ORAL TRADITION
          IN HOMER, PRESOCRATICS, PLATO, ARISTOTLE
                Fourteen

I.D. Greeks 0020

I have started reading Richard Sorabji's ARISTOTLE ON MEMORY, Duckworth, 1972. As far as I have read Sorabji brings up two major philosophical problems: A) the real referentialness of memory, and B) the meaning of memory in animals. Sorabji correlates Aristotle with contemporary memory studies (1972) such as by Norman Malcolm, Martin & Deutscher, Shereshevskii (in A. R. Luria, THE MIND OF A MNEMMONIST, 1969), Thomas Reid, and Jorge Luis Borges. Also needing mention are Plotinus IV. 6, Bertrand Russell, William James, and of course Plato's anamnesis. One major additional problem, related directly to the evaluation of the mentality of animals about which Aristotle equivocates greatly, is the varying relations of memory in Aristotle to intelligence. This is explored extensively in Richard Sorabji's book ANIMAL MINDS & HUMAN MORALS: The Origins of the Western Debate, Cornell University Press, 1993. He deals with a number of other, mainly ancient Greek, philosophers there are on this issue. Sorabji, the great Neoplatonic commentary general editor, has a high estimation of the mentality of animals which has its `like' mainly reflected in Porphyry's treatise ON ABSTINENCE FROM ANIMAL FOOD (as translated by Thomas Taylor in 1823) or ON ABSTINENCE FROM KILLING ANIMALS, trans. Gillian Clark, Cornell University Press, 2000. Aristotle seems to say much of the time that memory is absolutely essential to the animal mind whereas other kinds of intellection, in different texts, are either absent or present, and to varying degrees.. This would profoundly effect the very nature of what memory is, what an animal mind is, and what it means to call a human being an animal, and what actually occurs when a human being memorizes. The issue of memory revolves around the issue of language. I have already written about Martin Heidegger's keen and detailed analysis of judgment in the animal that comes to the conclusion that, being fully consistent with the logic of his metaphysics, Aristotle believed at least some animals used elements of language in its most important aspect: talking to oneself, coming to a decision, and making a judgment (ARISTOTLE'S METAPHYSICS THETA 1-3: On the Essence and Actuality of Force, trans. Brogan & Warnek, Indiana University Press, 1995, mainly pp. 99-110, section 13 of chapter 2).

Talking to oneself in Aristotle is the key component of memory. It is also the key component of personal identity which so easily becomes reified as a `thing.' But the main point of Heidegger's whole book really revolves around something much more fundamental: the nature of self-initiation of movement. This obviously includes the meaning of judgment in an animal because movement is the definition of life and therefore being an animal which therefore moves for a reason. Someone within one, as animal, for some reason makes the judgment to move and proves this by actual self-initiated movement. The difficulty is in explaining this obvious and present-at-hand fact in language that has the mind-set of mechanical cause-and-effect. The whole concept and essence of the distinction of animal and human being is discussed fully (but with very deliberate ambiguity to the point of extensive Nietzschean irony) also in Heidegger's THE FUNDAMENTAL CONCEPTS OF METAPHYSICS, trans. McNeill & Walker, Indiana University Press, 1995. The ambiguous core of the book revolves around the tremendous distinction between language and awareness and the obvious self-initiation of movement in animals. Human being is `greater' than animal being because human being has language. Though it is impossible for us to know (as logically we cannot "perceive" or "be aware" as any individual animal is), an animal seems to be far `greater' than human being because its awareness seems to be immensely more extensive than that of human being, for instance, a dog's sense of smell is 200,000 times more powerful than human being's and therefore can easily constitute a whole language in itself. Language extends the practical usage of human being's hands with opposable thumbs greatly, but language implicitly seems to severely retard our animal nature. In the middle of this ambiguous balancing act of Heidegger's, he introduces, starting with the superiority of the human mind with language, goes to another judgment `that if we really follow it through language is not so important,' and concludes: . . . From a purely linguistic point of view, we can see that the terminology is arbitrary if we recall that we also talk about `driving' snow when there is no question of anything organic announcing its specific manner of being.

This shows that language in all this is not subject to logic, and that a certain inconsequentiality belongs rather to the essence of language and its meanings. In other words, language is something that belongs to the essence of man in his finitude. To imagine a god expressing himself in speech is utterly meaningless. (pg. 238 [German 346], 58a). "Language belongs to the essence of man in his finitude." That is, language denotes a realm of ability and an absolute boundary beyond which it cannot go! This is , of course, what all the mystics say, and therefore relates directly to the HERMETICA and all the Neoplatonic philosophers, especially Damascius, and therefore all the Neoplatonic philosophers of the Renaissance, which is just about all of them, and therefore all the motivations toward and interpretation of all their memory systems. They are relating to gods they, as Neoplatonics, necessarily must say with Heidegger, "Language belongs to the essence of man in his finitude." And Gershom Scholem says, in relation to all the mystical techniques of the Kaballists (gematria, ars combinandi (hokmat ha-seruf, letter- combination or combinational Kabbalah), alphabetaria revolution, mors osculi (mytat nesiqah), speculum lucentis (("All the prophets prophesied from a mirror that does not shine, whereas Moses prophesied from a mirror that shines," BABYLONIAN TALMUD, Yebamot, fol. 49v, [the mirrors] "represent not only two degrees of prophetic illumination but also two stages of the processus Dei ad extra through the ten sefirot, Chaim Wirszubski, PICO DELLA MIRANDOLA'S ENCOUNTER WITH JEWISH MYSTICISM, Harvard University Press, 1989, pg. 178)) which are necessarily dependent on memory techniques): Every religious experience after revelation is a mediated one.

