Categories
philosophy

Kids Are Robots

Introduction

No one believes that kids are robots but I will show in this post that they are.

Photo by Matan Segev on Pexels.com

Context For The Kids Are Robots Claim

Lewis [Lewis(1995)] accepts what might be termed the `standard model’ of emotions. That model holds that there are six basic primary emotions. These are the familiar emotions such as fear or sadness which are not complex in that they are not self-referential. There are in addition more complex emotions including shame which are held by Lewis to be self-referential, meaning that in order to experience that emotion, I must be able to introspect — to take myself as an object — which clearly `require[s] the concept of self’. Lewis holds that this ability to represent oneself to oneself becomes available `from around 18 months of age’.

Zahavi challenges Lewis’s claim that the complex emotions are necessarily self-referential. However, the challenge fails, as I will now outline. He notes that Lewis holds that mental states only become conscious when they are objects of introspection. Zahavi asserts that this commits Lewis to the `absurd’ consequence that animals and infants lack phenomenal experience.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/286525115_Dan_Zahavi_Self_and_Other_Exploring_Subjectivity_Empathy_and_Shame

But we can question Zahavi’s assertion. Lewis needs that further claim if the assumption is that phenomenal experience requires mental states to be available. They would need to be available to be taken as objects of introspection. That assumption is not indefensible, but it certainly needs defending.

However, an even stronger response is available to Lewis: he need not attack that assumption. He could instead allow it. Then he could argue that the consequence that animals and infants lack phenomenal experience is not absurd. He could accept that kids are robots. I will support this claim with two arguments, from anthropomorphism and evolution.

Anthropomorphism

It is well-known that humans are remarkably prone to anthropomorphism. We tend to explain the behavior of even inanimate objects by projecting on to them emotions, knowledge, intentional states. In short, we project all the precursors of phenomenal experience.

So the refusal to ascribe phenomenal experience to animals and infants is not absurd; it is on the contrary wise. People see nothing wrong in making remarks about a chess-playing computer such as “it sees the threat and now it wants to castle.” They would go further and refer to the computer as `she’, if it had a female name.

There is a science fiction short story bearing this out. I will outline the story next. However, since in fact nowadays we have robot vacuum cleaners, we don’t need the story. I can confirm that everything in the story is what happens if you buy a robot vacuum cleaner. We call ours Reggie.

A Sci-Fi Illustration Showing That Kids Are Robots

The story concerns an observer, an engineer and a device he has built. The engineer has built a fairly simple small robot. It might look something like a vacuum cleaner of the type that rolls along the floor. The engineer has given this device some characteristics. It emits a series of somewhat anxious beeps as it scurries around, looking for a power source. Once it finds one, it extends a proboscis into the socket and contentedly hums as it draws power. Once sated, its lights brighten, the beeping ceases and the device moves off about its business, more quickly than before.

At this point, the engineer invites the observer to smash the device with a hammer. We and the observer greet this suggestion with horror. This is because we are convinced that the device has phenomenal experience. It is not adequate to object that this reaction occurs because we are reluctant to destroy property. The engineer is the one making the request.

The engineer could show us other examples of the device. He could demonstrate its construction and make it clear in all ways that it is just a machine. None of that changes our hardwired animist response. We consider almost everything in the world to be like us and therefore to be protected.

These tendencies are all the more liable to become engaged with animals (`Fido understands everything you say!’), and infants. Your reaction was perhaps short of horror. Perhaps it was reluctance. Even then, your options are to accept my claim or produce an explanation which does not rely on respect for property.

The Ease Of Anthropomorphism

Consider the plethora of anthropomorphic elements to the description I gave of the story. Was it strange or jarring when I described the device’s behavior as `anxious’ or `contented’ or was it entirely natural? This illusion is as potent as the Muller-Lyer illusion and works in the same way. We know that X is the case yet we perceive that not-X.

The conclusion in both cases must be to rely on what we know rather than what we perceive. We should require extraordinary evidence that any entities have phenomenal experience in view of our well-known promiscuous habits of painting it on to the world.

Finally, Nagel [Nagel(1974)] has argued convincingly that we cannot know what it is like to be another creature because we could not even aim for that target. The aim of imagining what it would be like to be a bat is approached by imagining ourselves with some or all of our characteristics and modes of perception removed and some or all of the corresponding items for bats added.

This is simply not the right target, which remains forever closed to us. The target is past an impenetrable barrier in cognitive space. It is no different to the one which prevents us from imagining life as a thermostat.

This argument of course does not show that bats do not have phenomenal experience. But it does show that we could not know if they did, thus greatly reducing the import of an argument relying on it being absurd that they do not.

If kids are robots, we would still think they are people.

Evolution

All animals are subject to evolutionary pressure and experience extreme competitive stress in terms of energy budgets. This is true in terms of both physical and mental characteristics. Kaplan notes that

`individuals must live within finite energy budgets […] never spending more than they have available’.

Allocation of a finite budget entails trade-offs and hence forces decisions about the relative value of possible ways to spend.’ [Buss(2005), pp. 68-95] This budget must be expended also for mental characteristics:

`psychological adaptations are some of what humans have been selected to invest in, at an expense’.

[Buss(2005), p. 69]

Not only that, but the brain uses a lot of resource in mammals in general and humans in particular. In fact, the amount of energy a mammal obtains directly controls the size of brain it can “afford.” One citation on that is due to Hofman:

`adult brain size of mammals is a function of two major components: the animal’s rate of energy consumption and the evolutionary level of brain development’.

[Hofman(1983), pp. 495-512]

A larger brain is more complex, more expensive and more capable of providing or supporting more complex experience. That could include phenomenal experience.

No evolved individual uses energy and resources unnecessarily, where `unnecessary’ means in a way not promoting fitness. It is much less resource-intensive to simulate phenomenal experience than to have it. Actually having it achieves nothing. Simulating it produces immense benefits in terms of fitness. Human infants are not viable alone and require the support of adults. They can do this by simulation of simple phenomenal experience. And that simulation can be done by very straightforward heuristics. If kids are robots, they could still do it.

Crying Doesn’t Deny That Kids Are Robots

When hungry, it is important for infants that they make a noise which leads an adult to supply food. It is not important that there is `something it is like’ for them to feel hungry. Simple heuristics explain actual behavior and apparent phenomenal experience in infants and animals. Those denying that would have to attribute phenomenal experience to spiders. And they would have to say that sugar-eating bacteria `want’ to climb the sugar gradient.

Or they would need to conduct a difficult line-drawing exercise. They would need to discriminate similar organisms from each other. That is: two organism which have minor differences in cognitive abilities and yet major shifts in phenomenal experience. We may assume that the latter is a binary capacity.

Phenomenal Experience Is Expensive

One may object here by asking why, if phenomenal experience is so expensive, adult humans have it. This is of course too large a question to be addressed here. The topic has been widely considered, with questions ranging from `[h]ow could a physical system such as a brain also be an experiencer’ [Chalmers(1997)] to `what good is consciousness?’. [Dretske(1997)]

I will offer two observations, One: if we have it, it must be useful. Two: phenomenal experience could add fitness benefits. Those benefits could go beyond possession of correct information. Perhaps phenomenal experience makes it more likely that we will act on the information.

It is not an objection to i). to say that it would also be true of infants. In fact it is precisely my point that this is not the case. Infants do not need to do anything apart from make a noise when hungry.

Adults are not so simple. Dretske asks why we have phenomenal experience in relation to observation of sexually available members of the opposite sex. The key fitness benefit would be derived from the mere knowledge that they were so. If there is something it is like to know that, viz. pleasant and stimulating, then we could be more highly motivated to pursue the opportunity. Analogs of that argument may be run across all pleasurable activities. The same goes for unpleasant experiences.

Remaining with infants, what is needed to achieve their objectives when they cry? That it be unpleasant enough for the adults in earshot that they respond rapidly. What is not needed? Phenomenal experience in the infants.

Conclusions

So there are compelling reasons why we should choose the simplest explanation. No phenomenal experience exists in infants and animals.

We avoid the tendency to ascribe phenomenal experience widely and wrongly. Also, we avoid the claim that infants have a useless and highly expensive capacity. Thus we also avoid being on the wrong side of the theory of evolution. Finally, we may also note that none of us have convincing memories of undergoing phenomenal experience as infants.

See Also:

What Ontological Conclusions Does Sartre Present In His ‘Pursuit Of Being’ And With What Justification?

Are We Allowed To Follow Our Personal Aims? Nagel says Maybe

Nietzsche’s On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense: Summary

Shame vs Embarrassment: The Distinction In The Literature

References

[Buss(2005)] Buss, D. (2005). The handbook of evolutionary psychology. (John Wiley & Sons).

[Chalmers(1997)] Chalmers, D. (1997). The conscious mind: in search of a fundamental theory. Philosophy of Mind Series. (Oxford University Press).

[Dretske(1997)] Dretske, F. (1997). What good is consciousness? Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 27, 1-15.

[Hofman(1983)] Hofman, M. A. (1983). Energy metabolism, brain size and longevity in mammals. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 58, pp. 495-512.

[Lewis(1995)] Lewis, M. (1995). Shame: The Exposed Self. (Free Press).

[Nagel(1974)] Nagel, T. (1974). What is it like to be a bat? The Philosophical Review, 83, pp. 435-450.

[Zahavi(2010)] Zahavi, D. (2010). Shame and the exposed self. In Reading Sartre: On Phenomenology and Existentialism. (Routledge).

Categories
philosophy

The Motor Theory Of Speech Perception

Introduction

The Motor Theory of Speech Perception is an account of how we understand speech. Mole has raised some objections to it. I shall support the Motor Theory by providing responses to those objections.

Our speech perception functions very well even in conditions where the signal is of poor quality. These abilities are markedly better than our perception of non-speech sounds. For example, you can fairly easily pick out words. You can do that even against a background of intense, and louder, traffic noise. This fact makes it seem  that there is a special nature to speech perception as compared to perception of non-speech sounds.

The Motor Theory of Speech Perception (Liberman and Mattingly 1985) seeks to explain this special nature of speech perception. The idea is that the mechanical and neural elements for production of speech are also used for perception of speech.  

On this view, speech perception is the offline running of the systems that when online, actually produce speech. According to the Motor Theory, motor activation are also occurring when perception of speech takes place. Motor activations are micro-movements of mouth and tongue muscles or preparations thereto.

You might make subliminal movements of the type you would make to produce an `S’ sound. Then you are thereby well-placed to understand that someone else whom you see making such movements is likely to be producing an `S’ sound. This is how we understand one another’s speech so well.  And so it is key to the Motor Theory of Speech Perception that speech perception is special.

Analogies Between Simulation Theory and The Motor Theory of Speech Perception

In some ways, the position of the Motor Theory in explaining speech perception is analogous to the position of Simulation Theory (see Short, 2015). Simulation Theory seeks to explain how we are often able to predict and explain the behaviour of other people (so-called Theory of Mind).

In both cases, the account seeks to generate a maximally powerful explanation of the phenomenon using the minimum of additional “moving parts”.  The Motor Theory notes that we already have complicated machinery to allow us to produce speech. The theory says we also use that complicated machinery to understand speech.

The Simulation Theory account of Theory of Mind notes that we already have an immensely complex piece of machinery – a mind. It postulates that we may also use that mind to simulate others and thus understand them.  I see value in these parsimonious and economical simulation approaches in both areas.

The Mole Objections to the Motor Theory of Speech Perception

Mole (Ch. 10, 2010) challenges the Motor Theory.  He agrees that speech perception is special. But he does not agree that it is special in such a way as to support the Motor Theory.  In this article, I will offer responses on behalf of the Motor Theory to Mole’s (2010) challenge in five ways.

Speech Perception Is Special

Mole (2010) claims that speech perception is not special.  If that is true, then the Motor Theory cannot succeed because it proceeds from that assumption.  I will first deny Mole’s (2010) claim that other perception also involves mapping from multiple percepts to the same meaning and is therefore not unique to speech perception. Taking an example from speech, we always understand the name “Sherlock” to refer to that detective. That’s true even though someone says it in a myriad of different ways.  

This phenomenon is invariance.  Mole (2010) claims that there is nothing special about speech perception. Other types of perception (such as colour perception) also involve mapping from multiple external sources of perceptual data to the same single percept. I will show that the example from visual perception invoked by Mole (2010) is not of the correct type. The example does not dismiss the need for a special explanation of speech perception provided by the Motor Theory.

Special Invariance in Speech Perception

Mole (2010) makes another challenge to the idea that underpins the Motor Theory that there is a special invariance in speech perception.  This special invariance is the way that we always understand “Sherlock” to refer to the detective. That’s true whichever accent the speaker has. Or whatever the background noise level is (provided of course that we can actually hear the name).  Mole (2010) claims that invariances in speech perception are not special as similar invariances also occur in face recognition.  Mole (2010) seeks to make out his face recognition point by discussing how computers perform face recognition;  I will show that he does not succeed here.

McGurk Data Provide the Wrong Cross-Talk

The famous McGurk experiment describes “cross-talk” effects. Visual and aural stimuli interact with each other and change how we perceive them.  For example, subjects seeing a video of someone saying “ga” but hearing a recording of someone saying “ba” report that they heard “da.”  Since the Motor Theory postulates that speech perception is special, such cross-talk effects will support the Motor Theory if they are in fact special to speech perception.  Mole (2010) uses cross-modal data from two experiments with the aim of showing that such cross-talk also exists in non-speech perception.  I will suggest that the experiments Mole (2010) cites do not provide evidence for the sort of cross-talk phenomenon that Mole (2010) needs to support his position.

People Who Can’t Speak Can Understand Speech

My account refutes Mole’s (2010) claim that Motor Theory cannot account for how persons who cannot speak can nevertheless understand speech. I will outline how that could occur.

Other Problems for Mole

Finally, I will briefly consider a range of additional data that support the Motor Theory. These therefore challenge the position espoused by Mole (2010).  These are that the the Motor Theory explains all three of the following conundrum. Firstly, cerebellar involvement in dyslexia. Secondly, observed links between speech production and perception in infants. Thirdly why neural stimulation of speech production areas enhances speech perception.

Challenges To Mole (2010)

Mole’s (2010) Counterexample From Visual Perception Is Disanalogous To Speech Perception

A phoneme is a single unit of speech.  A phoneme is approximately the aural equivalent of a syllable.  Any single phoneme is understood by the listener. This is despite the fact that many different sound patterns associated with it.  It is clearly a very useful ability of people to be able to ignore details about pitch, intensity and accent. They focus purely on the phonemes which convey meaning.  This invariance is a feature of speech perception but not of sound perception. That situation motivated the proposal of the Motor Theory.

Invariances

It is important to be clear on where there is invariance and where there is lack of invariance in perception.  There is invariance in the item which the perceiver perceives (for example, Sherlock). This is even though there is a lack of invariance in the perceptual data that allows the perceiver to have the perception.  

So we can see that it is Sherlock’s face (an invariance in what is understood) even though the face may be seen from different angles (a lack of invariance in perceptual input).  Similarly, we may hear that Sherlock’s name is spoken (an invariance in what we understand) even though the name may be spoken in different accents (a lack of invariance in perceptual input).   Lack of invariance is of course the same as variance.

For supporters of the Motor Theory, this invariance in what the listener reports that they have heard is evidence that the perceptual object in speech perception is a single gesture. In fact, the one phoneme that the speaker intended to pronounce.  We report this single object despite the fact that the speaker pronounces the phoneme in a wide variety of accents.  The accents can vary a great deal. There is still invariance in what the speaker understands.

Mole (2010) denies that this invariance is evidence for the special nature of speech.  Mole (p.217, 2010) writes: “[e]ven if speech were processed in an entirely non-special way, one would not expect there to be an invariant relationship between […] properties of speech sounds […] and phonemes heard for we do not […] expect perceptual categories to map onto simple features of stimuli in a one-to-one fashion.”

Mappings

Mole’s (2010) argument is as follows.  He allows that there is not a one-to-one mapping between stimulus and perceived phoneme in speech perception.  I will also concede this.  Mole (2010) then denies that this means that speech perception is special. His grounds are that there is not in general a one-to-one mapping between stimulus and percept in perception (other than in speech). 

He produces a putative example in vision, by noting the existence of `metamers’.  A metamer is one of two colours of slightly different wavelengths that are nevertheless perceived as the same colour.  Colour is defined here by wavelength rather than phenomenology. 

Mole (2010) has indeed produced a further example of a situation where there is not a one-to-one mapping between stimulus and percept.  However, this lack of one-to-one mapping is not exactly what causes the special nature of speech perception under the Motor Theory. Rather the relevant phenomenon is ‘co-articulation.’ That is, the way in which we are generally articulating more than one phoneme at a time.

Coarticulation

As Liberman and Mattingly write (1985, p. 4), “coarticulation means that the changing shape of the vocal tract, and hence the resulting signal, is influenced by several gestures at the same time” so the “relation between gesture and signal […] is systematic in a way that is peculiar to speech”.  So while it is indeed the case that multiple stimuli are presented which result in a single percept, it is the temporal overlap between those stimuli that is the key factor. It is not the mere fact of their multiplicity.  In other words, the Motor Theory argument relies on the fact that a speaker is pronouncing more than one phoneme at a time during overlap periods.

Disanalogy of Metamer Example

This means that Mole’s (2010) metamer example is disanalogous. It only deals with the multiplicity of the stimuli in the mapping and not with their temporal overlap.  This is the case because there cannot in fact be a temporal overlap between two colour stimuli.  We can see this using a thought experiment.  Let us imagine a lighting rig that is capable of projecting any number of arbitrary colours. Also it can project more than one colour at the same time.

In that case, we could not say that the perception of a colour projected at a particular time was changed by the other colours projected with it.  That situation would simply be the projection of a different colour.  So a projection of red light with green light does not produce a modified red, it produces yellow light.  It is not possible to have a “modified red,” because such a thing is not red any more.  The rig would not be projecting a different sort of red; it would be projecting a different colour that was no longer red.

Using Hearing as an Example

I will illustrate this further with an example from a different sensory modality: hearing.  The position I am taking about red (more exactly, an precise shade of red) is essentialist.  On essentialist accounts, some properties of an item can change. Change will result in a modified version of that item. Other properties, the essential ones, cannot change without the original item losing its identity.

For example, some properties of an opera are essential to it being an opera.  By definition, it is symphonic music with singing.  A symphony requires only the musical instruments.  Some properties of an opera can change and this will result in a modified opera.  One could replace the glass harmonica scored for the Mad Scene in Lucia di Lammermoor with flute.  One would then have a performance of a modified version of Lucia. It would be a modified opera and would still be an opera.

What one could not do is change an opera into a symphony, strictly speaking.  There could be a performance of the first act of Lucia as normal. One would be watching a performance of an opera.  If in the second act the musicians came out and played without the singers, one would not have converted an opera into a symphony.  One would have ceased to perform an opera and begun to perform a symphony. Albeit, it would be one musically identical to the non-vocal parts of Lucia.

An Imaginary Lighting Rig

Returning to the lighting rig, we cannot say here that yellow is a modified red. If we did, we would abandon any meaning for separate colour terms altogether. Every colour would be a modified version of every other colour.  This impossible lighting rig is what Mole (2010) needs to cite to have a genuine example. It would require the projection of multiple stimuli at the same time. It would result in activation of the same perceptual category.

In sum, a metamer is an example where there is no one-to-one mapping between stimulus and perceptual category. Also, the different stimuli are not simultaneous.  This is the case because we cannot be looking at both colours involved in a metamer at the same time.  

A co-articulation by contrast is an example of where there is no one-to-one mapping between stimulus and perceptual category, but where the different stimuli are indeed simultaneous. As it is that very simultaneity that is the key to the special nature of the systematic relation between gesture and signal under the Motor Theory, Mole (2010) does not have an example here that demonstrates that speech perception is not special.

Face Recognition Does Not Show A Similar Sort of Invariance Of Perception As Speech Recognition

Mole (2010) claims that face recognition is another example of invariance. For example, we can recognise that we are looking at Sherlock’s face from various angles and under different lighting conditions. This challenges the idea that invariance in speech perception is evidence for the special nature of speech perception.  His claim is that the invariance lies in the way we can always report that we are looking at Sherlock’s face. That occurs despite variance in input visual data. This he claims is similar to the invariance in the way that we can always report we have heard Sherlock’s name despite variance in input aural data.  If that is true, then Mole (2010) has succeeded in showing that speech perception is not special as the Motor Theory claims.

Mole (2010) allows that we use invariances in face recognition. He denies though this is explicable by examination of retinal data.  He writes: “[t]he invariances which one exploits in face recognition are at such a high level of description that if one were trying to work out how it was done given a moment-by-moment mathematical description of the retinal array, it might well appear impossible” (Nudds and O’Callaghan 2010, p. 216).  What this means is that it would be difficult to get from the retinal array (displaying a great deal of lack of invariance) to the features we use in recognising Sherlock. Those features would include for example our idea of the shape of his nose (which is quite invariant).

A Response to The Mole Objection

However, we can question this as follows.  Since the only thing that computers can do in terms of accepting data is to read in a mathematical array, Mole’s (2010) claim is in fact equivalent to the claim that we cannot see how computers can perform face recognition.  That claim is false.  To be very fair to Mole (2010), his precise claim is that the task might appear impossible. But I shall now show that since it is widely understood to be possible, it should not appear impossible either.

Computers Can “Recognize” Faces

Fraser et al. (2003) describe an algorithm that performs the face recognition task better than the best algorithm in a ‘reference suite’ of such algorithms. 

Their computer sees a gallery of pictures of faces and a target face. It’s instructions are to sort the gallery such that the target face is near the top.  The authors report that their algorithm is highly successful at performing this task.  Fraser et al. write (2003, p. 836): “[w]e tested our techniques by applying them to a face recognition task and found that they reduce the error rate by more than 20% (from an error rate of 26.7% to an error rate of 20.6%)”.  So the computer recognized the target face around 80% of the time.

So we see firstly that the computer can recognize a face.  [It is not an objection here to claim that strictly speaking, computers cannot `recognise’ anything.  All that we require here is that computers can be programmed so as to distinguish faces from one another merely by processing visual input.  It is this task which Mole (2010) claims appears impossible.]  Then we turn to the claim that how the computer does this is incomprehensible.  The entire paper, which discusses exactly that topic at length, refutes this. We can take it that such understanding is widely to hand in computational circles.

Efficiency

It may be true in one sense that we could not efficiently perform the same feat as the computer. We could not physically take the mathematical data representing the retinal array and explicitly manipulate it in a sequence of complex ways in order to perform the face recognition task.  In another sense, we could, of course. It is what we do every time we actually recognize a face.  The mechanics of our eyes and the functioning of our perceptual processing system have the effect of performing those same mathematical manipulations.  We know this because we do in fact perform face recognition using only the retinal array as input data.

What Mole Has Provided

Mole (2010) has indeed provided an example of invariance (i.e., in face recognition). However, the example does not damage the need for a special explanation of the speech perception invariances. The face perception example is in fact easily explicable.  Therefore Mole (2010) has not here provided a further example of a invariance. He has not thereby questioned the specialness of speech perception.  Speech perception continues indeed to exhibit a unique invariance which continues to appear in need of unique explanation.

Experimental Data Do Not Show Cross-Modal Fusion 

Cello Experiment

Mole (2010) argues that an experiment on judgments made as to whether a cello was bowed or plucked shows the same illusory optical/acoustic combinations as the McGurk effect. 

The McGurk effect (McGurk and MacDonald 1976) involves subjects hearing a /ba/ stimulus and seeing a /ga/ stimulus.  The subjects report that they have perceived a /da/ stimulus. This is not one of the stimuli; it is a fusion or averaging of the two stimuli.  So an optical stimulus and and an acoustical stimulus have combined. Together, they produce an illusory result which is neither of them.

If Mole’s (2010) claim that the cello experiment shows McGurk-like effects is true, this would show that these illusory effects are not special to speech. This would challenge the claim that there is anything special about speech that the Motor Theory can explain.  

Mole (p. 221, 2010) writes: “judgments of whether a cello sounds like it is being plucked or bowed are subject to McGurk-like interference from visual stimuli”.  However, the data Mole (2010) cites do not show the same type of illusory combination. So Mole (2010) is unable to discharge the specialness of speech perception as he intends.

Gestures

The Motor Theory postulates that the gesture intended by the speaker is the object of the perception. The object is not the acoustical signal produced.  The theory explains this by also postulating a psychological gesture recognition module. This will make use of the speech production capacities in performing speech perception tasks.  Thus the McGurk effect constitutes strong evidence for the Motor Theory. It explains that the module considers optical and acoustical inputs in deciding what gestur the speaker intends.

This strong evidence would be weakened if Mole (2010) can show that McGurk-like effects occur other than in speech perception. The proponents of the Motor Theory would then be committed to the existence of multiple modules. Their original motivation by the observed specialness of speech would be put in question, in fact as in the McGurk effect.

McGurk Data

The paper Mole (2010) cites, Saldaña and Rosenblum (1993), describes an experimental attempt to find non-speech cross-modal interference effects. They used a cello as the source of acoustic and optical stimuli.  Remarkably, Saldaña and Rosenblum (1993) state in their abstract that their work suggests “the nonspeech visual influence was not a true McGurk effect.” This is in direct contradiction of Mole’s (2010) stated reason for citing them.

Photo by Méline Waxx on Pexels.com

There are two ways to make a cello produce sound: plucking or bowing.  The experimenters proceed by presenting subjects with discrepant stimuli. For example, they presented an optical stimulus of a bow accompanied by an acoustical stimulus of a pluck.  Saldaña and Rosenblum (1993) found that the reported percepts are adjusted slightly by a discrepant stimulus. They move in the direction of that stimulus.

However, to see a McGurk effect, we need the subjects to report that the gesture they perceive is a fusion of a pluck and a bow.  Naturally enough, this did not occur, and indeed it is unclear what exactly such a fusion might be.  Therefore, Mole (2010) has not here produced evidence that there are McGurk effects outside the domain of speech perception.

Mole’s Response to the Data

Mole’s (2010) response is to dismiss this as a merely quantitative difference between the effects observed by the two experiments.  Mole (p. 221, 2010) writes:  “[t]he McGurk effect does reveal an aspect of speech that is in need of a special explanation because the McGurk effect is of a much greater magnitude than analogous cross-modal context effects for non-speech sounds”.  As we saw, Mole (2010) is wrong to claim there is only a quantitative difference between the McGurk effect observed in speech perception and the cross-modal effects observed in the cello experiment. Only in the former do we see fusion effects.  That is most certainly a major qualitative difference.

Mole’s (2010) claim that the cello results are only quantitatively different to the results seen in the McGurk effect experiment produces further severe difficulties when we consider in detail the experimental results obtained.  The cello experimenters describe a true McGurk effect as being one where there is a complete shift to a different entity. The syllable is clearly heard. It is entirely different to the one in the acoustic stimulus.  Saldaña and Rosenblum (1993, p. 409) describe these McGurk data as meaning: “continuum endpoints can be visually influenced to sound like their opposite endpoints”.

Cello Data

The cello data were not able to make a pluck sound exactly like a bow. In fact, the discrepant optical stimuli were only able to slightly shift the responses in their direction, by less than a standard deviation, and in some cases not at all.  This is not the McGurk effect at all and so Mole (2010) cannot say it is only quantitatively different.  Indeed, Saldaña and Rosenblum (1993, p. 410) specifically note that: “[t]his would seem quite different from the speech McGurk effect”.

In sum, the cross-modal fusion effect that Mole (2010) needs is physically impossible in the cello case. The data do not even represent a non-speech analog of the McGurk effect. That is confirmed by the authors.  Once again, speech perception remains special and the special Motor Theory is needed to explain it.

Sound Localization Experiment

The other experiment relied on by Mole (2010) is Lewald and Guski (2003). It considered the ventriloquism effect. However, the result that Mole (2010) needs to support his theory is an effect that is a good analogy to the McGurk effect in a non-speech domain. As I will show below, the data from the Sound Localisation Experiment also fails to bear out his claim that there are McGurk-like effects outside the domain of speech perception.

The Sound Localisation  Experiment uses tones and lights as its acoustic and optical stimuli.  It investigates the ventriloquism effect quantitatively in both the spatial and temporal domains.  The idea is that separate optical and acoustic events are perceived as a unified single event with optical and acoustical effects.  This will only occur if the spatial or temporal separation of the component events is below certain thresholds.

Integration Windows

Lewald and Guski (2003, p. 469) propose a “spatio-temporal window for audio-visual integration.” In this window, separate events are perceived as unified.  They suggest maximum values of 3◦ for angular or spatial separation and 100 ms for temporal separation. 

Thus a scenario in which a light flash occurs less than 3◦ away from the source of a tone burst will produce a unified percept of a single optical/acoustical event. So will a scenario in which a light flash occurs within 100 ms of a tone burst.  The two stimuli in fact occurred at slightly different times or locations. So this effect entails that at least one of the stimuli is perceived to have occurred at a different time or location than it actually did.

