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Arne Haselbach (1995)

On Dealing with Memory, Identity, and Perspectives 1

Discussing memories, identities, and perspectives is verbally handling words, notions, and implicit assumptions, most of which are, at the same time, assumptions as to how human information processing, learning, and knowledge work.

Since I happen to believe that many of the assumptions as to how everyday thinking and knowledge work - that are dominant in the Western tradition of thought - are apt to seriously mislead our thinking, I shall - following Prof. Panikkars example - sketch some of my own assumptions and develop some related notions in nine points. At the end I shall try and apply some of it to the development of shared perspectives.

1. One must distinguish between two sorts of investigations

In systematically investigating both our experience of the world and our memories thereof, which play a dominant role in influencing our behaviour at any given moment, I suggest that we have to distinguish two types of investigations.

First, we can investigate what we observe and experience (in the world) and second, we can investigate and reflect how we deal with what we observe and experience.

If one does not make that distinction these two types of investigation are carried out as one and the same investigation. In that case attention jumps back and forth between phenomena observed in the outside world and phenomena in the world of thinking.

Investigations are, however, supposed to be systematic. If that is so, the question arises: Is it not that systematic thinking implies that the focus of attention remains the same, i.e. that the field one is studying consists of phenomena that are similar and/or interrelated ? If one's attention jumps back and forth from one field of observation to another, one does not remain in the same field of observation. Such investigations cannot be considered as systematic.

I shall, therefore, concentrate my attention on the second type of investigation, i.e. on thinking.

2. How we deal with what we observe and experience implies more than verbal and conscious thinking

In investigating how we deal with what we observe and experience the field of investigation must not be artificially restricted to verbal thinking and conscious thinking.

Conscious thinking can be likened to the tip of an iceberg. But the tip of the iceberg is no different from the rest of the iceberg because it is visible by us. What becomes the tip of the iceberg - when it brakes off from the main ice - is not due to a different structure of the ice or of different relations among its constituent components but is a consequence of where the fault developed - which is a result of the historical development of the main body of ice.

Conscious thinking and verbal thinking are two overlapping subfields of the wider field of dealing mentally with the world - subfields which are not separated from the rest of the field - just like the tip of the iceberg is not separated from the rest of the iceberg.

For want of a shorter term I have labelled the wider field >mentally dealing with the world and with one-self<.

As I use the expression, it includes all forms of processing both of incoming inputs and of accumulated traces of our earlier experiences of thinking, of feeling, and of acting. Thus, this wider field includes all conscious and non-conscious (including unconscious) sequences that constitute human information processing and the resulting changes in the human being.

Regarding our topic all three memory, identity, and perspectives are part of that wider field.

3. The singular is a fiction - we only have ensembles

Memory, identity, and change - whether of individuals or of societies - cannot be thought of in the singular without at the same time distorting the issues we intend to deal with.

If we investigate how we deal with our experiences, the fundamental issue regarding notions in the singular and their use is a much wider one: the singular - while being one of the most important structural forms of human languages - is a fiction and extremely misleading.

It is a fiction since we must take into account that we experience through all of our senses, that what we call a sense usually consists of many receptors, that what we call an experience usually involves a plurality of processes. These structural facts would suffice to compel us to think in terms of plurality rather than of the singular.

But over and above that it is a fiction because the synapses, a mechanism of the brain involved in all information processing, work by plurifurcation2, i.e. any individual item of input we receive from our environment via a receptor cell is being passed to more than one other cell, is at the same time processed in various centres and subcentres of the cortex on the basis of a combination of parallel, convergent or divergent connections, the centres being distributed all over the brain and often at relatively long distances.3 Neurons receive inputs from many other neurons, integrate these into a single pattern of action potentials and pass that pattern on to many other neurons.

As far as our mind is concerned - there are, thus, no wholes, no parts, no elements of an atomic nature, no entities - there are only ensembles.

So much for the synchronous aspect. But we also have to look at the diachronous aspect.

The ensembles that I suggest to be the building modules of our thinking are built by adding trace to trace. Over time such ensembles develop by cumulative addition of newly received information onto already existing traces of earlier experiences. If present in our conscious mind they are activated traces of memory in interaction with the ongoing processing of incoming stimuli.

