Friday, 30 December 2011

Thomas Reid on Memory

The common sense philosophy of Thomas Reid has been promoted as the ideal prophylactic against the bizarre theories that infest philosophy according to at least one professional philosopher whose rather hectoring manner decides me against mentioning his name. One notes that haunting by restless spirits begins with the ouija board. This individual also derides believers in God and the proponents of mysterianism. What Reid says about memory, a strangely neglected topic in epistemology brings into question his recruiting as an opponent of all error and fantastical theory.

First, I think it appears that memory is an original faculty given us by the Author of our being, of which we can give no account, but that we are so made.

The knowledge which I have of things past by my memory seems to me as unaccountable as an immediate knowledge would be of things to come; and I can give no reason why I should have the one and not the other, but that such is the will of my Maker. I find in my mind a distinct conception and a firm belief of a series of past events: but how this is produced I know not. I call it memory, but that is only giving a name to it; it is not an account of its cause. I believe most firmly what I distinctly remember; but I can give no reason for this belief. It is the inspiration of the almighty that gives me this understanding.
(from Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man, 1785 edn. available on Google Books - ereaders search for Essay III. Then to Chap.II. or pg.320 on Sony ereader)I will have to append a note on efficient search on ereaders that is universally valid.

As Bergson has pointed out in an essay which I wrote about recently
mind energy
the idea of the connection between brain and memory has been well noted for a long time and is not the trump card magicked from the sleeve of modern science. Thomas Reid finds the outline of the theory in a a commentary by Alcinous on the doctrines of Plato.

When the form or type of things is imprinted on the mind by the organs of the senses, and so imprinted "as not to be deleted by time, but preserved firm and lasting, its "preservation is called memory".

Upon this principle Aristotle imputes the shortness of memory in children to this cause, that their brain is too moist and soft to retain impressions made upon it: And the defect of memory CHAP. vii. in old men he imputes, on the contrary, to the hardness and rigidity of the brain, which hinders its receiving any durable impression.

Reid also admits the lesion evidence but rejects the idea that this demonstrates anything about the nature of consciousness because there is no resemblance between nueronal events and the experience. I take this to mean that simply stating that one is the other or causes the other is to use the words 'cause' and 'identity' in ways which we have no experience of, that do not relate to our ordinary uses of these words. He writes:

It is probable that in perception some impression is made upon the brain as well as upon the organ and nerves, because all the nerves terminate in the brain, and because disorders and hurts of the brain are found to affect our powers of perception when the external organ and nerve are found; but we are totally ignorant of the nature this impression upon the brain: It can have not resemblance to the object perceived, nor does it in any degree account for that sensation and perception which are consequent upon it.

Excuse these long citations but it is probably necessary to emphasise the fact that the knowledge which modern neuroscience demonstrates through brain imaging does not evade the 'hard question' which was clear to the savants of the late 18th. century however approximate their physical findings were. Reid's close examination of the absurdities involved in the 'impression' theories of Locke and Hume bring to mind similar analyses in Matter and Memory by Bergson. I found Epistemological Problems of Memory
the Stanford entry on the Epistemological Problems of Memory to be very helpful on this.

Finally to demonstrate how far common sense can take you from the high road of scientism: (from E.I.P. pg.322)
Our Maker has provided other means for giving us the knowledge of these things; means which perfectly answer their end, and produce the effect intended by them. But in what manner they do this, is, I fear, beyond our skill to explain. We know our own thoughts, and the operations of our minds, by a power which we call consciousness: But this is only giving a name to this part of our frame. It does not explain its fabric, nor how it produces in us an irresistible conviction of its informations. We perceive material objects and their sensible qualities by our senses; but how they give us this information, and how they produce our belief in it, we know not. We know many past events by memory; but how it gives this information, I believe, is inexplicable.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

A Priest in the Family by Colm Toibin

Part of my Xmas haul was The Granta Book of The Irish Short Story edited and with an introduction by Anne Enright. She acknowledges the help of various people including Colm Toibin whom she clearly has a high regard for as she brackets him with Banville, O'Brien and McGahern.

Banville, O'Brien, McGahern and Toibin – those writers become more distinctive as people, even as their sentences become more distinctively their own......As much as possible I have tried to choose those stories in which a writer is most himself.