Recap of McGurk Effect

To recap, in the McGurk effect, discrepant optical and acoustic stimuli result in a percept that is different to either of the two stimuli and is a fusion of them.  We may allow to Mole (2010) that Lewald and Guski (2003) do indeed report subjects perceive a single event comprising a light flash and a tone burst.  However, that is insufficient to constitute an analogy to the McGurk effect. 

Subjects do not report that their percept is some fusion of a light flash and a tone burst – as with the cello experiment, it is unclear what such a fusion could be – they merely report that an event has resulted in these two observable effects.  [We may note that Lewald and Guski (2003) do not take themselves to be searching for non-speech analogs of the McGurk effect; the term does not appear in their paper or in the titled of any of their 88 citations, throwing doubt on the claim that they are working in the field at all.]

Fused Events?

Indeed, subjects were not asked whether they perceived some fused event.  They were asked if the sound and the light had a common cause. They were also asked if the events were co-located or were synchronous.  As Lewald and Guski write (p. 470, 2003): “[i]n Experiment 1, participants were instructed to judge the likelihood that sound and light had a common cause.  In Experiment 2, participants had to judge the likelihood that sound and light sources were in the same position. In Experiment 3, participants judged the synchrony of sound and light pulses’ ”. 

A ‘common cause’ might have been some particular event. But it is not the sound and the light and they were the only items perceived. Therefore the instructions do not even admit the possibility of perception of a fused event.

What Lewald and Guski Measured

It is puzzling that Mole (p. 221, 2010) cites (Lewald and Guski 2003) to support his claim that perceived flash count is influenced by perceived tone count.  We see this when Mole writes (p. 221, 2010):  “[t]he number of flashes that a subject seems to see can be influenced by the number of concurrent tones that he hears (Lewald and Guski 2003)”.

Moreover, neither the Sound Localisation Experiment nor the cello experiment support Mole’s (p. 221, 2010) summation that “[i]t is not special to speech that sound and vision can interact to produce hybrid perceptions influenced by both modalities” in the way he needs.  Unlike with the McGurk effect, there are no hybrid perceptions in either case. “Hybrid” means ‘a perception of an event which is neither of the stimulus events’.

There are cross-modal effects between non-speech sound stimuli and optical stimuli. But that is inadequate to support Mole’s (2010) claim that speech is not special.  We still need the special explanatory power of the Motor Theory.

Mute Perceivers Are Not A Problem

One of Mole’s (2010) challenges is that the Motor Theory cannot explain how some people can have the capacity to perceive speech that they lack the capacity to produce.  Mole writes (p. 226, 2010) that “[a]ny move that links our ability to perceive speech to our ability to speak is an unappealing move, since it ought to be possible to hear speech without being able to speak oneself”.  There is an equivocation here though on the meaning of ‘capacity to produce’.  Mole (2010) is reading that term so that the claim is that someone who is unable to use their mouth to produce speech lacks the capacity to perceive speech.  Since such mute people can indeed as he claims understand speech, he takes his claim to be made out.

However, in the article cited by Mole (2010), it is clear that this is not what ‘capacity to produce’ means.  In the study by Fadiga et al. (2002) described, the neuronal activation related to tongue muscles is not sufficient to generate movement.  This activation is a result of the micro-mimicry that takes place when people are perceiving speech.  Fadiga et al. (2002) call this mimicry “motor facilitation.”

Motor Facilitation

Fadiga et al. (p. 400, 2002) write: “The observed motor facilitation is under-threshold for overt movement generation, as assessed by high sensitivity electromyography showing that during the task the participants’ tongue muscles were absolutely relaxed”.   Thus the question is whether the subject has the capacity to produce such a sub-threshold activation, and not the capacity to produce speech via a super-threshold activation.   Naturally, since all the subjects had normal speech, they could produce both a sub-threshold and a super-threshold activation, with the latter resulting in speech.

However, someone could be able to activate their tongue muscles below the threshold to generate overt movement but not be able to activate those muscles above the threshold.  That would mean that they lacked ‘capacity to produce’ in Mole’s (2010) sense, but retained it in Fadiga et al.’s (2002) sense.  This would be a good categorization of the mute people who can understand speech they cannot utter. 

An Empirical Test

Those people would retain the ability to produce the neural activity that Fadiga et al. observe, which does not result in tongue muscle movement.  This is a testable empirical claim. My account commits to it.  It is possible that they may not be able to even produce the sub-threshold neural signals. If that turns out to be correct, it would be a problem for the Motor Theory and the defence I have offered for it here.

Similarly, we can resolve Mole’s (2010) puzzle about how one can understand regional accents that one cannot mimic; i.e. I can understand people who speak with an accent that is different to mine.  The capacity to understand a particular accent could result from our ability to generate the necessary sub-threshold activations, but not the super-threshold ones.  If we go on to acquire that regional accent, our super-threshold muscle activation capacities would be of the required form.  This again is an empirical prediction which makes my account subject to falsification by data.

Implications in Developmental Psychology

This hypothesis could have interesting implications in the field of developmental psychology.  Mole (p. 216, 2010) outlines how infants can perceive all speech sound category distinctions. They eventually lose the ability to discriminate the ones that do not represent a phoneme distinction in their language.  

So it may be the case that all infants are born with the neural capacity to learn to generate super-threshold activations of all regional accents. But they eventually retain that capacity only at the sub-threshold level. That is because they can later understand a wide range of regional accents. They lose the capacity at the super-threshold level for those regional accents they cannot mimic.

Another implication here of the Motor Theory is to say that a listener’s vocal tract can function as a model of itself. That would be just as a listener’s vocal tract can function as a model of a speaker’s vocal tract.  This means that the sub-threshold activation functions as a model of the super-threshold activation. So, perceptual capacities involve the former modelling the latter exactly as the Motor Theory predicts.  

Such an approach does not commit the Motor Theory to the modelling/perception neurons controlling the sub-threshold activations being the same as the production neurons controlling speech production. So the account is not susceptible to falsification on that precise point.

Further Brief Challenges To Mole (2010)

The Motor Theory Explains Cerebellar Involvement In Dyslexia

Mole (2010) challenges the Motor Theory. In doing so, he challenges the idea that we use speech production capacities in speech recognition.  For this reason, any data showing links between speech production capacities and speech recognition capacities will be a problem for him.

Ivry and Justus (2001) refer to a target article. This shows 80% of dyslexia subjects have cerebellar impairments.  The cerebellum is a motor area. Dyslexia is most definitely a language disorder. So we have clear evidence for a link between language and motor areas.  That is naturally a result that the Motor Theory accommodates and which links speech production and speech recognition.

It is not open to Mole (2010) to respond that the link is only between motor control areas and writing control areas. That is because although writing skills are the primary area of deficit for dyslexic subjects, the authors also found impairments in reading ability were strongly associated with the cerebellar impairments.  This is explicable by the Motor Theory because it says that Motor deficits will result in speech recognition deficits.  Mole (2010) needs to provide an explanation of this which does not rely on the Motor Theory.

The Motor Theory Explains Links Between Speech Production And Perception In Infants

Mole (2010) does not address some important results supplied by Liberman and Mattingly (1985: p. 18) that link perception and production of speech.  These data show that infants preferred to look at a face producing the vowel they were hearing rather than the same face with the mouth shaped to produce a different vowel. 

That effect does not occur if vowel sounds are replaced with non-speech tones matched for amplitude and duration with the spoken vowels.  What this means is that the infants are able to match the acoustic signal to the optical one.  In a separate study, the same extended looking by infants occurred when a disyllable was the test speech sound.  These data are inexplicable without postulating a link between speech production and speech perception abilities, because differentiating between mouth shapes is a production-linked task – albeit one mediated by perception – and differentiating between speech percepts is a perceptual task.

The Motor Theory Explains Why Neural Stimulation Of Speech Production Areas Enhances Speech Perception

D’Ausilio et al. (2009) applied Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (“TMS”) to areas of the brain responsible for motor control of articulators.  Articulators are the physical elements that produce speech, such as the tongue and lips.  After the TMS, they tested the subjects on their abilities to perceive speech sounds.  The stimulation of speech production areas improved the ability of the subjects to perceive speech.  The authors suggest that TMS primes the relevant neural areas so they are more liable to be activated subsequently.

Even more remarkably, the experimenters find more fine grained effects such that stimulation of the exact area involved in production of a sound enhanced perceptual abilities in relation to that sound.  D’Ausilio et al (2009, p. 383) report: “the perception of a given speech sound was facilitated by magnetically stimulating the motor representation controlling the articulator producing that sound, just before the auditory presentation”.  This constitutes powerful evidence for the Motor Theory’s claim that the neural areas responsible for speech production are also involved in speech perception.

Conclusion

Special situations require special explanations.  The Motor Theory of Speech Perception is a special explanation of speech perception which, as evidenced by the rejection of Mole’s objections, continues to be needed. 

One might say that such “specialness” means the Motor Theory stands in a vulnerable and isolated position, as it seeks to explain speech perception in a way that is very different to how we understand other forms of perception.   Here, I would revert to my brief opening remarks about the similarities between the Motor Theory and Simulation Theory.  Whilst the Motor Theory is indeed a special way to explain speech perception, it is at the same time parsimonious and explanatorily powerful because like Simulation Theory, it does not require any machinery which we do not already know we possess.  This underlies the continued attractiveness of Motor Theory as a convincing account of how people perceive speech so successfully.

See Also:

What Is “Theory Of Mind?”

#Proust: An Argument For #SimulationTheory

The Psychology of Successful Trading: see clip below of me explaining my new book!

Sherlock Holmes as Enemy of Confirmation Bias

References 

D’Ausilio, A et al. 2009  The Motor Somatotopy of Speech Perception.  Current Biology 19: pp. 381–385.  DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.01.017

Fadiga, L et al. 2002  Speech Listening Specifically Modulates the Excitability of Tongue Muscles: a TMS study.  European Journal of Neuroscience, 15: pp. 399–402.  DOI: 10.1046/j.0953-816x.2001.01874.x

Fraser, A M et al. 2003  Classification modulo invariance, with application to face recognition.  Journal of Computational and Graphical Statistics, 12 (4): pp. 829–852.  DOI: 10.1198/1061860032634

Ivry, R B and T C Justus 2001  A neural instantiation of the motor theory of speech perception.  Trends in Neuroscience, 24 (9): pp. 513–5.  DOI: 10.1016/S0166-2236(00)01897-X

Lewald, J and R Guski 2003  Cross-modal perceptual integration of spatially and temporally disparate auditory and visual stimuli.  Brain Research. Cognitive Brain Research (Amsterdam), 16: pp. 468–478.  DOI: 10.1016/S0926-6410(03)00074-0

Liberman, A and I G Mattingly 1985  The Motor Theory of Speech Perception Revised.  Cognition, 21: pp. 1–36.  DOI: 10.1016/0010-0277(85)90021-6

McGurk, H and J MacDonald 1976  Hearing lips and seeing voices.  Nature, 264, (5588): pp. 746–748.  DOI: 10.1038/264746a0

Mole, C 2010 The motor theory of speech perception in Sounds and Perception: New Philosophical Essays.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.  DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199282968.001.0001

Saldaña, H M and L D Rosenblum 1993  Visual influences on auditory pluck and bow judgments.  Perception And Psychophysics, 54 (3): pp. 406– 416.  DOI: 10.3758/BF03205276

Short, T L 2015  Simulation Theory: a Psychological and Philosophical Consideration.  Abingdon: Routledge.  URL: https://www.routledge.com/Simulation-Theory-A-psychological-and-philosophical-consideration/Short/p/book/9781138294349

Categories
philosophy

“Rape” At The Royal Opera House

Introduction

I will discuss what people have called a rape at the Royal Opera House and argue that the objectors do not have a case.

There has been a lot of controversy in old and new media over a scene in a new production of Guillaume Tell at the ROH; cf. http://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/jun/30/william-tell-nudity-and-scene-greeted-with-boos-at-royal-opera-house

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Two preliminaries:.  One: I was there at the first night, in seat W14 at the back of the Orchestra Stalls.  If you weren’t, then you will have to take my word for it in terms of what actually happened.  Two: I am a philosophical psychologist (cf. http://www.psypress.com/authors/i9043-tim-short) so if you would like to respond, do so to exactly what I write below and not to something in the vicinity of what I say which annoys you.  If you want to be formal about it, I suppose the proposition for which I am arguing is “the scene was appropriate.”

What Happened?

I will start by outlining the events I saw and then show that all of the objections aiming to show that the scene was inappropriate fail.

A foreign army is occupying Switzerland.  At the point in the libretto of interest, some soldiers force the local women to dance with them.  One woman drinks champagne, somewhat against her will.  She acquiesces nervously.  The soldiers douse her in champagne.  The leader of the occupying forces, Gesler, molests her by placing a pistol between her legs at around mid-thigh level.  She moves on to the dining table, upon which is placed a large table-cloth.  She disappears behind a group of perhaps 10-15 soldiers.  Shortly afterwards, she reappears naked.  The duration of the nudity was something like half a second.  She partly wraps the table-cloth around her and moves away from the table.  The hero, Tell, then ensures that she is fully covered.

That’s it for the stage action. There ensued enormous amounts of booing which interrupted the action.  One man shouted out “one step too fucking far mate” and another shouted “Holten out”.  (Kaspar Holten is Director of Opera at the ROH.)  There were a number of noisy walkouts.

The objections I have seen are as below.

The scene was too long

I don’t really see how this objection works.  People have spoken of a ” five-minute gang rape”.  I do not think you can get to five minutes even if you include all of the events I outline above in your duration.  I would put it at two minutes; perhaps three at the outside.  In any case, the nudity was momentary.  This means at the outset we have to decide what constitutes a depiction of rape.  That is a difficult question.  Naturally, there was no sex or simulated sex on stage by anyone, so a fortiori there was no sex or simulated sex involving multiple men and the woman.

However, it was clearly the intention of the director to depict rape in some sense. That intention was realized, because of the intense audience reaction.  I think that this intense negative reaction meant that the “rape” was perceived by the audience was too long simply because any duration was too long to be comfortable.  But if we are purely talking about seconds on the clock, then it could not have been shorter and remained what it was.  (You may wish to challenge me here by noting that the scene is now shorter.  Is it still what it was?) 

The scene was gratuitous

This objection cannot succeed. It gains its initial plausibility by appearing to be the nearby objection “the scene had a negative effect”.  To make out the claim that the scene was gratuitous, you have to show that the scene had no effect.  In other words, the aesthetic impact of the piece would be identical without the scene.  This is transparently false since the audience reaction to the scene and the reaction of others who were not there was immense.  You may well feel that the aesthetic effect of the scene was undesirable, but that is not consistent with saying that its inclusion was gratuitous.

The scene was unnecessary

I can again respond similarly to what I said to counter the previous objection.  In addition, I can observe that nothing is necessary.  Even claims like “everything is identical to itself” are questionable under certain circumstances.

I do not expect to see Rape at the Royal Opera House

Why not?  I will defer to others, notably the Director of Opera, to make a number of valid points in response to this.  The scene is fully justified by the libretto (cf. http://www.roh.org.uk/news/guillaume-tell-a-response-to-recent-debate-and-discussion); perhaps also the purpose of art is to shock, sometimes.  Bear in mind that this is about war, not the marriage of Figaro.  Also, why are we holding opera to a much different standard to those we permit on the theatrical stage, or film (cf. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0290673/reviews), let alone what one can see on the internet.

Why should a “rape” at the Royal Opera House be more of a problem than a “rape” depiction in a film?

We need to protect victims of rape from depictions of rape at the Royal Opera House

Was this a depiction of rape?  Was this really something that we should call a rape at the Royal Opera House? Perhaps we should reserve that term for an actual crime committed in the building.

Do we also need to protect people who have had a family member murdered from depictions of murder?  There were several of those in this piece; they aroused no comment.

The inclusion of the scene condones rape

I don’t understand this objection, so if you share it, you will have to explain it to me.  One question is whether or not it matters that the perpretators of the “rape” were the villains of the piece.  If this is an alleviating factor, then it would have been an aggravating one to have had the hero Tell perpetrate it.  Perhaps that would have been the provocative directorial choice. I don’t see why even if this was a rape at the Royal Opera House, it means that it approves the act.

The scene was “the last straw”

This is one of the more common objections.  It seems to run approximately as follows: `this was a terrible production full of infantile symbolism, each scene was more offensive and unimaginative than the last, the “rape” scene was one step too far’.  I happened to think that the production was brave and innovative, but that is not actually relevant to the argument.  The problem with this objection is that it seems to entail the following: `this rape scene would have been appropriate in a more traditional production, or a production I liked more.’  That seems unmotivated and hard to argue for.  It is caused by the phenomenon of “moral licensing,” which is not a way to stand up an objection.

Conclusion: there was no Rape at the Royal Opera House

I conclude that all of the objections fail and the scene was appropriate.  It is therefore unfortunate that the scene has now been modified by weakening it and shortening it.  We may at least note that the Director of Opera did not insist on this. In fact he apologized for the offence caused and explicitly did not apologise for the production. 

This is right and proper; I do not want what I can see at the Royal Opera House controlled by reactionary prudes who can only stomach totally traditional productions.  The changes were made by the Director; so our regret should be that a courageous and ground-breaking production team have been forced to weaken the impact of their vision.

For me, the most dismaying part of the experience was seeing the change in the countenance of Malin Bystrom, who was superb.  She was quite clearly delighted by the richly deserved approbation she received in her curtain call, but was still there for the booing of the production crew.  This is what I call gratuitous.  In fact, I can’t see any occasion on which booing is appropriate.  Walk out silently if you must, but otherwise why not just stay at home.  The ROH generally sells out; we can do without your ticket money if you think you are going to decide what is appropriate in a production.

See Also:

#Narcissism and #Unexpected Behaviour

#Proust On #Memory

The Psychology of Successful Trading: see clip below of me explaining my new book!

Defending The Motor Theory Of Speech Perception

Categories
philosophy

The Mind’s Construction: Some Comments

Comments On Soteriou: The Mind’s Construction Ch1 and Ch2

Introduction

Soteriou has a novel and interesting account of the Mind’s Construction. In this post, I will make some comments on the introductory material of Soteriou’s book.

“Not all aspects of mind fill time in the same way. For example, some elements of our mental lives obtain over intervals of time, others unfold over time, some continue to occur” (p. 1)

Aim is to use these as individuation criteria for mental events/states/processes, which means it will be important that they are clearly definable and do not overlap, and then use those distinctions to illuminate `phenomenal consciousness’

Chapter One

(p. 9, p. 23) Distinction between the `manifest image’ of the mind and the `scientific image’ of the mind in Sellars 1962 is a bit like the distinction between folk psychology and scientific psychology. This is unsurprising since Sellars 1956 is credited with opening up the modern ToM debate in some ways. Similar questions arise. Is the former to be superseded by the latter, or is it to provide data for the latter? In other words, is introspection a legitimate means of enquiry?

(p. 9) Soteriou distinguishes between the legitimacy of introspection/phenomenology approaches to theorising about thought and about sensory experience. The idea is that the latter area seems to be more appropriate to the introspective mode of examination, because “conscious sensory experiences” have a “sensuous character” that “is somehow manifest to one”. This seems to approach but not reach a sort of Immunity to Error argument viz. my thinking some conscious states have certain features suffices to make it the case that they do have such features, such as if it seems to me to be raining, then there is something that seems to me to be the case. [Descartes’ views on the mind’s construction are at the root of this, presumably.]

(p. 9) Concession: introspection may not get us anywhere at all with the scientific image; nor will it (p. 11) alone resolve mental ontology

1.1 Introspection, ‘Diaphanous’ Experience, And The Relation Of Perceptual Acquaintance

(p. 12) The step from `you can introspect the sensuous character of a conscious experience’ to `you can introspect the sensuous character of a mental state’ looks innocent but isn’t.

(p. 13) Argument: Moore and diaphaneity. If you try to introspect an experience, you just get straight to the experience: the experience of blue is just the blue not `experience of blue’. Also, experiences of blue are not themselves blue.

(p. 14) A relational model of sensory experience raises more questions than it answers: what are the relata, what is the relation and how do we know introspection is any use for either question, given the Moore problem?

(p. 15) Relational accounts led to sense data theories to account for hallucination/error as an aspect of the mind’s construction. They are a part of it.

1.2 Representational Content And The Properties Of Conscious Experience

(p. 18) Introspection cuts both ways in the sense data debate. Looks like there is something relational going on; contra that it looks like the relation is between us and objects in the world not internal entities. Fashion dictates the winner; sense data theories not fashionable any more.

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COP [Completeness of Physics]: “All physical effects have only physical causes”

P [Physicalism]: “all entities that exist are physical entities”

COP + P look problematic for sense data – are they physical or not?

(p. 18) “thoughts are to be individuated in terms of propositional contents”

(p. 19) “sensory experiences have intentional contents with veridicality conditions” cf. Frege, thoughts. Leads to: illusions are like false beliefs. We don’t think there needs to be anything in the world to correspond to a false belief so the argument from illusion for sense data looks less appealing. [Though of course this is a bit like `the problem is so big in the mind’s construction that it isn’t a problem anymore.]

(p. 20) Fechner, psychophysics. Wittgenstein!

1.3 The Re-Emergence Of Relational Views

(p. 25) This new consensus needs a response to questions such as how much of the character of conscious experience is caused by the relatum and how much by the relation [cf. Frege again].

1.4

(p. 26) Preview of next chapter: whether there is a stream of consciousness or not will [as promised in Introduction] throw light on mental ontology and also can be investigated using the Fregean framework under which thoughts are differentiated by propositional content.

Chapter Two

(p. 27) Consider: James vs Geach with opposing views of the mind’s construction. James: “there is a stream of consciousness” vs. Geach “there is not a stream of consciousness.”

(p. 27) Mental states obtain and mental processes occur over time; even if the time taken is the same, these two unfoldings are different

2.1 The Temporal Profiles Of Thought And Experience

(p. 28) Geach’s argument is basically that the stream of consciousness is seen as illusory on the line that thoughts are individuated by propositional contents, because those propositions then pass through the mind sequentially and separately. [But how do we know that this separation is not an artifact or mere consequence of the individuation criterion? Also, this looks a bit like a contest between competing introspections.]

2.2 Geach On The Mind’s Construction: Discontinuous Character Of Thought

(p. 30) Geach’s argument: you can’t half have a thought; it must all be present at once. There are no transitions. Therefore you can’t have two at once — two thoughts cannot overlap. Therefore there is no stream of consciousness. Soteriou aims to look at all these steps.

(p. 31) Non-succession basically flows from the propositional content model. Saying `John is tall’ takes time but thinking it doesn’t because you haven’t thought anything unless you think the whole proposition.

(p. 31) “S can’t simply have a belief that ‘John’ ”. Can’t he, in a way, have that? Could it not be that a belief with the content `John exists’ could have that form? Alternatively, imagine hearing someone unknown come in, and wondering who it is, with John being the most likely option. We might express the content of your mental state as being `John?’. When you see him a second later, you know it is him. The two mental states separated by a second are 1). `John?’ and 2). `John’. Soteriou is again assuming a propositional model of thought content — which may be fine — and also it disallows propositions like `John’. Soteriou can probably say here that the account doesn’t mind what sort of propositions are allowed, as long as they can’t have duration. You still have to think the whole proposition at once if you think it at all.

(p 32) `the pack of cards is on the table’ is not thought in order with some bit of thought corresponding to `of’. [OK, but couldn’t there also be an ordering/division like `that’ `there’? Couldn’t you get half way through thinking the pack of cards is on the table when you realise that the thing on the table is a book and the cards are on the chair…?]

(p. 32) Geach: since there is no temporal order, there are also no transitions — because even if two propositions have a shared element, then they would not share a temporal part. [Can we think more than one proposition at once? Propositions entailed by a proposition thought. Subconscious propositions?]

(p. 34) Soteriou: however, there can be transitions between mental states, which is a problem for Geach. [Soteriou will try to fix the problem and adopt a modified version of Geach’s anti-stream of consciousness line. Is this consistent with Soteriou’s later commitment to a stream of sensory consciousness…?]

2.3 The Mind’s Construction: Ontology Of The Stream Of Consciousness

(p. 34) O’Shaughnessy: it is the necessity of flux that distinguishes the flow of the stream of consciousness, not just the flux itself, so experiences are not mental states

(p. 35) O’Shaughnessy: a mental state is like knowing that 9 + 5 = 14; it obtains

(p. 37) What distinguishes the cognitive from the sensory is not their properties but how they fill time [So that isn’t a property or reducible to one?]

2.4 Representational Content And The Ontology Of Experience

(p. 39) If over “t1–t5 S underwent an experience with the content ‘That F is G’, it would be a mistake to think that from t1 to t2 S underwent a conscious experience with the content that ‘That F’, and over the interval of time t3–t5 S underwent a conscious experience with the content that ‘is G’. This is a restatement of the modified Geach anti-stream of consciousness line espoused by Soteriou. [The claim looks phenomenologically plausible. But does it still work if the t1 to t3 etc time-slices become extremely small, of the order of nanoseconds? Soteriou handles this by saying that even so, the parts of the experience cannot be reduced to parts of the proposition.]

(p. 42) “the representational content of conscious sensory experience type-individuates a perceptual state of the subject”

2.5 Representational Content And Phenomenal Character In The Mind’s Construction

[Qualia or what it is like to be a mental state need to be accounted for. Since Soteriou is not going with a stream of consciousness approach, then failure of such an account of qualia to be apt for inclusion in mental flow is no disqualification. Soteriou will now go on in 2.6 to outline the proposal he flagged in the introduction: we can categorise mental ontology by looking at the temporal underpinnings of phenomenal character.]

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qualia/

2.6 An Ontological Proposal: Occurrence, State, And Explanatory Circularity

This will be Soteriou’s first outing of the major novelty in his approach.

(p. 47) The proposal: “individuate the kind of phenomenally conscious state that obtains in terms of the kind of mental event/process in virtue of whose occurrence the state obtains” — not a supervenience relation.

(p. 48) A circularity deriving from inter-dependence: “interdependent status of event/process and state introduces a certain kind of explanatory circularity” i.e. each depends on the other.

[How vicious is this circle, and circles generally…? Later Soteriou will say that the circularity may be not vicious but perhaps use its difficulty to reinforce its plausibility by suggesting it explains the `explanatory gap’. This is clever, because it suggests that the circularity is there because reality is just like that — and we have to get on with it.]

2.7

[For Soteriou, there is a stream of sensory consciousness but it will not be made up of a stream of propositions.]

[So — a good start. Soteriou has told us what the background is, what he is assuming, and where he wants to get to.]

See Also:

What Is “Theory Of Mind?”

#Proust: An Argument For #SimulationTheory

The Psychology of Successful Trading: see clip below of me explaining my new book!

Empathy Is Useless

Categories
philosophy

Are Fictional People Real?

Introduction

I will answer the question “are fictional people real?” by choosing an example. The question becomes: how can we reconcile the following apparent truths: ‘Sherlock Holmes doesn’t exist’ and ‘Sherlock Holmes was created by Conan Doyle’?

In other words, if Sherlock is not real, then what did Conan Doyle create?

OPTICONMDCCCXXVI

RESEARCH ARTICLE

I will argue that the two statements can be reconciled by Parsons’s view which is inspired by a Meinongian ontology. I will assume these views together with Parsons’s classification of fictional properties as ‘nuclear’ and ‘extra-nuclear’. This division of properties into types eliminates the requirement for the view to associate an object with a set of properties {goldenness, mountain-hood, existence} which isimportant as there is no existent golden mountain. I will throughout use italics for the names of properties and braces for sets. The titular question is a well-known problem for views of ficta (fictional objects )since it appears that we believe both claims are true but they seem to be inconsistent. I understand ‘ficta’ to be any object or person described in fiction. I will argue that we can resolve the tension by adopting Parsons’s view of ficta.

Introduction

The problem with the two statements about Sherlock Holmes is that we want to say that both of them are true but it looks like they cannot both be true at the same time. If it is true that Sherlock does not exist, then we would have to accept that Conan Doyle cre- ated something that does not exist. If so, did he really create something? Some possible responses here seem to lead us into deep waters. In particular, those responses admit- ting that there are ‘different types of truth’ generate a large number of extremely diffi- cult problems which I lack space to discuss here. Other responses consider whether there might be different sorts of existence, and this is the type of response I will be examining. In particular, I will argue that ficta – all fictional entities including characters such as Sherlock Holmes – are non-existent concrete objects.

I consider the case of Sherlock Holmes partly because he is traditionally chosen in the literature and partly because he is one of the most well-known fictional characters. In general, I think the argument I make should apply to all fictional characters. A benefit of using the character Holmes is that he is richly and vivaciously specified which would not be true of all characters.

Barg the Dragon

Imagine that I make up a story about Barg the dragon, and the entire story is: ‘Barg was a dragon. The End.’ The character Barg is woefully under- specified. It is likely that you will make up properties that Barg has that I, the author have not given him. You will probably think that he can fly and breathe fire, for example.

What this brings out is that Barg has impossible properties, which provides an initial indication that fictional characters may just be possible sets of properties, rather than sets of possible properties, as I will set out below. The other relevant questions of interest, which I can only raise and not answer here, is what do we say about the properties that you as reader ascribe to Barg? Are you now the author? Are those properties on the same footing as the ones I gave him?

