Stephan Braude on trace theories of memory
"I like to be in America!!" I'm hoping your memory traces now are structured with much better music:>). Seriously though, I thought the idea of memory traces had been abandoned by now, particularly since neuroscientists are rapidly abandoning their phrenological obsession with parts and structures of the brain (hippocampus = memory center; amygdala = fear center, etc) - replacing it with neural networks which involve distributed information throughout the brain. And if Dan Siegel is to be believed, throughout the entire body, and beyond to the entire universe!
In any case, I suppose these primitive ways of thinking still persist. Your pie example reminds me of some comments from Robert Kegan, a developmental psychologist. He used this story to illustrate the cognitive differences between a 4 year old and a 7 year old. Perhaps it may shed some light on the old memory trace theory.
One day a woman was serving some pie to her two sons, one 4, one 7. Since the older boy was quite a bit larger, she felt it appropriate to give him a larger piece of pie. Well, naturally the 4 year old didn't like this at all and started crying for an equally large piece. The mother didn't want to spoil him, but wasn't quite sure how to console him at the moment. Then suddenly, without any forethought, she grabbed the pie cutter and cut the 4 year old's slice into two.
Sae saller piece of pie, but now TWO pieces instead of only one. To her amazement, this utterly delighted him, and now - feeling he had received fair treatent (having "more" pie than his brother) he was completely happy.
Analytical philosophy is doing a good job of distancing theories of consciousness from physicalism and mechanism, another good example being the work of Galen Strawson. But does the relativistic subjectivism that makes all thought and understanding dependent on context, conditioning, "needs and interests" provide an adequate explanation of either the "nature of things" or the "nature of knowledge"? Continental philosophy might be able to add more and better insights into both theory of "memory" and the idea of "trace" - but Mnemosyne might be a better guide to understanding than either school of philosophy.
In my understanding of these things, 1) Mnemosyne doesn't belong to an age of symbolic representation but, like Aletheia and Savitri, is an eternal emanation that makes "memory" a fundamental and necessary aspect of "consciousness" in the world of manifestation, as explained adequately by Bergson; 2) the phrase adopted from Braude, "selected according to needs and interests" can conveniently be applied to the statement of Sri Aurobindo and his intention, but the phrase "it was from the beginning envisaged..." exceeds such a reductive interpretation to an extent that dissolves completely the validity of such an application. From the point of view of a critique of the limitations of language, ontological pluralism makes sense, but from the point of view of the "being of truth" and the greater possibilities of consciousness, this idea of the trace, and the nature of things, as expressed by Braude and favored by you, I find altogether inadequate and inappropriate with respect to any endeavor to grasp the truth of existence.
Ulrich, thanks for this excellent post. After many decades of research, materialist have nothing, nada, zilch to account for memory. And they'll never be able to do so. Nor can they explain related phenomena, such as the many cases of "terminal lucidity" being reported for Alzheimer patients.
To quote clinical psychologist Douglas Varoch: "we have a woefully limited understanding of the phenomenon". Shorter version: "we have no clue."