My notion >cumulative addition< should not be mistaken for the notion >addition< as used in mathematics. Cumulative addition does not produce a sum total; rather it produces a plurality of similar or complementary traces of experience, traces that are interconnected, interwoven, and overlapping.

Even in cases in which we rightly consider a person or an object as >an individual<, any word used to name it which is used in the singular represents in reality a plural - an ensemble of a multitude of mutually overlapping and intertwining traces of experiences we gained in relation with such individuals - since experiencing is a process taking place in time.

Thus, there can be no words that are not polysemic, and no concepts that remain (exactly) the same from one use to the next as the notion of >definition< implies.

The results of cumulative addition allow us to understand a word as it relates to specific contexts, since mental access to these ensembles is possible and takes place by activation of any of their component traces due to the plurifurcation of flows.

For the result of such processes Wittgenstein has introduced the metaphor of a thread:

»The strength of the thread does not reside in the fact that some one fibre runs through its whole length, but in the overlapping of many fibres«.4

Wittgenstein's thread is also a good metaphor for the ensembles thus constituted. Not only is the strength of ensembles of that kind - so is their fabric: there is no fibre nor anything else that runs through all of it.

As far as the working of our mind is concerned - which we have to take into account if we are considering how we deal mentally with the world - there is nothing that is based on or that produces a singular.

Thus, both a synchronous and a diachronous approach lead to the same result: there are only ensembles.

4. There is nothing that human beings have in common

These ensembles are the result of the processes of living and learning of each individual.

Life is processes5

Living involves inputs, the processing of these inputs and the changes in the organism that result from that processing, and outputs. Living - of individuals and societies - can only be thought of as a plurality of processes at any one time - as a host of parallel, separate or mutually influencing, as plurifurcating, recombining, intertwining, and interactive processes. It is evident that such interactive processes produce changes - micro or macro. The results are necessarily historic processes - both in individuals and in societies.

As far as the how of dealing mentally with the world and ourselves is concerned living, experiencing and learning are but different words refering to the same processes - processes that never end as long as one lives. Each and every process of living, experiencing, learning produces change. In other words: >As long as we live, we can't help learning<. All this implies - contrary to widely shared assumptions - that learning is not limited to learning something new.

There is nothing that individual human beings have in common

Living, experiencing and learning are active processes. By saying this I challenge the widely held view that there is such a process as passive learning. According to that view what is learned is learned >tel quel<, i.e. after anything was learned it is only the learner who has changed, what has been learned has remained the same as that which was given.

This is quite implausible. Take a situation with two people watching the same scene trying to understand what is going on and talking to each other about it. What they get are - at least slightly - different visual inputs. These visual inputs activate some traces from past experience. Not only the inputs are different, so are the traces from the past. Thus, there is no way in which the results of the transformation processes in the two persons concerned could possibly be the same.

Formulated in a more general way: Given that no two persons have lived through exactly the same situations in the course of their lives; given that, therefore, the traces of past experiences available in any person are necessarily different from each and every other person; given that no two persons who are present in one and the same situation ever receive exactly the same inputs; and given the processes in our brain, in the course of which every incoming information is being transformed in various ways in interaction with what is already there, it is impossible that two persons could ever experience exactly the same (even if in the same situation).

The fact that two people cannot possibly have exactly the same experiences entails that there is nothing that individual human beings have in common in any strict sense of the word.

5. Communication works on the basis not of >identical< but of >different and similar<

>Identical< is a dangerously misleading notion

There is another side to the same coin. In investigating the how of mentally dealing with the world and with ourselves there is nothing that can either rightly or usefully be labelled >identical<.

Consider the two core notions of its propositional use: Being identical with oneself is an absolutely useless notion. Being identical with something else is a nonsensical notion or, if considered to make sense, a false notion.

Take, e.g., words and their meanings: How the notion that words have the same meaning for everybody could ever survive philosophical reflection or scientific scrutiny remains a riddle. Assume for a moment that the meaning of a word - as learned and used - would really be identical for all human beings. Would that not have as one of its consequences that the meaning of a word would have to stay the same forever, that it could never change. But it is a well established fact that this happens. How would it be possible, next, to use long established words to talk about things which never existed before? Are we supposed to believe that these new contents have already been there as part of the meaning of those words even before what they refer to in such usage has existed?