The Unreliable Narrator

We might also consider in this vein the questions arising from Booth’s concept of the ‘unreliable narrator’ (Booth 1983: 339 et seq). What are we to say about properties ascribed to characters by a narrator who is known to sometimes make false ascriptions? Further, flirting with oxymoron, can we allow that the author may not be authori- tative? There are also questions of this type raised by irony in fiction. Currie argues for a pretence theory of irony, wherein fictional characters are pretending to do one thing while actually doing the opposite (Currie 2010).

For example, if Holmes says some- thing to Watson – as he frequently does – like ‘I am once more amazed by the brilliance of your powers of deduction!’ it looks very much like Watson now has the property of “did not exhibit brilliant powers of deduction” even though the text appears to do the exact opposite, before interpretation by us. I will call all of these sorts of question ‘Booth questions’; they will become relevant when we consider the properties characters have. These questions make it plausible that it may not be precisely specified what proper- ties characters have.

Ontologies of Ficta

Returning to the central question, we may examine the ontologies available to us. Both Parsons (1975, 1979) and Meinong (1904) admit non-existent concrete objects to their ontology. These non-existent objects are associated with sets of properties. According to Parsons’s view, which I will defend, ficta are associated with sets of properties with which no existent object need be associated.

Ficta and Sets

The ficta are non-existent concrete objects while the sets, as with all sets, are abstracta. I will assume without argument that abstracta-like sets exist – they are real – but they are not concrete. The term ‘concrete’ refers to all objects that have a determinate location in space-time. I will assume that the division is exhaustive – anything not concrete is abstract.

I will consider some implications of Parsons’s view and some objections to it. Since Parsons’s view is opposed to Creationism, it will be important to consider arguments for Creationism. That is since to the extent they are successful, they are pro tanto objections to Parsons’s view.

Creationism in relation to ficta holds that authors create them. (We should note, for the avoidance of doubt, that we are not discussing the type of Creationism that is opposed to evolutionary theories.) Against this, Parsons’s view holds that the sets associated with ficta are not brought into existence by an act of creation. That is because they do not have existence in the same way that objects in the real world do.

The Mode of Existence of Ficta

The mode of existence that ficta do have is timeless. So authors do not give them that mode of existence. Other sets or abstracta in general also have a timeless mode of existence. Rather, authors specify an abstract object by listing some of its properties.

Sherlock’s Properties

What Conan Doyle does when he writes about Sherlock Holmes is to specify him. More precisely, Conan Doyle determines some of the properties that Holmes has as a fictional object. This means to determine the properties that are in the set associated with the term ‘Holmes’.

One of the properties that Holmes has is that he plays the violin. This means that “plays the violin” is one of the properties that is a member of the set associated with the term ‘Holmes’. Holmes does not play the cello. There is a very similar entity to Holmes – let us call him Cholmes – who shares all of Holmes’s properties with the exception that Cholmes does not play the violin and does play the cello.

According to Parsons’s view of ficta, both are non-existent concrete objects.  One – Holmes – was specified by Conan Doyle and the other – Cholmes – was not1. In the ontology of Parsons’s view, being described by a set of properties is sufficient to be an object. But it is not sufficient to exist. Thus, some items in the world possess the properties blackness and cat-hood, and so there are existent objects in the world which are black cats.

The Golden Mountain

On the other hand, no item in the world possesses the properties of goldenness and mountain-hood. While golden mountains are objects, because that set can be specified, there is no existing golden mountain. Both Cholmes and Holmes also fall into that latter category. They are non-existent objects because there is no object in the world which has all the properties of Holmes or Cholmes.

The Nature of Sets

The sets associated with ficta exist but are not concrete, as are sets in general. This division of the real into the domains of concreta and abstracta together with the observation that we allow of entities in both domains that they exist has a major benefit. The division allows us to reconcile the truth of the two statements in the title. They are both true but in different domains of truth.

When we say that ‘Sherlock Holmes does not exist’, we mean ‘Sherlock Holmes is not a concrete object.’ This is true in the domain of concreta. There is no existent human with all of the specified properties. When we say ‘Sherlock Holmes was created by Conan Doyle’, we mean that ‘the set associated with ‘Sherlock Holmes’ was specified by Conan Doyle.” This is also true, but has application in the domain of abstracta2. In the form of a set, ‘Sherlock Holmes’ is as real as other sets are3.

Parsons’s view is not Creationism

We may establish that Parsons’s view is not Creationism by considering the following definition of the latter term.

Creationism: fictional entities ‘are created […] by the authors of the novels in which they first appear’ (Brock 2010: 338).

By this definition, Parsons’s view is not Creationism. Authorial acts do not change ontology and nothing abstract changes its status in terms of existence, lack of existence or mode of existence. A fictional character is a man-made artefact. Parson’s view is anti-Creationist, and several objections have been made generally against all anti- Creationist views. I will seek to show though that Parson’s view is not only distinct from Creationism but superior to it. For this reason, I challenge several of the objections to anti-Creationism below4.

Artefacts

The ‘man-made artefact’ that Parsons’s view can recognise is a term whose association has been introduced by convention; this term then behaves like a name in that it is associated with a set of properties. Thus, Conan Doyle does not create Holmes; he arranges that ‘Holmes’ is associated with a set and determines some of the properties in that set. If it is possible for authors to introduce characters without properties, then they associate a term with an empty set.

Objections

Property objections

It may be that there is some lack of clarity in the specification of properties. This is acknowledged by Parsons and used as a chal- lenge by van Inwagen (1977). The ‘Booth questions’ I listed above would also become relevant here. They seem to allow for exactly this lack of clarity. We can address this by understanding the question as whether a set of properties must contain either a property F or its negation not-F as one of its members.

It is however not the case that a set of properties must contain F or not-F; a set of properties may be incomplete in this way. The purported violation of the laws of logic draws on the intuition that everything is either F or not F. This may be true for all real objects. Even then, that says nothing about what properties must be in a set of properties. The set of properties {mountainhood, goldenness} is a well-constructed set. It does not have either silverness or not-silverness as a member.

The Round Square

Another objection to Parsons’s view is that objects have properties that cannot be instantiated together. As Salmon (1998: 293) writes ‘the Object […], as in the case of the round square, may even have inconsistent properties.’ However, this is to confuse a powerful objection with reference to the actual world with an objection that has no force with reference to the world of sets.

It would indeed be an objection to the existence of an object in the real world to note that it has non-compossible properties. We could for example ask whether the round square has corners or not. Since it is round, it does not. Since it is square, it does. The round square would generate many contradictions, were it to exist. However, this is not what the proponent of Parsons’s view means.

Parsons does not believe that there is a round square to be found in the world. In exactly the same way, he does not believe that the golden mountain has the property of existence. What he does hold is that there is a non-existent object associated with the set including the properties of roundness and squareness. Since that set does exist in the way that sets exist and does not exist in the way that concreta exist, Salmon’s objection fails.

Indeterminacy of identity objection

Parsons’s view is a realist view because the sets associated with ficta are real. Some authors have objected that any realist account of ficta will suffer from a possible situation where it is indeterminate whether two fictional characters are identical. For example, Everett (2005) believes it is indeterminate whether the Faust of Marlowe is identical to that of Goethe. The realist is held to be especially exposed to the problem because indeterminacy of identity cannot apply in the real world.

This objection has no force against Parsons’s view, because it is clear when two characters are identical. In the very unlikely circumstance that two authors specified the

same set by giving their characters exactly the same set of properties, then they are identical characters. Otherwise, they are not.  There is no indeterminacy here at least on the surface.

A Sharper Challenge

The opponent may sharpen their objection here. They may ask whether two characters are identical if all of their specified properties are the same but one of the unspecified ones is not. But bringing this challenge would require a coherent exposition of what it means for a character to have a property that is at once specified and unspecified.

Indeterminate Identity

A similar response is available to the proponent of Parsons’s view if it is urged that there is a difficulty with two characters where within the story it is left indeterminate whether they are identical. Again, they are not identical unless they are given all of the same properties. In the example of Frackworld given by Everett (2005: 629 et seq), it is said that there are some ‘striking differences’ between two allegedly indeterminately identical characters.

If we accept Parsons’s view, these differences are sufficient to distinguish the characters. Similarly, there is no indeterminacy about whether a Slynx exists. That is so even in circumstances where it is deliberately left indeterminate as to whether the Slynx exists within that story. According to Parsons’s view, it does exist, as a set. There may be indeterminacy as to which set has been associated with the term `Slynx’ by the author of a story in which it is indeterminate whether the Slynx exists. Such indeterminacy however is not problematic for Parsons’s view. The indeterminacy is harmless because an indeterminacy with which a set is associated does not involve indeterminacy of identity.

Creativity denial objection

Creationism is commonly defended by noting the intuition we have that there is a great deal of ‘creativity’ involved in being the author of a fiction. One is highly creative in being the ‘creator’ of a vibrant fictional character. The charge is that this creativity is not given sufficient weight on the Parsons view. If the set of properties is not created, there is not enough room for creativity.

Parsons’s view can avoid this charge though. The view does not in any way devalue the ‘creativity’ involved in authoring a novel or other work of art. There can be a great deal of skill and talent involved in specifying the properties of a set. The associated character must be arresting or entertaining.

The author has indeed created something – an association of a term with a pre-existing set. He has in addition exercised artistic skill in selecting which set it shall be. The author does this in virtue of deciding which proper- ties the fictional entity will have.

Creation or Reuse of Terms

One objection here may be to note that according to Parsons’s view, an author may create a term or use a pre-existing term. This frequently happens; authors often write new stories containing ficta from previously written stories. In Parsons’s view, this just means that the term ‘Holmes’ may alter its association to be one with a new set with some new properties.

The obvious counter supporting Parsons’s view is a ‘first use’ response. Then, an author first associates a term with a set the first time a character is named. Moreover, the set with which a term is associated changes every time a character is given a property. It does not occur just the first time. This avoids an asymmetry between first and other uses of a term.

Rigidity mismatch objection

Defenders of Creationism have argued that fictional objects cannot be sets. They say there is a temporal and modal rigidity mismatch between sets and fictions. Walters argues:

[l]iterary fictions […] cannot be identified with any number of concrete instances of the fiction, since no particular instance or instances of a fiction are required for the continued existence of the fiction. This fact also rules out identifying fictions with pluralities [or] sets […] concrete given the temporal and modal rigidity of […] set membership.

Lee Walters (2012: 92)

The objection notes that set membership conditions are temporally and modally rigid. Temporal rigidity means that the identity of a set supervenes on its members at all times. Modal rigidity means that a set has the same elements in any worlds in which it exists. That’s true irrespective of how anything else is or could be. So the two claims amount to the view that in discussing sets, once we have identified a particular set by specifying its members, nothing else affects which set it is.

Rigidity of Sherlock

The mismatch objection then becomes the claim that Sherlock Holmes is not temporally and modally rigid while sets are. If so, then if Conan Doyle had counterfactually specified that Holmes played the cello, then he would still have been talking about the same fictional character.

Yet to say this is to beg the question against Parsons’s view. For the proponent of that view, Sherlock Holmes in one sense is a set, and Conan Doyle would in those circumstances have been talking about Cholmes not Holmes. It is likely that those who are mereological essentialists in relation to concrete objects will also be essentialists in relation to ficta. Holmes could not have been Cholmes, and one set could not have been another set.

An objector might say it is counterintuitive to argue that Holmes could not have been Cholmes. This objection is mistaken however. It is certainly true that Conan Doyle could have decided that his character could have been a cello player, and he could have named that character ‘Holmes’. What he could not have done though, is change the members of the set originally associated with the term ‘Holmes.’ He could only have associated the term ‘Holmes’ with the set we are now associating with ‘Cholmes’.

Creationist Claims

Creationists claim correctly that a particular novel could have first been instantiated in a different format. Note that A Study in Scarlet – that very work – could have first been written on a different piece of paper. Parsons’s view can go along with this. But that is not to allow that A Study in Scarlet could have been different. Certainly a story could have been written with different characteristics. And certainly it could have been called A Study in Scarlet. But the set now associated with that term could only ever have the members it currently has.

This shows how Parsons’s view avoids a cost that the Creationist must pay. Creationists must allow that once created, ficta exist forever. This is the same as saying that time-less objects can come into existence, which is a strange asymmetry. If something can be created, then surely it ought to be possible to destroy it as well.

Is This Strange?

It might be countered here that this is not so strange. Asymmetries arise in relation to facts about the past, after all. Until a particular event occurred, there was no fact; but once it has, it is always a fact that it has, and nothing could then destroy that fact. However, there does not seem to be a close analogy between the actions involved in the two cases.

Fact Creation

If I create a fact now by acting in a certain way, then perhaps it will be a fact forever that I did so. On the Creationist view, if I create a character now by conducting whatever acts the Creationist specifies as sufficient, that character exists forever. In the former case, I act but I do not act in order to create a fact.

If I create a character on the Creationist view, then I act specifically to create something which is then eternal. This seems quite a potent act of creation for a person to be able to perform: to be able to create deliberately the eternal. On balance, it is more useful to take Parsons’s view, by which ficta are indeed timeless objects and are so at all times, as is appropriate.

Revision of abstract individuals objection

Creationism has also been defended by noting that we commonly talk about changes in abstracta. This would be a problem for Parsons’s view in which no abstract items are created or changed. One purported example of change in abstracta is that the laws of cricket are revised from time to time.

Yet this means not that the abstract object associated with the term ‘the Laws of Cricket’ has changed any of its characteristics, but that the association of the term has been modified. The term is now associated with a set different from the original set in that the new set includes some new properties reflecting the rule changes. No abstract objects have changed.

(It is no objection here that the term is an abstract object which has changed because it is now associated with a different set, because this relational property alteration is merely Cambridge change – i.e. relational only.)

Analogy to Ficta

This situation is analogous in relation to ficta. No new properties are instantiated nor are any new abstracta created, when Conan Doyle introduces a new property for Holmes. What he does is alter the set associated with the term ‘Holmes’ — as opposed to creating or modifying a set. If it is specified in a certain work that Holmes likes cricket, what this means is that the association of the term ‘Holmes’ shifts to a set slightly different set from the previous one. The new set is the one composed of all the properties in the previous set plus the property of “likes cricket.”

Late Revisions

Some people object that Parsons’s view cannot handle a situation where Conan Doyle subsequently revises this property. We could not say which set is associated with the term ‘Holmes’, and in particular, whether it contains the property of “likes cricket.” However, this would again be to confuse the timeless nature of the sets associated with and the changeable nature of the relations of the terms associated with them.

We can defend Parsons’s view in each of the situations mentioned. We explain the process by saying that one set is associated with before the change and a different one afterwards5. Parsons’s view avoids some difficult questions for Creationists; viz., when and how are ficta created? After all, Brock (2010) founds his challenge to Creationism on the difficulty of these questions. What suffices to create a character? Would a character that was only named be created? These questions all have straightforward answers in Parsons’s view. No abstracta are created at any point. An occurrence of a term associates it with a set. If no properties are specified, then the term is associated with an empty set. As properties are added, the term is associated with different sets.

Further Benefits of the Parsons View

Further benefits abound. There is no indeterminacy about the number of fictional characters, since the proponent of Parsons’s view does not look to actual works of fiction to determine that number. There is no dif- ficulty for Parsons’s view in analysing claims such as ‘the Odysseus of The Odyssey and the Ulysses of Tennyson’s Ulysses are the same fictional character’.

It will be unlikely that they are in fact identical. A necessary condition would be that both authors have arranged that their terms shall refer to the same set i.e. the fictional characters will have the same properties. However, Parsons’s view has no difficulty accommodating the possible truth of claims such as ‘Tennyson’s character was based on the character in The Odyssey’. All such claims reduce to claims about the sets involved. They mean that the two sets associated with the terms by the two authors contain many identical properties.

Collapse

Finally, Creationism may collapse into something like Parsons’s view under some circumstances. Imagine a computer programme populated with all conceivable properties, and arranged to name an extremely large number of sets of combinations of those properties and print out the results. Presumably then the Creationist universe of abstracta would resemble the Meinongian. It would admittedly not be infinite, but only for contingent reasons relating to the time available to run the programme. That would scarcely suffice for the Creationist to charge the Meinongian with ontological profligacy.

Conclusion

The two statements in the title may be rec- onciled by understanding them as follows. ‘Sherlock Holmes doesn’t exist’ means that there are no existent objects with all of the properties in the set of properties associated with the term ‘Sherlock Holmes’. This is true. ‘Sherlock Holmes was created by Conan Doyle’ means that Conan Doyle through his work specified the set of properties associated with the term ‘Sherlock Holmes’. This is also true. The disambiguation we need of ‘Sherlock Holmes’ is between Sherlock Holmes (1) the fictional man in the story, and Sherlock Holmes (2) the set of properties associated with ‘Sherlock Holmes’.

It is true that Sherlock Holmes (1) does not exist because there is no such man in the real world. It is also true though that Sherlock Holmes (2) does exist because Sherlock Hol- mes (2) is a set which has had its elements specified; the set is real. Sherlock Holmes (2) was associated with a set by Conan Doyle. So there is no conflict between the statements because they refer to different entities: Sherlock Holmes (1) is not identical to Sherlock Holmes (2).

True Negative Existential Statements

We are also now in a position to deal with problems mentioned in the literature in relation to true negative existential statements. Note that one commentator writes that she will ignore true negative existential state- ments such as ‘Iago does not exist’ because theyare‘problematiconeverytheory’(Friend 2007: 143). The fact that Parsons’s view can handle true negative existentials very easily is therefore a major point in its favour. This advantage of course has carried through from the more widely applicable benefit of the Meinongian ontology – as Reicher (2010: 3.1) puts it: ‘[t]he appeal to nonexistent objects thus supplies an elegant solution to the problem of negative singular existentials’ – but is none the less valuable for that.

Empty Terms

The reason for the difficulties is that we seem to be referring to something when we discuss the purportedly ‘empty terms’ of ficta. Moreover, we seem to be referring to distinct objects when we say ‘Zeus is not identical to Pegasus’. The solution is that we are indeed referring to distinct non-existent objects that are associated with different existent sets. ‘Zeus’ is associated with one set and ‘Pegasus’ with another.

These are different ficta for many reasons including that the first set includes the property is divine and the second set does not. So in this view, we can retain the truth of the negative existen- tial statements. It is true that Zeus is not real, although the set associated with ‘Zeus’ is real – and also the distinction between different unreal objects6.

Parsons’s view is the correct view of ficta and it explains how the two statements in the title question can both be true.

Acknowledgement

I would like to acknowledge valuable comments from Opticon1826 staff, which considerably improved the set-up and motivation of the argument.

Notes

1 We might allow that authors ‘identify’ sets rather than specifying them if we accept that authors associate terms with exactly one set. Alternatively, they specify a group of sets if we include sets with properties not listed by the author as also associated. For example, we might allow the property renate to Holmes even if Conan Doyle makes no mention of this.

2  While it is indeed true that Conan Doyle’s act of specification takes place in the domain of concreta, we are not interested in that but only in what effects his acts have in terms of associating a term with a set in the domain of abstracta.

3  Even if this runs counter to appearances, that would not count against the view. As Thomasson ( 2003: 205) notes, ‘since there are apparent inconsistencies, any consistent theory must give up appear- ances somewhere’. Some might also object here that it is undesirable to regard ficta as associated with sets because the view is committed to statements like ‘the null set is a subset of Sherlock Holmes’. This does indeed appear undesirable, but only because of our habit of regarding Holmes as a man, who cannot have sub- sets in any useful sense. When we regard the term ‘Holmes’ as associated with a set, there is no problem. Indeed, if an author names a character but gives him no properties, he associates a term with the null set.

4 As Brock (2010: 343) points out, some varieties of Creationism – those defended by Deutsch which hold that specification of a pre-existing character suffices for its creation – will be compatible with Parsons’s view. I will not consider this fur- ther because I agree with Brock that the absence of a new entity means no crea- tion has taken place. Some might deny that Deutsch qualifies as a Creationist because his view is too similar to the one I defend here.

5 A further objection here to Parsons’s view is that if characters are to be associated with sets, and ‘Holmes’ is associated with a different set at different times, how do we know that the two Holmes’s are the same character? For lack of space, I cannot go into detail here but authorial intention would play a role in the solution.

6 It might be objected here that an author could write a story about a number that does not exist — for example, an even prime not identical to two. What are we saying when we say this does not exist? This is simply dealt with by noting that there is no concrete or abstract item which is an even prime not identical to two. What there is, in Parsons’s view, is a non-existent object which is associated with the set containing the properties is even, is prime and is identical to two.

See Also:

Sherlock Holmes as Enemy of Confirmation Bias

What Is “Theory Of Mind?”

The Psychology of Successful Trading: see clip below of me explaining my new book!

Nietzsche on Memory Thesis: Opening Material (MPhil)

References

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How to cite this article: Short, T L 2014 How can we reconcile the following apparent truths: ‘Sherlock Holmes doesn’t exist’ and ‘Sherlock Holmes was created by Conan Doyle’? Opticon1826,(16): 8, pp. 1-9, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5334/opt.bs

Published: 17 April 2014

Copyright: © 2014 The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY 3.0), which permits unrestricted use,distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/.

Opticon1826 is a peer-reviewed open access journal published by Ubiquity Press

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Nietzsche On Memory: Conclusions

Introduction

The starting point for this thesis was the claim that memory is of a higher importance for Nietzsche and the understanding of his work than has been hitherto recognised. I made out this claim by arguing initially that for Nietzsche, memory is what makes us human, and by also noting the importance and unusual nature of Nietzsche’s picture of forgetting. Having established the significance of memory, it became clear that we need to understand what exactly Nietzsche means by the term. It became apparent that there were many uses and nuances and do it appeared valuable to separate out the various meanings into different types and subtypes of memory.

Four Different Types Of Memory

This separation generated four different types of memory. I will first recapitulate their definitions before summarising the arguments for their existence. Passive Memory was defined on p. 17 as being composed of two subtypes: Inhibitory Memory and Imposed Memory. Imposed Memory was defined as any memory which is imposed externally; and Inhibitory Memory was defined as any memory which tends to suppress action.

Active Memory was defined on p. 21 as any use of memory which is both selected by the rememberer and tends to promote activity. Organic Memory was defined on p. 35 as any use of memory in which any of the following markers are present: i). it is physiologically based; or ii). it is stored via experiences of events that did not take place during the lifetime of the rememberer or iii). it is available to life beyond humanity. Collective Memory was defined on p. 62 as any use of memory or its contents in which the results could not be re-described on the basis of a sum over individual memories.

Distinction Between Active And Passive Memory

The argument for the first distinction between Passive Memory and Active Memory was driven by the way that Nietzsche sees activity as a major source of value and by his remarks to the effect that some memories were valuable and some were not. In particular, there was an identification in Nietzsche between passive and reactive memory and passive and reactive behaviour, all of which Nietzsche saw as less valuable. This led to the conclusion that some memories tended to promote activity and some tended to inhibit it, resulting in the two types. Passive Memory was linked to the phenomenon of ressentiment, a complex theme of Nietzsche’s which is nevertheless seen by him negatively, at least from the perspective of those experiencing it.

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Passive Memory

Passive Memory was shown to be made up of two subtypes: Inhibitory and Imposed. While they need not be identical, they will overlap quite significantly in the weak and those suffering from ressentiment, for those who have no control over some of what they remember will also have little freedom of action. This argument was primarily driven by the association in GM between the imposition of memories of public punishments and the inhibition of action in those who have such memories.

Active Memory

Active Memory was primarily argued for – see §2.2.2 – by contrasting it with Passive Memory on several axes. As mentioned, the first of these distinctions was by the valuation ascribed by Nietzsche, but distinctions were also shown in terms of power, bad conscience, the memory of the will, contest and competition, and effective self-creation.

Organic Memory

There is a third major type of memory for Nietzsche: Organic Memory. While I claim that the first distinction between Passive Memory and Active Memory is true and useful to us today, Organic Memory is perhaps a less useful claim. Understanding what Nietzsche means by it remains an important pre-requisite for reading him however, because it can cause us to mistake useful claims about our memory with the wider concept of Organic Memory that Nietzsche also considers.

We saw that Organic Memory was a new type since Nietzsche extended it to previous generations of humans and also to the non-human world of plants. This contrasts with Passive Memory and Active Memory types in humans. It is probably beyond what we would accept today as falling within the standard meaning of the term ‘memory’ and reflects some of Nietzsche’s interest in biological views which are no longer current.

Fresh Perspectives

I argued that understanding this additional memory type could give us fresh perspectives on the important themes of Dionysus vs Apollo and the Übermensch. In the first case, forgetting is part of the value of the drives, while in the second case the special memory abilities of the Übermensch were linked to his ability to affirm the Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence.

No Collective Memory

My final task was to eliminate a misunderstanding. Several authors have claimed or assumed that Nietzsche recognises a type of Collective Memory. I argued that when authors have involved Nietzsche to support existence claims for Collective memory, they were mistaken. Often this occurred because they were confused by Nietzsche’s admittedly rather opaque references to the slightly strange Organic Memory type.

I conclude that understanding to which memory type Nietzsche is referring is valuable and important: it gives us better perspectives on what memory is and what Nietzsche means.

See Also:

What Is “Theory Of Mind?”

#Narcissism and #Unexpected Behaviour

The Psychology of Successful Trading: see clip below of me explaining my new book!

The Forthcoming #Bitcoin Crash Will Kill The #Trump Demographic

Bibliography

[1] F. W. Nietzsche and R. J. Hollingdale, Untimely Meditations. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1983.

[2] F. W. Nietzsche, M. Clark, and A. J. Swensen, On the Genealogy of Morality: a Polemic. Hackett Pub. Co., Indianapolis, 1998.

[3] F. W. Nietzsche, G. Colli, and M. Montinari, Sämtliche Werke. dtv and Walter de Gruyter, Munich, 1988.

[4] F. W. Nietzsche, W. A. Kaufmann, and R. J. Hollingdale, The Will to Power. Vintage Books, New York, 1968.

[5] S. R. Luft, “The Secularization of Origins in Vico and Nietzsche,” The Personalist Forum, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 133–148, 1994.

[6] F. W. Nietzsche and R. J. Hollingdale, Human, All Too Human: a Book for Free Spirits. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1986.

[7] W. A. Kaufmann, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist. Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1974.

[8] F. W. Nietzsche and R. J. Hollingdale, Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future. Penguin Books, London, 2003.

[9] J. Richardson, Nietzsche’s New Darwinism. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2008.

[10] F. W. Nietzsche, M. Clark, and B. Leiter, Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1997.

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[23] A. Kee, Nietzsche Against the Crucified. SCM Press, Norwich, 1999.

[24] C. D. Acampora, Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals: Critical Essays. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Lanham, 2006.

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[26] H. Staten, “The Problem of Nietzsche’s Economy,” Representations, no. 27, pp. 66–91, 1989.

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[28] R. Poole, “Memory, Responsibility, and Identity,” Social Research, vol. 75, no. 1, pp. 263–286, 2008.

[29] A. Ridley, “Nietzsche’s Conscience,” Journal of Nietzsche Studies, no. 11, pp. 1– 12, 1996.

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no. s1, pp. 193–207, 2011.

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[32] N. Sheehan, A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam. Random House, London, 1988.

[33] M. M. Lewis, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. W.W. Norton, London, 2004.

[34] J. Lavrin, “A Note on Nietzsche and Dostoevsky,” Russian Review, vol. 28, no. 2, pp. 160–170, 1969.

[35] F. Dostoyevsky, Notes from the Underground. Dover Publications, Mineola, 1992.

[36] D. J. Pratt, “[untitled],” Isis, vol. 86, no. 2, pp. 342–343, 1995.

[37] J. S. Gamble, “The Indian Species of Mimosa,” Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information (Royal Gardens, Kew), vol. 1920, no. 1, pp. 1–6, 1920.

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[39] L. Lampert, “Review: [untitled],” The Review of Metaphysics, vol. 60, no. 1, pp. 173–175, 2006.

[40] G. Parkes, “Nietzsche on the Fabric(ation) of Experience,” Journal of Nietzsche Studies, no. 9/10, pp. 7–35, 1995.

[41] M. Haar, “Life and Natural Totality in Nietzsche,” Journal of Nietzsche Studies, no. 3, pp. 67–97, 1992.

[42] A. François and R. Lapidus, “Life and Will in Nietzsche and Bergson,” SubStance, vol. 36, no. 3, pp. 100–114, 2007.

[43] C. E. Scott, “Nietzsche: Feeling, Transmission, Phusis,” Journal of Nietzsche Studies, no. 16, pp. 49–79, 1998.

[44] F. W. Nietzsche, R. Geuss, and R. Speirs, The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1999.

[45] A. Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation. Dover Publications, Mineola, 1966.

[46] P. M. Lützeler, “[untitled],” German Studies Review, vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 205–206, 1998.

[47] A. Nehamas, Nietzsche: Life as Literature. Harvard University Press, Cambridge,
1985.

[48] J. K. Winfree, “Before the Subject: Rereading The Birth of Tragedy,” Journal
of Nietzsche Studies, no. 25, pp. 58–77, 2003.