I have disparaged Toibin here before but I am always willing to be proved wrong and as Enright is a well known writer herself, a winner of the Booker prize a few years ago, her selection might be supposed to represent him at his best. So let's have a look at it.

A Priest in the Family begins inauspiciously with a weather report.

She watched the sky darken, threatening rain.

This flouts Elmore Leonards first rule of writing:
1. Never open a book with weather. If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a character’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways to describe ice and snow than an Eskimo, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

This is all the more so as in Ireland it is always either raining or threatening to rain. When James Joyce told us in The Dead that “snow was general all over Ireland”, that was a form of precipitation which is unusual enough to mark. The old woman who is reacting to the weather is curiously seasonally affected. She doesn't mind cold and wet weather as long as the light level is low. Maybe there is some symbolic blazing being cut here in the story because further on we are told:
'As long as it's the winter I can manage,' Molly said. 'I sleep late in the mornings and I'm kept busy. It's the summer I dread. I'm not like those people who suffer from that disorder when there's no light. I dread the long summer days when I wake with the dawn and think the blackest thoughts. Oh, the blackest thoughts! But I'll be all right until then.'

Her (Molly's) son is a priest and the man to whom she is speaking is a priest also and a friend of his. Despite a little bit of gumption building business i.e. Pulling up his socks, he cannot come to the point of the visit he is paying her.

Instead, he reached down and pulled up one of his grey socks, then waited for a moment before he inspected the other and pulled that up too.

His news which she apparently is the last to know about is that the priest son is going to trial on a charge of sexual abuse which occurred some years before when he was a teacher. This would have been in a secondary school probably though this is not made clear in the story.

After the priest has left Toibin tells us

When he had gone she got the RTE Guide and opened it for the evening's television listings; she began to set the video to record Glenroe.

Given that the last Glenroe episode was in 2001 and this woman is nearly 80, the usage of 'listings' is odd. It is narration I know and not her voice but 'listings' for 'programmes' has a leaden ring. If you're in her world be there. Ask yourself: what would Joyce have done?

Much is made of the fact that Molly is keeping up with things, playing bridge, learning the intricacies of email, visiting people and generally being the active elder, sharp as a tack as they say. What is she missing? It comes out eventually when the priest returns on the following night. It is delivered in the dullest possible way and the reaction to it is not credible. Her son the priest was abusing teenage boys under his care. This would likely be in a boarding school. All she can think of is : “Does the whole town know?” No fainting, no breaking-down, no recourse to tea or prayer or anger only a determination to hold her head up through it all. Pardon my unbelief, but this is not a credible reaction. The daughters, 2 of them, show more or less similar blankness. They are a low-light, crepuscular family but this is ridiculous.

Is this curious lack of affect a reflection of the author's attitude one wonders. He received a great deal of criticism due to his offering a character witness to the court in the case of aggravated sexual assault on a 15 year old boy by the writer Desmond Hogan
Being a good writer, which actually Hogan is not,is not a defence in a case of this kind. We had another similar scandal in the case of Cathal Sharkey who was seducing young Nepali boys and who was likewise defended by other fellow members of Aosdana. When priests abuse it is universally condemned by the intelligentsia but they shuffle and temporise when someone they know does the same thing. Perhaps a parity of reasoning is operational in the story. If Mammy threw a wobbly then that would mean it was serious.

It's too poorly written to possibly subvert anyone's moral sense.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Bleak Midwinter

"God bless us everyone" said Tiny Tim, the last of all"

A Christmas Carol has been read into me so much that I was scarcely conscious that I had never read it. It is part of the hope of Xmas that Usura(Canto XLV)Usura will somehow be converted and a humanised market of jolly potlatch prevail. That story can be related to the Children's Christmas Party episode of The Sopranos a marvel of bleak, bleak, black comedy. It is nearer I think to the Gospel account of post-natal flight, blue-collar toil under an alien regime and eventual betrayal and crucifixion. Judas, that rat! How do Christians take anything good out of it?

