How do mental functions map on to the brain? During the 1940's and 1950's, the brilliant Canadian neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield performed extensive brain surgeries on patients with local anaesthetic. During the operations, he stimulated specific regions of the patients' brains with an electrode and simply asked them what they felt. All kinds of sensations, images, and even memories were elicited by the electrode, and the somatosensory areas of the brain that were responsible could be mapped. Penfield concluded that memories left permanent imprints on the brain. (also called engrams) Among other things, Penfield found a narrow strip running from top to bottom down both sides of the brain where his electrode produced sensations localized in various parts of the body. This "sensory homunculus," as it is now called, forms a greatly distorted representation of the body on the surface of the brain, with the parts that are particularly important taking up disproportionately large parts. (see image below) (see also body image ) For the most part, the map is orderly but upside down. However, the map is not entirely continuous.Read More
Are all memoriespermanently stored somewhere in the mind, so that details we cannot remember at a particular time could eventually be recovered with the right technique? Or are some experiences permanently lost from memory?Read More
Aristotle described poetry by opposing it to history. This distinction was taken up by in the Nineteenth century, when historical sources were distinguised from legendary, poetical, or mythical sources. August Wilhelm Schlegel criticized the Grimm brothers for not providing a secure philological foundation for their treatment of literary records.Read More
Hermeneutically oriented philosophy aims at deciphering the meaning of Being, the meaning of Being-in-the-world, and its central concept if that of interpretation.
In it broadest sense hermeneutics means "interpretation", but in a more specialized sense, it usually refers to textual interpretation and to reading. Reflection on the practice of interpretation arose in modern European culture as the result of the attempt to understand what had been handed down within that culture from the past.
Interpretation (Auslegung ) is now seen as the explicit, conscious understanding of meanings under conditions where an understanding of those meanings can no longer be presumed to be a self-evident process but is viewed as intrinsically problematic; it is here assumed that misunderstandings about what we seek to interpret will arise not simply occasionally, but systematically. (Paul Connerton, How Societies Remember, p 95)Read More
In the July, 1945 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, Vannevar Bush, who had served as the first director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, the agency established by Roosevelt to coordinate federally funded defense research, published an article entitled "As We May Think." In it, he pointed out the increasing gap between the growing mountain of research and the inadequacies of methods for transmitting and reviewing its results, which he blamed in part on the artificiality of systems of indexing. He suggested that the human mind operates by association. "With one item in its grasp, it snaps instantly to the next that is suggested by the association of thoughts, in accordance with some intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain." He proposed "a mechanized, enlarged, and intimate supplement to an individual's memory, a future device" which he called a "memex" using electro-mechanical technology as a device for associative indexing, a reading and writing machine that would allow "wholly new forms of encyclopedias to appear, with a mesh of mesh of associative trails running through them." Users would create "endless trails" of links...exactly as if the physical items had been gathered together from widely separated sources and bound together to form a new book."Read More
On the one hand, the "phantom limb" -- a kind of mourning for a pre-Oedipal (i.e. pre-castrated) body -- whose painful reality is well documented. On the other hand, the "counterfeit" limb, paralyzed and "cut off" from perception and recognition -- "internal amputation." "How could a thing like that belong to me? I don't know where a thing like that belongs." -- the syndrome of anosognosia. To the nurse clearing away the breakfast: "Oh, and that arm there, take it away with the tray!" (Sachs, A Leg to Stand On, p. 57) For Sachs, this was a "neuro-existential" pathology where some features which could easily have been "hysterical" -- the characteristic dissociation and bland or joking indifference -- were, in those instances extremely organic.Read More
In Rewriting the Soul, Ian Hacking asks whether memory is the name of what once was called the soul. For Hacking, the Western moral tradition, encapsulated in the Delphic injunction to "know thyself," expresses a deeply rooted conviction that a self-knowledge is central to becoming a fully developed human being. In the modern area, this self-knowledge has increasingly focussed on issues of memory.Read More
"It is not too much to say that ritual is more to society than words are to thought. For it is very possible to know something and then find words for it. But it is impossible to have social relations without symbolic acts." (Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger, p. 62)
The sociologist Paul Lukes suggests that we use ritual to refer to "rule-governed activity of a symbolic character which draws the attention of its participants to objects of thought and feeling which they hold to be of a special significance."