[49] G. Gambino, “Nietzsche and the Greeks: Identity, Politics, and Tragedy,” Polity,
vol. 28, no. 4, pp. 415–444, 1996.

[50] D. Thomas, “The Articulation of Time in Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy: Rethinking Deconstruction Through the Thematic of Temporality,” Journal of Nietzsche Studies, no. 9/10, pp. 113–131, 1995.

[51] Plato, Meno. Arc Manor, Rockville, 2009.

[52] R. Wicks, “Friedrich Nietzsche,” in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (E. N. Zalta, ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, CSLI, Stanford University, summer 2011 ed., 2011.

[53] F. W. Nietzsche and R. J. Hollingdale, Thus Spoke Zarathustra: a Book for Everyone and No One. Penguin Books, London, 1961.

[54] B. Magnus, “Nietzsche’s Eternalistic Counter-Myth,” The Review of Metaphysics, vol. 26, no. 4, pp. 604–616, 1973.

[55] T. Stern, “Nietzsche on Context and the Individual,” Nietzscheforschung, vol. 15, pp. 299–315, 2008.

[56] A. Funkenstein, “Collective Memory and Historical Consciousness,” History and Memory, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 5–26, 1989.

[57] J. Assmann and J. Czaplicka, “Collective Memory and Cultural Identity,” New German Critique, no. 65, pp. 125–133, 1995.

[58] A. Lattas, “Introduction: Mnemonic Regimes and Strategies of Subversion,” Oceania, vol. 66, no. 4, pp. 257–265, 1996.

Categories
philosophy

Nietzsche: Collective Memory

Gedächtniß hat Ursachen der Moralität – und wir haben es nicht in der Hand! NB.

Nietzsche, NF–1880, 6 [344]

4.1 Introduction

The question as to whether Nietzsche recognises a Collective Memory type will be the topic of this Chapter. This is important because commentators – below I will discuss Poole, Margalit, Funkenstein, Gambino, Assmann, Czaplicka and Lattas, Richardson and Staten but there are others – invoke Nietzsche in the context of discussing Collective Memory. There seems to be some conviction that Nietzsche recognises Collective Memory. I will however deny that he does recognise Collective Memory in a meaningful way, which is why this topic has been postponed to a separate chapter. I will argue that when commentators believe that Nietzsche does in fact recognise Collective Memory, it is because they have mistakenly identified his concept that I termed Organic Memory on p. 35. This is a confusion since Organic Memory is not distinctively human while Collective Memory is. By confusing the two, we weaken one of Nietzsche’s main claims which involves drawing a sharp boundary not between humans and animals but between some humans and other humans.

The first point we need to decide on is the definition of Collective Memory. Then we can decide whether Nietzsche recognises it.

4.2 What Is Collective Memory?

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Ideas of what Collective Memory is or does tend to be hazy. It might be memories of the second world war. The majority of us, who were not there, nevertheless have ‘folk memories’ of some of the events that took place, and these memories feed into our notions of who we are in what is termed ‘concretisation of identity’. Collective Memory is not the form it is stored in: so it will not be books themselves even though plenty of the contents of Collective Memory, if it exists, could be stored in books. One idea is that Collective Memory is justified because there are certainly memories one must have if one is to be a member of a particular group. There are, certainly, groups of people which may be individuated by a memory that they share. Various items must be remembered to some extent – which does not necessarily mean believed in – in order to be a member of a particular group.

Everyone who claims to be a member of the group of people who support the England football team must remember Stuart Pearce exorcising the ghost of a missed penalty in Euro 96. If they had no memory of this, they would not be accepted as a member of the group by other members. This, for some authors, suffices to establish that there is a useful concept of Collective Memory. However, finding the term useful as shorthand does not suffice to make Collective Memory exist as a unity. Commentators employ the term Collective Memory more often than they define it. It is certainly right, as Poole suggests1 that the term Collective Memory needs to be handled with care, and to note that “there is a genuine question as to legitimacy of the notion of collective memory”.

Margalit observes2 that while there are indisputable cases of individual memory, there are no indisputable cases of Collective Memory; it may just be a “doubtful extended metaphor”. It is then suggested that an ethical treatment of the past requires that Collective memory exist, because “[c]onveying the sensibility of events from the past that should be landmarks in our collective moral consciousness calls for a special agent of collective memory”.3 This ‘special agent’ is some kind of ‘moral witness’. Nietzsche will have a large number of problems with this. He will doubtless begin by observing that even if you are successful in showing that your moral consciousness requires X, this is no security whatsoever that X exists, or will fulfil the role you need. He will be entirely deaf to your pleas that X ‘should’ exist because the world is not arranged for your benefit. Beyond this impressive opening defence, he will if pressed have additional resources to deploy. He may point to the circularity involved in having a moral requirement for the existence of X in order to give moral significance to something else. He may point out that you have not yet done anything at all to convince him that your morality is the right one. All of this produces an initial


1Poole [28, p. 274].
2Margalit [31, p. 15].
3Margalit [31, p. 17].


scepticism that Nietzsche will recognise Collective Memory: what is clear is that he will not allow any weight to an argument for Collective Memory that requires it to exist to fulfil an unfounded moral requirement.

Funkenstein wishes to retain the term, even while admitting that the memories of a particular event will be different for different people who experienced it; to say nothing about the different memories of people who experienced an event and those who were informed of it. Collective Memory is “not a mistaken and misleading term” provided it is “used within clear limitations”.4 An attempt is then made to define Collective Memory by analogy with language. A language is instantiated by speech acts of individuals, and also in writing. We can meaningfully speak of the existence of a language because we can sum over all of the individual occasions when someone speaks or writes English and say: that is the English language. The analogy with memory purports to be that we can sum over all of the individuals involved in what we might term ‘memory acts’ and say: that is Collective Memory. At this point, Socrates of all people will bring the fatal complaint that you are giving him examples when he asked for a definition. This again shows at most the useful nature of the idea of Collective Memory and pragmatic advantage does not suffice as an existence proof.

The obvious question underlying all of this is how can there even be a Collective Memory since only individuals have memories, as we normally understand the term. While Nietzsche has widened our perspectives as to what those individual memories can contain and how dynamic they can and should be, the extent to which these factors apply to collectives rather than the individuals remains to be seen. We have though seen, in §2.3, that Nietzsche allows the apparent commonality of fabricated experience to be a reflection of the way that we will all tend to use similar projections. Then there is also the question as to what these groups are that might have Collective Memory. Candidate groups will include nations, ethnic groups, members of a university and cricket aficionados. These groups will have different qualifying memories. Some groups one will choose to become a member of and some will be a result of biology or history. It will be immediately apparent that any individual would have a large array of overlapping collective memories, so we would be dealing with a diffuse and amorphous phenomenon.

The term Collective Memory, if it is to be meaningful, must not reduce to being a collection of individual memories. It must be greater than the sum of its parts. In other words, it must be non-compositional. If it is not, then it is merely a re-description at a more convenient level of a phenomenon that actually only takes place on an individual level. By analogy, it may be more convenient for me to say that the England cricket team performed well on the field, rather than listing each member


4Funkenstein [56, p. 6].


of the team and stating the same in relation to each. That does not establish that the team has the same mode of existence as the men that make it up. Similarly, if Collective Memory is just a convenient way of describing common influences on individual memory, it is not a separate entity from individual memories.

It now becomes difficult to find a definition of Collective Memory that gives it actual existence – or at least, to place it on a similar footing to individual memory. After all, individual memory is not an object, so we should not set the bar any higher for Collective Memory. ‘Individual memory’ is a useful term because it refers to the observed phenomenon of persons being able to recall events in the past. It is a physical phenomenon, if physicalism is correct; in any case, it is a real ability that persons have. So we need to find what Collective Memory could be to be a real ability that persons have if we are to set the bar at the same level. Again, it cannot be a re- description such that if I and my brother can both remember the same cricket game, that suffices to establish Collective Memory. This seems to be a common influence on separate individual memories – which is not a controversial claim. So Collective Memory must add something to separate memories. Perhaps I have a memory which is incomplete in some way, either in regard to content or to significance, and it can be completed by a memory that someone else has. If we found this, we would have identified Collective Memory, because we would have found something that could not be re-described by listing the contents of individual memories, assuming such an exercise to be possible. Throughout this thesis, I will define Collective Memory as any use of memory or its contents in which the results could not be re-described on the basis of a sum over individual memories.

Poole proposes5 to arrive at an account of Collective Memory by extending Nietzsche’s concept of ‘memory of the will’, or conative will as it is termed. This project will involve the concepts of collective identities, by which can be meant group membership or nationality, and shared responsibilities. The intention is to extend the account of conative memory from the individual to Collective Memory, and argue that if we understand the role of Collective Memory “in terms derived from” Nietzsche (and Locke), we will understand its role in the formation of collective identities and the transmission of collective responsibilities. This may not exactly be a claim that Nietzsche recognises a type of Collective Memory, but it is at least tantamount to one. It tells us that he should have recognised it or that he has provided us with the tools to do so, even if he did not do so himself.

Poole argues6 that “Nietzsche’s insight was to realise that this kind of memory, and the identity associated with it, was not given by nature […] but created by […] social life.” We must here again be careful to avoid concluding that a memory which is created by a collective is ipso facto a Collective Memory. The argument continues by


5Poole [28, p. 264].
6Poole [28, p. 273].


suggesting that this memory may be the type of memory that Nietzsche sees society imposing using pain on the GM account that we have considered at length. It does seem clear that society imposes these memories that I have termed passive memories as a way of enforcing commitments to society, but that does not entail that this is Collective Memory, unless we accept that general memories that are ‘the same’ in different individuals suffices to qualify those as collective memories. There is then a question as whether you and I have the numerically identical memory when we both remember that we have to pay tax; or whether some lesser criterion – perhaps different tokens or instantiations of ‘the same’ memory – will mean that we have (share?) a Collective Memory of tax obligations. I will deny this.

4.3 Does Nietzsche Recognise Collective Memory?

There are two elements in Nietzsche’s work which one might see as Collective Memory. These are the various types of historical sense discussed in UM II and then the GM II notion of societies feeling a sense of being indebted to their founders. I discuss each in turn.

4.3.1 Historical Sense

The first question here is whether Nietzsche is referring to memory at all when he discusses the historical sense. Then we will need to decide on whether we can extend to a Collective Type. I will conclude that the historical sense is indeed a type of memory for Nietzsche, but that he does not intend it to be extended to a collective type.

What Is Historical Sense?

Historical sense is our sense that there has been a past and that we have a place in its narrative. It allows us to “assimilate and appropriate the things of the past”,7 which gives us Nietzsche’s central question: what is it good for? It is the use of past events to aid us in our current purposes.

Historical sense has three types: “monumental”, “antiquarian” and “critical”.8 I will discuss the first below – see p. 68. Antiquarian history is a excessive “scholarliness”9 that leads to the mummification against which Nietzsche warns. Critical history is the use of the past by considering it and condemning it where necessary: it can form something to be usefully overcome: we must “break up and dissolve a part of the past”.10


7Nietzsche UM II [1, ‘On the uses and disadvantages of history for life’, pp. 62–63].
8Nietzsche UM II [1, ‘On the uses and disadvantages of history for life’, p. 77].
9Nietzsche UM II [1, ‘On the uses and disadvantages of history for life’, p. 75].
10Nietzsche UM II [1, ‘On the uses and disadvantages of history for life’, p. 75].


Historical sense is “a hypertrophied virtue”.11 So Nietzsche allows that it is beneficial when kept within limits and only its overgrowth creates problems. These problems occur when the Historical Sense “no longer conserves life but mummifies it”.12 The problem is one of incorrect use: inspiration for new ways of life is preferred above slavish reflection of the old. Culture, on Nietzsche’s diagnosis, is obsessed by getting to ‘the truth’ of the past and knows that it is. Nietzsche is surrounded by historians and philologists; he will tire of the latter discipline. One’s historical sense is how interested one is in the past. Nietzsche’s question is whether the level of interest is healthy; his answer is no. We might imemdiately wonder whether his own consuming interest in the ancient Greeks is healthy. He has one ready response – he may well not be an exemplar of health – but less glibly, he may propose that the Greeks were interested in the past in a more mythological way, in the way it could inspire action. Thus Nietzsche can claim that he is doing monumental history in a beneficial way.

Is Historical Sense A Form Of Memory?

I will argue that historical sense is a form of memory. Note that if to the contrary Historical Sense is not memory, it is a fortiori not Collective Memory.

The first indication that Nietzsche is talking about memory comes from his setup of the dialectic. He begins the relevant section by speaking of the happiness of animals who are happy because they are forgetful. This is to be contrasted with the unhappy humans who are unhappy because they cannot forget. The human “clings relentlessly to the past”.13

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The animal, by contrast, “lives unhistorically”.14 Thus, the animal lacks historical sense, memory and unhappiness. We might perhaps allow that animals do ‘remember’ certain things, in that they can sometimes retrieve items they have previously hidden, for example. This may just be heuristic behaviour though and in any case, it does not constitute memory of the form that humans have where, essentially, I am part of my own memories: I am in the picture. In contrast with animals, the human has historical sense, memory and unhappiness. So at least, memory and historical sense go together.

Secondly, Nietzsche uses the term ‘incorporate’, which as we saw in §2.3, is one of his code words for memory. The term occurs in his discussion of plastic power, which we will discuss again in the next section. Plastic power is defined to be “the capacity to develop out of oneself in one’s own way, to transform and incorporate into oneself what is past and foreign”.15 Plastic power is in fact the power of Active Memory. This again reminds us that active transformation and incorporation is the


11Nietzsche UM II [1, ‘On the uses and disadvantages of history for life’, p. 61].
12Nietzsche UM II [1, ‘On the uses and disadvantages of history for life’, p. 75].
13Nietzsche UM II [1, ‘On the uses and disadvantages of history for life’, p. 61].
14Nietzsche UM II [1, ‘On the uses and disadvantages of history for life’, p. 61].
15Nietzsche UM II [1, ‘On the uses and disadvantages of history for life’, p. 62].


key to beneficial use of memory. The idea of plastic power is a measure of the amount of activity promotion of which memory is capable; Nietzsche evaluates such power positively and indeed thinks a lack of it will be fatal to individuals and peoples. The repetition of the triad ‘man, people, culture’ seems to be more than a stylistic trope: Nietzsche does agree that there is something like a memory that a culture can have. This is emphasised by the fact that two of the terms in the repeated triad are collective terms.

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We then have a further coded but unmistakable reference to the excessive Passive Memory of the men of ressentiment who will “possess so little [plastic power] that they can perish from a single painful event, often and especially from a single subtle piece of injustice”.16 This sounds exactly like the problem of Dostoyevsky’s protagonist, as discussed on p. 33. While Nietzsche does not use the term ressentiment in BT, it is interesting that he is making a reference to something like it so far ahead of GM. As we noted on p. 17, Passive Memory is either Imposed or Inhibitory and this passes both tests. The individual possessed by ressentiment will be able to do little about that situation and also it will have substantial inhibitory effects: were the individual able to act uninhibitedly, they would scarcely be a sufferer from ressentiment. Nietzsche then contrasts these individuals with those possessing more Active Memory, who “possess[] a kind of clear conscience” irrespective of “dreadful disasters [or] their own wicked acts”.17 Thus once again, the Active Memory users remain positive and active via a valuable ignorance of the consequences of their acts.

There is further evidence that the historical sense and memory at least go together, when Nietzsche writes: “[i]t is not at all senseless to think that our memory of the past was lesser and that the historical sense also slept, as it slept in the historical acme of the Greeks”.18 This is best interpreted by agreeing that the historical sense is a type of memory for Nietzsche.

There is a parallel between the facts that there is a typology of the Historical Sense and the claim of this thesis that there is a typology of memory. We might also note the parallels that memory as well as Historical Sense are – only loosely – truth-tracking, in that both ostensibly aim at the truth, and derive their authority from that aim. Nietzsche tells us that monumental history may be inaccurate, but that does not matter: its ability to inspire action is more important. Memory too often falls short of truth-tracking and is even distorted.

We must for all these reasons conclude that Nietzsche is indeed discussing memory, both passive and active, in this section on ‘historical sense’.


16Nietzsche UM II [1, ‘On the uses and disadvantages of history for life’, p. 62].
17Nietzsche UM II [1, ‘On the uses and disadvantages of history for life’, p. 62].
18Nietzsche KSA [3, NF – 1873, 29(172)]. Nachlaß, my translation.


I will deny that Historical Sense is Collective Memory. Anyone believing that Nietzsche recognises Collective Memory must either think that Historical Sense is Collective Memory or the indebtedness of societies which I will discuss in §4.3.2 is Collective Memory. I will therefore be denying both supporting claims in pursuit of my overall argument that Nietzsche does not recognise Collective Memory.

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Nietzsche certainly sees some analogies between capacities deriving from the memory of individuals, peoples and cultures. He discusses the damage done by excess of ‘historical sense’, and says that a certain ‘plastic power’ is needed to recover from that excess. Nietzsche writes that the determining the degree of the historical sense which is harmful to the “living thing, whether this living thing be a man or a people or a culture” we need to know “how great the plastic power of a man, a people, a culture is”.19 As shown immediately above, plastic power is another term for the power of Active Memory, so here Nietzsche is saying that the amount or strength of Active Memory possessed by an individual or a culture is the key to deciding their strength. Individuals or cultures who are strong in this way will be able to survive the dangers of Passive Memory, being an excess of historical sense.

The second question then is whether we must also conclude that there is a Collective Memory type. So far we know that the plastic power actively to incorporate can be possessed by individuals and groups, and must be if they are to survive. The fact that groups can possess it does not go any distance towards showing that it is possessed by a group per se; it is consistent with the different claim that a group of individuals each possess it. We know also that this plastic power means the ability to ‘incorporate’ the past and the foreign, to transform it to become useful. Yet this addition of the foreignness that must also be assimilated and the use of the incorporation metaphor for memory weakness the claim that purely memory is under discussion here in terms of what the collective should do, because assimilation of the foreign is not a function of memory. This is true whether we use a standard understanding of the term memory or even extend it to Nietzsche’s picture on which there is also a type of Organic Memory.

This is again suggested by how Nietzsche continues his analysis. While he continues to apply his findings both to a man and to society, he constantly actually discusses it in terms of the individual. Nietzsche writes: “the most powerful nature […] would draw to itself and incorporate into itself all the past”; he also states that it is a “universal law” that a “living thing can be healthy, strong and fruitful only when bounded by a horizon”.20 We have here an important distinction. It is true that Nietzsche observes common factors which apply to all living things and that these relate


19Nietzsche UM II [1, ‘On the uses and disadvantages of history for life’, p. 62].
20Nietzsche UM II [1, ‘On the uses and disadvantages of history for life’, p. 63].



4.3. DOES NIETZSCHE RECOGNISE COLLECTIVE MEMORY? 67


to the memories of those living things. It is also true that similar requirements apply to collectives, who also need boundaries and plastic power for strength. But these points do not entail a Collective Memory type. They do not exclude it either, but the simplest interpretation of Nietzsche here is to allow that he sees that individuals and a collective of individuals will have similar requirements on them in terms of memory, strength and boundaries, but that the Collective Memory may simply be a sum of individual memories rather than a type of Collective Memory. Staten in effect notes this option. He employs21 the term “cultural memory” but later notes that a practice being “the same” across different individuals does not entail “any kind of sameness in the internal representations of those individuals”.22

So for there to be a Collective Memory, there must be something that transcends the individual. If there could be a collective whole that is greater than the sum of individual parts then we would have a true Collective Memory. Otherwise we just have some separate individuals who have similar memories. So now the question becomes: how should we define Collective Memory, in order to decide whether Nietzsche recognises it? This is the question of the next section, §4.2, but first I will look at commentary purporting to link Nietzsche to Collective Memory.

Commentary

Collective Memory is not what Nietzsche is discussing and that his opaque reference to Organic Memory which we have now elucidated have confused commentators. Nietzsche’s Organic Memory can accommodate the role commentators have allotted to Collective Memory. This is because one key element for Nietzsche of Organic Memory – that it reaches back to previous generations of humans – is sufficient to mean that all humans have it. Recall that we defined Organic Memory on p. 35 as any use of memory in which any of the following markers are present: i). it is physiologically based; or ii). it is stored via experiences of events that did not take place during the lifetime of the rememberer or iii). it is available to humans and also life more generally. Since we defined Collective Memory on p. 62 as any use of memory or its contents in which the results could not be re-described on the basis of a sum over individual memories, two types of memory could co-exist or overlap.

An indication on what we might term the compatibilist side of this question comes from discussion by Poole23 of a late paper of Freud’s. In this, Freud suggests that there is a repressed collective or cultural memory in Jewish people of the murder of the original Moses. On the account, the repression of this memory leads to guilt which is identified as a feature of the Jewish religion. The memory involved here extends back further than individual memory, as Organic Memory does, but also forms part


21Staten [16, p. 575].
22Staten [16, p. 577].
23Poole [28, p. 276].


of a culture, as Collective Memory does. Freud has extrapolated the phenomenon of repression from an individual to a collective level. Since Freud also holds that the transmission mechanism across generations is biological, he is in agreement with Nietzsche, but this again suggests that that the parallel is to Nietzsche’s Organic Memory.

Funkenstein has surprisingly shown24 that Hegel recognised Collective Memory since he used the term in the context of his writings on historical processes. This is significant because we know Nietzsche was familiar with Hegel and in particular was concerned to oppose his historical views. While Nietzsche is free to accept some of Hegel’s views and reject others, to the extent that Collective Memory underpins Hegel’s historical world-process and Nietzsche rejects that, Nietzsche is pro tanto committed to denying Collective Memory also. Funkenstein also allots25 the credit for the first systematic study of Collective Memory to Halbwachs in work first published in 1925, and adds: “Collective Memory is, by virtue of its definition, a “monumental” history in the sense of Nietzsche – and it is nurtured by the “plastic power” of the collective that keeps it alive.”

Photo by Roney John on Pexels.com

Since Nietzsche recognises ‘monumental history’, we would have to agree that he recognises a Collective Memory type if the claim can be made out that Collective Memory is a type of monumental history. There are grounds to resist this however. Nietzsche does not use the term Collective Memory; he speaks of monumental history. It is true that his nomenclature is somewhat confusing. The term might suggest the sort of statue or external iconography of memory that we have already discussed, but in fact Nietzsche has more in mind that the study of great personages of the past – surely their deeds not their representations – will be inspiring to those striving to become active today in that they demonstrate that greatness is possible. This might happen via the contemplation of statues but it seems unlikely and in fact Nietzsche is uninterested in the mechanism.

Nietzsche defines monumental history indirectly. Firstly, there is a chain that links “the great moments in the struggle of the human individual”.26 Note how we are speaking of individuals here rather than the collective. The great moments are in fact the great men in history. There is a faith that such men have existed and this faith gives encouragement to the ‘untimely’ in each age who also struggle against society for greatness by allowing them to believe that it is possible. This faith “finds expression in the demand for a monumental history”.27 Thus we are told one of the functions of monumental history, which serves to go some way towards defining it: it is what fulfils that role. We are then told that “greatness goes on living” through the “hard


2424Funkenstein [56, p. 5].
2525Funkenstein [56, p. 9].
2626Nietzsche UM II [1, ‘On the uses and disadvantages of history for life’, p. 68].
2627Nietzsche UM II [1, ‘On the uses and disadvantages of history for life’, p. 68].



4.3. DOES NIETZSCHE RECOGNISE COLLECTIVE MEMORY? 69


relay-race of monumental history”.28 We may conclude then that monumental history is simply the history or mythology of great, inspiring individuals. This inspiration is to be available to the modern man – singular not plural – and the fact that the same effect may take place on several individuals remains insufficient to show that this is a Collective Memory type in Nietzsche. What would it mean for monumental history to be Collective Memory?

To meet our definition, it would have to mean that these inspiring histories of great individuals are not just shared by many, but that the sum is more than the parts. This does not seem impossible, at first. The myths of the great can grow in the telling. A shared monumental history might suffice to give group membership. But there is nothing here that requires anything beyond a sum over individual memories.

4.3.2 Indebtedness of Societies

Nietzsche discusses indebtedness of societies and guilt in GM II. Interestingly, this is another place in Nietzsche’s work where he closes with an opaque reference to Zarathustra. As with the reference I mentioned on p. 52, the reason seems to be that Nietzsche feels himself to be too decadent to propound the view himself. This is consistent with my claim that Z is an important work of Nietzsche’s and so we will again have to take its claims seriously, including the Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence.

The chain of Nietzsche’s argument is as follows. Guilt and bad conscience arise “in the relationship between buyer and seller, creditor and debtor.”29 This guilt must then be expiated and the debt redeemed. Then two forms of creditors are imagined who cannot be satisfied: ancestors and deities. Nietzsche writes that the debt: “requires a huge wholesale redemption, something immense as a repayment to the ‘creditor’.”30 The idea is that societies or tribes owe something unpayable to their ancestors who founded the tribe, and similarly man owes something immense to a creating deity in return for his existence. Richardson misconceives this as Collective Memory when he writes31 that “society makes a collective kind of memory” in discussing GM II.

Memory figures prominently in GM II in relation to indebtedness. As mentioned on p. 19, indebtedness produces memory and requires it. This will be Passive Memory, because it is externally imposed and inhibitory. Society or the creditor imposes it. It is inhibitory in that one of the actions which it prohibits is failing to redeem the debt, even though repayment is impossible. Thus Passive Memory becomes the locus of bad conscience and the excuse for endless self-punishment, which expresses itself in the asceticism Nietzsche objects to. It can also be Organic Memory. In GM, we have a race of Slaves being punished, which creates a memory for them. That will


2828Nietzsche UM II [1, ‘On the uses and disadvantages of history for life’, p. 68].
2929Nietzsche GM [2, II.8].
3030Nietzsche GM [2, II.19].
3131Richardson [9, p. 93].



70 CHAPTER 4. A COLLECTIVE MEMORY TYPE?


certainly result in Organic Memory formation for the Slaves: we are just like the Mimosa which now moves when touched because it has an Organic Memory of ‘pain’ inflicted on its ancestors. If Nietzsche says that this amounts to a culture creating shared memories, then we might have to allow that he recognises Collective Memory. He does not, and everything adverted to purporting that he does can be explained by bearing in mind his concept of Organic Memory. Memory seems to be for Nietzsche only at the level of the individual, despite the fact that strictly speaking there are no individuals, since the self is illusory, as outlined on p. 19. If there is a problem for Nietzsche here, introducing Collective Memory multiplies the problem rather than solves it, but since he has told us that the drives have memory – see §2.3 – we can see the outlines of the solution.
Nietzsche writes: “[w]hen the human being considered it necessary to make a memory for himself, it never happened without blood, martyrs and sacrifices”.32 We need to be clear here that this is still Passive Memory. This might be unclear because it might seem that in this quotation, Nietzsche is speaking of an individual making a memory for himself. This is the phrasing used, but that interpretation would be inconsistent with the method described. The common link between blood, martyrs and sacrifices is that they are all public spectacles designed to impress spectators. They will be ritual public occasions organised by the authorities to shore up their authority. Thus the term ‘himself’ is not strictly speaking anaphoric. It is the case that humans are referred to in both parts of the sentence, but they are different persons. In the first case it is the authorities, and in the second, the Slaves. Thus by arranging the festivals of blood, the authorities do not make memories for themselves, but for the oppressed group that observes the punishments.

We can see that there might be grounds for commentators to speak of a Collective Memory in relation to these words. There are shared memories which are collectively imposed. However, Nietzsche gives us an indication that he means this only metaphorically, by using quotation marks around the term ‘memory’ only when he speaks of what might appear to be a group’s Collective Memory. He writes: “[t]he worse humanity’s “memory” was, the more terrible its customs have always appeared”.33 The quotation marks are an effective denial that there is any real type of Collective Memory.

Commentary

I will argue that commentators are mistaken in seeing Collective Memory in Nietzsche. Often they are mistaking his references to his obscure Organic Memory type for references to Collective Memory.


32Nietzsche GM [2, II.19].
33Nietzsche GM [2, II.3].



4.3. DOES NIETZSCHE RECOGNISE COLLECTIVE MEMORY? 71


Following on from the above, Margalit suggests34 that society owes a debt to a deity for having been created in his image. The consciousness of this debt is carried in Collective Memory, and forms the basis for morality. This line is an echo of Nietzsche’s GM claims discussed above that societies feel that they owe a debt to their founders, that there is a further debt to the deity which is unredeemable, and that the unredeemable nature of the debt provides unlimited guilt and an excuse for indefinite self-punishment via asceticism.

