Memory, was Re: Platonism in modern etc

Dace edace at
Sun Apr 2 13:13:04 PDT 2000

-----Original Message----- From: Carrol Cox

>Dace wrote:
>> My conception of mentality stems from my belief in the existence of
>> memory, not ideal forms. Modern science rejects the idea of memory.
>> Instead of recalling things from the past, we simply store the
>> regarding past events. Thus memory is replaced by information retrieval.
>My subject here is confined to this clause: "we simply store the
>regarding past events."
>1) Huh? That's what we mean by memory, retrieving "information regarding
>past events." The whole passage is a confused and confusing tautology.
Information retrieval is not the meaning of the word, "memory." When we remember something, we are bringing the past into the present. When we retrieve information *about* the past, we are examining something in the present in order to learn about the past. If memory is retrieving information regarding past events, then reading a history book is the same as remembering.

Modern science does not seek to explain memory. It seeks to destroy it. The problem is not science, of course. The problem is modern civilization.

As for tautology, you define memory incorrectly and then claim that my definition is incorrect, not based on any reason, but because it doesn't agree with your definition.

>2) But (1) is trivial because the argument is based on an even deeper
>the belief that the brain "stores" information. (I am *not* allowing for
>possibility that the disagreement here is *merely* verbal, revolving around
>the unfortunate metaphor of "store." I assume, rather, that Ted means the
>metaphor seriously.) The brain does *not* store anything. Contrast
>computer memory, where information is stored on a disk, etc -- it
>will remain there dead and (except for an external accident) unchaning
>until a reader vivifies it. But "memory" must be continuously recreated
>in the human brain -- which is one of the reason no memory is wholly
>"accurate" because it changes continuously as it is recreated in the
>neural circuits. This explanation is sometimes called "neural darwinism."

You are claiming that the brain stores information but that it does so differently than the way a computer does, i.e. the brain is a living computer. What I'm claiming is that the brain and the computer have nothing in common. The brain has no more in common with a computer than it has with a fork.

The brain is the spatial aspect of a mind. What this means is that the brain has a living form which maintains itself over time. The form of a computer is stamped onto it from without and is maintained only through blind, mechanical necessity. Even when a computer user "vivifies" stored information, it's still dead, because its form and its matter are not organically united.

This idea that matter can be externally shaped in order to give it life is a leftover of theology. We are not manufactured. We are self-creations. Life does not compute.

>(It has *nothing* to do with the pseudo-science called evolutionary
>biology. It is a metaphor analogizing activity in the brain to selection
>in evolution. Millions of impulses inflow on each neuron, and only
>some get selected for and passed on to other neurons. It is through
>this selection process that memory is maintained.)
Are you refering to "evolutionary psychology"? If so, I agree. It's more a cult than a field of science.

>There is, as far as I know, no good popularization of the neuroscience
>involved here. The closest I know of (and I could not follow all of it
>because lacking the background knowledge, is Israel Rosenfield,
>*The Invention of Memory: A new view of the brain*, New York:
>Basic Books, 1988.
Thanks for the reference.


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