Nietzsche On Memory: Outline


Much more on this topic available in my free Ebook/iBook at:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/nietzsches-memory/id923848733?ls=1&mt=11

 

1 Thesis

Nietzsche has interesting and unusual insights into the nature of memory which I will elucidate and also use as a way in to an examination of many of his central projects. [The genesis of my interest is work on forgetfulness in Nietzsche, in relation to which he has unusual insights, seeing that it is active and positive, contrary to common and philosophical understanding. This alone suggests that his picture of memory will be of similar interest and import.]

2 Research Question

Part of my interest in this topic derives from the fact that this is not a well covered area: there are no Jstor papers with both `Nietzsche’ and `memory’ in the title. [There are though 197 papers which have `Nietzsche’ in the title and `memory’ in the text of which I have identified 31 as of special interest.] So there is not currently a major debate on exactly what account of memory Nietzsche gives. The papers which mention the topic do so on their way to further objectives; sometimes the discussion is quite substantial, as in [1]. The material I cover in S3.4 shows that Nietzsche has a special account of memory.

Many research questions could be derived from these discussions; each of the subsections of the following Overview section could do so, and this is derived from only a small selection of the interesting papers. For example, the evolution material in S3.4 could be seen as showing that Nietzsche has a poor understanding of Darwinian evolution in that he makes the Lamarckian error of believing that acquired characteristics can be inherited. I will claim however that if we understand Nietzsche’s view of memory correctly { for one thing, that there is a species of collective memory across times and persons { we can see that he has not made such an error. Indeed without such understanding, we will fail to understand his views. I will however use these various area of interest more as motivation of the central project: they are to be discussed without allowing them to sidetrack the central project of understanding what Nietzsche means by memory.

Nietzsche believes, in response to Aristotle’s slogan [`Man is the rational animal’], that man is the remembering animal. So memory is central to who he believes we are. This lends yet more importance to the project. As I discuss in S3.6, there are also links to other important doctrines of Nietzsche, such as the doctrine of eternal recurrence. Memory is the boundary condition between animal and human. Similarly, eternal recurrence (or accepting the thought thereof as a test of affirmatory strength) is the boundary condition between human and Ubermensch.

There are further links between memory and the doctrine beyond this similarity of roles in that some response must be given as to why we do not have a memory of previous lives if eternal recurrence is the case. [I remain interested in the general area of `useful errors’ in Nietzsche and elsewhere, and I will be looking for opportunities to extend the analysis into that type of area, but not at the expense of the main project. Similar remarks apply to the analysis of [2].]

3 Overview

3.1 Memory Created Via Pain And Punishment

◊ Memory is created by pain experienced in prehistory: ` “One burns something in so that it remains in one’s memory: only what does not cease to give pain remains in one’s memory” ‘ [3, II.3, orig. emph.]

◊ It seems that `one’ does the burning to `oneself’, in tension with the understanding where The Masters punish The Slaves

◊ This is a reference to ressentiment { the masters need only punish some for the others to punish themselves. [Deleuze [4, p. 108] notes that Nietzsche describes the memory of the man of ressentiment as like a `festering wound’, [5, `Ecce Homo’, I.6] used mostly to record injustices and sufferings.]

◊ Keeping image of terrible punishments in mind permits negative promises of waiving rights to natural violence to be made

◊ “With the help of such images and processes one finally retains in memory five, six \I will nots,” in connection with which one has given one’s promise within the advantages of society,– and truly! with the help of this kind of memory one finally came to reason […] mastery over the affects.” [3, II.3]

◊ The apparent strangeness of feeling indebtedness to ancestors may be compared with the odd way in which moderns feel themselves bound by Acts of Parliament passed in the 19th century — despite the fact that all of the legislators and electors of that era are long-dead:

◊ “Calling to mind these contract relationships admittedly awakens various kinds of suspicion and resistance towards the earlier humanity […] Precisely here are promises made; precisely here it is a matter of making a memory for the one who promises”. [3, II.5, orig. emph.]