Once again, while this is suggestive that Nietzsche may have a concept of Collective Memory, it does not exclude that it is merely an aggregate of individual memories.
Gambino – a commentator we have already discussed in §3.1 – claims that Nietzsche recognises Collective Memory, when he writes35 “[w]hile violence was necessary to form political communities out of an undifferentiated herd, it was not sufficient to generate the Collective Memory necessary for the continued existence of a political community.” This makes two claims that we deny on our picture. It identifies the memory type that Nietzsche contends is socially imposed in GM with Collective Memory. It also asserts that the contest between Dionysos and Apollo which is the central topic of BT is resolved via Collective Memory manufacture via the inculcation of state-sponsored legitimising myths of the origins of the state. On our analysis, this is Passive Memory. It is Imposed Memory because it is not chosen by the rememberer, in accordance with the test we outlined on p. 17. It is added that myth must also be used as well as violence to create Collective Memory. Gambino further claims36 that when Nietzsche described in The Greek State the struggle and horror needed to rejuvenate memory, it is Collective Memory that he means. We may once again note that no primary reference to precisely a Collective Memory type is given and regard this as a further case of conflating acts on collectives of individual memory with individual acts on Collective Memory. This again fails the test of Collective Memory outlined on p. 62.

One indication that writers are confusing Organic Memory with Collective Memory may be seen in a discussion of Collective Memory and cultural identity, where we are told that “[a]ccording to Nietzsche, while in the world of animals genetic programmes guarantee the survival of the species, humans must find a means by which to maintain their nature consistently through generations. The solution to this problem is offered by cultural memory”.37 The reference to previous generations sounds as though the authors have seen some of Nietzsche’s words on Organic Memory which has that property. Why would cultures have any need to maintain consistency? Who would actually see to it that such a thing took place? Is it not true on the contrary


34Margalit [31, p. 72].
35Gambino [49, p. 421].
36Gambino [49, p. 423].
37Assmann and Czaplicka [57, p. 126].



72 CHAPTER 4. A COLLECTIVE MEMORY TYPE?


that people frequently think that things were completely different – and much better – earlier during their own lifetimes, let alone generations ago. The memory type operative here is Organic Memory in accordance with the tests we outlined on p. 35. This meets test ii). – i.e. the memory is stored via experiences of events that did not take place during the lifetime of the rememberer – and so we can see that Nietzsche has his Organic Memory concept in mind here. However, commentators would not thereby be licensed to take the two further steps needed for a Collective Memory type, which would be i). Organic Memory can have cultural effects – though this may well be arguable – and ii). it is sufficient for Collective Memory that persons have the same or similar Organic Memories. As per the definition of Collective Memory on p. 62, we want to see a use of memory or its contents in which the results could not be re-described on the basis of a sum over individual memories. This does not meet that test: there is no reason why human nature cannot be made consistent over generations without all of them having Collective Memory; in fact given that Nietzsche claims that just this is the function of Organic Memory, it is much more likely that it is Organic Memory that Nietzsche is referring to. There is no reason for Organic Memory to be Collective Memory.

This ‘cultural memory’ is then divided up by the authors into two types: communicative memory and objectivised culture. The former type is what people say to each other or write down about their own experiences, and will run back perhaps 100 years or more in extreme cases but usually much less.

The latter type – objectivised culture – can operate over much longer timescales because it includes any items such as books, statues, perhaps landscapes that could be seen as external stores of Collective Memory. Objectivised culture has the structure of memory, Assmann and Czaplicka suggest,38 meaning that it has the same ‘concretion of identity’ feature I mentioned on p. 60 with the story about Stuart Pearce. We may understand this by the example of the statues on Whitehall of various second world war military leaders. The culture that is objectivised in these statues says something relevant to the group identity of those who see London as their capital city. Nietzsche it is claimed has recognised that this structure dissolves in historicism.39

Assmann and Czaplicka also invoke40 Nietzsche in the context of his ‘constitution of horizons’. It is held that cultural memory forms group identity, and that Nietzsche believes that setting the limits – or constituting one’s horizon – to what is foreign to oneself arises from this accretion of identity. This would then presumably commit Nietzsche to Collective Memory but no primary citation is given to support this. While the authors are right to point out41 that Nietzsche opposes any dissolution


3838Assmann and Czaplicka [57, p. 126].
3939Assmann and Czaplicka [57, p. 126] cite UM II in support of this claim.
4040Assmann and Czaplicka [57, p. 130].
4141Assmann and Czaplicka [57, p. 132].


of these horizons through an excess of historical sense, that also does not commit him to a Collective Memory type, since nothing he writes requires more than similar memories in separate individuals.

One further common misstep seems to be that from Nietzsche’s agreed recognition of ‘social memory’ – being a memory created in individuals by society in order to make them more malleable – to a Collective Memory type. A memory created collectively need not be a Collective Memory in any meaningful sense. Lattas observes42 Nietzsche’s calls for Active Forgetfulness that I discussed on p. 22 but fails to note that collective forgetting can take place without there being any Collective Memory.

In conclusion: there is no Collective Memory type recognised by Nietzsche.


42Lattas [58, p. 261].



74 CHAPTER 4. A COLLECTIVE MEMORY TYPE?


Next Chapter: Nietzsche on Memory: Conclusion

Categories
philosophy

Nietzsche: Memory Roles

Von einem nicht irrenden Gedächtniß kann ebenso wenig als von einem absolut zweckmäßigen Handeln der Naturgesetze die Rede sein. NF–1872, 19 [163]

I will argue that the memory typology I have set out allows a new understanding of some of Nietzsche’s themes. Those themes are the early ones of Dionysos and Apollo and the Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence together with the linked topics of the Übermensch and the revaluation of all values. The first part of the Chapter, §3.1, is an examination the themes of Dionysos and Apollo. In §3.1.1, I discuss Nietzsche’s claims in BT on the topic, as they relate to memory. Then in §3.1.2 I show how an understanding of Nietzsche’s memory typology throws new light on the themes. In the second half of the Chapter, I will start by outlining the Doctrine in §3.2.1. Since the Doctrine is difficult to accept, and has been questioned by many commentators, I will need to show that it is nevertheless important to Nietzsche. I will therefore address the question as to whether Nietzsche is serious about the Doctrine in that section. I will conclude that Nietzsche is serious about the Doctrine; while he does not necessarily put it forward as a truth claim, it can nevertheless be one of his important topics. It can be significant as a mythological test whether true or false, and irrespective of whether Nietzsche believes it. This permits us to take seriously Nietzsche’s claims that Z is his most important work containing his most important themes. Also if this is so, and a memory typology elucidates it, then that typology is all the more significant. I will then outline the concept of the Übermensch in §3.2.2. I discuss the importance of memory typology in understanding these themes in §3.2.3.

3.1 Dionysos Versus Apollo

3.1.1 Nietzsche’s Claims In BT

BT is Nietzsche’s first published work, written when he was aged 26 and still under the strong influence of Schopenhauer. It is possible then that his views on memory were different later in his career. I will argue to the contrary, by showing his memory typology is already informing his work in BT. Then I show that we can gain a new understanding of Nietzsche’s discussion of the Dionysian and Apollonian drives in BT by using the typology of memory that I have developed.

Nietzsche’s opening question in BT is posed in the new preface he added in 1886: he asks: “[w]hat purpose was served by Greek art?”.1 His response is that it served to distract the Greeks from the nihilistic threats he sees as ever-present and that always tend to produce paralysis. These nihilistic threats are the questions that seem to suggest themselves to everyone – almost the questions that cause philosophy to be done – like asking what is the point of existence and what is the source of value. The threat is that these questions seem to have either no answers or no answers which can be justified other than by simply choosing them. While we all act as if this were not the case, we do so largely either by pretending that the problem does not exist or assigning rather arbitrarily a certain value to various pursuits. This is the same ‘valorisation’ problem we discussed in §2.1.1.

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These problems in ancient Greek society are of interest in themselves to Nietzsche, but his diagnosis is the same for modern society. Nietzsche’s answer is also given in the new preface. His response to the problem of valorisation is, famously, that “only as an aesthetic phenomenon is existence and the world eternally justified”.2 Since Nietzsche values activity, he sees the avoidance of what we might term the ‘paralysis of pointlessness’ as central to the continued development of mankind. Only art can do this, as a “saving sorceress” needed precisely “at this moment of supreme danger for the will.”3 At the time of writing BT, Nietzsche was still under the spell of Wagner, and hoped that the art form which would distract and activate was music. By contrast, the particular art form that he thought distracted the Greeks and made them active was tragic art: the theatre or its precursors. Tragic art emerged from the synthesis of two opposed drives of central importance for Nietzsche. Again, while Nietzsche is in principle discussing ancient Greek society, his analysis of drives is timeless and so will apply to us as well. These drives were the Dionysian and the Apollonian; I discuss each in turn.


1Nietzsche BT [44, p. 4].
2Nietzsche BT [44, p. 8].
3Nietzsche BT [44, p. 40].

What is Dionysian? The Dionysian drive is “best conveyed by the analogy of intoxication”.4 We may understand this widely to include physical intoxication from psychoactive substances but also ecstatic self-obliterating mental states induced in behavioural ways. There are many examples of this to be found, in fields as varied as the military training that makes a group of persons like a machine to meditating communities of monks: in many such situations, the communal supersedes the individual. Note that it is just an analogy with intoxication. Nietzsche is not suggesting that it is desirable to be frequently under the influence, but he does wish to recognise the creativity that can flow from a change to a wider perspective. In ancient Greece, the Dionysian intoxication and motivation came about via the tragic chorus. Nietzsche speaks of the dithyrambic chorus, which ecstatically sings songs in honour of Dionysos in a specifically frenzied fashion, in contrast with ‘solemn processions’ dedicated to other gods like Apollo. As Nietzsche writes: “[t]he chorus of Greek tragedy [is] the symbol of the entire mass of those affected by Dionysian excitement”.5 All citizens may participate in the chorus and thus all are immunised from asceticism.

The Apollonian drive is opposed to the Dionysian in some ways and in others similar. The two are in a creative tension. Nietzsche links dreaming to the Apollonian. He writes: “let us think of [these two drives] […] as the separate art-worlds of dream and intoxication.”6 The use of the term art – which in Nietzsche means selection and creation – is significant. Both drives are ‘selectively artistic’, so they are both active. But they act in different realms. Dreams are the active operation of fantasy or imagination. Intoxication promotes activity by being uninhibitory. Nietzsche’s claim is that the Apollonian drives give line and form and “logical causality”7 to the unformed Dionysian frenzy.

The two together can result in a creative synthesis of energy and direction. We may see the opposition between the Dionysian and the Apollonian as similar to Schopenhauer’s division of the world into Will and Representation.8 The world on this view is really one and unified; the appearance of separation and individuation is illusory. The Apollonian illusions are form-giving. However, under Dionysian intoxication, there is a loss of the sense of being an individual. The Greeks had art forms of both types. Choral dancing was Dionysian. Homeric epic poems were Apollonian, in that in their stories there was a proliferation of individuals, and it was the individuals who mattered: the poems had a hero. In this way, the poems moved away from unity and towards falsehood. Tragic art subsequently harmonises both and thus combines the Dionysian and the Apollonian. But Socrates requires reasons for acting, definitions, discursive individual characters: in short, deliberation is promoted over action.


4Nietzsche BT [44, p. 17].
5Nietzsche BT [44, p. 44].
6Nietzsche BT [44, p. 14].
7Nietzsche BT [44, p. 19].
8Schopenhauer [45].



44 CHAPTER 3. THE ROLE OF NIETZSCHE’S MEMORY TYPES


The sequence of events is that “tragedy arose from the tragic chorus”9 and that both tragic forms result from a synthesis of the two drives. As Nietzsche writes: “every artist is an ‘imitator’, and indeed either an Apolline dream-artist or a Dionysian artist of intoxication or finally – as, for example in Greek tragedy – an artist of both dream and intoxication at once.”10 Here we see how the original synthesis of the two drives is creative, artistic and active. The creativity is qualified though, since it is held to be derivative or imitative. The lack of originality is not what concerns Nietzsche. Creating the new is not the source of value – as befits the author of the Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence. Creativity and activity are the keys to value for him.

This leads to the explanation of what went wrong if the Greeks had solved the paralysing problems of nihilism. Analysis does not provide the same reassurance as tragedy; and Socrates the theoretical man supersedes the tragic man. For the theoretical man, all information is to be retained because it may improve a theory, while for the tragic man, only some information is to be selected and moulded and always with a view to its use. The approach carries over from the theatre to life. An artistic selective approach is as useful and necessary for the playwright constructing a piece as for the ordinary Greek living his life – as literature – and for the same reasons. Since, as we said earlier, life and existence can only be justified as aesthetic phenomena, and selection is to be made on aesthetic basis, the victory of the theoretical approach over the tragic approach means the loss of this justification. Nietzsche is not recommending that we dissolve ourselves into the Dionysian through, for example, being frequently intoxicated. There is nothing active about that. His call is for us to choose the tragic approach; to make an active choice to be active. Some choose to step into the tragedy.

3.1.2 Links To Memory

Nietzsche associates the Dionysian with forgetting. In a description of what occurs under intoxication or spring-inspired lust for life; Nietzsche writes that “Dionysiac stirrings […] cause subjectivity to vanish to the point of complete self-forgetting”.11 Note that it is partial forgetting that is mentioned – only the individual is forgotten. Later, he writes: “the Dionysian state, in which the usual barriers and limits of existence are destroyed, contains, for as long as it lasts, a lethargic element in which all personal experiences from the past are submerged.”12 This suggests that Nietzsche


9Nietzsche BT [44, p. 36].
10Nietzsche BT [44, p. 19].
11Nietzsche BT [44, p. 17].
12Nietzsche BT [44, p. 40].


Note that Nietzsche does not mean ‘lethargic’ to include any associations with tiredness or laziness. Instead, as Lützeler [46, p. 205] writes: “Lethe” [is an] “under-worldly river of forgetting”. Lützeler [46, p. 206] also notes that Nietzsche favours a “throwing away of memory-ballast, an art of forgetting” (my translation) which is consistent with our claims here. Note that ‘throwing away’ is without doubt an active use of memory. Also, it will be clear to Nietzsche that an art of forgetting must be active because art is selection and selection is active.


3.1. DIONYSOS VERSUS APOLLO 45


means the process to be from the dissolution of the illusion that there is an individual self to the forgetting of the memories associated with that self. We might see the use of the metaphor of submersion in the river of forgetting as an indication that all Dionysian ‘individuals’ are submerged together; they forget their personal memories at the same time as they forget themselves because there is no longer an – illusory – individual self to which to attach those personal memories.

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The particular way in which the ancient Greeks underwent self-forgetting in the chorus is also noted. Nietzsche writes: “the dithyrambic chorus is a chorus of transformed beings who have completely forgotten their civic past and their social position; they have become timeless servants of their god.”13 The use of the term ‘timeless’ confirms that the Dionysian does not have a memory, as I discuss below. A self-chosen identity is all-encompassing for the moment. Nietzsche – and Schopenhauer – will see this as approaching a truth by means of divestment of an illusion. We can easily recognise a phenomenon here that continues to be seen today of persons constantly submerging themselves in groups: universities, families, churches, sports fans. They forget themselves in study, vicarious living, prayer, chanting.

Nietzsche describes the results of the Dionysian experience, and in particular the effects of returning to daily life afterwards – which we may understand now as a return to memory, since the Dionysian state involves forgetting. He writes: “as soon as daily reality re-enters consciousness, it is experienced as such with a sense of revulsion; the fruit of these states is an ascetic, will-negating mood”.14 Nietzsche describes this as ‘the lesson of Hamlet’, meaning that knowledge kills action. This we may understand as ‘memory kills action’. More precisely, Passive Memory of at least the Inhibitory type kills action, as we discussed in §2.2.1. The use of ‘as such’ distinguishes the meaning of the sentence from what it would be without the inclusion of the phrase. Daily reality does not only produce revulsion; its evulsion is enhanced by the fact that it is daily and thus inescapable. The problem is that action becomes repulsive for “it can do nothing to change the eternal essence of things”.15

The question, as mentioned above, is why we should act at all, since nothing fundamental will be changed by it and the results of everything we do will likely be minimal. It is hard to say what of significance would have changed for the universe were the earth to be destroyed in a supernova. Some such dreary fate is doubtless the unavoidable destiny of the earth, which does indeed make Nietzsche’s question pressing: why do anything at all under such circumstances? Nietzsche must solve that problem because of the way he positively values activity. This threat is the same as the threat of nihilism that he is acutely aware of. The response is that


13Nietzsche BT [44, p. 43].
14Nietzsche BT [44, p. 40].
15Nietzsche BT [44, p. 40].



46 CHAPTER 3. THE ROLE OF NIETZSCHE’S MEMORY TYPES


existence is justified only aesthetically. We may understand this to apply to our lives as well. What is required is an active artistic use of memory for selective purposes: as Nehamas suggests,16 life as literature. Nietzsche even gives us himself as an example. Again in the new preface, he describes his earlier self when writing BT as having had “a memory brimming over with questions, experiences, hidden things to which the name Dionysos had been appended as one more question mark”.17 This tells us exactly what the Active Memory prescription is in Nietzsche’s case. Everyone must choose – actively – their own values. For Nietzsche, his artistically selected life will be one of asking questions. He will refuse to allow Passive Memory to paralyse him with the dull insistent repetition of the pointlessness of all questions, all questioning and all things – this doctrine is true but deadly. Dionysian forgetting, the intoxication of questioning, will push him forward. We must use our own memories actively to forget the pointlessness as well.

There is a further reference to the problem of Passive Memory when Nietzsche with some approval cites Schopenhauer, on the ‘lyrical state’ – this we may identify with Nietzsche’s Dionysian state. Schopenhauer writes that entry into this state provides a short period of peaceful contemplation from which “willing, desire, the recollection of our personal aims”18 will quickly remove us. This will be Passive Memory in its Imposed Memory form in accordance with the definition supplied on p. 17 – the rememberer is not choosing to leave the lyrical or Dionysian state but is forced to. Schopenhauer’s solution is negation of the will, but it is this asceticism that is directly criticised by Nietzsche. The function is from will to desires to aims via memory: I will be tormented by the aims I have not achieved that are stored in my Passive Memory. Schopenhauer seeks to break the chain by negating the first step. Nietzsche sees the chain as unavoidable and indeed will promote the will, becoming as it does in his work the Will to Power, which is active and positively expressed. He will change the chain at the other end of the process – active selection of aims in Active Memory and the use of Active Memory to forget whatever is not useful for the process of goal-creation and self-creation.

A closing reference to the value of forgetting in BT emphasises the importance in the Dionysian of the active choice of what to forget. Nietzsche links Dionysian music with the tragic myth, and holds that in the tragic myth, one may “forget that which is most painful”.19 That which is most painful is the nihilistic sense that activity, life and world are all pointless. Note that this must be actively forgotten because it cannot be disproved – it is in fact true for Nietzsche. So the only possible approach is to develop accommodations which promote activity.


16Nehamas [47, passim].
17Nietzsche BT [44, p. 6].
18Nietzsche BT [44, p. 32].
19Nietzsche BT [44, p. 115].



3.1. DIONYSOS VERSUS APOLLO 47


There is evidence in a late notebook, from 1888, that Nietzsche continues to consider the themes he addressed in BT. A section entitled “Basic insight: what is beautiful and ugly” ends with the summation “Art in the Birth of Tragedy”. Nietzsche writes: “[i]n instinct and memory a tremendous amount of material is piled up: we have a thousand different signs which betray to us the degeneracy of the type. Wherever there is an allusion to exhaustion, fatigue, weight, age, or lack of freedom, spasms, decomposition, decay, there speaks only our lowest value judgment: because man hates the ugly . . . What he hates here is always the decline of his type. This hatred is the whole philosophy of art.”20

It may appear at first as though Nietzsche means ‘type’ to refer anaphorically to ‘instinct and memory’ which are after all the subject of the sentence. Its import would then be that we have a thousand signs indicating the degeneracy of ‘instinct and memory’. A better interpretation is suggested however by the recurrence of the word type (“Typus”) later in the text to refer to the ‘type’ of humans i.e. a biological class. So Nietzsche is here referring not to the degeneracy of instinct and memory, but to the degeneracy of the biological type of man that is demonstrated by the piling up of useless, inactive material in instinct and Passive Memory. The central message is that all of the various negative situations that Nietzsche lists are in fact negatively valued by us at root because they are all ugly or lead to ugliness. This reminds us that active selection in memory of the beautiful – which can also mean the functional or the artistic – is what Nietzsche recommends. Again we have a reference to the aesthetic justification of life. We can also see Organic Memory playing a role here since it is the physiological type – i.e. of mankind – that is in question. This is also indicated by Nietzsche’s ability to have instinct and memory together as the subject of his sentence.

The Dionysian and the Apollonian are two opposing forces of nature which express themselves in us as instincts, and that these were successfully unified in early Greek society to produce tragic art, which is way of dealing with the terror and horror of existence. The advent of Socrates was then a backward step, because the tragic understanding was replaced by a theoretical understanding. Winfree argues21 that the loss of tragedy takes place with the emergence of the book or novel, which has not only forgotten how to forget but has also forgotten this forgetting. Nietzsche takes the view that the novel as an art-form originated with Plato. The novel is a passive form of memory. While tragic art is also a form of memory, it is a more active one. And the Dionysian participation in tragic art in the form of the chorus is most definitely active. Socrates supersedes Active Memory in the form of taking part in tragedy: this recalls Nietzsche’s insistence on the crucial importance of the chorus, which blurs the distinction between audience and actor to which we are now completely acculturated.


20Nietzsche KSA [3, NF – 1888, 16(40)]. Nachlaß, my translation.
21Winfree [48, p. 60].




48 CHAPTER 3. THE ROLE OF NIETZSCHE’S MEMORY TYPES


Nietzsche’s point is that in a mode of life in which Active Memory dominates, life is itself an ongoing element of the tragic art. Indeed, we may read the victory of the theoretical man over the tragic man as being a victory of Passive Memory over Active Memory or the victory of the state via imposition of Passive Memory over the active individual using Active Memory for his own ends.

It will be too quick to identify the Dionysian with forgetting and the Apollonian with memory; we have already noted that in fact an altered function of memory is common to both. In addition, there is evidence to associate the Apollonian also with forgetting. Winfree claims22 that in considering the Socratic decline that is the subject of BT, it is a matter of remembering that forgetting which is constitutive of the Apollonian, and which is forgotten with the advent of dialectic. Here the reference to ‘that forgetting’ is equivalent to a confirmation that there are different types of forgetting and that not all of them are to be associated with the Apollonian. What is forgotten in the Apollonian state could be the knowledge that individuation is illusory – to this extent, the Apollonian is opposed to the Dionysian in which state we remember the primitive unity. It could not be, for example, a forgetting of conventional morality, because Nietzsche places that in the Dionysian column while ethics, measure and limit fall on the Apollonian side.

It transpires that commentators have implicitly identified both active and passive types of forgetting in relation to the Dionysian state, confirming we need the typology to understand how memory and the Dionysian interact. As Kaufmann usefully suggests,23 Nietzsche’s message in BT is that the horrors of history – i.e. the contents of memory in the individual – will have different effects on the strong and the weak. The former will become active and creative (of beauty) while the latter will negate life. This is exactly our distinction between Active and Passive Memory. Kaufmann later conceives24 BT as already involving the supra-historical perspective Nietzsche discusses in UM, and defines that as involving the consideration of historical events and figures more for symbolic value – i.e. for activity promoting qualities – than for literal accuracy.

It will be useful to establish which aspect of forgetting commentators are associating with the Dionysian. There is an active aspect to forgetting which is a reflection of the operation of Active Memory. A decision is made which has the effect of forgetting, whether this is to remember something else instead or to adjust what is ‘retrieved’ in order to make it more useful or less harmful. Passive forgetting is less directed but nevertheless useful. It allows us to avoid retention of the large amounts of storable input that would otherwise be overwhelming. In addition, there will be decay effects where data that has not been used much will be more susceptible to loss than


22Winfree [48, p. 60].
23Kaufmann [7, p. 143].
24Kaufmann [7, p. 153].



3.1. DIONYSOS VERSUS APOLLO 49


otherwise.

Acampora straightforwardly links25 forgetting to the Dionysian, with the implication that it is an active mode that is meant. Forgetting does not eliminate but grants experience, because too much remembering results in experience without pause and reduces the options for action. The fact that the absence of this active mode of forgetting removes possibilities for action links the Active Forgetfulness I discussed on p. 22 to activity itself. As argued previously, passive persons will not act as much as active ones, because passive persons do not use memory actively to foster activity while the opposite is true for active persons. Acampora further illustrates26 the typology and the link with the observation that forgetting is an important condition for experience. Experience is made possible by taking some away and by encouraging some to fade. This amounts to an implicit specification of passive and active modes of forgetting: ‘to encourage’ something is to take action in relation to it while ‘taking something away’ allows for a passive, non-agential process in which the forgetting occurs without explicit active direction.

Gambino proposes27 a complex view of memory and the Dionysian, which we can disentangle using both the passive and active modes. There is a distinction between a fragile ‘poetic memory’ and a more robust type that can underpin the state’s requirements of who the individual should be. The state sees the imposition of memory as needed because the poetic memory needs reinforcement against the powerful Dionysian drive towards forgetfulness. The state plays a role in combatting this fragility. Gambino argues28 that it does so by constructing an Apollonian bulwark against the onslaught of forgetfulness. Unlike in the case of poetic memory, the state could use violence to reinforce the memory type it needs.29

We may understand this role of the polis as an imposition of either subtype of Passive Memory as in the GM account. The Apollonian is opposed to the Dionysian in terms of memory. It will be too simplistic though to align the Dionysian with forgetting and the Apollonian with remembering; not least because these oppositions are much more complex on our passive and active typology. Dionysian instincts threaten the polis as much as assist it. Gambino argues30 that the Dionysian is linked to the restoration of memory as well as forgetfulness. This is because the Dionysian oneness recalls the concealed truth about the criminal and violent origins of the polis. There is a forgetting of the self in the Dionysian state. Since Nietzsche thinks the self and individuation are illusory, this will represent a closer approach to the truth or


25Acampora [24, p. 159].
26Acampora [24, p. 159].
27Gambino [49, p. 420].
28Gambino [49, p. 421].
29Gambino holds that the type of memory imposed is a collective type, but I will deny in Chapter 4 that Nietzsche recognises such a type.
30Gambino [49, p. 429].




50 CHAPTER 3. THE ROLE OF NIETZSCHE’S MEMORY TYPES


alternatively a renewed memory of the primal unity. Our conclusion from the views of these commentators can only be that we need to be aware of and consider both the active and passive modes of forgetting and memory to understand the Dionysian.

Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS on Pexels.com

Thomas notes31 that “neither the Apollonian nor the Dionysian have a memory” meaning that when dreaming or intoxicated, we do not consider the consequences of our actions or even remember that there will be consequences. This will represent for Nietzsche a successful escape from the paralysis of Passive Memory. The way this works is that neither dreams nor the experience of underlying unity take place in time, they transcend temporality by excluding the past. It is suggested that this allows for the emergence of ‘tragic time’ in which experience collapses into the present moment; this would be a disconnection of the entire memory problem. Since Nietzsche views the tragic outlook as superior, we can see again that the successful fusion of the Dionysian and the Apollonian is another way of addressing the paralysis induced by excessive Passive Memory.

Modern man following Socrates has forgotten how to forget: he has lost touch with both the Dionysian and the Apollonian – and also tragedy as their synthesis; he has also become a monster of Passive Memory. As mentioned above – see p. 44 – Socrates is the symbol of the theoretical man superseding the tragic man. Socrates is an appropriate adversary for Nietzsche in the field of memory. Socrates puts forward the doctrine of anamnesis, whereby all knowledge is recollection, as a “glorious truth”.32 The soul: “is able to call to remembrance all that [it] ever knew about virtue, and about everything”.33 Memory is also what makes the difference between true belief and knowledge in Plato’s account that that difference is akin to the fastening to a fixed location of moving statues.34 We also know that this means that for Plato,memoryis what provides the ‘account’ or logos that makes the same difference, so here we may recall Zarathustra’s saying he may not be asked for his reasons – see p. 56. Nietzsche’s account of memory and its best uses is set in opposition over against Plato’s. This all-encompassing, unselective, unartistic memory is an estrangement from nature. That is Nietzsche’s diagnosis of the diseased state of modern culture. So, since Active Forgetfulness is active use of memory, Nietzsche’s fundamental message is that lack of Active Memory is at the root of the problem of modern culture.

The claim finds support elsewhere. Wollheim sees35 Active Forgetfulness of the first remembered as a central therapeutic idea in the early stages of Freud’s thought. It is claimed that when Freud regarded memory as the pathogenic factor, therapy was for him the retrieval and dissolution of memories. This could also be seen as the recovery and then the forgetting of remembered events. This reminds us that the


31Thomas [50, p. 123].
32Plato [51, p. 56].
33Plato [51, p. 57].
34Plato [51, p. 90].
35Wollheim [18, p. 227].



3.2. DOCTRINE AND ÜBERMENSCH 51


repressed is not the remembered and it must first be brought to light before it can be expunged. Such therapy is supposed lead to a healthy outcome. Poole notes36 that: “[f]or Nietzsche, this active form of forgetting is an expression of “robust health”.” Note that the form of forgetting is specified to be an active type – this confirms that Active Memory is at work.

3.2 Doctrine And Übermensch

3.2.1 Doctrine Of Eternal Recurrence

What Does The Doctrine Claim?