In How Societies Remember, Paul Connerton calls for the analysis of "social habit-memory" as consisting essentially of legitimating performances, a particular kind of ritual. He draws upon the work of Maurice Halbwachs, (Les cadres sociaux de la m moire and La m moire collective ) who thought of memories as bound together into an ensemble of thoughts common to a group. For Halbwachs, groups provide individuals with frameworks within which there memories are localized, by a kind of mapping into both the mental and material spaces of the group. For Halbwachs the idea of an individual memory, absolutely separate from social memory, is an abstraction almost devoid of meaning.
All rites are repetitive, and repetition automatically implies continuity with the past. Drawing on Claude Levi-Strauss, Giorgio Agamben describes the function of ritual to adjust the contradiction between mythic past and present, reabsorbing all events into a synchronic structure, while the function of play is a symmetrically opposed operation: to break down the whole structure into events.
Mary Douglas criticizes modern anthropology for thinking of magic as efficacious rite. For her, this is a European belief that institutes a false distinction between primitive and modern.
In modern religous life, there is a long and vigorous anti-ritualistic tradition, echoing the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, that claims that external forms can become empty and mock the truths they stand for. (in this sense, they can be described as mechanical.) But this account, which contrasts the formalisms and "emptiness" of ritual with acts that are "sincere" or "authentic," ignores the function of ritual as the expression of feeling or belief. Instead, rites have the capacity to give value and meaning to the life of those who perform them. (Connerton, pp 44-5) In How Societies Remember, Paul Connerton stresses the importance of commemorative rituals. The feature that they share, and which sets them apart from the more general category of rites, is that they do not simply imply continuity with the past but explicitly claim such continuity. Connerton infers that commemorative ceremonies play a significant role in the shaping of communal memory.
Do rituals create the beliefs that they are meant to express? see ideology.
One consequence of the failure of ritual is panic.
Gregory Bateson describes ritual in terms of unusually real or literal ascriptions of logical type
In biological accounts of communication, ritualization is "the evolutionary modification of a behavior pattern that turns it into a signal (sign) used in communication or at least improves its its efficacy a a signal (sign)." (Wilson, Sociobiology, p.594) According to contemporary neo-Darwinism, adaptive pressures will select certain behaviours as important references. For instance, in flocking birds, it is important to know when to take off. In a speculative account of the origins of language, Robert N. Brandon describes a process of ritualization which selects behaviour patterns with perceived iconicity to the referent of the sign, for example, when birds just prior to flight characteristically crouch, raise their tails, and slightly spread their wings. According to Brandon, these iconic signs can subsequentlybe transferred to other referents, as in mating behavior, for instance. While they become increasing symbolic (arbitrary) in synchronic analysis, they remain "phylogenetically iconic." (?)
The effectiveness of such a sign can be increased through increased ritualization, for example, in pigeons, where the preflight pattern of behaviour which serves as sign of flight has been exaggerated beyond what is physiologically necessary. Konrad Lorenz studied these movements in the 1930's and called them "intention movements." For Lorentz and Tinbergen, intention movements provided the raw material from which signals are sharpened through natural selection. The term was subsequently dropped by ethologists, presumably by behaviorists who rejected the mentalistic implications of the term. For Ronald Griffin, in Animal Minds, "we may hope that the revival of interest in animal thinking will lead cognitive ethologists to reopen the study of the degree to which intention movements may indeed be signals of conscious intent." (p. 16)
see local / global for the role of ritual in maintaining locality. For Arjun Appadurai, One of the most remarkable features of the ritual process is its highly specific way of localizing duration and extension, of giving these categories names and properties, values and meanings, symptoms and legibility.