Cleric K wrote: ↑Sat Jan 01, 2022 8:54 pmBefore we answer the original question we need to prepare the grounds a little more. As said, we're rarely aware that when we ask certain questions, we presuppose the framework in which we seek the answers. When in doubt, we can always step back and see what the given tells us.Hedge90 wrote: ↑Fri Dec 31, 2021 4:10 pm Well, I'd say memory is an archive of my previous experiential states, organised in order of their perceived significance or usefulness by some faculty of my mind. Things that had a great emotional impact, for example, will be easy to recall, while the name of a small grocery store I walked by once yesterday will be almost impossible to.
Secondly, memory also seems to serve the purpose of creating a sense of continuity and a way to identify patterns. It is memory that makes me able to identify myself in any manner, as well as to steer my actions based on what I can conclude to be the best course based on the archived states I can recall (or at least integrated subconsciously).
I have no idea about where memory is stored though (and neither do scientists, really), and what the mechanism of retrieval is.
As always, we should try to distinguish what is really given and what has become what it is only after we have worked upon it with thinking. Initially we have color, tone, taste, feelings, thoughts, etc. These form an amalgamation we call the world content. Splitting the world content into sensory perceptions informing us about an outer objective world and inner conscious phenomena, is something that is achieved only through thinking (even though quite unknowingly for most).
Our understanding of memory is one such thing which presupposes certain way of thinking about the world and time. We generally imagine the world as a giant clock - mechanical or spiritual - which ticks along in time. Our consciousness is seen as a perspective of this clock that follows its ticking which feels quite independent of our consciousness and what we think of it. Memory in this sense is seen as the possibility to preserve pictures of the ticking progression. Hedge is quite correct that it is thanks to this memory that we at all have a feeling for continuity of consciousness through time.
I hope it's easily seen how many fundamental questions all this poses. We have the mystery of the world clock/being. We have the mystery of our own conscious aperture of the clock (why I am me ...). We have the mystery of memory - what is it, where is it stored, what is memory in the incorporeal state, etc. All of this proceeds from the fact that even without knowing, we presuppose a quite specific way of thinking about reality. We set out to build a mental model of the world clock and then begin asking questions about how that model fits with our observations.
Let's see if we can find an alternative way of thinking about these things. In our conscious life we continuously do things. When we work with the device that we're now using to write/read these words, we're doing certain things - pointing, clicking, tapping, scrolling, dragging, etc. In other words, we know that if we want to open the forum and check for new posts we need to perform certain gestures with our hands. But let's back up a little more and try to investigate what we're doing in order to do the gestures themselves? Look at your hand, focus on a finger and will its movement. Do that for different fingers one at a time. Try to feel how intricate these movements can be, how finely they can be controlled. It's not like we have single button for each finger which either clenches or extends it. We have quite continuous control over its motion. Now really try to pay attention to what exactly you're doing in order to move the fingers? It's not very easy, is it? It's almost like magic. There're no buttons that we can point at and say "When I want to move my finger I press this button". Furthermore, even this was possible it would only regress the problem because we're left with the exact same question about pressing the button that controls the finger.
Nevertheless, we can state generally that we have certain degrees of freedom of our spiritual activity. We don't know the exact details but somehow it is possible to thoughtfully will the movements of our fingers. There are many questions. For example, we can't tell exactly how we chose the order in which we moved our fingers. The important thing is that somehow we know what inner spiritual gesture we should perform in order to accomplish the most varied movements. Try to appreciate for a moment how astonishingly complicated that 'keyboard' would be if we had to objectify every little thing that we can will in relation to our body. All the time we do with ease things that are marvelously complicated. Yet we have no problem to immediately know what we need to do in order to move our toe instead of our thumb.
Things become exponentially more complicated when we consider how our spiritual activity expresses in feeling and most importantly - in thinking. Somehow we know what to do if we want to put words in logical sequence in our mind.