◊ Richardson [6, p. 541] suggests we “[c]onsider his famous account in [3, Part II] how a \memory” was \burned into” pre-civilized humans: this memory is fixed not by selection of those who can remember, but by the acquisition of pain-associations that are inheritable”

◊ Clearly we cannot remember actual events in prehistory. But Nietzsche thinks we can inherit the capacities to feel guilt, to expect punishment

◊ Those individuals who evolve memory will be selected because it provides them with a mechanism that enables them to live in social groups — but see `Evolution’ below

◊ Memory is intimately linked to the use of violence to enforce conformity — branding both literally and figuratively the obligations of humans to each other in early society

3.2 Indebtedness, Society, (False) Belief In A Continuing Self

◊ Indebtedness predates and produces our memory

◊ Memory is a prerequisite for indebtedness; and pain and punishment are used to create memory when debt have not been repaid

◊ Persisting personal identity is also necessary; without that — and without remembering who I used to be — I will not repay my debts because I will not recognize the previous individual as myself. [Hales [7, p. 832], in the course of arguing that logic is a `useful error’ for Nietzsche, notes that Nietzsche sees indebtedness as being responsible for “instilling memory in humanity”. He also argues that Nietzsche sees persistence of identity as an illusion; if so, then it would be another `useful error’.]

◊ Thus through memory we create ourselves; Nietzsche also believes we map this onto objects thus creating them where there is only flux

◊ Memory is instrumental in the construction of community values

◊ Memory created by punishment, the pain-avoidance behavior thereby inculcated can be remembered and inherited

◊ It remains only for The Masters to set punishments for certain forbidden actions so as to promote harmonious society; released prisoners have `paid their debt to society’ [7See Aspers [8, p. 483] for this point.]

◊ There is also a sense of inter generational repayment owed; note that `debt’ and `guilt’ are the same word in German (die Schuld)

◊ Society considers that it is in the debt of its founders, who have selflessly invested the time and effort needed to create the society and allow the `benefits’ thereof to flow to its members.

◊ And then these `benefits’ can be spread to others outside the initial boundaries of the proto-state by means of war and conflict

◊ War is one means of repayment of the inter-generational debt. [Gambino [9, p. 421] discusses this variety of repayment, and also includes war as one of the methods of repaying the ancestral founders of society. He also identifies the sense of inter-generational debt with collective memory.]

3.3 Religion, Pain, State

◊ Suffering in religion a result of an unredeemable debt to the creator — the ultimate `redeemer’

◊ Religion is one chosen tool of the authorities, which suggests that The Priests are here allied with The Masters

◊ Aspers [8, p. 487]: \[b]y using the collective narratives of religion, a community can create and maintain customs by punishment. This is also the way memory is maintained, and the reason why those in power can impose certain customs on other members of society”

◊ So there is also a role for collective memory in the production of political and social stability

◊ Contrast between fragile poetic memory, which would also not clearly serve the needs of the state, and what might be termed coerced collective memory employed as a means of state repression. [Gambino [9] observes this contrast between memory types while arguing that the ancient Greek state needed memory to add mythology to violence and create stability.]

◊ Gambino [9, p. 429] links Dionysian instincts to memory and the state via observing that the cult-driven liberation of the individual asks the question as to legitimacy of the origins of the state

The Dionysian was linked not only to forgetfulness, but to the restoration of memory: it recalled the deeply concealed truth about the criminal origins of the state and thus stirred up feelings of guilt”
From this perspective, political memory becomes the memory of guilt and politics an ultimately futile attempt for redemption”

3.4 Evolution, Cultural Memory, Memes

“There are analogies, for instance our memory may suggest another memory, which makes itself felt in heredity, development and forms. Our inventive and experimentative powers suggest another kind of inventiveness in the applications of instruments to new ends etc”. [See WP646 (1885) [10]. NB Nachlass citations are to be used with care.]

