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Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Metaphors of Memory by Douwe Draaisma. Paul Vincent Translator. What is memory? Without memory we lose our sense of identity, reasoning, even our ability to perform simple physical tasks.
Yet it is elusive and difficult to define, and throughout the ages philosophers and psychologists have used metaphors as a way of understanding it. This fascinating book takes the reader on a guided tour of these metaphors of memory from ancient times What is memory? This fascinating book takes the reader on a guided tour of these metaphors of memory from ancient times to the present day, exploring the way metaphors often derived from the techniques and instruments developed to store information such as wax tablets, books, photography, computers and even the hologram.
Get A Copy. Hardcover , pages. More Details Original Title. Vondel Prize Nominee for Paul Vincent Other Editions 7. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Metaphors of Memory , please sign up. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 3.
Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Dec 29, Douglas Summers-Stay rated it really liked it Shelves: non-fiction. Every invention for keeping records and transmitting information was seen as a new way of illuminating how the memory worked. Wax tablets, books, slates; codes, telegraphs; photography and later holography; telephone networks and digital computers and the internet all took their place as the best way to explain what was happening in the memory.
He also discusses palaces of the mind and theatres of memory, which are both mnemonic techniques and metaphors. It made me think about how memory has been Every invention for keeping records and transmitting information was seen as a new way of illuminating how the memory worked. It made me think about how memory has been drawn out from the soul into the physical world. In the beginning, memory was seen as something supernatural, a part of the unphysical mind rather than the physical body.
But today most people, even those who hold that there is something super-physical happening in conscious perception, will agree that memories themselves are stored in the connections of the brain, and that it is the re-presentation process itself in which something mysterious happens, rather than the storage process. This leads to some odd consequences. Imagine if our memories could be copied, erased, and modified as easily as computer "memory. There was a lot of overlap with things I pulled together in Machinamenta.
It would have made writing that book easier if I had read this book earlier. I would have liked more of a discussion of the question that my work is focused on at the moment: how are concepts stored in the brain in such a way that they have the properties we know concepts have, such as the ability to be reminded, the ability to shade a concept by another one, the ability to find a concept that partakes of any other two concepts, for things to belong to a concept in a greater and lesser degree, and so forth.
This book is a good reminder of how much conceptual structure had to be built up for such questions to even have plausible answers.
May 29, Patrick Stuart rated it it was amazing. This is a wonderful book which stretched my bruised capacity for attention and understanding. I was ok in the kiddie pool of the first few chapters but once we got into holography, interacting light beams, and then neural networks afterwards, I was running to catch up. The basic idea is that memory, and many mental processes, are hard to access and experiment on directly.
Because of that, the use of metaphor to guide thought and research is important, more so than in processes which are more dire This is a wonderful book which stretched my bruised capacity for attention and understanding. Because of that, the use of metaphor to guide thought and research is important, more so than in processes which are more directly accessible to empirical analysis.
The first chapter is a discussion of what metaphor is, and of the theories and history of thinking about metaphor metametaphorology? I really liked this chapter especially and if I was sharing any part of the book as a kinda movie trailer it would be this because it works almost as a standalone essay.
It also goes, with depth and detail, into the varying ways our use of metaphor can help and hinder, and makes a cogent defence or apologia of the necessity of metaphor, and therefore the importance of us trying to understand how we use it and what it does. Which comes back again in the last chapter. Draaisma has a calm, regular writing style which I enjoy.
Which is handy as his paragraphs are fucking HUGE. My mind did skitter a little on this, through I think that's more because its been wrecked by my phone and the internet.
To read this I lay down on my rug and read in silence though its summer and there's birdsong outside a lot, birds are one of the memory metaphors in the book , measuring time with an hourglass, and did a chapter a day. One to two hours per chapter, which is a very slow reading time for me.
