memory


memory
  ---- by Cliff Stagoll
  Deleuze has little time for memory conceived as a means for summoning old perceptions. Such a model lacks creative potential and implies that an object, say, can be re-presented and re-cognised as the same one as that experienced in the past. But such a view ignores the fact that today's recollection is quite a different experience temporally and contextually from either the original experience or previous recollections. To theorise away such differences is to discount the productive potential that Deleuze considers inherent in the operation of memory in favour of tying oneself to the past.
  Despite proclaiming his lack of enthusiasm for memory as a topic, Deleuze nonetheless reworked his conception of it several times. In early work on David Hume, Deleuze dealt with how the reproductive and representational effects of memory are critical to the fiction of personal identity because of their role in establishing relations of resemblance and causation. In his writings on Henri Bergson, though, and in his own philosophies of difference, Deleuze moved beyond such 'habit memory' to theorise how 'blocks of history' might be brought into productive associations with the present, such that the past might be lived anew and differently.
  Deleuze's Bergsonian theories of consciousness outline two kinds of operation. One is the 'line of materiality', upon which he theorises relationships between the mind and the material world (including the body). Such activity always occurs in the present, understood as a purely theoretical demarcation between past and future. On this line, our relationship with matter is wholly material and unmediated: the world of consciousness is reconciled with the world of matter by means of different kinds of movement. Such activity is always oriented towards the practical life of action rather than pure knowledge. As such, the form of memory at work is 'habit memory', reflex determination of appropriate bodily responses conditioned by whatever has proved useful in the past, but without 'pure recollection'.
  Being distinct from consciousness, the line of materiality cannot account for the temporality of lived experience. Consequently, Deleuze invokes Bergson's theory of pure memory on a 'line of pure subjectivity'. Bergson believes that pure memory stores every conscious event in its particularity and detail. The perceptions of actual existence are duplicated in a virtual existence as images with the potential for becoming conscious, actual ones. Thus every lived moment is both actual and virtual, with perception on one side and memory on the other; an ever-growing mass of recollections.
  Taking his lead from Bergson, Deleuze contends that the virtual is defined by its potential for becoming conscious. Rather than merely simulating the real (as in 'virtual reality' media), the virtual might be made actual and so have some consequent new effect. How this potential might be realised will be determined by the precise circumstances of its actualisation.
  As a collection of purely virtual images, memory has no psychological existence, being instead a purely ontological 'past in general' that is preserved neither in time nor space. (As such, loss of memory ought not to be conceived as a loss of 'contents' from pure memory, but merely a breakdown of recall mechanisms.) The virtual images are arranged in various patterns that might be conceived as 'planes' or 'sheets', with every plane containing the totality of the experienced past distributed relative to some particular virtual image, the one from which all others on the plane derive their meaning and history.
  Pure memory will be revealed to consciousness when the relevant virtual images are actualised, a matter rarely mentioned in Bergson's texts but central to Deleuze. Such actualisation is the process of recollection in which the virtual differentiates itself by becoming something new - a recalled memory image relevant to some action or circumstance - and thus assuming psychological significance. Deleuze's enigmatic description of the process has two parts. First, memory is accessed by means of a 'leap into the past', enabling the most relevant plane to be located. Second, memory is brought to presence and given a new 'life' or context in terms of current circumstances. In this moment, psychology interacts with ontology in the constitution of the lived present, a special kind of synthesis that Deleuze considers to be essential to the flow of lived time.
  Two aspects of Deleuze's Bergsonian theory of memory are critical to his anti-foundationalism. First, it shows that one need not conceive of a transcendent subject 'owning' memory in order for recollection to occur. Indeed, Deleuze argues the opposite: memory helps to give rise to the impression of a consistent and unifying self. Second, it shows that memory, rather than merely redrawing the past, constitutes the past as a new present relative to present interests and circumstances. Thus conceived, memory is a creative power for producing the new rather than a mechanism for reproducing the same.
  Connectives
   § virtual / virtuality

The Deleuze dictionary. . 2010.

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