◊ Two kinds of inventiveness: of new tools and then of new uses for them

◊ Two kinds of memory: ordinary and one with new uses invented for it

◊ Only past fitness can explain the current presence of something (cultural, conceptual, moral, physiological, valuational…) { also errors because truth subordinated to usefulness, and there are useful lies

◊ It is always difficult to disentangle Nietzsche’s pro and con attitudes. [11Richardson [6] sees antipathy in Nietzsche as sympathy. Hales [7, p. 820] goes so far as to describe “an apparent obliteration of a position, followed by withdrawal to partly embrace it” as being Nietzsche’s “favorite rhetorical style”, supplying several examples.]

◊ Nietzsche sees Darwinism as `true but deadly’ though his understanding is poor; development of the individual is important, not species survival. [This point is made by Aspers [8, p. 478] who also states that Nietzsche `in no way’ adheres to Darwin’s theories.]

◊ Clear parallels to Dawkins’s [11] idea of memes, being the cultural equivalent of genes

3.5 Value Of Memory

◊ Nietzsche sees both value and disvalue in memory

◊ Positive value derives from the way that memory permits the making of promises and the resolve that can come from fixity of willing

◊ The disvalue comes from its role in inhibiting action. [We learn in [12, `On The Uses And Disadvantages Of History For Life’] how an excess of historical sense is overwhelming and paralyzing.]

◊ The health of a people depends on its ability to x “limits to the memory of the past;”[Gambino at [9, p. 438] cites [12, `On The Uses And Disadvantages Of History For Life’, S7] in this connection.]

◊ Inversion of the common understanding in which memory is an active force with forgetfulness its failure: forgetfulness on the contrary is the healthy drive which allows action and memory a paralyzing lapse

◊ Only the strong need memory for only they will be permitted to make promises: “this necessarily forgetful animal in whom forgetting represents a force, a form of strong health, has now bred in itself an opposite faculty, a memory, with whose help forgetfulness is disconnected for certain cases, namely for those cases where a promise is to be made”[3, II.1, orig. emph.]

◊ Memory of the promise actively retained, unlike passive absorption or inscription upon the weak of adventitious events; these last cannot be actively recorded since they do not have their cause within us

◊ But generally, memory is to be considered with consciousness as being essentially reactive, in contrast with being active. [Deleuze [4, p. 38] claims that consciousness and memory are essentially reactive, by which he means they do nothing which is not in some way a response to the environment. He supports this claim by noting that it explains why we cannot know what consciousness or memory are capable of, since we cannot specify current or future environments.]

3.6 Links To Other Themes In Nietzsche

◊ Loeb [1] draws parallels between GM [3] and Z [13] using memory

◊ GM: conscience allowed emergence of human animals from animals; this occurred by the use of memory which granted `power’ over time

◊ Z: calls for the Ubermensch to emerge from humanity as the next step; the thought of eternal recurrence is to grant humans the necessary and parallel power over time

◊ Loeb notes Nietzsche’s claim that all his later works including GM are `fish hooks’ to draw readers to Z, which contains his most important ideas

◊ If this is true, then understanding memory in Nietzsche is the key to understanding what he means by the doctrines he himself regards as his most important

◊ Loeb: `memory is made possible by society and its morality of custom’; so memory key to Nietzsche’s ethical project: revaluation of all values

References

[1] P. S. Loeb, \Finding the Ubermensch in nietzsche’s genealogy of morality,” Journal of Nietzsche Studies, no. 30, pp. pp. 70{101, 2005.

[2] B. Williams, Truth & truthfulness: an essay in genealogy. Princeton University Press, 2004.

[3] F. Nietzsche, M. Clark, and A. Swensen, On the genealogy of morality: a polemic. Hackett Classics, Hackett Pub. Co., 1998.

[4] G. Deleuze, Nietzsche and philosophy. Continuum impacts, Continuum, 2006.

[5] F. Nietzsche, A. Ridley, and J. Norman, The Anti-Christ, Ecce homo, Twilight of the idols, and other writings:. Cambridge texts in the history of philosophy, Cambridge University Press, 2005.