I don't think I could have managed to concentrate fully in any other circumstances. There is nothing in here on oral cultures, which is pretty typical for histories since there is shit all information on that and you need to to a lot of 'reconstruction', essentially intelligent bullshitting, to put anything down. Plus oral cultures tend to not be massively introspective or object-analytical in ways that make it easy to talk about metaphor.
BUT - its would be so fucking interesting to hear if there were common elements or interesting stories or anything at all about how oral cultures talked about memory.
Many of them were really good at poetics and had powerful and innovative imaginations. Anyway, there is an end to my own megaparagraph. Megaparagraph is a surprisingly pleasing word to write and speak. Did you know that Robert Hooke had his own theory of memory? Also, he did calculations to work out, literally, how many 'ideas' an average human would have over a lifetime, and how many they would need to store, the first mathematical analysis of the data-bearing load on the human mind I think.
At every age and every advancement in physical knowledge, minds seize on whatever is subtle, sophisticated, novel, complex, whatever forms the bleeding edge of comprehension, and riddle their way through the conception of it like fungus, infesting it and breaking it down into metaphors of memory. These metaphors are used for analysis, in particular they spread certain ideas in a way academic texts cannot.
Many are much more useful for spreading an idea or concept than they are for explicating it once all the details are regarded. Holography in particular, Draaisma is not too impressed by for its explanatory power, but it sure as hell reached and influenced a lot of people. This guy, Carus, from a freaky non-mechanistic interlude in memory metaphors, sounds interesting; "Carus's writings on landscape are also about the soul, just as conversely, his lectures on psychology took inspiration from landscape painting.
Nothing was further removed from Romantic views on nature, organism or soul than the image of clockwork, which could be disassembled or replaced part by part at will. The Romantic metaphors and analogies referred to natural processes, to what grew and slowed without links or interruptions. Carus wrote in his first letter on landscape that even if science has dissected a plant fibre by fibre, cell by cell, that knowledge will still not be sufficient to make a single leaf.
Don't worry, we get back to the machines soon enough. Its in the 19thC that we get some of the first big exciting problems of memory and one of the ways in which it is very unlike a machine, and of course we get it by doing terrible things to animals, specifically slowly slicing up their brains in little pieces so we can see what happens to them.
They 'gracefully degrade'. Brains break slowly, unlike machines where one thing splinters or fails and then there is catastrophic loss, brains that suffer damage retain core functions, to lesser and lesser degrees, as more and more damage is done to them. This seems to be related to the 'flock of birds' quality that brains have, important information is both linked to specific areas and, also, distributed.
So you can do utterly terrible things to a dog or a rat and its will keep up its basic movement algorithms almost right to the end. The same is true for us, memory structures can be highly resistant to local damage, especially core functions like moving the body through space and finding things.
It's also in the 19thC that the rise of technology, from phonographs to photographs Daguerrreotypes creates a fresh bloom of mechanistic metaphors. One of the qualities of or increasing understanding of memory, from Hooke on, is the gradual 'pressing in' and closing of mechanistic or material thinking, with more and more things being explained.
So in the medieval period everything is basically just the soul and this is a meat puppet its briefly trapped inside. Then Descartes ruins that idea. From that point on, the 'soul' or the point of no analysis, the unobservable point, in some ways keeps retreating deeper and deeper, becoming more and more ethereal, but never quite disappearing. It is like a hand closing a fist on a slippery thing, squeezing but the thing keeps shifting and going away and the grip can never be absolutely firm.
So we kick into post WWI where people start developing telephone exchanges and the proto-mathematics of electronic computers. This is interesting; "As with Tolman, in Hull's case, too, metaphors functioned even outside direct research as an ordering scheme. Good simulations consisted of 'hierarchies of control' in order to direct sub-mechanisms.
Scientific theories were constructed as deductive hierarchies of laws, a reflection of the hierarchical structure of reality. Even the social structure which Hull imposed on his own research group seemed to be inspired by the representation of a hierarchical machine.
Metaphors of Memory
Metaphors of Memory : A History of Ideas about the Mind
Metaphors of Memory: A History of Ideas about the Mind