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From Medieval Mnemonics to a Social Construction of Memory - page 11 / 23

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Packard, Chen / MEMORY, MORALITY, AND CONSCIOUSNESS

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Bergson argued that the present emerges from a past that does not unfold like a fan but instead, flows continuously over subterranean wellsprings of memory. Bergson’s theory relates notions of agency to personal memory along with what we now call the “unconscious.”

Bergson (1946, p. 11-12) argued that science is the profession that can fore- see because it can scientifically measure and extract the material world and events in it. Such capabilities made science seem more important because it appeared to have the facilities to help foresee and predict the future. Certainly commercial and capitalistic concepts and actions pertaining to such social things as the “latest fashions,” “vogue,” “fads,” “old fashion,” “out of date,” “on time,” “on schedule,” “behind the times,” “up to date,” and “planned obsoles- cence” continue to validate capitalistic, rational, scientific, and mechanical enterprises in rendering the past inferior while justifying or promoting the supe- riority of new and scientifically improved products. Bergson’s own theories fell victim to the effects of socially constructed time, becoming passé within his life- time as they increased in complexity and decreased in popularity among a grow- ing scientific community that rejected metaphysical discourse in favor of scientific method, laws, and rationality.

CONSCIENCE AND MEMORY IN EARLY COMMON LAW AND SOVEREIGNTY

Prior to the Middle Ages, societies in antiquity developed belief systems and cultural arrangements to manage the conscience of believers. During the Middle Ages, these techniques and practices became more complex, concentrated, and involved, culminating in an institution called the Forum of Conscience and the Tribunal of the Soul wherein church and state merged and focused on the con- science of subjects (Fifoot 1970, p. 301; Nelson, 1965, p. 63). Conscience was a foundation piece of medieval legal and sovereign concerns. Common law and social ethics followed from ideas of casuistry, such as “a simple promise was binding by its own intrinsic weight upon the conscience and that failure or refusal to keep it was a breach of a man’s duty towards God” (Fifoot, 1970, p. 306). Casuistry was defined as an extension of the law of God through human- ity’s reason and morality, and it was applied equitably to new and unforeseen problems as discussed by Vinogradoff (1928) and Kirk (1927). Casuistry had a significant influence on English common law because it related to a person’s obligation to God. This was problematic for those who did not believe in the God of the Christian Church, and such unbelievers were considered dangerous to church, state, and society. Even God-fearing Christians were conflicted by medieval moral casuistry when it arbitrarily encouraged the mercantile econ- omy (including usury) while elaborately masking or explaining away the

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