Happy Xmas.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011


I'm having a look at The Oxford Book of Humorous Prose to see what the editor Frank Muir has to say about Tristam Shandy by Laurence Sterne. My own view based on readings in different moods and times is that it is a lugubrious piece of drollery. Does stretching a joke count as a longer joke? A partial confirmation of the correctness of my reaction came from a German Professor of my acquaintance who told me that the book was hugely influential and regarded as the pinnacle of wit in Germany in its day.

Frank Muir tells me that I'm in good company. Samuel Richardson and Tobias Smollett did not think much of it. Oliver Goldsmith thought Sterne a bawdy blockhead and Johnson was offended by the occasional indecency but the book was taken up by the fashionable and thereby the judgement of true wits was obviated. And so, I aver, it remains, a mystery of reputation.

Once you allow Professors in they swarm over the gunwales like boarding marines. I met Mickey, whom I know from a boy, down town about his shopping. He runs a post-grad writing course in the local university. By the bye, I said, how does Colm Toibin have the reputation he does? We both shook our heads like the Swedes in the Muppet Show, bewildered by the effrontery of fame. 'He has a great agent' said Mickey. 'That must be it' says I. His sentences are laid down like chains of sausage, dull thoughts follow dull images without ever a sense that his creation may break away and manifest a life of its own like the mind created elementals of sorcery. That golem never breaks out of the cellar.

The story gets away on Flannery O'Connor regularly. In The River the boy tells the woman who is going to mind him for the day that his name is Bevel.

His name was Harry Ashfield and he had never thought before at any time of changing it, "Bevel", he said.
Mrs.Connin raised herself from the wall. "Why ain't that a coincident.!", she said. "I told you that's the name of this preacher!".

How did O'Connor think of that? I've a feeling that it wasn't her, it was young Ashfield the confabulist that thought of it, she didn't know until he said it. That's what having genius is.

Young Tommy Joe, aged 5, of my acquaintance, future Professor of the Strange but Untrue phoned up his grandfather Martin:
- I can't see you today.
- Why's that Tommy?
- I'm going to the doctor.
- What's wrong with you.
- I don't know, the doctor 'll tell me.

There was nothing wrong with him and naturally he was not going to the doctor but the circumstance of phoning required 'news'

Monday, 19 December 2011


Mulliner's BUCK-U-UPPO is to be found in the collection Meet Mr.Mulliner by P.G. Wodehouse. I got it for 5€ brand new at my local 2nd. hand bookstore. The Mulliner Collections are not in the Wodehouse selection at the Gutenberg Project though I suppose diligent searching might turn them up elsewhere.

Mr. Mulliner the chronicler of the vast Mulliner clan to whom the oddest things happen, is introduced in the following manner:

He was a short, stout, comfortable man of middle age, and the thing that struck me first about him was the extraordinarily childlike candour of his eyes. They were large and round and honest. I would have bought oil stock from him without a tremor.

It is never stated but that oil stock might be infused with essence of serpent. Mr. Mulliner's brother Wilfred is a chemist of note who has produced some renowned patent preparations one of which comes to the rescue of a timid curate nephew Augustine. His normal tendency towards windiness and funk is eliminated by a spoonful of this elixir. I fear that a summary will not do justice to the ineffable nature of the plot which has emerged momentarily from the sphere of the apophatic It is a lift from De Profundis to Excelsior.

We later find that Augustine through a clerical error has been sent the B preparation of BUCK-U-UPPO which is designed to eliminate funk in elephants who decline to face the tiger in the hunt. A mere spoonful added to their morning mash turns the perturbed pachyderm into a fearless tusker. This over-egging of the curate, mea culpa, does not stop him from ordering after this fashion:

Send immediately three case of the 'B'. 'Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store. Deuteronomy xxviii.5

Friday, 16 December 2011


You are sheep without a shepherd. To parse that differently, what are you with a shepherd? You are not a sheep you are egregious ie. above the flock, you stand out, you count or are countable or accountable and have taken responsibility for your own destiny. People have been jumping on poor Mr. Marks like the bland following the bland for forgetting the overwhelming power of social conditioning. Mr. CoatesAtlantic chides him for lack of proper humility and bids us ask why we wouldn't have done anything back in the days of slavery. Yes indeed because rightly seen life is a 12 step program. We are powerless to change without intercession. Ta-Nehisi Coates has the spirit of his father to be for him the spiritual analogue of Mulliner's 'buck-u-uppo', Carter who manumitted his slaves had Swedenbourg's teachings and the Quakers were guided by the Holy Spirit. The latter is non-confessional by the way. End of homily.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor

So what do you do when you wake up at 3:30 from a dream of poor quality, drowning came into it, do you set yourself to twitch as your life passes before you, a series of tableaux of failure, ignominy and desolation? No, you get up, make a cup of tea, take 3 sweeties from the Roses tin, no more, and read Everything that Rises must Converge.

In checking the source of the title I discovered that it is from a book by Tailhard De Chardin, The Future of Man. I wrongly guessed Plotinus who has something of the same sort of pneumatics in his Enneads. In Good Country People O'Connor quotes from Being and Time by Heidegger. She is fond of lay scripture and finds therein ironic themes and inverted doxology.

I note that the Googleamus throws up various glosses on the text called notes. Such explication de texte I never read and on reflection navigating over the reefs of political correctness must be so hazardous for the high school teacher that they would love to leave it out or leave it to the Spark or Monkey interpretations.

There is some shape shifting in this story and exchange of sons. One is reminded of the ancient practice regulated by Brehon law of Tanistry and fosterage. Here of course it is the feeblest of the ancient blood, the liberal son, that inherits. However he is not without an image of Tara's Halls animating his reveries.

Being O'Connor her endings tend to be definite and final, the middle seems to have less of the aggregation of detail of the inveterate fabulist that she was. It was a late story and her illness may have been affecting that energy. As Micheal O Muircearthaigh said about the Clare hurler who went on a severe diet.

You know the ways it is, when you lose a lot of weight, some of your strinth goes with it.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Good Country People by Flannery O'Connor

As a rest and a relief from John Cowper Powys I am reading in Flannery O'Connor's Complete Stories. With her you will never know how consciousness is to be distributed but it may switch from soul to soul like a vile oppressing spirit that produces the grim atrabiliousness that breaks out as laughter. Good Country People has that constellation of which O'Connor is particularly fond, Mother, intellectual child with solipsistic tendencies and a stranger that is passing strange. Just when you think Hulga is about to discover her misplaced Joy she loses something other than she had perhaps hoped for. Mother is generally a put upon creature of determined good will. The vast country cunning of Mrs. Freeman who must match each affront to flesh is pitted against Mrs. Hopewell her employer. Her various stands in the kitchen; against the gas heater in the winter, in the doorway in the summer, at the refrigerator: are perfectly noted. This brooding and capping ubiquity - 'I always said it did myself':

All this was very trying on Mrs.Hopewell but she was a woman of great patience.

The bible salesman, a collector of curiosities, a wandering nihilist who passes for good country people entices Hulga who herself affects a belief in Nothing. Her Phd. in Philosophy is not a match for his powers of abstraction.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Thought Experiments

Back in the day when I was a boy philosopher the only thought experiment you might encounter was Locke's soul swap of the cobbler and the prince as a way of promoting the idea that what made you uniquely you were your memories, attitudes, abilities etc and not this all too solid flesh.

In eastern lore Shankara is supposed to have been debating a woman on the kama sutra but being a celibate was at a disadvantage so he arranged a soul swap with a multiwived nabob using his yogic powers. The wives noticing the increased interest of their jaded spouse suspected that this was the result of sorcery or yogic mischief. 'Look' they said, 'for a sadhu in trance and despatch him leaving him trapped in the body of the rampant rajah'. Shankara got back and reanimated his usual form in time to triumph in debate over the saucy housewife.

The moral of these stories is that fables do not function as 'intuition pumps' but merely serve to reflect underlying dogmas. Worse than that, they conceal this dogma by adding the spurious persuasiveness of the factitious. There is something in a story which disables the critical faculties and allows us to accept time travel, buttons which pause time, the salvific properties of obese folk and the like.

