lds-herm blog

Discussion of hermeneutics, esp. as it pertains to LDS scripture

Chapter 3: “Personal Memory, Collective Memory”

Posted by joespencer on March 22, 2008

Sickness set me back quite a bit this week, and I wasn’t able even to look at this chapter until today (a day after my usual posting). So I’ve done a rather quick job of reading this week and have only a comment or two I’d like to get on the table.

First, since part of my job here is always to summarize, I think these two paragraphs from p. 124 pretty nicely sum up the chapter as a whole:

The two preceding series of discussions [first part of the chapter] suggest the same negative conclusion: whether we consider the sociology of collective memory of the phenomenology of individual memory, neither has any greater success than the other in deriving the apparent legitimacy of the adverse positions from the strong position each, respectively, holds: on one side, the cohesion of the states of consciousness of the individual ego; on the other, the capacity of collective entities to preserve and recall common memories. What is more, the attempts at derivation are not even symmetrical; this is why there appear to be no areas of overlap between a phenomenological derivation of collective memory and a sociological derivation of individual memory.

At the end of this inquiry into a major aporia of the problematic of memory, I propose [second part of the chapter] to explore the complementary resources contained within the two antogonistic approaches, resources masked, on the one hand, by the idealist prejudice of Husserlian phenomenology (at least in the published part of his work) and, on the other, the positivist prejudice of sociology in the glory of its youth. I will seek, first of all, to identify the linguistic region where the two discourses may be made to intersect.

It is this proposed second part of the chapter (rather short, really, since it is less than 10 pages long) that is the really remarkable part of this chapter, I think. Drawing on Strawson, of all people, Ricoeur dips back into Locke (whom he had investigated in some detail earlier in the chapter) in order to flesh out three propositions about the attribution of memory. Taken together, these three propositions support Ricoeur’s further suspension of any solution to the aporia of collective vs. personal memory, and they do so in two ways. On the one hand, they justify Ricoeur’s suggestion of working through two antithetically parallel disciplines: a phenomenology of society and a sociology grounded in phenomenology. On the other hand, Ricoeur fleshes out the three propositions in terms of Locke’s forensic reading of consciousness, and this calls for a prolongation of the aporia so that it can be explored the surfacing subject of testimony. Ricoeur makes quite clear that the whole of Section II of the book is going to open with this question of testimony.

Such, it seems, is the movement of the chapter, and the way it closes and yet leaves open the problematic of the entire first section of the book. What seems richest to me is this rereading of Locke that Ricoeur undertakes. But I won’t try to anticipate where it will go: I’m too fascinated to get ahead of myself irresponsibly on this one.

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9 Responses to “Chapter 3: “Personal Memory, Collective Memory””

  1. Clark said

    If you could hold on an other week until after the SMPT conference. I think a lot of us are reading up for that. I’m holding off returning to Ricouer until next week.

  2. Clark said

    Just a note: I plan to put my thoughts here tonight. I just haven’t had time.

  3. Robert C. said

    I’ve been reading a fair bit of (actually, mostly just about…) Alasdair MacIntyre and Jurgen Habermas this past week or so and it’s made me appreciate this chapter all the more. Both MacIntyre and Habermas take up similar collective types of questions, but I think their approaches (what I know of them, at least) are much less satisfying for various reasons, but partly b/c they don’t do really get to the root of the issue like Ricoeur is trying to do in terms of memory, as something fundamental to consciousness itself (I quite liked the hint of thinking about remembering and forgetting in terms of consciousness and unconsciousness—in the Locke section I think it was…).

    I suppose I’m left feeling a bit unsatisfied at the end of this chapter since it seems Ricoeur has only opened the issues and barely sketched a way forward (I have in mind the “close relations” bit at the end of the chapter), but I do very much like how he’s opened these issues in terms of the intertwining of individual and communal consciousness. I hope (and expect) that he’ll return to this issue of communal consciousness later in the history part of the book, as it seems he’s promising in the last couple pages of the chapter. I think it’s largely because economists do not incorporate anything beyond a Cartesian notion of selves that I found much in the chapter to be very interesting. Also, Ricoeur’s approach seems to highlight many of the deficiencies present in the sociological research that I’m aware of where taking extreme positions regarding individual autonomy seems the norm (either the individual’s preferences are independent of the community, or the individual’s preferences are completely given by the community…).