Now things become interesting when we realize that we also perform certain thinking gestures when we remember things. This allows us to look on memory in a very interesting way. Imagine how everything we learn increases the degrees of freedom of our spiritual activity. When we learn to ride a bicycle, when we learn something on the news, when we learn certain mathematical skills, all of this leads to increase of spiritual degrees of freedom, it is as if new buttons are added to our spiritual keyboard. Well, when we see things in this way, we realize that the flow of Time is practically continuous increase of these degrees of freedom. Even if we don't learn anything significant, from moment to moment, our inner palette nevertheless grows. For example, at the moment you clicked on the link that led you to this post, you've attained new degrees of freedom. It's like new 'fingers' have been discovered which can be activated with their unique inner spiritual gestures. To remember the moment when you began reading this post, something must be done. It is a different inner gesture compared to if you want to remember what you had for breakfast. Or what you had for breakfast yesterday.
This is quite an unusual way to look at things. But please take note that we're entirely within the given. Everything that we have said is purely phenomenological investigation. We don't postulate world structure, we don't postulate what time is, we don't postulate what consciousness is. We simply observe the kinds of activity we do in order to will bodily movement, to feel, to think and to remember things. Then, when we avoid to postulate time as abstract concept but instead try to read it out of the given, we can understand it as constant increase in our degrees of freedom. We continually gain new skills to remember new moments. We're staying within concrete knowledge. We don't speak about abstract memory which we must explain, instead we simply speak of the concrete inner activities which we perform in order to remember.
Here I would like to point out that 'remembering' doesn't postulate some return in time to a previous state. It is simply the utilization of a degree of freedom that we have acquired. When we learn a skill with our hand, when we perform that skill we don't return in time but experience new states which utilize that skill. Similarly, when we remember something, we don't simply return in time but we experience new state where we utilize the remembering degree of freedom. This act in itself becomes a new degree of freedom which allows us to think/remember that we remembered the past event.
Another important observation, which I have pointed out many times, is that we can experience time flow in a direction in which the degrees of freedom continuously increase. If every next state of being doesn't contain the previous as a degree of freedom through which we can remember it, then it wouldn't be possible to have the experience of time flow. We arrive to an explanation for the arrow of time purely from inner observation. This arrow becomes a mystery only when we presuppose a world independent of spiritual experience because we then need different laws for the world-in-itself and laws which explain the continuity of consciousness.
In this way, through pure observation and thinking, we see that if we're not to postulate metaphysical models of the world, we can simply assess the given and recognize that we're continuously utilizing our degrees of freedom of spiritual activity and they continuously grow, which among other things, gives us also the sense of continuity in time. These things can really be understood if we think them in the sense of (T). Only there we can experience this continual spiritual activity which implodes as memory (the degrees of freedom for remembering).
I'll stop here. Let's see if these things are clear. Then we'll have more solid foundation to continue further.
I am having lots of problems understanding / accepting this explanation of time and memory. Yet, the start sounds very good to my ear: 'Splitting the world content into sensory perceptions informing us about an outer objective world and inner conscious phenomena, is something that is achieved only through thinking (even though quite unknowingly for most).'
I agree that separation between outer and inner perceptions and feelings is an artifact, an invisible habit of thinking. This resonates with the arbitrary nature of the bodily boundary. Perfect! But later things take a different turn. An alternative way of thinking about time, one that that seeks to avoid the named pitfall, is explored.
The way goes from the instinctively known spiritual gesture that moves our finger and its inherent mistery, to the one, more complex, that moves a feeling (are by the way feelings ever moved by willing gestures?) and to the one, even more complex, which generates a thought. OK up to here, more or less.
Then, a forth distinct category appears. As it seems, there is a forth type of spiritual gesture that generates memories. And from here I can't follow anymore. These memory-gestures are said to accrue degrees of freedom as they continuously incorporate new possibilities of recalling learnings and concrete memories. A process that is happening 'entirely within the given' and within 'purely phenomenological investigation'.
Here I wonder, how can an activity of phenomenological investigation be given? How can I know that the thinking I will operate to do the investigation is not going to fall down the same cracks of arbitrary categorization, like when I split the world content between inner and outer perceptions? There seems to be a wrinkle here that needs to be ironed out?