The Doctrine is the claim that we will all live our lives exactly the same in every detail an infinite number of times. This will include all of the painful and all of the pleasurable incidents in exactly the same way. The Doctrine first appears in GS where Nietzsche writes of an individual identified as Excelsior, or ‘the higher’, that he “will seek the eternal recurrence of war and peace”.37 This is one version of the idea that all events can only be wished for together, and that these events will be valued differently by us. Nietzsche’s point is that on his deterministic view, it will not be possible to wish for one element without also wishing for the others, since they all come together. Nietzsche regards the Doctrine as a kind of test of the psychological strength and health of an individual. If they are able to affirm the Doctrine, they are of the strongest and highest type.

Nietzsche returns to the Doctrine later in GS, this time emphasising the difficulty of accepting it. He writes of a demon approaching at a lonely hour that says: “[t]his life as you now live it and have lived it you will have to live once again and innumerable times again; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unspeakably small or great in your life must return to you, all in the same succession and sequence”.38 Here, the difficult aspects are specified as being the unlimited number of times that everything will be repeated; the fact that the minor, insignificant and boring will be returning as well and also that the pain will return as the inevitable concomitant of the pleasure. It is interesting that the demon also approaches during loneliness, because it suggests that social life may distract us from contemplating the Doctrine. That leads to one of Nietzsche’s main aims with the Doctrine, which is to attempt to refocus us on the current world. Wicks sees39 the Doctrine as serving to draw attention away from all worlds other than the actual one, since eternal recurrence precludes escaping the world we are


36Poole [28, p. 270].
37Nietzsche GS [20, §289].
38Nietzsche GS [20, §341].
39Wicks [52, §3].




52 CHAPTER 3. THE ROLE OF NIETZSCHE’S MEMORY TYPES


in. There is no otherworldly afterlife. We Slaves cannot accept torments here in the hopes of reward there: we must act here and now.

That section was the original end of GS, and Nietzsche then directs us towards Z by invoking the name of Zarathustra. Again in Z the difficulty of accepting the Doctrine is made clear. It is an “abysmal thought”40 which could not be endured by one less strong than Zarathustra. The section continues with an illustration of this in the form of a shepherd into whose throat a snake has crawled. The snake – which can bite its own tail – is the symbol of the Doctrine and the disgust associated with the event of its crawling into someone’s throat is the same as the disgust which would greet anyone who thought of the Doctrine, let alone affirmed it. Disgust is the emotion that Zarathustra too experiences at the thought of the Doctrine. This disgust is for all existence, populated as it is by men great and small. The greatest men are too small, but they will return – there is “eternal recurrence even for the smallest! that was my disgust at all existence”.41

Although the Doctrine is difficult to accept, the claims it relies on, that energy is finite and time unlimited, are not themselves implausible. Magnus explains42 that the idea is that if those two claims are true, then all possible configurations must have arisen before and in fact must have done an infinite number of times. As an illustration, if a finite deck of cards is shuffled and dealt an infinite number of times, all possible sequences will occur an infinite number of times. As Zarathustra puts it, a “long, eternal lane runs back” as well as forwards; and “[m]ust not all things that can run have already run along this lane?”.43

So we have two ways in which the Doctrine is difficult to accept. It seems implausible as a scientific hypothesis, though defensible. Also, Nietzsche makes it clear that there is a great deal of emotional repugnance to it. This leads us to the question as to whether Nietzsche is serious about it – or more precisely, in what way is he serious.

Is Nietzsche Serious About The Doctrine?

The Doctrine is of the highest importance to Nietzsche’s writings. Magnus gives44 several Nachlaß citations to support the claim that Nietzsche regards the Doctrine as his most significant one. Nietzsche describes the Doctrine as the “most scientific of all possible hypotheses”, though that can be a double-edged sword in terms of being a compliment from Nietzsche. Nietzsche claims that all his later works including GM are “fish hooks” to draw readers to Z. Loeb notes45 that Z contains his most important ideas. Nietzsche tells us that Z is constructive and future oriented while other books


40Nietzsche Z [53, p. 178].
41Nietzsche Z [53, p. 236].
42Magnus [54, p. 605].
43Nietzsche Z [53, p. 178].
44Magnus [54, p. 604].
45Loeb [27, p. 70].



3.2. DOCTRINE AND ÜBERMENSCH 53


are destructive and present-oriented, which also suggests that Z supersedes the other books. Nietzsche begins his section on Z in EH by stating that the Doctrine is the “basic idea” of that work. We will need good reason not to take Nietzsche at face value when he makes these statements.

One reason that the Doctrine has not been accorded adequate significance in Nietzsche’s works is that it is not mentioned after Z. This may be explained though by noting that Nietzsche has chosen to write in Zarathustra’s voice because Nietzsche shares the decadence and weakness of his age – Nietzsche too is not strong enough to preach the Doctrine. All of this does not reduce the importance of the Doctrine; on the contrary it enhances it. Naturally, I do not claim that Nietzsche can avoid being a spokesman for his age – can avoid the limitations of which he himself complains – merely by writing as Zarathustra. Z is really an exercise in imagining a stronger philosopher in a stronger age who could affirm the Doctrine.

It might also be objected that Zarathustra is a somewhat ridiculous figure in some places. This however is of a piece with the general poetic nature of Z; one purpose also of Nietzsche’s, it must be remembered, is biblical parody. Zarathustra is an antichrist also in the sense that he shows how the mere writing of a book in obscure and hefty language and including a strange prophet giving prescriptions for moral lives is not an activity permitted only to those who wrote the bible. That serves to undermine any authority that text might pretend to over other texts. Making Zarathustra ridiculous is part of that purpose; Nietzsche is a subtle and confident enough philosopher to allow his most important principles to be voiced by an occasionally ridiculous figure.

Magnus points out46 that there is also a suasive significance to the Doctrine. Nietzsche has chosen its characteristics to capture some of the appeal of some religious notions. Nietzsche opposes religious motivation to seek an otherworldly – or indeed, any external – source of values. He is aware though of the power of eternity, and how much has been wrought upon humans by the fear of eternal damnation, a thought so terrible that even those who do not fully believe in it are nevertheless affected by it. On this plausible view, the Doctrine replaces a religious picture of an eternal afterlife and is intended to be as significant in the current world as that sort of world-view has been.

For all of these reasons, we must allow that Nietzsche is indeed serious about the Doctrine. By ‘serious’, I mean that he thinks it is an important notion, even if he may not think in fact that everything really returns. Therefore any links from the Doctrine to memory typology will support my general claim that memory typology is significant in Nietzsche’s writings. I will outline those links in §3.2.3, but since the explanation will also involve the Übermensch, I must first outline that topic.


46Magnus [54, p. 616].




54 CHAPTER 3. THE ROLE OF NIETZSCHE’S MEMORY TYPES


3.2.2 The Übermensch

I will show in §3.2.3 how we need the memory typology to come to terms with the Doctrine and the Übermensch, for several reasons. There is an immediate question as to how, if everything returns, we cannot remember it. Also, memory is in fact the test of becoming the Übermensch who can use memory ‘in both directions’. This use of Active Memory allows the Übermensch to become maximally affirmative, an important test of value for Nietzsche. There are also important points to make about memory and transitions that Nietzsche describes in Z on the way to the Übermensch via camels, lions and the child. Before turning to these memory-related aspects, I will in this section briefly outline the relevant aspects of the Übermensch for our purposes.

Everything great must overcome itself, or seek to improve itself so far that we might say that the original no longer exists. The Übermensch is one of Nietzsche’s ideals in that “[m]an is something that should be overcome”47 and the Übermensch is what would result if man were able to overcome himself. Man is then a transitional state between the lower and the higher: he is “a rope, fastened between animal and Übermensch”.48 This is confirmation that the Übermensch is one of Nietzsche’s valued ideal types. The Übermensch is a product of Nietzsche’s view that all of the value of humans resides in its most successful specimens; in contrast to democratic or egalitarian views.

The Übermensch is no more easy to accept than the Doctrine of which he is the herald. The difficulty would lie in the decadence of our values and the radical difference of the values that the Übermensch would bring – and also the requirement to set our own values. Nietzsche writes that our souls “are so unfamiliar with what is great that the Übermensch would be fearful to [us] in his goodness!”.49 Note that it is his goodness, not ours.

Nietzsche’s central ethical project is the revaluation of all values. The Übermensch is able to complete this revaluation because he is able to set his own values. Nietzsche gives us a list50 of generally held values – reason, justice, virtue, pity – which he finds questionable. The Übermensch is described as the “lightning” and the “madness”51 that will inoculate against these unhealthy values. The Übermensch is able to set his own values because the Übermensch has gone beyond ordinary human weakness, and one form of that overcoming will be in having overcome the lack of autonomy in setting of values.

Stern plausibly suggests52 that Nietzsche sees our values as dependent on our


47Nietzsche Z [53, p. 40].
48Nietzsche Z [53, p. 43].
49Nietzsche Z [53, p. 43].
50Nietzsche Z [53, p. 43].
51Nietzsche Z [53, p. 43].
52Stern [55, p. 305].



3.2. DOCTRINE AND ÜBERMENSCH 55


contexts. Then, the Übermensch is able to overcome standard values by being the ‘child’ in Nietzsche’s three metamorphoses in Z from camel to lion to child. The camel bears existing values like a burden; the lion has the strength to deny existing values; but only the child/Übermensch can set new values. The importance of the link between the child and the Übermensch will be illustrated in the next section.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As discussed above, Nietzsche considers the Doctrine as providing a kind of test of the strength of an individual – one who can will to accept and affirm the Doctrine is a strong individual. The Übermensch is one of those who can so affirm the Doctrine. We see an immediate link between one purpose of the Doctrine and the Übermensch via values. This call to avoid looking to external sources – religion, society, customary morality – for the ‘value of values’ is Nietzsche’s central ethical project. This ‘this- worldly’ nature of the Doctrine shows how it is concerned with the call not to look outside for the source of values. The ability to affirm the Doctrine is the hallmark of the Übermensch and is the key to a successful revaluation of all values.

3.2.3 Importance Of Memory

An understanding of Nietzsche’s pluralistic conception of memory, I propose, is crucial to a full understanding of the Doctrine, which itself is central to his ethical project aimed at the revaluation of all values. The Übermensch is also closely involved here.

Loeb argues53 that the paired concepts of memory and humanity are to be regarded as ‘pre-emptively superseded’ by the concepts of the Doctrine and the Übermensch. The point is that Nietzsche writes Z before BGE and GM, and yet the analyses in those latter works are intended to lead (back) to the views expressed in Z. Zarathustra’s call at the beginning of Z is for the Übermensch to emerge from humanity as humanity emerged from animals, with memory playing a key role in both transitions.

One of several difficulties in accepting the Doctrine lies with memory: if it is true that we have all lived our lives an infinite number of times, we should be able to remember that. Commentators divide at this point. Some adopt54 the expedient of limiting the function of individual memory to each cycle within eternal recurrence, but that approach does suggest a difficult objection. We need to know how we can say the separate occurrences of an individual within each cycle are in fact the same individual in a meaningful sense, if common memory does not link those individuals. One way would be to say that the lives can be identical even if they have no memories shared between them. Other commentators avoid55 this problem on the other hand by arguing for a more complex ‘self-cancellation’ of memory to produce a special type of forgetfulness. Memory must be turned against memory to produce what Zarathustra terms freedom and innocence. This view makes for a more comprehensible reading;


53Loeb [27, p. 76].
54For example, Magnus [54, p. 611].
55For example, Loeb [27, p. 83].



56 CHAPTER 3. THE ROLE OF NIETZSCHE’S MEMORY TYPES


and it requires there to be multiple types of memory because we cannot easily see how a single type could cancel itself. In fact, the view is the claim that Active Memory cancels out Passive Memory. We defined Active Memory as being chosen and activity promoting – i.e. approximately the inverse of Passive Memory – on p. 21. This self-cancellation must be active since it is both internally chosen and not inhibitory: far from it, since freedom is paired with the resulting ‘innocence’, and freedom must mean freedom to act.

One question at this point might be as to how life can be identical if memory does indeed function across cycles. The solution is that ordinary humans cannot recover the memory of previous lives without becoming the Übermensch, for passing this test is definitional of being that entity. There the problem is solved because we know that Zarathustra, who envisions becoming the Übermensch, can use memory in ‘both directions’, as I will outline below.

We see a link between memory and the Doctrine when we examine what Zarathustra says on the topic of memory. He is asked why he said that the poets lie too much. He responds: “I am not one of those who may be questioned about their Why. Do my experiences date from yesterday? It is a long time since I experienced the reasons for my opinions. Should I not have to be a barrel of memory, if I also wanted to carry my reasons, too, about with me?”56

Zarathustra is himself one of these poets, so the message here is that he is not to be taken as a source of values, because that would again fall into the religious trap of seeking values externally to ourselves. Both Zarathustra and Nietzsche claimed that they did not want disciples – this is not to be understood as meaning that they wish their works to be ignored, but that neither claim to be a source of values and that neither could be is the key message. We must make our own values. Also note how Zarathustra is using Active Memory in that he is deciding on what its contents shall be with a view to his aims. His opinions are important – they are what will take him forward and make him active. He does not also need to use memory to store the reasons for his opinions. We would disagree with that, but that is because we have more Passive Memory and do not believe we have much control over what is stored there. We also feel we will constantly need to justify our opinions to others, and so being able to recall the reasons for them would be important. That type of herd behaviour is deprecated by Nietzsche.

It was mentioned above – p. 55 – how the Übermensch is represented by the child in Nietzsche’s three Z transitions, and how Nietzsche sees our values as context- dependent. This is important because of what is said about the child. It is “innocence and forgetfulness, a new beginning”.57 This is a link between the U ̈bermensch and the Active Forgetfulness that we saw as a feature of Active Memory on p. 22. Stern


56Nietzsche Z [53, p. 149].
57Nietzsche Z [53, p. 55].




3.2. DOCTRINE AND ÜBERMENSCH 57


argues58 that the “child spirit can create freely because it is forgetful: it has forgotten the context which would otherwise determine its values”. The Übermensch is both free from the past and free to affirm the past as a result of Active Memory. We know that the Übermensch is active and affirmative because the child is a “self-propelling wheel” and “a sacred Yes”.59

Stern points out60 a potential conflict between the concept of the Übermensch and the Doctrine which bears on memory. The conflict is that those accepting the Doctrine must affirm all of the past to pass the test. Moreover this must be done on a specific basis i.e. each event in the past must be affirmed. This requires having a memory of each past event so that it can be affirmed. But we have just agreed that the Übermensch possesses forgetfulness. So the Übermensch would not be able to remember each event, would not be able to affirm it, and would not be able to accept the Doctrine. Thus we have an apparent contradiction in Nietzsche’s views between Zarathustra’s hopes for the Übermensch and the Eternal Recurrence test. We can resolve this by recalling that the forgetfulness of the Übermensch is actually Active Forgetfulness, which as we discussed on p. 22 is actually a facet of Active Memory. This means that there is a choice made in Active Memory about what exactly to forget. It is also available to the possessor of Active Memory to decide when to actively forget it. This must be the case if Active Memory is to be as useful for action as Nietzsche thinks it is. Thus, a process is possible whereby an event is recalled in Active Memory, it is affirmed, and then it is forgotten. The event itself need not be recalled once it has been affirmed; it must just be clear that it has been affirmed. It can then safely be forgotten because it has been dealt with – inpsychated, incorporated, digested, we might say . . .

Once memory has been acquired by humans, they are forced to recognise their lack of power: we cannot change the past; but memory can be used against itself to achieve a ‘second innocence.’ Loeb argues61 for this as above by noting that Zarathustra equates innocence with affirmation and forgetting. What has been forgotten cannot be affirmed unless it has first been remembered; this will then allow it to be properly, deeply forgotten. This makes sense if we understand it as being the use of Active Memory against Passive Memory. The second innocence is distinguished from a first innocence in that the latter is the innocence of the young, merely a polite term for ignorance. The second innocence results from an active choice of what is to be retained and what to be eliminated as superfluous. We may associate the strength to perform this active choosing, to permit the dominance of Active Memory with the Übermensch. Weaker humans allow themselves to be driven into neurotic, self-harming behaviour


58Stern [55, p. 307].
59Nietzsche Z [53, p. 55].
60Stern [55, p. 309].
61Loeb [27, p. 83].



58 CHAPTER 3. THE ROLE OF NIETZSCHE’S MEMORY TYPES


through their domination by Passive Memory.

We are enjoined to “unfix” the past via the Doctrine, and avoid the tyranny of
the ‘it was’. Under the Doctrine, with its infinite repetition of cycles, the past is as much the future. On perfecting faculties of memory and bad conscience, the human will becomes imprisoned by the new knowledge that the past is unchangeable and beyond the reach of the will. The solution is the affirming approach of the Doctrine: we cannot now avoid memory and the knowledge that the will cannot change the past so we must instead will the past. The Doctrine is merely the expression of this affirmation to a higher power – not only the affirmation of the past once as it was, but the same past an infinite number of times. Thus the Doctrine becomes the solution to the problem posed by memory and solves it many times over at once.

Loeb describes62 memory as the “messenger” of the Doctrine. Memory bears the news of the Doctrine to those strong enough to cope with the recovered memory of an infinite number of identical lives. Zarathustra’s Active Memory allows him to ‘live’ in the future. This means that under the Doctrine, the future is as much the past because it is merely the latter part of the previous cycle, and vice versa: from this point, the past will also be the future because the past part of this cycle will be the earlier part of the next cycle. Zarathustra is enabled to see this by the power of his memory, which recovers the past completely enough to also uncover the Eternal Recurrence. So we cannot allow that Zarathustra has much Passive Memory.

In sum, Zarathustra and the Übermensch will be dominant users of Active Memory and therefore active and creative. This is what is also recommended for us: if we had the strength to affirm everything that has happened to the maximum possible extent; we would have become active with respect to everything that has occurred; to everything that will occur, which is the same thing; we would have become the Übermensch. Staten argues63 that this identification should be made by noting that saying yes to an event is becoming active with respect to it. Thus Active Memory will be involved in such affirmation, as the store of events to be affirmed and as the store of the act of affirmation.

Bertram observes64 that Zarathustra has the longest will and the longest memory, which distinctions enable him to affirm more of the past – and the future, if Zarathustra also becomes the Übermensch. The Übermensch is the ultimately positively evaluated being because he is able through the Doctrine Of Eternal Recurrence to use Active Memory to become active and affirmative in relation to all events at all times.


62Loeb [27, p. 86].
63Staten [26, p. 88].
64Bertram [12, p. 35].


Next Chapter: Does Nietzsche Support A Collective Memory Type?

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philosophy

Nietzsche: Memory Types

Chapter 2

“Der Gedanke giebt uns den Begriff einer ganz neuen Form der Realität: er ist aus Empfindung und Gedächtniß zusammengesetzt.”

Nietzsche NF–1872, 19 [166]

2.1 Introduction

I will first set out in §2.1.1 the difference between the concepts of ‘valorisation’ and ‘evaluation’ in Nietzsche, because this will be a main element of my typology of memory argument. I will outline arguments for the existence of multiple types of memory in §2.1.2. Passive and active aspects of Individual Memory are discussed in §2.2.1 and §2.2.2 respectively. Finally I will discuss Organic Memory in §2.3.

2.1.1 Valorisation

There is a distinction in Nietzsche between ‘valorisation’ and ‘evaluation’. This distinction is important to Nietzsche’s central ethical project, which is the revaluation of all values. An evaluation is the first order question as to what is the value of a behaviour, cultural practice, idea or morality. Asking about valorisation is the second order question as to what is the source of value for our values.

Nietzsche’s first message is that this is a question which can be asked and indeed must be asked: it is not incoherent to ask what is the source of value for values, contra some who might objectthat one can only establish value or make evaluations within a framework assuming values. Kaufmann discusses1 the distinction basing it on Nietzsche’s division between “philosophical labourers” and true “philosophers”.2 The former produce “some great fact of evaluation [or] assessments of value” while the latter – including Nietzsche – must “traverse the whole range of human values” and “create values”.3 Thus the “labourers” inquire as to evaluation in the currently valorised system of values while Nietzsche asks the more fundamental question as to what is the valorisation and is it the right one. Richardson neatly summarises4 when he writes that there are hypotheses that “varies” their values – that confirm or justify them.”

The difference between an evaluation and a valorisation may be elucidated with an analogy in the field of paper currency. In the past, it was agreed that gold was a store of value and paper bank notes were evaluated – their value was set – by how much gold could be exchanged for the note. Setting aside the point that gold too only has value by agreement, we might see the gold as being the valorisation of the system – being the ultimate source of value – while the notes are indirectly valuable.

The notes are like our current values. It would be of no use to say that one note of one kind could be exchanged for two of another, which in turn were together worth four notes of a third kind, which in turn were backed by one note of the first kind. This sort of circular system would float free and unanchored; there would be no gold in it anywhere to be the valorisation. So Nietzsche wants us to ask where the gold is in our system of values; which first requires us to become aware that our system of values is not the only possible one just as our current morality is not the only possible one.

The primary source of value for values – the gold in Nietzsche’s system – is activity or action. Activity is a positive valorisation factor. Values which are valorised by action and its promotion are positively evaluated by Nietzsche. He admires “knightly aristocratic” values that are valorised in this way; they presuppose “over- flowing health” with what preserves it: “war, adventure, the hunt, dance, athletic contests and in general everything which includes strong, free cheerful-hearted activity”.5

This lengthy list of healthy pursuits is linked and expanded upon by the common thread of activity or action-promotion. Those possessing this health and this activity are “noble and powerful”,6 and are to be contrasted with the Slaves who are miserable creatures of passivity and ressentiment. With this background in hand, I will argue in this chapter that there is an active aspect of memory for Nietzsche which will mean that memory can be the vector of valorisation in a Nietzschean analysis of values. Thus memory can form the basis for a revaluation of values.

One risk in attempting to draw categories, types and divisions in Nietzsche is that they are hard to pin down. They are especially hard to pin down when one means of delineating the divisions relies on valorisation, as here. We see in GM how the Slaves begin as weak and passive, and ‘bad’ in the terminology of the Masters, but they end as active and ‘good’ in their own terms. However, the ‘good’ of the Slaves is depreciated by Nietzsche as derivative from the Masters. Nietzsche’s message here – beyond the difficulty of tracking valorisation through various developments – is that categories may become mixed up with one another. This does not mean though that searching for categories is fruitless. They may evolve and become intermixed, but that entails they exist, and useful points may be made about them, perhaps at different stages of their evolution.

2.1.2 Multiple Roles Of Memory

I turn now to the arguments for there being multiple roles of memory. One argument relies on the fact that Nietzsche sees roles for memory with both positive and negative evaluations. A playful pair of alternate aphorisms shows the positive side; while one “must have a good memory to be able to keep a given promise”,7 it is also the case that “[t[he advantage of a bad memory is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the first time”.8 Obviously there are many prosaic situations where memory is advantageous. It might be objected here that this is an advantage of forgetting rather than memory, but – as I will argue on p. 22 – forgetting is best seen as an aspect of memory in Nietzsche, and a positive aspect at that.

On the negative side, we have the following: “Good Memory. Many a man fails to become a thinker for the sole reason that his memory is too good”.9 This is a negatively evaluated inhibitory aspect; those who can remember much do not need to think much. Stifling memory – making it more passive and inhibitory than active – is also deleterious. The pejoratively named ‘employees’ of science have filled their memories in youth,10 to avoid remaining creative.

Memory is described as one of the “Dangerous Virtues”. This ‘dangerous’ epithet has both positive and negative evaluations, supporting the claims I will make below for a typology of memory initially based on value contrasts. We are told that memory plays a role in assigning social rank. A man with capacious memory “forgets nothing but forgives everything – wherefore he shall be doubly detested for he causes us double shame by his memory and his magnanimity.”11

The fact that there can be no society without memory brings both positive and negative evaluations. Keeping the image of terrible punishments in mind results in making negative promises to permit social coexistence. With these, members of early society agree to suppress their naturally violent instincts: “[w]ith 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.”12

This last is to be read ironically, because Nietzsche does not really believe that mastery over the affects constitutes reason, and in any case would not recommend such mastery, since the affects will drive action, which as we noted above Nietzsche evaluates positively. The association between the affects and action is made clear when Nietzsche writes that the noble “did not know how to separate activity out from happiness,– for them being active is of necessity included in happiness”.13 Again this is contrasted with the “hostile and powerless” whose “happiness […] appears as […] relaxation […] in short, passively.”14 Here we see that Nietzsche has valorised through activity the happiness of the nobles and devalorised through the same route the happiness of the inactive. Note finally that the fact that there is this kind of memory means that there will be other kinds.

I will now consider the two aspects of Individual Memory in detail, and then look at the second type of memory.

2.2 Individual Memory

2.2.1 Passive/Reactive Aspects Of Individual Memory

There are two ways in which memory or its contents may be passive. It may be imposed externally in such a way that the individual is not part of the decision to have a particular memory. This is what happens to the Slaves who are required to observe the punishments of transgressors and remember those punishments. This is why the punishments are especially vivid and horrifying – Nietzsche gives a long list of public punishments including “stoning […] breaking on the wheel […] quartering […] flaying […] cutting flesh”.15 No one witnessing such activities would have much choice about whether they remembered them or not, which is of course the whole point.

Alternatively, these passive memories may inhibit action. The Slaves who see the punishments are inhibited from carrying out the action which the person punished had carried out. So the person who has the memory is thereby discouraged from a particular action or type of action under certain circumstances. In Nietzsche’s view, as I will show below, these will often go together, but they need not. I might actively attain a memory which inhibits action. I will therefore identify two subtypes of the passive aspect of memory to reflect the two markers.

Throughout this thesis, I will define Imposed Memory as any memory which is imposed externally; and I will define Inhibitory Memory as any memory which tends to suppress action. I will define Passive Memory as being composed of Inhibitory Memory and Imposed Memory.

The source for these views of Nietzsche is GM. The paradigm exemplars of those who possess Passive Memory will be the pre-revolt Slaves. They will initially have Passive Memory in both forms: Inhibitory and Imposed. This Passive Memory has its origins in pain and punishment. It is externally imposed, a store and reflection of ressentiment. Ressentiment is the empty vengefulness of the impotent, and it is the hallmark of the Slaves in the story of the origins of morality that Nietzsche gives in GM. For the man of ressentiment, “all experiences strike deep and memory is a festering wound”.16

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels.com

This aspect of memory is basically an imperfect recording facility which passively reacts to perceptual data by storing some of it. The dominant type of memory will distinguish the type of individual. In general, possession of more Passive Memory will be an indication of a weaker type negatively evaluated to some extent by Nietzsche. Possession of more of an active type of memory will be associated by Nietzsche with stronger types who are more active. Passive types will be exemplified by the pre-revolt Slaves; there are several more active types to oppose to them. The Masters in GM are the obvious opposition to the Slaves, they are stronger, more active types of individual.

However, the situation is more complicated than this since GM is the story of how the Slaves become active. Initially, the Slaves have Passive Memory imposed on them. The citations I gave in §1.1 show this. To recapitulate, Nietzsche writes: “only what does not cease to give pain remains in one’s memory”.17 This means an imposed memory if we assume that the pain is inflicted by others. In regards to the second inhibitory aspect, Nietzsche discusses contract relationships where “[p]recisely here are promises made; precisely here it is a matter of making a memory for the one who promises”.18

In this case, we have an overlap. This is both imposed memory and inhibitory memory: both aspects of Passive Memory are present.

The post-revolt Slaves continue to have Passive Memory of the Imposed subtype. But now for the complexity: do the Slaves also have Passive Memory of the second subtype, Inhibitory Memory? The answer is yes before the Revolt and no – or less so – afterwards. The pre-Revolt Slaves have not ceased to be Slaves. They are prevented from acting by observation of the painful punishments of fellow slaves.

But GM is the story of how the Slaves become active – one might say, how they become us — since Nietzsche thinks we are all decadents and Slaves. The Slaves’ Revolt inverts the order of values and this inversion is the one we still have. Here we have the first indication that memory typology will be of importance to Nietzsche in connection to his central ethical project of the revaluation of all values.

Nietzsche evaluates Inhibitory Memory negatively, because action supplies his valorisation. We learn19 how an excess of historical sense is overwhelming and paralysing. I will argue later – see §4.3.1 – that historical sense is a type of memory. It is Inhibitory Memory since its primary characteristic is just that: it paralyses. One reason we know it is memory is that Nietzsche tells us that the health of a people depends on its ability to fix “limits to the memory of the past”, by which he means restrict the negative effects of historical sense.

Luft remarks20 that memory makes us members of the “human herd”, which can scarcely be positive. She also notes that it is memory which keeps modern humans inhibited and passive under the weight of history. Also, Bertram has proposed21 that history is active image creation, rather than being a reproduction or preservation of the past. On this view, proper history for Nietzsche would be active and dynamic rather than passive and static – this is the same division and evaluation as the one that Nietzsche has for memory and for similar reasons.

Deleuze22 describes a passive type of memory as essentially reactive. This means that all its operations are a response to the environment. That claim explains why we cannot know what memory is capable of, since we cannot fully specify current or future environments. This can only refer to Passive Memory since it is a mere recording facility; there is no active choice of elements in the environment to retain.