Communication and knowledge operate on the basis of >different and similar<

All that is well known. But it has always been argued that we need the fiction >identity< in the sense of >identical< for all sorts of purposes. But do we really need that fiction ?

The fact that human beings and other organisms survive shows that similarity - functioning as it does on the basis of >different and similar< - is enough to make recognition work.

Therefore, I suggest that for all practical purposes - maybe with the exception of an exaggerated quest for purity - it is enough that we consider the items in question as >different, but similar enough for the intended purpose<.

6. Not intersubjectivity but plurisubjectivity is the basis of communication and knowledge

If there is nothing that can be labelled identical, if there is nothing that can rightly be said to be common to two human minds, if both knowledge about the world and knowledge about the meaning of words are specific to individuals, a phenomenon that could rightly be labelled intersubjective knowledge cannot exist.

There is nothing >inter< about knowledge. Knowledge can be spread, it can be recreated. But spreading in the mode of recreating involves at least slight modifications. Each and every bit of knowledge must be separately constituted anew in individual human beings. Such knowledge that has been recreated and embodied in different human beings can only be labelled plurisubjective knowledge.

What then would the word intersubjectivity refer to? Take two persons each owning a car - same company, same model, same production year, same appliances, etc. and assume that the two owners use their respective cars in similar ways. Does that leads us to construe something called intersubjectivity between the owners? We would be considered to be crazy if we would. Why then do we construe intersubjectivity if two people know the same words and use them in similar ways?

Knowledge - whenever it is not confined to a single person - is plurisubjective knowledge. The word suggests that the people concerned have come to know, to learn, to hear, to discover, in short to experience, processes in the natural and social world and in themselves - but each and everyone for herself or himself - and have developed mental ensembles called knowledge which are at the same time different from those of their fellow beings and similar to them, the latter to the extent that the people have been exposed to similar situations, similar social behaviour, etc., in short:

to similar information of various sorts.

What allows successful communication and mutual understanding among people to take place on the basis of their respective plurisubjective knowledge can, then, be called plurisubjectivity . And it is plurisubjectivity that makes the establishment of a body of accepted knowledge possible via the plurisubjective critique of statements claiming to be true.

7. On some processes involved in mentally dealing with the world and with oneself

Here, I shall restrict my comments to three groups of processes, which seem to play a central role in how we mentally deal with the world and with ourselves and which I label calibrating, grouping, and pluriangulation. Following that I shall turn to the problem of what is individual and what is social in thinking.

Calibrating

The metaphor >calibrating< is taken from the processes of fitting bullets to the barrels of a gun. Calibrating produces a special kind of fit - a fit in which the bullet must necessarily have some latitude vis-à-vis the barrel, but where the latitude allowed is necessarily small.

The answer to the question why firearms work is that there is both fit and latitude. If there were exact fit the gun would explode, with too much latitude the bullet would not fly far enough.

The learning of words and of their use6 is a good example of a process of calibration, which is at the same time an individual and a social process.

One learns to recognize a sound sequence and tries to imitate it by creating similar sounds oneself. Following imitation, the processes of calibration take the form of agreement (expressed by some sign of acceptance), of correction (taking place via intervention of someone present expressing rejection either of some aspect of the sound sequence or of the use of the word, which implies withdrawal of agreement, of acknowledgement, leads to experiences of non-acceptance, sometimes accompanied by stronger forms of sanctions), or of non-intervention.

Processes of learning take place as processing of inputs from outside one's body, from within one's body being activated in that process as well as from information resulting from one's own actions. Calibrating can be conceived of as the mediating operation - whether conscious or non-conscious.

It works with the help of self-generated individual processes which are largely the result of reactions to experiences of consonance or dissonance based on fit - where fit may be based mainly on similarity, complementarity, or compatibility with traces of earlier experience - and with the help of socially generated processes which are largely the result of reactions to experiences of acceptance or rejection by others.

Let me add that in cases where the results of individual and social calibration contradict each other the experience of acceptance or rejection by others often turns out to be stronger than individual experiences of consonance or dissonance based on fit.