Is ‘given’ in these teachings pointing to all that is unaltered fact of human experience? If so, how can we state first that splitting world content is only achieved through thinking, mostly unknowingly, and later that thinking is nonetheless within the given? If not so - if the free activity of investigating is also part of the given - what is left then outside the given?
If there are alternative ways of thinking about things that we can try to investigate and find, are all of them within the given?
Then to the core statment about time, which is found to flow in the direction of the increase of freedom: 'If every next state of being doesn't contain the previous as a degree of freedom through which we can remember it, then it wouldn't be possible to have the experience of time flow'.
Firstly I guess one could argue that our experience of time flow is an illusion. Instead, we have the experience of regular, almost constant thinking, of recalling a number of pictures from the past. From there, thought - in other words fresh memory of older memories - creates from discreteness the illusion of continuity, or time flow. This happens in the same way as the unified sight of a landscape is an illusion arising out of the merging of our eye’s two slightly different screenshots of that landscape.
We could even think about that landscape view we have captured a millisecond ago, and... here's a thought, a fresh memory of that vision. Same thing, when we recall, say, our last conversation with someone, we are creating a compound-thought of the type 'fresh memory of older memories'. I guess it is what's called: ‘a new state where we utilize the remembering degree of freedom’. But what is this ‘state’ if not simply a thought?
Moreover, it seems to me that by refreshing memories from a new, more recent viewpoint, yes the span of what we can now recall is broader, however that recalling thought is zipping the older memories, it is sucking the original depth out of them, likely distorting, spoiling them in that second-pressing thought-act of remembering. This second press seems to reduce degrees of freedom, instead of accruing them!
Secondly, your argument - if I try to summarize it - is that memory is not the object recalled - a picture, an action, a limited portion of the experienced - memory is not even a thought that recalls those objects. Memory is a memory gesture i.e. a freedom to recall, a spiritual gesture, that wants to go and recall that memory content.
Now, not deliberately trying to be provocative, but this seems abstract to me. Who can touch that gesture and recognize a specific mnemonic nature in it? How can that gesture not be simply another thought? Sometimes we want to recall, and we use a thought to evoke a memory. Sometimes remembered material appears to our mind’s eye without intent on our part. In both cases I can’t put the finger on any peculiar type of gesture that would not be of the same nature as thought. In the second case I actually don’t find any gestures at all!
In fact it seems to me that there is nothing allowing us to draw a line between memory-thoughts and thought-thoughts. They are all of the same one nature: thought nature. Thought nature is one that has an abrupt surge, as a pointy-appearance in consciousness, followed by a long, soft tail that fades off as memory of itself. That’s how I see it. That applies to every thought, whatever the generator of that initial thought-sparkle is. In fact, it is my intuition that if we insist that we have to distinguish between thoughts and memories, it’s because we are unknowingly falling down the cracks of another arbitrary categorization.
What we normally call 'memories' are just thoughts like any other thoughts: the sparkle contains something from the past, yes, every thought does that. If we are in the midst of solving a mathematical equation, the content of the sparkle is also from the past, but because it’s a not an old past, we don’t call it a memory. I think it is so simple. I don't see any reason other than abstraction to categorize different sorts of thoughts.
Finally, time is explained here as the flow of ever increasing degrees of freedom to recall more, as we experience new things. But ‘freedom’ here seems ambiguous. If freedom increases with the accrued volume of accessible contents, is then freedom, which is the time, offered by a volume, an accumulation of memory bits? So are we falling into a spacial type of concept? I really can't see this understanding of time as coming ‘purely from observation’.
To me, by brandishing the sparkling head of thinking we break open breaches in experience. In those breaches we apply ourselves to twist and shuffle and reshuffle the shreds. That's thought. The deeper the breach, the longer the memory tail of the thought, the higher the potential for distortion / creation.
Memory is thought, and thought is time. Thinking is the generator of time. Time is only experienced when we think, which is to say, when we have memories. We are used to think about past as solid reality, although there is no other way past can ever have an existence than through us thinking about it. Think about it...