Passive Memory is ‘imposed’ by the environment. I show in §2.2.2 how this position has some difficulties which can be resolved by employing the multiple aspects and roles of memory for which I argue. Richardson notes23 that there is a type of memory which is “a retrospective drag on our activity that aligns it with the current of what’s generally done”. This neatly aligns passive memory which is both imposed and inhibitory with disvalue for Nietzsche: he everywhere deprecates herd morality and herd behaviour.

Passive Memory also results from the interaction between debt or obligation and early society. Indebtedness produces memory and requires it. Persisting personal identity is necessary to indebtedness; without that – and without remembering who I used to be – I will not repay my debts because I will not recognise the previous individual as myself. Nietzsche challenges persistence of identity of things – including persons. He does this in the course of his attack on logic, which he believes assumes persisting identity. Nietzsche writes: “[l]ogic, too, rests on assumptions that do not correspond to anything in the real world, e.g. […] the identity of the same thing at different points of time”24 in a section entitled “Language as an alleged science”.

This means that logic also is an “alleged science” and one reason that this is so is that it falsely assumes the persistence of identity. There is a widespread illusion of persisting personal identity, so some mechanism is needed to supply that illusion. That mechanism is Passive Memory which stores pain associations and also provides the illusory self to be the one suffering pain. Thus through memory we create ourselves. In fact, Hales argues25 that Nietzsche sees indebtedness as being responsible for “instilling memory in humanity”; and that this also leads to the illusion of persisting identity. I will return to this point about Passive Memory being responsible for the illusion of a unified self in the context of a discussion of Dionysos versus Apollo in §3.1.

The Illusory Self

At this juncture, we need to resolve an apparent tension between Nietzsche’s denials of the reality of the self and his suggestions that we improve ourselves. If there is no self there can be nothing to improve. This is too quick however. Nietzsche has an oligarchic model of psychology in which we are all made up of competing sub-personal drives. These jockey for ascendancy and what we do at any given moment might be termed the vector sum of active drives. On this view, there is no inconsistency between the views expressed.
Nietzsche’s fictionalist view of the self has been noticed. Gardner observes that

Nietzsche describes the term ‘I’ as a “mnemonic token, an abbreviating formula”.26 A token stands for something else. A mnemonic token is a symbol in the memory. Nietzsche is saying that there is nothing to the term ‘I’ beyond its symbolisation in the memory of the self, which for him is not a single item even though it has one label. Gardner notes that the self is instead a “social structure of the drives and emotions”.27

Nietzsche’s conclusion on the self, that ‘one word does not mean one thing’, is equally true of memory. We rewrite our own history to create a fiction of a unified self acting rationally: “memory itself seems clouded by the consequences of the deed” so if an action brought ‘success’, that must have been what we were aiming for, and there must have been a self that had the aim. There can be something that Nietzsche refers to with the term ‘self’ without the word being security for the unity of the item referred to; there is only a collection of drives.

2.2.2 Active Aspects Of Individual Memory

I will first say what I mean by the term ‘Active Memory’. Then I will present six arguments in support of the claim that there is an active role for Individual memory in Nietzsche. These arguments are as follows.

1. It is a general rule that concepts in Nietzsche have active/positively evaluated and passive/negatively evaluated aspects.
2. Memory grants power over others and time; and power is active.
3. Bad conscience is founded on memory; there are positive and negative aspects to bad conscience and positivity correlates to activity.
4. Promise making involves a “memory of the will” and is only for the strong, who are active.
5. There are several roles in Nietzsche for contest and competition between memory and forgetting which requires active elements of both.
6. Use of Active Memory is one way to create an effective self, or self-image.

I will close this section with some brief illustrative remarks on the contrasts between Active Memory and Passive Memory.

There are two dimensions of the question requiring more clarity before it can be answered. The meaning of a type of memory must be elucidated; also there is the question as to in what the activity consists. I will discuss these questions below, but first we need a definition. The starting point for finding that definition will be that Active Memory is in some way opposed to Passive Memory. We noted on p. 17 that Passive Memory is made up of two subtypes, Inhibitory Memory and Imposed Memory. One idea then would be simply to define Active Memory as the inverse of Passive Memory i.e. being memory which is not externally imposed nor inhibitory. This approach suffers though from two difficulties. The first is that it is a negative definition and we will want to know what something is rather than what it is not.

Secondly, something being the inverse of two other things makes it rather difficult to decide what it is the inverse of at any point. There is nevertheless something functionally useful about opposing Active Memory to Passive Memory, so I will retain this as a ‘framework idea’ if not a definition. Noting that the function of Active Memory is what distinguishes it suggests that a functional definition is the best approach.

Throughout this thesis, I will define Active Memory any use of memory which is both selected by the rememberer and tends to promote activity. Since this is a definition that requires both markers to be present, Active Memory is not Inhibitory Memory and it is not Imposed Memory so it is not Passive Memory. In some sense, all memory is ‘externally imposed’ since we apparently cannot simply fabricate its input. What we can do though is select which elements are prominent and frequently recalled on the basis of what is useful to us. This will suffice on my view for Active Memory not to be externally imposed in the relevant sense.

I turn now to the two dimensions of the question ‘what is active memory?’ that require more clarity. On the former question – what is a memory type? – I do not claim that Nietzsche argued for physically separate brain areas where different memory types or aspects might be processed or different roles accommodated. Nietzsche’s distinctions are functional in nature. The purpose for which anything is used is the key to its value, so we may expect to see him making differential evaluations of different types of memory depending on their use. This is in fact what we find and the value distinction is a central aspect of my argument for multiple aspects.

On the latter question – what is the activity? – there are different stages at which activity could be exemplified. Memory involves what we think of as input, storage and output. In reality, these are poor terms because they assume a popular view we might term the ‘photograph’ model of memory.

They are poor both because they assume this false model and because Nietzsche would disagree with them since he disagrees with that model. I discuss the processes involved on the modern model of digital photography, though it could as well be film photography. I will also use the terms input, storage and output as well for the imperfect versions of those processes involved in memory, because those functions are at least what we take to be going on.

On the photograph model, memory is like a photographic process with a high degree of accuracy in data transfer at each point. The input is like taking a photograph – a picture is supposedly stored which has a high degree of fidelity to the presented scene. Storage is supposedly like the retention of the data which constitutes the photograph – it is expected that the data stored on the computer remains unchanged over time. Finally, output is supposedly like the accessing of this data in order to display the photograph on the screen – this output does not add new data or cause any loss to the existing data. On this model, the photograph displayed will exhibit high fidelity to the scene originally presented.

While this may be a good account of digital photography, it is a poor account of memory because all three of these assumptions are wrong. Memory performs at all stages with a much lower degree of fidelity. The reason for this is that, contrary to the photograph model, all of these memory processes are more active and reconstructive than reproductive. Active input may be seen when someone makes a conscious effort to remember something, perhaps employing external items as an aide m ́emoire, or repeating a list several times in order to fix it. Active storage is making selected changes to already stored memories, which may include changing their emphasis, significance or frequency of recall all of which is selected to improve effectiveness. It thus bears little resemblance to maintenance which is the mere conservation of data.

On the view I will propose here, Active Forgetfulness is best understood as an aspect of Active Memory, with that faculty being used to select memories for retention, amendment and deletion. Active management of storage is important because it subsumes Active Forgetfulness, which we know is crucial for Nietzsche. Finally, output is an active process, more akin to construction than the mere retrieval of exactly unchanged stored data. Again, all of this is contrary to the photograph model. Rather than recall some picture of what we saw, we are much more likely to be reconstructing plausible answers to the question as to what we could have seen. As Marsden notes28 “for Nietzsche, the past is that which is actively “produced” in the present according to our current quests and investments”.

Many commentators confirm this reconstructive nature of memory. Clark notes29 that biological memory is not a passive encoder but a system involving constant integrative and reconstructive activity. Note that this view is consistent with some ‘good’ cases in which memory recall is accurate enough for the purpose in hand. Cases of complete fabrication do not feature in the description of the output stage; deliberate falsehood is not a memory-related feature.

Wollheim states30 that error can be a legitimate part of a memory state on the grounds that it is the correct causal connection between an event and a memory which makes the memory a memory of that particular event even if the memory is inaccurate. Sutton notes31 how what he terms autobiographical memory involves operations of summary, interpretation and construction on life experience. This is done in order to produce the fiction of a coherent self, on Nietzsche’s view, as described above on p. 19.

We also need to consider the sense in which memory can be active. We know that forgetfulness is active for Nietzsche, and the memory could then be disconnecting the Active Forgetfulness. This would be Passive Memory. Not all memory is disconnecting the Active Forgetfulness, since some of it is actively chosen; even if it were, that does not entail that the memory is passive or reactive.

The results of a disconnection cannot really be reactive – a disconnection results in a blanket omission. We are really talking about a selection of items in relation to which there will be a disconnection, and that selection will be active. Bertram observes32 that Nietzsche values activity – in the form of selection – in forgetting as well as in memory. This is illustrated by noting that everything is forgotten in a revolution and therefore Nietzsche hates the revolutionary. What Nietzsche hates here cannot be the forgetting per se since we know he evaluates that positively elsewhere. His objection can only be the all-encompassing nature of the forgetting i.e. its passivity and lack of selectivity.

We know that Nietzsche is interested in all of these potentially active aspects – input, storage, output – because he uses the metaphor of a doorkeeper to describe Active Forgetfulness, which is the other side of the memory coin. Nietzsche writes that “active forgetfulness, a doorkeeper as it were” is “an upholder of psychic order, of rest, of etiquette”.33 Now doorkeepers certainly bar entry, but they also expel troublemakers, or make them behave. Wollheim sees34 a distinction in output between Passive and Active Memory. A distinction is drawn between an Active Memory where someone asks themselves what they did on a particular occasion, and a more passive ‘involuntary’ memory that appears unbidden, unwelcomely and is Inhibitory.

In Active Memory, there may be active management of any or all of the data items that are input, retained or retrieved. This does not commit Nietzsche to such activity being conscious. Nietzsche will have a positive evaluation for those uses of Active Memory which foster the expression of power, as I will now argue. The use of memory for storing truths will not be its most useful application. Why prefer an impotent truth to a useful fiction? Nietzsche tells us that “truth emerge[d] as the weakest form of knowledge”.35

Moreover, “the strength of knowledge lies not in its degree of truth, but in its age, its embeddedness, its character as a condition of life”. This means that the strong, healthy, Active Memory will select its items for storage based on their ability to serve the end of creating a strong, healthy, active character and in fact, possession of such a character consists in possessing such a memory. Memory items are evaluated for their ‘embeddedness’, which means the extent to which they play their role in strengthening the overall narrative of character and the chosen direction of that character.

The idea that Nietzsche thinks that memory is best used for storing facts is untenable. We can see this throughout his work but also by noting his inclusion of “Narrow memory” with “Brief self-awareness” in a list in the Nachlaß of eight items under the heading “The world of untruth”.36

The Nachlaß is the term for material from Nietzsche’s notebooks which was not published by him. I will use it freely throughout this thesis, noting that it is Nachlaß material.

Each item in the list is a noun associated with a vaunted capacity of humans; each is qualified with a depreciating modifier. Nietzsche thinks we over-estimate our own abilities to know facts and to retain them. This leads to another error, which is that since we mistakenly believe that there are external facts and that our memory just records them, we do not have any control over the contents of our memory. This is exactly what Nietzsche might term ‘the error of Passive Memory’. The lack of a gold standard for memory contents means we can and should use Active Memory to promote activity.

The reason it is important to elucidate the active elements of Individual Memory for Nietzsche returns to the valorisation point made above in §2.1.1. The propensity to promote action is Nietzsche’s primary route of valorisation. Use of Active Memory is the way persons can access that valorisation. Once they have, so to speak, backed their values by gold, they may become strong in ways that Nietzsche values and acquire other values he accepts as valorised since they promote action.

We will thus be able to achieve a successful analysis in relation to various questions of importance for analysis of Nietzsche’s works. These questions will include which of the characters described are positively evaluated by Nietzsche and why. Without knowing that, we cannot know what Nietzsche is really recommending we should do or seek to to become. The common factor to all of Nietzsche’s strong, active, positively evaluated characters is that they all valorise their values via the use of Active Memory. One way that characters are able to achieve a positive evaluation from Nietzsche will be by becoming more active; a positive self-image is one way of using Active Memory to achieve that.

I will now turn to the arguments supporting the claim that there is an active functional role for memory, or an active aspect of memory.

It is a general rule that we must always look for active, positively evaluated and reactive, negatively evaluated aspects of concepts in Nietzsche, because for Nietzsche, active and free expression of power is the source of all valorisation. Thus everything must be evaluated through the prism of activity and the promotion of action in order to determine its value. It has been correctly observed that there will often be active and passive sides to the same concept for Nietzsche depending on the use to which it is put, the activity which it supports.

Derrida claims37 that there are never univocal answers as to ‘value’ in Nietzsche since all concepts must be evaluated for their active and passive sides. Kee notes38 that Nietzsche also makes a value distinction in the case of nihilism between a positive, active form and a negative, passive form. Sommer cites39 Kuhn as identifying six types of nihilism in Nietzsche of which active and passive are two. Memory is no exception to this rule. Sommer also observes40 that scepticism in Nietzsche has active, positively evaluated and passive, negatively evaluated sides. Richardson distinguishes41 creative and receptive aesthetic abilities, with the latter being “degrade[d] as thoroughly passive” “in comparison to the creative attitude”.

Active Memory can be developed by the noble and used to gain power over others and oneself. Nietzsche writes: “The binding memory. – Whoever has a high rank does well to make for himself a binding memory, that means, to mark as many good things possible about people and draw a line under it: it keeps them in a pleasant dependence. Thus can he also proceed with himself, so whether he has a binding memory or not determines in the end his own treatment of himself, the nobility, goodness, or the distrust in observing his own inclinations and intentions, and finally again on the nature of the inclinations and intentions themselves.”42

This is my translation, using ‘binding’ for verbindliche rather than ‘courteous’ or ‘gracious’, as other translators have rendered it. ‘Mandatory’ is also a possible translation for verbindliche, but then it would be unclear for whom Nietzsche thinks the memory is mandatory: for the person with the memory or the person being manipulated by it. It seems clear that Nietzsche intends this type of memory to be active and thus a ‘binding’ memory on the person manipulated: they are ‘bound’ to the person with the active memory who chooses to use it for their own advantage.

The general claim is that people like to use what they see as their good qualities and allowing them to do so can be a way of manipulating them. They will become dependent on the plaudits of the ‘noble’. Nietzsche will depreciate this as an example of passivity, of looking outside oneself for a valorisation. Moreover, such a man of high rank may also use Active Memory on himself.

The strong are hard on themselves; they are viewed with distrust by the weak since the weak are soft on themselves and, perforce, in relation to others. Nietzsche is suggesting that Active Memory can be the source of power of both the self and others. This is Active Memory because the rememberer chooses that something is retained, what it is and why. It is significant that Nietzsche once again here emphasises that the strong or noble person makes the memory for himself. So the test we specified in the definition of Active Memory on p. 21 is passed; not only does the noble person choose the memory but he does so in order to promote activity.

There may be a problem here with the activity-promotion quality of Active Memory which we must consider. As said, Nietzsche also thinks that this binding memory can be applied to oneself. This will mean recording ‘good things’ also about oneself, and emphasising them. This will result in a positive self-image, supporting the final argument in this section about the creation of an enabling belief in a strong, effective self.

The contents of the memory will be different in the case of use of Active Memory to record my own deeds, because I have access to them from the inside, as it were. This is why Nietzsche speaks of intentions and inclinations in connection with the noble person using Active Memory on themselves, while the more wide and vague term ‘good thing’ is used in connection with others. We may think we can divine the intentions of others but we can only observe their behaviour.

The noble will use Active Memory to police their own intentions; their quality, intensity and the frequency with which they are put into effect. The potential problem here is that this could be seen as inhibitory. If there are inclinations that do not meet the test, then they presumably are to be inhibited. The clue to solving this conundrum is given by Nietzsche’s final sentence in the quotation: we are talking here finally about exactly which inclinations are present. The process will be to use Active Memory in such a way that eventually the noble person only has the ‘right’ inclinations and intentions. Once that has been achieved, then no further inhibition is required and all of the inclinations that occur can be acted upon.

There is a connection between power and action. As Nietzsche writes43 “the optimum” for “every animal” is “its path to power, to action”. Those who act thereby express the power to act. But it is also possible to be powerful and yet inactive. An imprisoned political leader remains powerful in some senses. Thus, power is about the potential to act rather than just the act. It is key though that the choice to act or not to act is solely in the discretion of the person we are calling powerful.

The imprisoned politician may choose to remain imprisoned because it is the source of power. The person with Nietzsche’s binding memory has the potential to act, or equally, to cause others to act. This is why they are powerful and why there is a connection between power and action. The mechanism is that the people who have been placed in ‘pleasant dependence’ will want to repeat whatever type of action it was that first pleased the person in possession of the binding memory.

The possessor of the binding memory can cause repeated actions in others, possibly without even being present. On self-application of the binding memory, I argued that all of the inclinations which eventually occur must be acted upon if one is to be called powerful. But this just is power – an absence of ressentiment – because, as with the Masters, inclinations and intentions do not linger unfulfilled in Inhibitory Passive Memory. Active Memory is used to control which inclinations they are. Once the initial task of distrust of inclinations until they are properly selected is completed, Active Memory is freed from them.

Memory grants power over time in two ways, in a straightforward way and also more technically. Since Nietzsche values power via its valorising connection with activity, seeing that this is the case will provide further arguments for there being positive active aspects of memory. In the everyday way, memory provides the bridge between willing a particular action and seeing that action take place.

The sense in which this represents power is that the strong at least can ordain a part of the future: that relating to their own actions. For Nietzsche, the ability to see that one acts as one has willed is a part of strength. This aspect of his thought is linked to his views on promise making, which I discuss next in this section. In the more technical way, this power over time may also be seen through the perspective of a parallel to the Doctrine Of Eternal Recurrence, to be discussed later – see §3.2.1.

We can see an active role for memory in the following remarks of Nietzsche on promise making. Only strong individuals, such as one of the Masters, need Active 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”.44

Deleuze,in the context of a discussion of ‘culture considered from the prehistoric point of view’, distinguishes45 the memory of ‘traces’ from that created for promise making, which is a ‘memory of the future’. A memory of traces is memory of the past, while the future memory is oriented towards the future, involving “commitment to the future” when the promise made will be acted upon. Only a man with a memory of the future is free, powerful and active. This is because only the powerful can in fact ensure that what they promise will come to pass; they will not be buffeted by circumstance. This is the distinction between Active and Passive Memory, of at least the Inhibitory sort. Luft notes46 how memory permits promise-making which involves ordaining the future; again being strong enough to see that the promise is fulfilled.

Acampora suggests47 that promise making relies on the power of memory to overpower the opposing force of forgetting. Here, the memory of the promise is actively retained, unlike reactive absorption or inscription upon the weak of adventitious events. This is Active Memory because it is chosen and promotes activity in that once the promise is made, it must be acted upon to be fulfilled.

Nietzsche uses the term “memory of the will”48 to describe a type of memory. This type must be active because the will is. This type of memory represents the bridge between the initial decision ‘I will’ and its discharge – its act, as Nietzsche describes it – so it could hardly fail to be active, at least in its input stage. Richardson proposes49 to locate the faculty of agency tout court in the memory. It is argued that the memory capacity is what induces the whole organism to abide by commitments. This is termed ‘effective memory’, which we may identify as our Active Memory. The capacity works by restraining some of the drives, so we may see Active Memory makes up the psyche by deciding which drives will be expressed.

This memory of the will is solely active and healthy, because it concerns itself only with promise-making, the prerogative of the strong, who are active and healthy. Staten notes50 the frequent opposition in Nietzsche of active vs. reactive, strong vs. weak, noble vs. slave – with the first and second terms correlated in each case. Nietzsche in every case evaluates the reactive negatively; as Conway writes51, Nietzsche has a “well-known antipathy to the operation of reactive forces”. By contrast, Nietzsche writes52 in terms we noted on p. 26 that “the optimum” for “every animal” lies in “the most powerful activity”.

There are several references to a contest between memory and forgetfulness which support the claim that there are active elements of both; only active forces can really engage in conflict. Passive resistance does not constitute engagement in a contest: we would not speak of a conflict arising between a man pulling on a rope tied to a heavy weight and the weight, while we could in the analogous situation of a tug of war. The contest between memory and forgetfulness provides the creative tension driving morality. Acampora sees53 the whole of GM II as the story of the emergence of morality from this conflict; elsewhere, she sees54 consciousness as “resulting from the struggle between forces of (active) forgetting and remembering.

Some moral obligations force themselves into our memory while others do not; that leads to acts and omissions which have moral valency. This analysis again requires an active role for memory, because otherwise forgetting to do something could hardly incur moral blame. When we are blamed for such omissions, it means that we are in effect being blamed for in some way ‘choosing’ to forget. Nietzsche will see strength and value in those who actively control what they choose to forget and what they choose not to perform.

It has been observed that bad conscience is founded on memory, while Loeb goes further55 and identifies the two concepts. One support for this is to note Nietzsche’s EH remark on GM II that its topic of conscience must be understood by considering the instinct of cruelty. When modern society prevents the instinct of cruelty from being discharged outwards, it will be discharged inwards. This will create a memory because one does not remember or even experience the pain of another. So only the internalisation of cruelty results in memory; after all, externally discharged cruelty is discharged and therefore need not be figure in memory at all.

Later, Loeb paraphrases56 Nietzsche as saying that human memory is an illness like pregnancy thus identifying the two and enabling the argument that the memory–illness needs to be intensified to pass the test of the Doctrine Of Eternal Recurrence. This need not mean that they are identical but that the latter is the foundation or ground of the former. We might say at least that memory is the substrate in which bad conscience exists.

We may form a view as to Nietzsche’s positive evaluation of this form of memory by further considering Nietzsche’s comment that bad conscience is an illness like pregnancy is an illness.57 The value of both pregnancy and illness depends on their issue: what is born or whether the individual is strengthened. Further evidence for equating this memory type with bad conscience may be obtained by noting that this memory has two functions. It permits the binding of the future self because it allows the future self to remember the commitment. But Poole observes58 that it will also punish the bound individual for failure to honour the commitment. Thus memory is conscience.

Ridley argues59 that we may see an active, positive aspect to both memory and bad conscience. We should again avoid accepting prima facie evaluations, deriving in this case from the term ‘bad’. That is unsurprising, since we have not completed the revaluation of all values. This pregnancy that is bad conscience is positively evaluated by Nietzsche, with the implication that he values what it bears: its active consequences and ability to affirm the Doctrine. In the case of the Masters, bad conscience bears law, society and action. Ridley further observes60 that the pregnancy that is bad conscience brings forth some of Nietzsche’s most laudatory words but also that the negative form of bad conscience issues in ressentiment. So we need both aspects of memory, positive and negative, to map on to these forms of bad conscience.

Staten notices61 that there is a ‘good’, active form of bad conscience in the Masters and a reactive form in the Slaves. Socialisation results in precedents which the Masters are bound by even though they have created them. The Slaves experience an economy of self-cruelty and ressentiment. Thus are born ‘good’ bad conscience in the former and the bad form in the latter, or in our terminology, Active and Passive Memory. This resolves a conflict between commentators as to whether bad conscience should be positively or negatively evaluated: both evaluations apply.62

A final argument for the existence of an active role for memory may be derived from the way that use of Active Memory creates an effective self. Nietzsche writes: “The creative force – replicating, forming, shaping, practicing – the type we represent is one of our options – we could be many more people – we have the material for it in us. – To see our kind of life and activity as a role – including the maxims and principles – we seek to present a type – instinctively – we select from our memory, we connect and combine the facts of memory.”63

This is a reference to active selection of what is useful from memory. This is a two-way relationship. Who I decide I am affects what I choose to be in my Active Memory and what is there and not deleted or blocked influences who I am. Sutton notes64 this two-way relation. The self concept influences memory while the memory influences the actions of the self. In particular, decision-making and attributions of significance are driven by memory. It is also noted how in some people there is stronger and more direct feedback from self-representation into behaviour, which is close to our conception of Active Memory. We can therefore see the process as a pair of ongoing feedback loops, reinforcing each other.

These processes, constantly modifying one another, could scarcely be more active and less like the photograph model of memory. A more appropriate modern term for Nietzsche’s view might be the ‘Wikipedia’ model of memory, in which there is constant flux, a myriad of motives and a constantly varying cast of drives or potential selves who compete for dominance. This mistaken metaphor has a long history. Sutton observes65 the persistence, arbitrariness and unhelpfulness of the ‘photographic memory’ tendency in philosophy. He notes that all external technologies for recording data through wax tablets, cameras and computers are arbitrarily wheeled in as an unsupported model for memory processes.

Goldie notes66 how the constructive active aspect of memory can be driven not by changing what is remembered but by changing how it is remembered. Semantic memories may take on a different significance even if their strict content – the exact events remembered – remain unchanged. These changes will be driven by my current self-conception, which we agree may well be different now than previously.

Nietzsche will insist that the self-conception is likely to be different because it has no stable substrate. Nietzsche will see this type of change and its frequency in our lives as good memory-based evidence for the lack of a fixed uncreated self. As a further example of this process, and one which also goes against the common claim that there is a fixed stable self in which we believe, consider the situation of young persons obtaining many visible tattoos. This is often deprecated by others on the grounds that the others are certain that the young person will later regret having conducted an irrevocable change in appearance. This amounts to a denial of a stable self.

This post-event Active Memory modification can take place one level back and have evaluative as well as affective significance. Margalit observes67 that reevaluating emotions can take the Nietzschean form of valuing an emotion differently from the way it used to be valued. This is one further level back because not only have the events remembered not altered, but the immediate affects associated with them have also not altered. The value attached to those affects has changed. For example, I may decide that pity is a misguided emotion. I may then recall a previous occasion on which I acted with pity. I may maintain my account of events and continue to regard my actions as motivated by pity but now have revalued pity. This account has consequences that will mean that Active Memory ramifies through my values as they change and as my idea of myself changes.

Successful people choose who they are by choosing what they remember. Or they may delete a memory that does not fit with their current self-image, which aids their effectiveness in the present. The key point is that all of the contents of Active Memory are selected. This phenomenon is more widespread in life than might be thought, given that people generally believe they have little influence over the contents of their memories. I will restrict myself to two examples.

Sheehan discusses68 a Vietnam-era Marine Lt-General, who was originally over- confident about US progress in that conflict. This General seemed to have genuinely forgotten the role he originally played, and this forgetfulness is described as being characteristic of the busy and powerful. This means not simply that busy people do not have time for reminiscence: it is the much more interesting and Nietzschean claim that busy and effective people are so because they are not hobbled by unhelpful memories, especially those about themselves.

‘Moneyball’ is the story of how physically untalented baseball players can be more successful than much more physically gifted ones due to certain mental characteristics. The physically gifted failure speaks of the physically less gifted success as follows: ‘[h]e was able to instantly forget any failure and draw strength from every success. He had no concept of failure. And he had no idea where he was. And I was the opposite.”69 As I argued on p. 22, forgetting is just an operation of Active Memory. In the example, we see both factors at work. What is useful is retained and what is not useful is not retained.

Contrasts Between Active Memory And Passive Memory

The distinction between Active and Passive Memory is neatly summed up by Nietzsche, who writes: “there are acts of love and extravagant magnanimity after which nothing is more advisable than to take a stick and give the eyewitness a thrashing and so confuse his memory. Some know how to confuse and mistreat their own memory, so as to take revenge at least on this sole confidant”.70

In the first case, the Passive Memory – Imposed and Inhibitory – of the onlooker is affected by the beating administered by the protagonist who has his own aims to pursue. In the second case, the protagonist is active in relation to his memory and selects accordingly. It is interesting that Nietzsche also sees one’s own memory as potentially in the role of hostile witness to one’s own activity; that would be the case only in those dominated by Passive – Inhibitory – Memory. Nietzsche will assert the necessity of active use of memory to avoid shame and thereby to promote activity and avoid the deadening effects of extant morality.

Memory aspects mark the difference between creative and derivative artists. The latter can use memory – Passive Memory – to mimic talent. “But if the original ones are abandoned by themselves, memory renders them no assistance; they become empty.”71 Active Memory will mark the creative powers of original artists. In fact, elsewhere Nietzsche confirms that the purpose of art is to avoid the deadening effects of Passive Memory. He writes of several “great poets” that they are “often seeking with their exaggerations forgetfulness of an all too faithful memory”.72 This equates Passive Memory with a pedestrian recording capability that is of no value, creatively. The success of these great poets is contrasted with the failure of ‘psychologists’, who are described in the same section as being “afraid of […] memory”. Only someone dominated by Passive Memory will suffer thus, because only those people will be

failing to take active control of the contents and use of their memories. This failure is symptomatic of all of us, in Nietzsche’s diagnosis. He writes: “unpleasant memories suddenly assert themselves and we then make great efforts, through vehement noises and gestures, to banish them from our minds: but the noise and the gestures which are going on everywhere reveal that […] we live in fear of memory”.73

The distinction between Passive and Active Memory can be further illustrated with an example from literature. We know that Nietzsche regards Dostoyevsky as the only psychologist from whom he has something to learn; Lanvrin notes74 that he confirms this in TI. It is also observed that Nietzsche is familiar with Notes from the Underground. The protagonist of this work is what we might term a monster of Passive Memory, consumed by ressentiment. His entire being comes to revolve around seeking revenge against others, including prominently an officer who has jostled him in the street.