Thus, calibrating by consonance and dissonance, which - in a wider sense - includes both the processes based on fit and the processes based on acceptance or rejection, is - mostly but not exclusively - based on our memory of interactions with nature and fellow human beings, if memory is taken in the sense of the wider field of mentally dealing with the world and with oneself.

Grouping

Essential to most processes of calibrating is grouping.

What we call a word, say the word >tree<, is not to be thought of as a singular. What we have learned is to identify any one among a number of allophones (different but similar sound sequences) as the word >tree<.

Neither is what a word refers to a singular. We have learned to use such sound sequences of language in relation to any one among a number of allomorphs (specific configurations of visual, kinesthetic or other origin, some of which may be very similar to one another, while others may differ widely as to how they are experienced), which implies that we have learned to identify any one among those allomorphs as being or relating to a tree.

Thus, we have learned to group a variety of sound sequences and to take anyone of them as the word >tree<, to interpret them as the word >tree<. We have also learned to group anyone among a large number of visual appearances (often of a rather wide variety) and to take anyone of them as a tree.

Grouping takes place as an integral part of the processing of incoming stimulus configurations in interaction with already available traces and results in cumulative addition by producing - or further developing already available - mental ensembles.

Grouping works by a wide variety of processes. It does not presuppose an >intention to group<.

The core group of such processes seems to be >grouping due to similarity of inputs< (of larger or smaller input configurations) to one of our senses which could be labelled >primary grouping<.

There is another main group of processes that lead to what could be labelled >derived grouping<. What happens here is >grouping of dissimilar experiences due to similarity of other simultaneous7 processes<.

This latter group has a subgroup we can call >grouping by labelling<, which is what happens as a consequence of labelling various experiences with one and the same word. It is the processes of this subgroup that establish the ensembles that we use to call >the meaning of a word<.

Let me add in parenthesis (without even sketching it) that there is another dimension of grouping which can be labelled >sequencing<, which is, inter alia, involved not only in adapting bodily movements but also in the establishment of syntax.

What notions and assumptions anyone of us has grouped into complex ensembles and handles in his thinking and speaking is due to a mixture of these and other processes of grouping.

There are important differences between grouping and classifying, on which our epistemological tradition has put so much stress. Grouping reflects some of the processes by which our notions and some of their linkages develop and change, classifying refers to a conscious and intentional process (of trying to follow a set of rules) by which we sort notions which have already developed.

But there is also intentional grouping. Intentional grouping does not lead to many of the nefarious consequences that following the rules of classifying has. It works by addition, does not apply preconceived criteria, does not differentiate between essential and non-essential characteristics, in short: it does not necessarily entail reduction.

When we are grouping intentionally we still have at least a faint idea that the items we group are not identical, not even the same, as well as a faint idea that the characteristics according to which we group are not identical either.

If we lose those faint ideas, as we are bound to do when we classify, we are in trouble - as has happened time and again - not only in the history of thought but also of polity - in the Western world.

Pluriangulation

Calibration is multidimensional. By observation one develops assumptions about what a word is used for, by listening and imitating one learns to use the word (as sound sequence), by social calibration one learns about the success or failure of the imitation and judgements as to the correct margins of manoeuvre for their use. All this goes on simultaneously within the short durée.

Within our mind there are no finalized products, nothing is ever fully established, there is no >once and for all<. Thus, there can be no situations in which only one component is to be added or finetuned while everything else is or remains fixed as it was before. Whenever something is added - and this happens all the time - the total configuration changes: at least some slight - if unnoticeable - change (based on the plurifurcative processes that are involved) takes place in the related ensembles or in their connections.

The aspects of these processes which are due to the fact that calibration is multidimensional I have provisionally labelled pluriangulation.

The metaphor >pluriangulation< is adapted from the method of triangulation used in geodesy. Pluriangulation suggests that whenever relations are established not only between two but between more than two phenomena, what you get is a relatively stable structure. The relative stability of multidimensional structures allows to make serious assumptions about missing facts.

Pluriangulation serves at least two extremely important purposes.

First, pluriangulation allows us to develop what we consider to be coherent notions involving a variety of multifacetted phenomena even without going into consciously elaborating any missing facts.

Second, pluriangulation serves as a mechanism which increases the strength of mental ensembles and allows them to endure - with only slight changes - despite the uninterrupted influences of the forces of change at work.

