Here are some questions from which we can choose topics for Tuesday, or which might stimulate new topics.
• Memory as technique. Mental athletes discipline themselves to perform surprising feats of memorization. What might their "artificial" tricks reveal about "natural" recall? What tricks have you discovered yourself, and why do you think they are effective? If there is more than one way to remember something, and techniques have varying success, how does that affect the significance of what we DO remember? If we're aware of steps we can take to remember something, yet don't, can we justifiably say "we just forgot"?
• Henri Bergson: "Memory is the point of contact between consciousness and matter." One might regard memory as the starting point of philosophical investigation of the human condition: rather than obsess over whether the world outside ourselves exist, we could take memory as the primary phenomenon. How would that inform our notions of space and time, the past and the future? How to approach the problem of intersubjectivity?
• The "dread disease" of our age is Alzheimer's; in the seventies, it was cancer. It seems we fear most that which threatens our status as a whole person. How does memory "hold a person together"? Ralph Waldo Emerson, who emphasized that "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," almost certainly lived with Alzheimer's in his final years, but he was the very picture of the "happy dementia patient," for whom the world is new again. Is memory overrated? Should we learn to appreciate forgetting?
• The memorial technique of the current generation seems to be the tattoo: it commemorates lost loved ones, and reminds us to be our highest selves. Discuss characteristics of the tattoo in relation to memory: pain, permanence, affidavit of group membership, artistry, variable visibility? Why tattoos, now? Could it have something to do with the abundance of electronic repositories we now live among?
See you Tuesday 7:15!
Memorial Day seems like a good time to consider the phenomena of memory, remembrance, commemoration, retrospection, memorization, what have you. Some way to connect to the past is implicit in so many of the themes (http://www.meetup.com/Philosophy-Cafe-Cafe-Philosophique/events/%22http:/www.meetup.com/Philosophy-Cafe-Cafe-Philosophique/messages/boards/thread/29892742#[masked]) we've examined in the past (Progress, Chicken-and-Egg, Identity). The themes that look forward (Willpower, Contentment, Incentives, Marriage, Attraction) presuppose an ability to see the future that feels a lot like the way we know the past. Even themes that arguably focus on "the present" are inevitably discussed in terms of tendencies that have a direction in time (Play, Creativity, Simplicity). Sometimes we've, in my view, without warrant introduced a historical perspective (Art, Charity, Modern Family). A few themes (Property, Money, Sanctification, School) directly address the process by which history is recorded–or erased.
I suppose there's a risk that we will retread some of the ground of Attraction (http://www.meetup.com/Philosophy-Cafe-Cafe-Philosophique/messages/boards/thread/31503062#[masked]) or Entertainment (http://www.meetup.com/Philosophy-Cafe-Cafe-Philosophique/messages/boards/thread/32533332), but those were excellent discussions and repetition, after all, is at the heart of memory. Keeping the holiday in mind (you may recall that none of them were instituted just because we wanted an extra day off (http://www.meetup.com/Philosophy-Cafe-Cafe-Philosophique/messages/boards/thread/29370552#[masked])), let's pay more attention to the community perspective. Not to mention, we ourselves constitute a group. Think of our times together as interludes from the incessant waves of forgetfulness issuing forth from our electronic culture.
The format of a sequence of mini-discussions around specific ideas, quotes, stories, or concrete objects is more productive than winging it, though I'm forever tinkering with it. This time, I would ask you to email a proposed prompt to me in advance; I might hammer them into shape with you via email; the night before the meeting, I will email a list of the most promising prompts to all attendees. Our on-the-spot topic improvisation is always better when we're up to speed, so let's hit the ground running. Let's try it, anyway.
Tie a string around your finger,