    I hope I have time to reread the Husserl section, that was pretty tough to follow for me—any help understanding Ricoeur’s main points in that section would be appreciated. I don’t have my book handy, but it seems one of his main points was to draw parallels with the continuous (adhering/enduring) vs. distinct (recollection) sense of memory talked about in chapter 1 and different ways of thinking about time (a continuous flow or with some distinct notion of a “now”), as well as different ways to think about the role others play in determining our own identity and understanding of self. Does anyone have any suggestions for an intro book on Husserl? I’m planning at some point to read Marion’s Reduction and Givenness and I figure I’d better learn a bit more about Husserl’s thought before trying that….

  4. Clark said

    Robert, like you I loved Chapter 3. Sorry I haven’t written yet. (And where is everyone else?) I ended up and going back and rereading the second half of chapter 2 and I think I had a better take on it after Chapter 3. Possibly part of it was consciously trying to not think of Freud while reading it. Instead asking about the connection of the one and the many and the issue of power and violence in terms of elevation and repression. One ends up reading this in terms of Heidegger’s discussion of Truth where something is always brought forward and something hidden. The ‘self’ becomes problematic. (Which self – returning to a question Ricouer poses a lot.

    I’m liking it a lot more now. Whew. I had a pretty negative feeling after chapter 2.

    Also can I say how much I loved his take on Locke and Descartes? Maybe I was just way too neglectful of those figures. (I confess I focused more on Spinoza and Leibniz to the degree I paid attention to that era at all) However the discussion on who created consciousness really made me think. It was one of those moments that made me seriously rethink a lot. Of course what Ricoeur said about Descartes I did know to a point. (And of course it was part of Leibniz as well) Still, the way he put it, made a lot of things clicked that hadn’t before. That section of chapter 3 made the whole book worth it for me.

    Everyone else: come on. Post.

  5. Clark said

    Husserl isn’t that hard if you’ve read him before. I think he’s a figure you need to grapple with though simply because his a focal point for so many figures. (Can one understand Heidegger and company without understanding Husserl? I don’t think so.) However, like Kant, he’s a difficult figure with a lot of jargon. Everytime I read him or texts about him I have to rebreak out my jargon cards because I can’t keep half the terms striaght.

    BTW. I heartily recommend Dermot Moran’s Introduction to Phenomenology as a quick primer or way to refresh oneself. It isn’t a substitute for studying Husserl or Heidegger. But it is great help for when you get overwhelmed and perhaps to read before leaping into Husserl. Plus it’s great for getting the grey matter back when you have to think of him.

  6. Clark said

    Just to note, it is worth buying and can be found used on Amazon for $20. My copy is heavily used.

  7. Clark said

    A nice little quote from a paper on Heidegger and freedom I was discussing.

    But herein Being, as well as the nature of human freedom, becomes obscrued. It is revealed only as forgotten. To reveal something as forgotten is to reveal something as no longer in question, as no longer fundamentally questionable. (Leslie Paul Thiele, “Heidegger on Freedom: Political not Metaphysical”)

    I think this is rather relevant both to parts of chapter 2 but also to this chapter.

  8. Robert C. said

    Clark, thanks for the tips. I’ve been eying Moran’s book for a while, so your recommendation is enough to push me over the edge.

    I suspect others are still suffering a bit from post-SMPT catch-up, at least Joe and Jim (I know Jim’s also catching up on grading and what-not for the theology class he’s teaching—finals start next week…). Hopefully some others are still lurking too. Anyway, it doesn’t bother me if we get behind the original schedule a bit more, I’ve got plenty of other reading I’m anxious to get to.

  9. joespencer said

    Yes, indeed. I apologize for my behind-ness. I’ve actually read all of chapter 4 and am trying to find the time to write up a post on it (chapter 4 is where the fun begins!). But, as Robert says, I’m still playing a good deal of catch up (and get-ahead: my wife and I are expecting a baby within the next two weeks, and I’d like to be relatively ahead on school things so that I don’t get too far behind, etc.). By the weekend?

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