8. What we call thinking are socially informed processes in individuals

Assuming that mentally dealing with the world and with oneself is only an individual process - as is often done - is a big mistake, since it necessarily involves both individual and social processes and/or their results.

But I venture to suggest that efforts to dissect mental processes into what is individual and what is social is a futile exercise: First, because it is extremely difficult, since almost all thinking has an individual and a social dimension, secondly, because all schooling, all communication, and all reading is directly or indirectly a social process and, finally, because I find it highly improbable that there is anything to be gained by undertaking that impossible task - there is practically no value-added as result in sight.

Dichotomizing between the individual and social processes at work does not make sense also for a number of other reasons.

All processes involved when individuals deal with the world and with themselves are, of course, also involved in the processes of social calibration since it is individuals who are the social carriers of these social processes.

In a very large number of cases it is the interaction among human beings that is the central motor of learning and of processes of calibration.

Insofar as verbal thinking or communication with the help of writing or of speech is concerned it is evident that the words we use are of social origin: we did not invent them ourselves, we learned the words by listening to others, we learned their use - and that entails: their meaning - by social calibration. But it is also evident that we use them as individuals - as speakers, as writers, as listeners, and as readers.

It is also evident that the ways in which we break up the world into components and the ways in which we relink what we have first broken into pieces, in short: that most processes of grouping and regrouping experiences and notions that are part of our individual mental dealing with the world and with ourselves are either of social origin or influenced by social processes in use in our respective cultures.

Thus, thinking should be considered to be both an individual and social process. But given that one can easily think of exceptions to that dominant picture and that, therefore, it will be considered an overstatement or a false generalisation, I suggest that thinking is a socially informed process in individuals, i.e. that mentally dealing with the world and with oneself includes only few - if any - processes that are not directly or indirectly influenced by social interaction among fellow human beings. - There simply is no case for a dichotomy here.

9. Memories and identities

Here it seems important to note, first, that there is no position from which we could look at our memory or identity from outside ourselves.

Following another approach it simply does not make sense to generalize about memories or identities - since memories and identities are all we have, they are our world, they are a large part of what we are, and most of what we think and feel we are.

But when we think about memories and identities we make assumptions.

The core cluster among everyday assumptions about memories seems to be that one has a memory, that items are added to it as life passes, that one can forget certain items, but that - apart from those changes - the bits and pieces of memory stay the same.

Contrary to those assumptions memory is neither an object, nor does it consist of other smaller objects like a puzzle. Whatever memory may be - its components do not fit together in a complementary fashion such that there are no gaps or overlaps, such that it forms a unitary whole.

Memories are bunches of larger and smaller ensembles of traces from various pasts. In conscious memory there are bunches that have all the detail of real scenes we look at and others that are hazy and vague. Some events we remember we can visualize, others we can only think of.

Contrary to the assumption that the bits and pieces of memory stay the same over time, memories are constantly rewritten. Rewriting of memories involves addition of new experiences and changes. Much of the change is partial change of a rearticulatory type. Available bits and pieces are repositioned, reordered, things unlinked hitherto may get linked, existing links may disappear in the background, what was considered to be important in a given situation may become less so, and relatively unimportant aspects may become dominant.

We should also not forget that many experiences are ambigous, are already ambiguous when they are made. Very often there is a positively valued side to something which is, on balance, considered to be negative, and vice versa. Ambiguity may also come about by grouping similar experiences which are valued differently at different moments or in different phases of history. It would be a grave mistake to assume that all the traces that do not form a part of the judgement that has won the day have totally disappeared from memory.

Like life, memory - when it comes into play - is processes. Like life, memory has been constituted in the past - but it is not in the past, it is in the present.

Identities

The most widely spread core cluster of notions about identities includes the assumption that human beings have an identity, that they have to have an identity, and that identity has to be coherent.

In the how of our dealings with the world and with ourselves memories and identities have the same base. But while in the dominant notion of memory both the singular and the plural are available options (both of which are often used), in the dominant notion of identity the plural has disappeared. Identity is construed as unitary and stable - anybody deviating from that is considered deviant.

Despite the wide acceptance of that construction identities of individuals have to be thought of as being a plural, as plural identities, as both fragmented and linked, as undergoing change, as being constantly rewritten. Like the meaning of words identities change with the context, with the active or activated dominant relations with people (present or absent) and with the setting.