Instead of thought experiments let's try thinking.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Parmenides and Satkaryavada

In A History of Philosophy Vol.1, Greece and Rome, Part 1 by Frederick Copleston S.J. the theory of Parmenides is described succinctly and with admirable clarity:

His first great assertion is that "It is". "It", i.e. Reality, Being, of whatever nature it may be, is, exists, and cannot not be. It is, and it is impossible for it not to be. Being can be spoken of, and it can be the object of my thought. But that which I can think of and can speak of can be, "for it is the same thing that can be thought and can be". But if "It" can be then it is. Why? Because if it could be and yet were not, then it would be nothing. Now, nothing cannot be the object of speech or thought, for to speak about nothing is not to speak, and to think faout nothing is the same as not thinking at all. Besides if it merely could be, then, paradoxically, it couldnever come to be, for it would then have to come out of nothing, and out of nothing comes nothing and not something. Being, then, Reality, "It" was not first possible, i.e. nothing, and then existent: it was always existent - more accurately, "It is".

In the Sankhya-karikas of Isvarakrishna we have this expression of the doctrine of Satkaryavada also known as the doctrine of the non-difference of cause and effect:

The effect already exists in the cause for the following reasons: what is nonexistent cannot he produced; for producing a thing, a specific material cause is resorted to; everything is not produced by everything; a specific material cause capable of producing a specific product alone produces that effect; there is such a thing as a particular cause for a particular effect.

As in the injunction frequently encountered on Irish building sites Think of the next man, this doctrine leaves much to be done in the way of ingenious exegesis by subsequent sages. We can however discern through the fog something of the form of a like insight to that of Parmenides. What is, is, and what is not has no traction on reality in order to come to be. It can't get started.
As mentioned in a previous note on this topic
advaitic causalitythis idea of causality comes from the narrow focus of what in the Aristotelian system would be termed material causality. In a curious way the materialist monism of Parmenides throws a light on the Satkaryavada doctrine which bundles together material and efficient causality and treats them as one. Because potential is wrapped up in the nature of the material which is then what is to be formed out of that material must somehow be in existence. Otherwise it could not come to be because it would be nothing and as we are told nothing cannot gain traction.

Satkaryavada is a confused likeness of the doctrine of the impossibility of change espoused by Parmenides in that it accepts change but only as mithya i.e. real as an appearance.

By knowing a single lump of clay, everything that is made of clay would become known. A modification begins with speech, it is a (mere) name. The clay alone is true i.e. real.
Commentary on Chandogya Upanishad VI.i.4

In the commentary of Shankara on the Brahma-Sutra-Bhasya the impossibility of something coming out of nothing is unequivocally stated.

Existence does not come out of non-existence. If something can come out of nothing, then it becomes useless to refer to special kinds of causes, since non-existence as such is indistinguishable everywhere.
B.S.B. II.ii.26

This general principle is used externsively both in the discussion about material causality and the possibility of change and also as a method of refutation of the Buddhist doctrines of Annata and Annica. In this note I am concerned with material causality. An important citation on this topic is B.S.B. II.i.18 in which he states his views on potency:

Again, when some potency is assumed in the cause, to determine the effect, that potency cannot influence the effect by being different (from the cause and effect) or non-existent (like the effect), since (on either supposition) non-existence and difference will pertain to the potency as much as to the effect. Therefore the potency must be the very essence of the cause, and the effect must be involved in the very core of the potency.

Grasping these ideas is like lifting mercury with a fork because we are so primed with the Aristotelian concept of Cause & Effect. I'm not even sure that they conflict with Aristotle's views because they are more onto-theological than ontological. Brahman in the Vedic schema is the material cause of the universe. Brahman as pure act is the cause and the effect of all manifestation. Just as all the potential for items made of clay is in the clay, all the potential for what is, is in Brahman. There is a unity of act and potency in Brahman and because Brahman is the reality of anything whatever this non-difference of cause and effect is reflected in matter of all kinds.

It is not the case that Shankara ignores the idea of efficent causality claiming that everything just happens. He accepts the role of actors but still subordinates their causal importance to the material cause or the nature of things. That is the supervenient reality.

