing — Kurtz … he was just a voice to me…”)

Now consider: is this ‘gravitate’ metaphor reliable? Do we or all organisms with a brain, ‘expect’ certain things? And finally, do we, and in what sense, do we “have access” to this expectation? (Since, as it stands right now, this gravitation — and thinking, and metaphysical philosophy itself — if it exists, would be purely ‘mechanical’, it does not require any ‘awareness’, as ‘have access’ suggests.) But *perhaps* we do — perhaps we have reflective access to our subconscious. There are many reasons for doubt however.

The existence question — Gravitation speaks of a certain emotional resonance at particular moments. Yet, on the other hand, there is the retrospective principle that says that *all* moments can be characterized by this feeling (eg, “awkwardness”?) That is, how do we know whether a feeling (which guarantees that moment) is genuine, or merely a retrospective contrivance? Yet I have a feeling that a lot of these feelings are ‘Hollywood inspired’ — I mean, having false memories / amneisa is pretty much a standard plot device.

And consider also that there may be very little difference between retrospection and anticipation, as long as it is ‘genuine’. Well, I mean, the difference is that retrospection is ‘reflective’, what I mean is that there is very little difference between memory and anticipation. This is actually a key difference however — the idea of retrospection as being *reflective*. What this means is that it gives us some *very narrow* room for manipulative freedom, some way of rewriting history while retaining that essential sense of honesty there, some way of intervention. But the figure here is that of an subtle adjustment rather than one of big bold ideas.

I have a few interim drafts here that deal with the difference between “horror” and “wakefulness”. (Incidentally, a few years ago, without realizing the full significance, I unsuccessfully proposed the word ‘morning horror’ to The idea here is that, despite the fact that they almost refer to the same sort of moment of insight, wakefulness refers to a mystical unity while horror refers to … something darker. Horror, I claimed, involved a non-transcending transformation, wakefulness involves a moment of transcendental understanding. (And certainly, what we often *call* horror would in fact, by this definition, be wakefulness, if that horror leads to a new way of life — well, its quite hard to be precise here.) The task of the historian is to make the subtle adjustment from wakefulness to horror.

(TBC: Thinking beyond paranoia and mnemonic overload, general forms of horror / wakefulness)


Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s