It is the experience of the voice of God rather than the experience of God. But all reference to the "voice of God" is highly anthropomorphic a fact from which theologians have always carefully tried to escape. And here we face questions which, in Judaism, have been thought through only in the mystic doctrines of the Kabbalists . . . The answer is: God reveals nothing but Himself as He becomes speech and voice. The expression through which the divine power presents itself to man in divine manifestation, no matter how concealed and how inward, is the name of God . . . Thus, revelation is revelation of the name or names of God, which are perhaps the different modes of His active being. (my emphasis) God's language has no grammar; it consists only of names. (Scholem, THE MESSIANIC IDEA IN JUDAISM and Other Essays on Jewish Spirituality, Schocken Books, 1971, pp. 292-293; also see Wirszubski, pgs, 74, 175) Comparing Heidegger with Scholem makes Scholem turn over in his grave. But both of their points of view about divinity are thoroughly objective since both are atheists, Scholem the hard- headed Zionist kind as is evidenced above with "a fact from which theologians have always carefully tried to escape" (I have much more solid evidence than just that). He is the master of the history of Kabbalah because it is Jewish tradition objectively beheld precisely as Heidegger tries to portray in BEING AND TIME and elsewhere. Judaism is meaningful to Scholem only as a people, living and historical.

Emotionally, truth value wise, and from historical consequence, the Jewish God as a `reality' is a curse to him. His best friend, Walter Benjamin, a Communist and atheist and non- Zionist, died because he was "Jewish." This discussion of divinity relates directly, in my mind, to Aristotle's statement in the POLITICS. Language is here clearly portrayed as a wholly social entity. Hence it is evident that the state is a creation of nature, and that man is by nature a political animal {kai hoti ho anthropos phusei politikon zooon}. And he who by nature and not by mere accident is without a state, is either a bad man [a depraved sort] or above [better than] humanity . . . he may be compared to an isolated piece at draughts . . . [humans are the only animals who posses reasoned speech (logos)]. And whereas mere voice is but an indication of pleasure or pain, and is therefore found in other animals (for their nature attains to the perception of pleasure and pain and the intimation of them [express these] to one another, and no further), the power of speech is intended to set forth the expedient and the inexpedient, and therefore likewise to the just and the unjust . . . The proof that the state is a creation of nature and prior to the individual is that the individual, when isolated, is not self- sufficing; and therefore he is like a part in relation to the whole. But he who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must either be a beast or a god: he is no part of a state. A social instinct is planted in all men by nature, and yet he who first founded the state was the greatest of benefactors. For man, when perfected, is the best of animals, but, when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all . . .
(Bk I, chapter 2, 1253a2-1253a32, trans. B. Jowett revised, in Johnathan Barnes' THE COMPLETE WORKS OF ARISTOTLE the interpolations are from Peter Simpson's 1997 translation of the POLITICS ) Phusis, as translated by "nature" really means "change" as in natural or logical progression and is not at all a static concept.

Aristotle points up as a logical necessity what I said about language being a whole bunch of individuals, a `society,' within your head as language. Because of language you are not self- sufficient as an animal is. Because an animal has `uncompromised' (I know this is only relative) awareness and self-sufficiency, its mind is therefore logically comparable to the mind of a god or God. Memory, as human beings have and use it, as it is literally structured - if not completely composed - by language, is a wholly `social entity.' Therefore the primary structure of memory, the inherent system of using it, and any additional techniques one learns to re-structure it according to what one thinks it "should" be, are all necessarily and fundamentally the products of Others. The fact that these people exist only as fragments, and as there is no such factual `thing' as society, is sublimated by the automatic and natural systematization of irrational elements as your "mind." There is no rational reason why irrational `concepts' cannot be arranged rationally. Gershom Scholem is an exemplary example of a brilliant mind doing just that consciously and consistently. Now the major problem with a rational description of memory, as Aristotle attempted, is A) there are several different kinds or aspects of memory, and B) they all explicitly or implicitly bring up as a difficult problem the truth value of these memories.

They all depend on a correspondence theory of truth, that is, memory X is an image, copy, sensation, memory track to, of object Y. In correspondence theory, you must have object Y at-hand with which to compare memory X for truthful accuracy. In the absence of object Y, you have to rely on other supportive evidence that in turn is open to question, as diaries, photographs, history books, etc, especially, and which is most ignored, the question of their context. This all involves a great deal of effort. So, essentially, most of the time you operate in a state of pure faith in your memory while looking for contradictions in its accord with present reality. If no contradictions become obvious, then the memory is unquestioned and considered true. But, of course, that is exactly how faith always operates except for those who deliberately become disconnected from reality to avoid such contradictions. And even the concept of "reality" is a matter of faith. "Reality" implies a wholeness that can be explained. That is context, and you cannot stand outside the context of wholeness. As with David Hume, you have facts, and they are truly solid. But facts are just facts, they do not and cannot, of themselves, give any explanation! Facts are just like the "present: They are just "there." Their only real context is boredom. It takes a projection into the future through "interpretation," hermeneutics, that key concept in Martin Heidegger, Rudolf Bultmann, and Paul Ricouer. And all the ambiguity and distortion of hermeneutics is clearly present in the factual history of Biblical interpretation and psychoanalysis. "Hermeneutics" is always a constantly self- readjusting thrust into the future quite openly displaying all the `mechanics' of the operation of memory which is also necessarily thrust into the future by purpose!


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