Moreover, if it be admitted that something can come out of nothing, then on the same ground even the indifferent people who are inactive should attain their desired results, for non-existence is clearly evident even there, and so a husbandman who does not engage in cultivation should get his crop, a potter who makes no effort for preparing the clay should get his vessels ready, and a weaver who does not make any effort for weaving the yarn should get a cloth just as much as one that weaves. And nobody need in any way strive for heaven or liberation. But such a position is neither reasonable nor is accepted by anybody. Therefore the assertion of something coming out of nothing is unjustifiable.

These topics of substance, identity and change refracted through a vedic medium are puzzling and pondering on them gives one a sense of how Plato confronted by Parmenides tried to save the appearances.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

The Bergson Thing

So this Bergson thing, isn't it all a bit esoteric, the province of Levinas and Deleuze, those masters of obfuscation? That would be an error because with Bergson you always know what it is that you don't understand or rather it hovers there on the tip of your mind. You feel yourself in a physical state of unease as the consciousness attempts to enter you by neural pathways that have yet to be set up, pathways that would make you ready for a perception or a reaction.

If this experience is as commonplace as Bergson maintains and shown by him to be manifest in the searching for the right word, or putting a name to the face then such strategies as we deploy in these cases ought to be universal. Hatha Yoga has many techniques one of which is pranayama or breath control. It was noticed early by yogis that states of ecstatic consciousness and oceanic feeling were accompanied by a suspension of breathing. Could a replication of such breathing lead to a facilitation of a like consciousness? Yes so it seems and even for a beginner some pranayama leads to a quieting of the neural traffic that facilitates meditation.

The materialist will claim that this merely proves his point. What point? That we evoke in the brain we know not what, in an area we know not where, an incommunicable awareness that has no adaptive advantage. When an explanation is more complex and contains more imponderable elements than the explanandum you can be sure that you are a lost puppy. It's worse than dormitive, it's, it's, I know not what. Oh, yeah, it's continental or even orientalist. It's Buddhist monks with electrodes. What do these deep meditation experiments show? In the words of the title of M.R. James's story Whistle and I'll Come to You.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Mind Energy by Henri Bergson

When Bergson talks to a general audience the categories of realism and idealism which are so fraught by fundamental disagreements are set aside and he brings to bear his acute forensic intelligence on the experimental suggestions which seem to establish a materialist view. The other thing is that his later writing on the subject which was covered in a philosophical context in Matter and Mind shows an awareness of its difficulty. Fifteen years had passed by the time he came to give the Huxley Lecture to the University of Birmingham from the publication of that very difficult work. No doubt the multitude of questions and rebuttals that he had faced in the meantime enabled him to enhance the clarity of his exposition. Life and Consciousness is the title of his lecture and it is collected in the book entitled Mind Energy (pub. 1920) A copy of it is available at Internet Archive in various formats: mind energy

There is also out there on youtube an individual reading The Soul and the Body from that same collection reading
He stops to clarify from time to time. There is an energy that communicates itself.

Bergson says in that first lecture something that gave Wittgenstein an odd feeling:

It is literally impossible for you to prove, either by experience or by reasoning, that I, who am speaking to you at this moment, am a conscious being. I may be an ingeniously constructed natural auto maton, going, coming, discoursing; the very words I am speaking to affirm that I am conscious may be being pronounced unconsciously. Yet you will agree that though it is not impossible that I am an unconscious automaton, it is very improbable.

In each of the lectures he focuses on some aspect of behaviour, conscious or unconscious, and turn a light on its underside.

The amoeba, for instance, when in presence of a substance which can be made food, pushes out towards it filaments able to seize and enfold foreign bodies. These pseudopodia are real organs and therefore mechanisms; but they are only temporary organs created for the particular purpose, and it seems they still show the rudiments of choice.

Here we come to the panpsychism which has been castigated as vitalism or a dormitive explanation. In Creative Evolution Élan vital was translated as vital impetus. 'Whatever' as the man said to the turnip, the difficulty is that when something is 'pan' contriving an explanation which does not include the explanandum is tricky. Can the concept of 'telos' be avoided here? In the ordinary understanding of teleology by its critics it is taken to mean an end or objective that is aimed towards, something to be achieved in the future. In the Aristotelian account of causality the 'end' is something that is operative now. The end of poetry is pleasure or the end of rhetoric is persuasion. The 'what is it for' is the telos. And that is a present experience.