His ressentiment is only increased when he takes a mild revenge and finds that the officer is indifferent – the officer is less of a creature of Passive Memory. We are even told by Dostoyevsky that the type of memory possessed by his monster is passive. He writes: “[t]he images of the previous day began of themselves, apart from my will, flitting through my memory in confusion.”75 This is not the only mention of memory in the book which emphasises how what it brings to conscious awareness is not under the control of the rememberer. In this case, the Passive Memory is imposed by the officer – albeit not intentionally.

2.3 Organic Memory

Nietzsche recognises a non-standard physiological memory. This is confirmed when Nietzsche writes: “[t]here is no separate organ of “memory”: all the nerves in, for example, the legs, remember past experiences. Every word, every number is the result of a physical process, and set somewhere in the nerves. All that was organised in the nerves, lives on in them.”76 We do not have memory confined to the human brain therefore; and we also have a claim that Organic Memory retains everything, in a further contrast to ordinary conceptions of memory wherein as we have seen Nietzsche sets great store on forgetting. The organic type of memory may even be the mark of the organic: Staten notes77 that “[e]verything organic possesses “memory […]”.

Organic Memory reaches back into the past beyond the individual. As Nietzsche writes: “Memory has nothing to do with nerves or brain. It is a primal quality. For man carries the memory of all previous generations with him. The memory image is something very artificial and rare.”78

The word translated as ‘primal quality’ is in Nietzsche’s text Ureigenschaft. An ‘Eigenschaft’ is straightforwardly a property or quality, and the ‘Ur–’ modifier makes it refer to something basic or original. For example, the term Urgermanisch means Proto-Germanic and refers to the prehistoric ancestor of Germanic languages. This emphasises how Nietzsche sees memory as basic and primordial in humans and other organisms; all organisms will carry around with them items from the Organic Memory of all their ancestors. In humans, it would go back to primordial humans and presumably further, to apes and the other animals that were on the evolutionary path to humanity.

Nietzsche also introduces here the idea of a Gedächtnißbild or memory-picture, which is rare – that is consistent with his claim that an expanded type of memory is what makes humans special. Note also how this quotation shows that it is possible for organisms without brains or nerves to have a memory in Nietzsche’s terms. In fact, as we will see, memory is possible without consciousness and predates consciousness.

It is plausible that this is what Nietzsche means by the term ‘original’ in the quotation above. Later – p. 36 – I discuss how he introduces the Mimosa plant, which can move, has memory in Nietzsche’s terms, but is not conscious, and does not have ‘memory with pictures’. This suggests that Nietzsche sees ‘consciousness’ as ‘memory with pictures’. We might even say that consciousness is ‘putting oneself in the picture’ on Nietzsche’s view. The ability to call to mind images from the past in which one figures certainly seems to require some awareness of one’s self, and that self-consciousness could be the origin of consciousness.

We have a problem though with this quotation in that there seems to be a contradiction between the two quotations as to whether memory is connected to nerves because the previous quotation says that it is not while the present one says it is. At first it might appear helpful that the term ‘memory’ appears in quotation marks in the first quotation but not in the second; we might be able to argue that in the first quotation Nietzsche is referring to something like memory, or the Organic type only. Unfortunately this way out does not seem to be available since it seems clear that Nietzsche means Organic Memory in both cases since both make reference to the atavism which is characteristic of Organic Memory only.

The only way to produce a consistent account is to distinguish between two types of nerves. The occurrence of ‘nerves’ is associated with the legs in the first quotation and the brain in the second. We may therefore assume that in the first case, Nietzsche means simple nerves which do nothing beyond carry impulses to the legs.

In the second case, Nietzsche means the central nervous system and more complex controlling nerves which can perform basic regulatory functions and have some autonomy. The effect of this reading is to have Nietzsche associating Organic Memory with the non-brain nerves and disassociating it from the brain. Nietzsche says the nerves ‘remember’ everything that they do. A concept of ‘muscle memory’ is known nowadays whereby it is possible, for example, for tennis players to practice strokes without moving, and Nietzsche may have in mind something similar but relating to the drives and their physiological instantiations.

This is a second type of memory which cannot be Individual Memory for three reasons. These are: that it is not restricted to humans but extends to animals and even plants; that it is physiologically based rather than a mental phenomenon; and that it reaches back to previous generations of humans. Throughout this thesis, I will define Organic Memory as any use of memory in which any of the following markers are present: i). it is physiologically based; or ii). it is stored via experiences of events that did not take place during the lifetime of the rememberer or iii). it is available to life beyond humanity. Note that on at least a physicalist picture of the mind, all memory is physiologically based. The distinction here is that Nietzsche has a wider view of ‘physiological’ in the physiological basis of memory than the brain.

The term Organic Memory is not used by Nietzsche, but is suggested by the following: “The origin of memory is the problem of the organic. How is memory possible? The emotions are symptoms of the formation of memory material.”79

This connects the emotions to the formation of memories, which suggests that we are speaking of a more physiological type of memory than the usual conception. It links memory directly to the organic. Another reason to employ the term Organic Memory is not only that this is the name for a theory linking memory and heredity which was popular in the nineteenth century, but also that it was espoused by Lamarck, with whose work Nietzsche was familiar. Pratt notes80 that Organic Memory was the Lamarckian idea that the experiences of one individual can be inherited by later generations. Since this theory is like the one that Nietzsche is describing and we know that he was familiar with Lamarck, it seems appropriate to adopt the term Organic Memory for the type that Nietzsche is using.

There is a coded reference to Organic Memory in a text published by Nietzsche which includes this reaching back to previous generations. Nietzsche writes: “[o]ne cannot erase out of the soul of a man what his ancestors have done most eagerly and most often …It is not at all possible that a man should not have in his body the qualities and preferences of his parents and ancestors – whatever appearances may say against this.”81 This tells us that there are two factors which will lead to an events leaving traces in Organic Memory. It will not just be the sources of pleasure of the ancestors which continue to be active – via the drives, we may infer – but also the frequency of an occurrence. The implication here is that there are events which happen many times despite the fact that they are not pleasurable. Here we may see the instinctive type of behaviour whereby someone today withdraws their hand from the flame before thinking about it. We are also told that the processes of Organic Memory may not be superficially obvious; we will need to look carefully for the re-emergence of the ancestors in atavistic behaviour.

Nietzsche means this Organic Memory type to extend also to plant life. He sees memory as predating consciousness, which we will also need if we are to have memory for non-conscious life. Nietzsche writes: “The memory preserves the reflex movements that have taken place. Consciousness commences with the sensation of causality, i.e. memory is older than consciousness. E.g. in the Mimosa, we find memory but no consciousness. Memory of course involves no image in the plant.”82 One immediate question here is why Nietzsche chooses to discuss a Mimosa plant rather than any other. The answer to this is to note that the Mimosa has the unusual characteristic of moving in response to stimuli in the same way as the Venus fly trap. Gamble states83 that it is also known as the ‘sensitive plant’ for this reason.

That author also cites Lamarck for some original work and again, we know Nietzsche is familiar with Lamarckian ideas in biology. So the plant has an Organic Memory as humans do. Its ability to close its leaves when touched to make it hard for predators to eat its leaves derives from an Organic Memory resulting from events that happened to ancestors of the plant. Nietzsche’s point is that humans also have this type of memory – and naturally, more besides. One implication he can draw from this is to render less distinct the boundary between humans and other forms of life, which would serve his anti-religious and related objectives.

This Organic Memory space transcends individual humans. There is a specific type of memory at work in relation to evolution: “There are analogies; e.g., a memory analogous to our memory that reveals itself in heredity and evolution and forms.”84 So, Nietzsche thinks there is a memory space whose activity can be seen in heredity.

Richardson notes85 that memory is burned into pre-civilised humans as we have discussed, but also that this memory is fixed not by selection of those with memory, but by the acquisition of inheritable associations with pain. We cannot remember events in prehistory, but we can withdraw our hands from the flame in a reflex reaction. This reaction is in some sense a memory of pain suffered by individuals in prehistory when they encountered flame. This must be Organic Memory because non-human animals share those sorts of reflex. Lampert sees86 this social selection as Nietzsche’s key advance on Darwinism. Social selection, on this view, is not genetic but proceeds in a memory space involving language and consciousness. Organic Memory operates over long timescales to lay down archetypal projections.

Parkes notes87 that for Nietzsche, memory operates over many generations resulting in collective structures of fantastic projection. This explains why even though we all to a large extent fabricate our own experience, we seem often to have similar experiences in similar circumstances. This form of memory must be Organic Memory since Individual Memory cannot operate over times longer than the lifetimes of individuals. These projections are arbitrary reflections of the drives. Nietzsche writes: “[o]ur waking life is an interpretation of the internal behaviour of drive processes made with the help of the memory of everything perceived and seen: an arbitrary visual language thereof, like dreaming of sensations while asleep.”88 Once again, we have a reference to memory as some form of picture, with the term ‘arbitrary visual language’ though it is clear that Nietzsche thinks the ‘picture-language’ which we wilfully associate with the operation of drives within us is no more tied to external reality than imagining sensations while dreaming. Memory is the location of this self-deception.

Nietzsche writes: “One must revise one’s ideas about memory: here lies the chief temptation to assume a “soul,” which, outside time, reproduces, recognises, etc. But that which is experienced lives on “in the memory”; I cannot help it if it “comes back”.89

Here the argument is that if there is to be a self in the usually understood manner, then it must be the site of the will. Since, however, memory seems to be as much outside of our conscious control as thoughts are – meaning that we can generally neither decide when or what to think or when or what to remember – then will is not part of the explanation of memory’s activity. Because it does function however to recall similar experiences, and this is an act, we falsely posit an actor, a self, to accompany the action. This illusory self was discussed on p. 19.

Nietzsche places the term ‘comes’ in quotation marks to indicate that there is not really an arrival from one location to another here, or at least, that it is not the one we might think. The memory is the memory of the drives, and they may decide to bring it to ‘my’ attention. There is also a parallel here – with the way that the memory is not under the control of the rememberer – to the Dostoyevskian involuntary nature of memory mentioned on p. 33.

Staten also suggests a parallel to the drives having memory when he notes90 that “units of force must retain a “memory” of previous interactions with other units.” Staten sees91 Nietzsche as applying the economy of drives view in which all life is a non-moral pattern of interacting forces, to human individuals as well as human society, because the Will to Power is operative within as well as between individuals.

This may be made more plausible by comparing it to the physics claim that energy transactions take place both at the level of human cells and of stars. Nietzsche shares with Bergson the view that a form of memory is what distinguishes life from matter, as I will discuss further below. This is because life is the resultant of a conflict of forces – of different aspects of the Will to Power, in Nietzsche’s terms – and memory is where this conflict plays out. As Nietzsche writes: “[i]t’s necessary to reconsider everything one has learned about memory: it is the mass of all that has been lived by all organic life, which continues to live, is organised, is formed by a reciprocal action, is subject to inner struggles”.92 This must be Organic Memory because it extends beyond humans. Haar argues93 that the organic living body represents an “absolute memory” which is in some way the summation of the individual competing drives within an organism. Also, organic life is ‘incorporation’ for Nietzsche, and ‘incorporation’ is a Nietzsche code word for memory. Again, this cannot refer to Individual Memory since the sphere of organic life is much larger than that of humanity.

Organic Memory seems only to have a positive valuation for Nietzsche, further distinguishing it from Individual Memory. Since as I have argued above, activity is Nietzsche’s valorisation, for him to give Organic Memory a negative evaluation would involve him seeing it as inhibitory. There is no evidence for that. Bertram observes94 that Nietzsche allots to memory the important aristocratic task of preserving cultural heritage.

Nietzsche also views those individuals possessing the most or the strongest memory as being rulers by necessity and derives this from his theory of ‘biological memory’. The mission of those castes that conserve a people is to maintain the possibility of the rare person who embodies the most distant biological memory. The rarest people are the people with the longest inner memory. The consequence of Nietzsche’s giving primacy to biological memory is that the most atavistic person is necessarily a ruler. We may equate biological memory to Organic Memory since it is not Individual Memory that is under discussion here and also it reaches back in time beyond the individual. An atavistic person is one who exhibits characteristics of previous generations. Here Nietzsche is hoping that Organic Memory will still allow persons today to have some of the character he admired in ancient civilisations.

Consciousness possesses only the illusion of being in command of the drives and the body; only a momentarily successful drive will rise to consciousness. This may be responsible for what Nietzsche sees as the unfounded belief in free will of those who have not affirmed the Doctrine Of Eternal Recurrence: the ‘ruling class’ has identified itself with the successes of the state. So we can also distinguish Organic Memory from the other types of memory by noting that Organic Memory is what allows the drives to ‘remember’; which will be necessary if they are to continue to be successfully expressed.

François and Lapidus ask95 how both Nietzsche and Bergson were led to identify life with memory. This can only be a reference to a non-standard type of memory, because there is non-human life. François and Lapidus hold96 that for both Nietzsche and Bergson, what distinguishes life from matter is that the former is memory. This tells us that Nietzsche is not alone among philosophers in ascribing a fundamental importance to memory.

As Nietzsche writes: “inorganic matter, despite the fact that in many cases it was once organic, has learned nothing, it is always without a past! If it were otherwise, there could never be repetition, for something would always be born from matter, with new qualities, with a new past.”97

Here we find that inorganic matter has learned nothing, so we know that it has no memory. This strongly suggests that organic matter – i.e. life – differs from inorganic matter in that it has indeed learned something; it does have a memory. Nevertheless, this is not a feature of the exact matter involved, because this new memory feature of organic matter emerges despite the fact that organic matter contains matter that until recently was often inorganic – this again is a reference to the physical incorporation of the external, which is for Nietzsche closely related to memory.

The argument for this is that if it were otherwise, reconfiguration of inorganic matter could produce an item with a new past. This would eliminate ‘repetition’, by which Nietzsche means inorganic matter configured in the same way as on a previous occasion, since that reconfiguration would produce an item with a memory – in our wider sense – which would be different so that the item would differ even from other items configured from the same matter. This repetition argument is consistent with the argument discussed in §3.2.1 supporting the Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence with the claims that matter – or energy – is finite while time is infinite.

Scott argues98 that Nietzsche recognises a memory type – ‘physiological memory’ – which we may identify with our Organic Memory. This kind of memory gives dominance to a past inscribed in our languages, values and bodies, and lived in feelings of significance. These feelings are generated in physiological memory, the place of a culture’s primary transmission. Nietzsche sees these powerful memories as fictions since they undercut what we traditionally expect truth to be. They are not a basis for believing in objective facts. So the Organic Memory may in fact be said to make the past ‘dominant’ in our current experience. To this extent, our experience is fabricated or falsified; we perceive as others did. Since the drives see what they want to see, as it were, the basis of objectivity is lost.

1Kaufmann [7, p. 108].

2Nietzsche BGE [8, §211].

3Nietzsche BGE [8, §211].

4Richardson [9, p. 99].

5Nietzsche GM [2, I.7].

6Nietzsche GM [2, I.7].

7Nietzsche HA [6, ‘On the History of Moral Feelings’, §59].

8Nietzsche HA [6, ‘Man Alone with Himself’, §580].

9Nietzsche HA [6, ‘Miscellaneous Maxims and opinions’, §122].

10Nietzsche HA [6, ‘The Wanderer and His Shadow’, §171].

11Nietzsche D [10, IV, §393].

12Nietzsche GM [2, II.3].

13Nietzsche GM [2, I.10].

14Nietzsche GM [2, II.1].

15Nietzsche GM [2, II.3].

16Nietzsche EH [11, I.6].

17Nietzsche GM [2, II.3].

18Nietzsche GM [2, II.5].

19Nietzsche UM II [1, ‘On the uses and disadvantages of history for life’].

20Luft [5, p. 135].

21Bertram [12, p. 5]. I will cite Bertram a total of four times in this thesis. Since the work is somewhat controversial and dates from 1918, I will briefly defend its scholarly merits. The translator, Norton, regards it as a work which derives some of its importance from Kaufmann’s condemnation of it in [7]. Kaufmann regards part of his rehabilitatory task, writing as he was soon after the second world war, as involving the need to repudiate Bertram’s reading of Nietzsche. As Norton outlines on p. xiii of his Translator’s Introduction, there are three charges levelled by Kaufmann at Bertram. These were that Bertram was “wilfully and deceptively equivocal”; he “distorted [. . . ] the coherent progression of Nietzsche’s thinking” and that he “violated the principles of [. . . ] scholarly integrity”. Despite this, Norton notes on p. xii Kaufmann’s agreement that Bertram’s work “had done more than any other work to shape [Nietzsche’s] image for almost an entire generation”. Norton also convincingly defends Bertram against these charges; see esp. p. xxii. I conclude for three main reasons that it is acceptable to cite Bertram’s work in this thesis. Firstly, it is agreed on all sides that the work is important and significant. Secondly, there are defences available to the charges of obfuscation, and we need not even follow Kaufmann in his insistence on the coherence of Nietzsche’s thought; modern ‘perspectivist’ readings of Nietzsche might indeed see that potential lack as a virtue. Thirdly, my citations from Bertram are in the nature of illuminating remarks rather than involving any commitment to the grand sweep of his vision. Finally, as Norton points out on p. xv, thinkers as disparate as Heidegger, Jaspers, Hess and Mann came to the same conclusion regarding the high merits of Bertram’s work.

22Deleuze [13, p. 38].

23Richardson [9, p. 93].

24Nietzsche HA [6, ‘Of First and Last Things’, §11].

25Hales [14, p. 832].

26Nietzsche Late Notebooks [15, p. 96]. Nachlaß.

27Nietzsche BGE [8, p. 44].

28Marsden [16, p. 31].

29Clark [17, p. 6].

30Wollheim [18, p. 119].

31Sutton [19, §1.2].

32Bertram [12, p. 13].

33Nietzsche GM [2, II.1].

34Wollheim [18, p. 117].

35Nietzsche GS [20, §110].

36Nietzsche Early Notebooks [21, p. 158]. Nachlaß.

37Derrida [22, p. 53].

38Kee [23, p. 53].

39Sommer [16, p. 254].

40Sommer [16, p. 263].

41Richardson [9, p. 233].

42Nietzsche D [10, IV, §278].

43Nietzsche GM [2, III.7].

44Nietzsche GM [2, II.1].

45Deleuze [13, p. 125].

46Luft [5, p. 140].

47Acampora [24, Ch. 9].

48Nietzsche GM [2, II.1].

49Richardson [25, p. 139].

50Staten [26, p. 72].

51Conway [16, p. 532].

52Nietzsche GM [2, III.7].

53Acampora [24, Ch. 9].

54Acampora [16, p. 321].

55Loeb [27, p. 83].

56Loeb [27, p. 91].

57Nietzsche GM [2, II.19].

58Poole [28, p. 270].

59Ridley [29, p. 7].

60Ridley [29, p. 7].

61Staten [26, p. 73].

62Deleuze and Owen take opposite views on this question. Ridley [29, p. 8] proposes the resolution I suggest by finding both positive and negative aspects, so that both commentators are right.

63Nietzsche KSA [3, NF – 1884, 25(362)]. Nachlaß, my translation.

64Sutton [19, §1.2].

65Sutton [19, §2.1].

66Goldie [30, p. 202].

67Margalit [31, p. 140].

68Sheehan [32, p. 342].

69Lewis [33, p. 46].

70Nietzsche BGE [8, §40].

71Nietzsche HA [6, ‘From the Soul of Artists and Writers’, §165].

72Nietzsche BGE [8, §269].

73Nietzsche UM III [1, ‘Schopenhauer as educator’, p. 159].

74Lanvrin [34, p. 160].

75Dostoyevsky [35, p. 62].

76Nietzsche KSA [3, NF – 1880, 2(68)]. Nachlaß, my translation.

77Staten [16, p. 567].

78Nietzsche Early Notebooks [21, p. 140]. Nachlaß.

79Nietzsche KSA [3, NF – 1884, 25(514)]. Nachlaß, my translation.

80Pratt [36, p. 343], reviewing Otis.

81Nietzsche BGE [8, §264].

82Nietzsche Early Notebooks [21, p. 138]. Nachlaß.

83Gamble [37, p. 1].

84Nietzsche WP [4, p. 343]. Nachlaß.

85Richardson discusses [2, II] at [38, p. 541].

86Lampert [39, p. 174], reviewing Richardson.

87Parkes [40, p. 17].

88Nietzsche KSA [3, NF – 1880, 6(81)]. Nachlaß, my translation.

89Nietzsche WP [4, p. 274]. Nachlaß.

90Staten [16, p. 573].

91Staten [26, p. 68].

92Nietzsche KSA [3, NF – 1884, 26(94)]. Nachlaß, my translation.

93Haar [41, p. 78].

94Bertram [12, p. 25].

95François and Lapidus [42, p. 104].

96François and Lapidus [42, p. 103].

97Nietzsche KSA [3, NF – 1881,12(15)]. Nachlaß, François and Lapidus translation.

98Scott [43, p. 69].

Next Chapter: The Roles Of Nietzsche’s Memory Types

https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1421265/

Categories
philosophy

Nietzsche On Memory: Introduction

Chapter 1 Introduction

“Die Entstehung des Gedächtnisses ist das Problem des Organischen. Wie ist Gedächtniß möglich? Die Affekte sind Symptome der Formation des Gedächtniß-Materials”

Nietzsche, NF–1884, 25 [514]

This thesis has three substantial Chapters, apart from this Introduction. These three Chapters will conduct the following three tasks. Firstly, I will outline the different types and roles in Nietzsche’s conception of memory. Secondly, I will use these tools to examine how they illuminate Nietzsche’s key themes. Thirdly, I consider the topic of Collective Memory. I will now outline this Chapter breakdown in more detail.

In Chapter 2, I show how there are two types of memory for Nietzsche, discussing each in turn. The first type – Individual Memory – is closer to what we commonly understand as memory. It has two aspects. Firstly, there is a passive/reactive, externally imposed, inhibitory and negatively evaluated aspect. I will further divide this passive aspect into two subtypes: imposed memory and inhibitory memory. On the other hand, an active element has the opposite characteristics: it promotes activity and so is not inhibitory, it is internally chosen and so not imposed and it is positively evaluated. The second major type of memory is Organic Memory. This is different to what we commonly understand by memory. We know this because Nietzsche applies it to plants as well as animals and it reaches back to previous generations of humans. Nietzsche’s view of memory is thus at variance with the common view of memory which I term the ‘photograph’ model.

In Chapter 3, I examine two of Nietzsche’s themes and their links to memory. I discuss Nietzsche’s Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence and show why we need this pluralistic understanding to grasp it. This discussion will involve the distinction between types of memory and in particular the way in which memory which is active may be used to affirm the Doctrine, which represents a key element of Nietzsche’s central ethical project. I will also discuss the early theme of Dionysos vs. Apollo from the perspective of memory typology.

In Chapter 4, I discuss the topic of Collective Memory. Many commentators cite Nietzsche when discussing Collective Memory, believing they find evidence that he recognises the phenomenon in various places, including when he discusses the ‘historical sense’ and the ancestral indebtedness of societies. This discussion is postponed to a separate Chapter, because I conclude that commentators are mistaken when they believe that Nietzsche recognises a Collective Memory type. They are confused by failing to understand that Nietzsche is sometimes referring to the obscure Organic Memory type.

The thesis presented here is of a survey character, since the topic of Nietzsche’s views on memory is largely unexplored. There is no sustained discussion of Nietzsche on memory in the literature. There are no Jstor papers that include both of the terms ‘Nietzsche’ and ‘memory’ in their title. There are 238 papers listed on Jstor that include the term ‘Nietzsche’ in their title and ‘memory’ in their full text. I believe I have considered and cited here all papers within the 238 that are of significance to the topic. In the primary material, there are 176 occurrences in 136 textual units of either ‘Gedächtniß’ or ‘Gedächtniß’. I find this by a search in the Digitale Kritische Gesamtausgabe, covering both the published material and the Nachlaß. However, many writers have valuable insights into memory that they give in the course of a Nietzsche discussion with another end, and I have profited from those brief discussions. All of the significant references I have found are cited here.

I will close this introductory material by giving some motivational arguments as to why memory is important for Nietzsche.

1.1 Importance Of Memory To Nietzsche

There are four general reasons to think that memory is important to Nietzsche, which I will outline in this section. They are as follows.

1. Memory is definitional of being human.
2. Forgetfulness, the other side of the coin, is significant and unusual because it is active and beneficial.
3. Memory is a precondition for the current constitution of society.
4. Memory is the key to Nietzsche’s central ethical project.

Firstly, man is the “remembering animal”.1 Nietzsche thus describes memory as what distinguishes humans from animals. This has been confirmed by several commentators. Luft notes2 that for Nietzsche the ‘memory of the will’ which enabled promise making was what turned animals into a human herd. Nietzsche’s claim that memory created humanity and also every kind of human community. Nietzsche’s slogan is a deliberate echo of the Aristotelean tag that ‘man is the rational animal’; it shows that memory is of the first importance for Nietzsche since it is for him definitional of what makes us human. For this reason alone, it is surprising that the topic of Nietzsche on memory has received little specific attention in the literature. My main aim in this thesis is to supply this lack.

Secondly, we may derive reason for thinking that memory is an important phenomenon for Nietzsche, and one worth investigating, from the fact that his unusual view of forgetfulness as active and positive suggests that he will have a unique conception of memory as well. Choosing what to forget is crucial to maintaining psychic order and also effective self-creation – which is also the creation of an effective self. I will illustrate this further in §2.2.2.

Thirdly, for Nietzsche, memory allows the creation of society as it is currently constituted, which we may understand as involving a constant tension between the natural desires of humans to use violence in their own ends and the need for society to restrain those desires. He describes how memory is created by pain and punishment; Nietzsche writes: “only what does not cease to give pain remains in one’s memory”.3 Memory is then a device for avoiding those outcomes. This reactive, imposed aspect of memory is a precondition for society with its web of agreements not to use violence, or

1Nietzsche UM II [1, ‘On the uses and disadvantages of history for life’, §1]. Note: I will use standard abbreviations for Nietzsche’s works such as are to be found at Nietzsche GM [2, p. xxxvii], preferring ‘UM’ for ‘Untimely Meditations’. I will also use ‘KSA’ for Kritische Studien Ausgabe [3] and ‘WP’ for ‘The Will to Power’ [4].

2Luft [5, p. 135]. 3Nietzsche GM [2, II.3].

to delegate the right to use violence to the state. Nietzsche describes these contracts as follows: “contract relationships […] [p]recisely here are promises made; precisely here it is a matter of making a memory for the one who promises”.4 Society needs to restrain violent individual impulses because otherwise it would dissolve in conflict. The creation of society is what leads to the processes Nietzsche describes in GM as leading to morality. So a passive, imposed form of memory is important to Nietzsche in his project of explaining morality. Here we see socially-bred, externally imposed memory. Prehistorical societies led to current societies via the nexus of memory and pain.

Fourthly, memory is the key to the ethical project which we may term ‘revaluation of all values’. Luft argues5 that GM describes the process by which a ‘memory of values’ is created by metaphor and society so we can see how memory is directly implicated in the prevalence of groundless values which Nietzsche attacks. It is also responsible for various moral illusions which Nietzsche wishes to dispel. For one thing, people do not generally tell the truth because of a moral stricture to that effect. They do so merely since memory is a limited resource, and “because it is more convenient, as falsehood requires invention, deceit, and memory”.6 Nietzsche tells us that memory is the space in which acts are given their moral colour, and we will later see that the valuable activity of the active and the strong consists in using memory actively to apply the moral colour they choose to their acts. Moreover, success or failure in a project is the way to apply the desired moral character to a deed: “That the witnesses of a deed often only measure the morality or immorality of it after the fact: no, the culprit does this himself. Because the motives and intentions are seldom clear […] even the memory of the deed is clouded by success, so that one imputes to the deed false motives or treats unimportant motives as important. Success often gives a deed the full honourable sheen of a good conscience; failure lays the shadow of bad conscience on the most respectable action.”7 We also learn here that morality of acts is and should be judged only by the actor in the case of the strong; this is another call for us not to look outside for the source of values. The final message is that motives will be ascribed and adjusted post facto in order to obtain the desired result for moral valency: all of this serves Nietzsche’s purposes in attacking the idea that morality – and the morality we have now – is in any way absolute and beyond question.

4Nietzsche GM [2, II.5].
5Luft [5, p. 139].
6Nietzsche HA [6, ‘On the History of Moral Feelings’, §54].
7Nietzsche HA [6, ‘On the History of Moral Feelings’, §68].

Next Chapter: Types And Roles Of Memory In Nietzsche