[6] J. Richardson, \Nietzsche contra darwin,” Philosophy and Phenomenological
Research, vol. 65, no. 3, pp. pp. 537{575, 2002.

[7] S. D. Hales, \Nietzsche on logic,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, vol. 56, no. 4, pp. pp. 819{835, 1996.

[8] P. Aspers, \Nietzsche’s sociology,” Sociological Forum, vol. 22, no. 4, pp. pp. 474{499, 2007.

[9] G. Gambino, \Nietzsche and the greeks: Identity, politics, and tragedy,” Polity, vol. 28, no. 4, pp. pp. 415{444, 1996.

[10] F. Nietzsche and A. Ludovici, The will to power: an attempted transvaluation of all values. No. v. 2 in Complete works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Gordon Press, 1974.

[11] R. Dawkins, The selsh gene. Oxford University Press, 2006.

[12] F. W. Nietzsche and R. J. Hollingdale, Untimely meditations / Friedrich Nietzsche ; translated by R.J. Hollingdale ; with an introduction by J.P. Stern. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge [Cambridgeshire] ; New York :, 1983.

[13] F. Nietzsche and R. Hollingdale, Thus spoke Zarathustra: a book for everyone and no one. Penguin classics, Penguin Books, 1961.

Author: Tim Short

I went to Imperial College in 1988 for a BSc(hons) in Physics. I then went back to my hometown, Bristol, for a PhD in Particle Physics. This was written in 1992 on the ZEUS experiment which was located at the HERA accelerator in Hamburg (http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1354624/). I spent the next four years as a post-doc in Hamburg. I learned German and developed a fondness for the language and people. I spent a couple of years doing technical sales for a US computer company in Ireland. In 1997, I returned to London to become an investment banker, joining the legendary Principal Finance Group at Nomura. After a spell at Paribas, I moved to Credit Suisse First Boston. I specialized in securitization, leading over €9bn of transactions. My interest in philosophy began in 2006, when I read David Chalmers's "The Conscious Mind." My reaction, apart from fascination, was "he has to be wrong, but I can't see why"! I then became an undergraduate in Philosophy at UCL in 2007. In 2010, I was admitted to graduate school, also at UCL. I wrote my Master's on the topic of "Nietzsche on Memory" (http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1421265/). Also during this time, I published a popular article on Sherlock Holmes (http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1430371/2/194-1429-1-PB.pdf). I then began work on the Simulation Theory account of Theory of Mind. This led to my second PhD on philosophical aspects of that topic; this was awarded by UCL in March 2016 (http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1475972/ -- currently embargoed for copyright reasons). The psychological version of this work formed my book "Simulation Theory". My second book, "The Psychology Of Successful Trading: Behavioural Strategies For Profitability" is in production at Taylor and Francis and will be published in December 2017. It will discuss how cognitive biases affect investment decisions and how knowing this can make us better traders by understanding ourselves and other market participants more fully. I am currently drafting my third book, wherein I will return to more purely academic philosophical psychology, on "Theory of Mind in Abnormal Psychology." Education: I have five degrees, two in physics and three in philosophy. Areas of Research / Professional Expertise: Particle physics, Monte Carlo simulation, Nietzsche (especially psychological topics), phenomenology, Theory of Mind, Simulation Theory Personal Interests: I am a bit of an opera fanatic and I often attend wine tastings. I follow current affairs, especially in their economic aspect. I started as a beginner at the London Piano Institute in August 2015 and passed Grade Two in November 2017!

3 thoughts on “Nietzsche On Memory: Outline”

  1. Wow this is amazing! Great research!

    Something that has always tripped me up, has been Nietzsche’s relationship to memory and his thoughts on the Eternal Recurrence… it seems to leave no room for forgetting.

    Like

    1. Hi. Glad you liked it. I will be doing a lot more on this as I am going to write a Master’s thesis on this topic, so watch this space!

      The key point about forgetting is that it is active while memory is like an illness or indigestion to some extent…in some aspects…

      Like

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