Matter and Memory is a work by Henri Bergson dealing with the question of memory and more particularly with the problem of the relationship between body and mind . It was first published in 1896 in Paris.
It constitutes an analysis of the classic problem of the union of soul and body. Its subtitle is Essay on the Relationship of Body to Spirit . In this context, the analysis of memory is a means to resolve this problem of the soul and the body. Matter and Memory is written in reaction to the book Diseases of memory by Théodule Ribotpublished in 1881. The latter maintains that the science of the brain proves that the memory is lodged in a part of the nervous system. The memory would be localized in the brain, it would therefore be material. Bergson is opposed to this reduction of mind to matter. He considers memory to be deeply spiritual. The brain is content to direct the memory towards the present action. The brain inserts memories into the present for action. The brain has a practical function. The body is the center of the action. Brain damage does not damage memory, nor does it damage memory. These lesions disrupt the practical function of the brain. Memories cannot be embodied. They still exist, but they are powerless. Indeed, the brain no longer fulfills its function, so we cannot use these memories.
Different forms of memory
Bergson in Matter and Memory distinguishes two forms of memory:
- Memory-habit : it replays the past, it repeats it. It is not recognized as past. It uses what has been learned from past action for present action. It is automatic. It is inscribed in the body, it is useful. Bergson takes the example of the lesson learned by heart: when I learn a lesson in verse, I recite it without thinking mechanically. This lesson has a certain duration when I recite it. This duration is regular. We can relate this memory to a know-how or, as its name suggests, to habit. “ It is habit informed by memory rather than memory itself. » In Matter and memory .
- Pure memory or memory-memory: it records the past in the form of “memory-image. It represents the past. The past is recognized as the past. It is contemplative and theoretical, it is free. It is deeply spiritual. It's real memory. Bergson takes the example of remembering the learning of the lesson learned by rote. It is a dated fact that I cannot recreate. Pure memory or recollection memory lets you know that the lesson was learned in the past and that it is not "innate." "
In his philosophy, Bergson accuses metaphysics of posing problems badly. Moreover, it is guilty of putting subsidiary or secondary problems before main problems. Bergson does not create the problems he poses. But he creates the way he poses them. Thus, each of its four main books addresses a specific problem. Descartes' problem in his definition of the soul and the body: these are two substances that have different attributes. His mistake is to define them as substances or “res. He doesn't distinguish them enough.
Bergson really distinguishes the soul and the body. Unlike the classical philosophy of Descartes, this distinction is not based on spatiality but on temporality . The soul is the place of the past and the body is the place of the present. The soul or spirit is always anchored in the past. She is not in the present. She contemplates the present by being lodged in the past. To be aware of something is to see it from the past, therefore in the light of the past. When we are content to react to a stimulusoutside, we are not aware of what we are doing. We are in the place of the body, that is to say in the present. All awareness involves a pause between stimulus and reaction. In this in-between, we become aware (knowing that the mind is anchored in the past). One becomes aware by being in the past and in the light of the past, with a view to an appropriate reaction in the near future. The articulation of time: past, present and future is made by the union of the soul and the body. The deeper the mind is in the past, the more we become aware. The more we are in automatism, the more we are in the present, in the time of the body. We are never more than one or the other. But we can be more in one or more in the other. Real attention requires acting with your whole body and soul. According to Bergson, the "impulsive person" suspends his consciousness and is in an automatism. She does not think. Thus, the problem of causality as free or determined is trained. It will be treated inCreative Evolution .