We have good ground, then, for believing that the evolving force bore within it originally, but confused together or rather the one implied in the other, instinct and intelligence.

Things have happened just as though an immense current of consciousness interpenetrated with potentialities of every kind had traversed matter to draw it towards organisation and make it, notwithstanding that it is necessity itself, an instrument of freedom.

The second lecture in the book is entitled The Soul and the Body delivered in Paris in 1912. It covers in a general way the topics first dealt with in Matter and Memory. For those who wish to engage with the startling idea that memory is not wholly stored in brain tissue this is a good place to start. Over several pages he recapitulates the lesion evidence:

Let us go further: science can
localize in definite convolutions of the brain definite
functions of the mind, such as the faculty of perform-
ing voluntary movements, of which you spoke just now.
Lesions of particular points in the Rolandic area, be-
tween the frontal and the parietal lobes, involve the
loss of movements of the arm, of the leg, of the face,
of the tongue, according to the exact spot affected.
Even memory, which you consider an essential function
of the mind, has been partly localized. At the foot of
the third left frontal convolution are seated the mem-
ories of the movements of the articulation of speech ;
in one region between the first and second left temporal
convolutions is preserved the memory of the sound of


words ; at the posterior part of the second left parietal
convolution are deposited the visual images of words,
and of letters, etc. Let us go further still. You said
that in space, as in time, the soul overflows the body
to which it is joined. Let us consider space. It is
true that sight and hearing go beyond the limits of the
body. But why? Because vibrations from afar have
impressed eye and ear and been transmitted to the
brain; there, in the brain, the stimulation has become
auditory or visual sensation; perception is therefore
within the body and not spread abroad. Let us con-
sider time. You claim that the mind embraces the
past, whilst the body is confined within a present which
recommences without ceasing. But we recall the past
only because our body preserves the still present traces
of it. The impressions made by objects on the brain
abide there like the images on a sensitive plate, or the
records on gramophone disks. Just as the disk repeats
the melody when the apparatus is set working, so the
brain revives the memory when the requisite shock is
produced* at the point where the impression is re-
tained. So then, no more in time than in space does
the soul overflow the body. But is there really a soul
distinct from the body? We have just seen that
changes, or, to be more exact, displacements and new
groupings of molecules and atoms are continually go-
ing on in the brain. Some of these express themselves
in what we call sensations, others in memories ; without


any doubt brain-changes correspond to all Intellectual,
sensible and voluntary facts. To them consciousness
is superadded, a kind of phosphorescence ; it is like the
luminous trail of the match we strike on the wall in the
dark. This phosphorescence, being, as it were, a self-
illumination, begets strange internal optical illusions ; so
consciousness imagines itself to be modifying, directing
and producing the movements when in fact it is itself
the result of them. The belief in free will consists in
this. The truth is that could we look through the
skull and observe the inner working of the brain with
instruments magnifying some billion times more than
our most powerful microscopes, if we then should wit-
ness the dance of the molecules, atoms and electrons
of which the cerebral cortex is composed, and if in
addition we possessed the rule for transposing the
cerebral into the mental, — a dictionary, so to speak,
which would enable us to translate each figure of the
dance into the language of thought and feeling, — we
should know, quite as well as the supposed * soul,' what
it was thinking, feeling and wishing, what it would be
believing itself doing freely, though it would only be
acting mechanically. We should know it, indeed, much
better than it could know itself, for tbis so-called con-
scious * soul ' lights up only a small part of the intra-
cerebral dance ; — the soul is only the assemblage of
will-o-the-wisps which hover above certain privileged
groups of atoms ; — whereas we should be observing all


the groups of all the atoms, the whole intra-cerebral
dance. Your * conscious soul ' is at most an effect
which perceives effects : we should be seeing the effects
and the causes."

How he proceeds from this acceptance of the facts of lesion injury and aphasia to his account of Memory and duration is ingenious. An invidious observation perhaps but would Bergson be employable by any Anglo-American philosophy department today? In any case this collection of lectures has the broad brush nature that is a very useful and accessible introduction to the thought of a man who is unfairly relegated to the ranks of the higher hand wavers.