Should I really follow the dominant construction and convince myself that I have the same identity when I am praying and avowing my sins and when I am trying to successfully manage an enterprise taking all the decisions that may be necessary for that purpose? when I read a poem, when I read a technical journal, or when I read a newspaper? when listening to a Vivaldi sonata or listening and dancing to disco music? - I regret: That simply does not make sense to me.

Clearly, in all those cases I am the actor. And I am the same person in all the cases.

But it is different parts of me that are involved, different links that are created, different memories that are activated, different cords that are swinging. In this or that one among these situations I may savour aspects which I would disregard or even reject in others. In each one of these situations I have different longings and different belongings.

Each one of these situations constitutes a different culture, a different world, of which I form a part. These cultures, these worlds, are overlapping cultures, are overlapping worlds. They overlap in many aspects (one of which is my participation in them). But does that overlap make them one culture, one world? - It does not. - Does the overlapping of what goes on within me in one of these situations with what goes on within me in some other of these situations make me feel the same in all of these situations, does it lead to presenting myself to others in the same way, does it lead to one identity? - No! It does not.

To me all that suggests that I have - and everybody else has - plural identities which are both similar and different but which are not one and the same - let alone a coherent - identity.

Processes of change

Change is, as I tried to show, implicit in and constitutive of all three, memories, identities, and perspectives.

It seems strange that this needs explicit mentioning, that we have to remind ourselves that this is so. The reason is that our Western tradition of thought has established those notions as implying permanence. Within those three notions, change has been deleted or relegated far into the background. The result is that it does not immediately come to mind but may still be drawn out of the magician's hat when needed to prevent the concept from being judged as inadequate for conveying what it refers to.

There is no >once and for all< for memory nor for rewriting it. Neither is there a >once and for all< for identity or perspectives nor for rewriting them.

Everything is in transition - not in transition from state to state but from process to process.

An application in place of a summary

Calibrating visions, values, perspectives

In my nine points I have tried to sketch what is involved in how meanings, notions and perspectives spread.

Calibrating experiences, visions, and perspectives produces transition. To see how to move needs looking at what is going on.

Some of today's perspectives

We are witnessing that more and more people have lost the vision of a world in which each and every person can live in dignity.

We are witnessing a withdrawal of a growing number of people into individual well-being or success combined with a loss of a feeling of co-responsibility for shaping our common plurisubjective futures.

We are witnessing the reappearing of mental constructs and the linking of notions that we had thought had disappeared from the earth after the end of the World War II.

These are but a few among the dominant aspects of our >Zeitgeist<, of the mood and mental processes, of the plurisubjective perspectives widely shared at this moment.

What lessons to draw ?

What lessons are we to draw? What follows from all that for shaping our perspectives, the visions of right or wrong, the visions of the future of our societies, and the visions of how to get there? What follows for the ways in which we ought to act?

Together my nine points suggest that Zeitgeist is nothing that appears out of the blue. Together they suggest that Zeitgeist is constantly reshaped, is constantly created anew. And together they suggest how that works.

If memories, identities, and perspectives are constantly rewritten, if learning is not limited to learning something new, and if it is the multitude of everyday interactions of people that decide about what becomes dominant, then it is each and everyone of these experiences that matters.

Memory does not concern only the past, it also concerns the future

As learning can strengthen available traces and reorder them, relegated parts of ensembles with ambiguous aspects and traces pushed into the background by the dominant social judgement of earlier periods can surface again. This is one of the mechanism at work in the reappearance of the dangerous forms of nationalist thinking.

Given those mechanisms it is not enough to know that something is wrong. Sitting back in the comfortable feeling to know better will not do.

It is important to remember - and to remind oneself and others - what happened in history, what was good and bad about it.

It is important to remind ourselves and others, what went wrong, why it went wrong, and what was wrong about our own role - even if we found out only in hindsight: after all, what we found out in hindsight is something we know now.

Given the power of acceptance and rejection by others in calibrating, it is important to remind others of what we remember, of what happened after we saw some vague signs of developments which gave us a feeling that they might lead to problems or even to disaster, of what happened after we did something or after we let something happen, to remind others of the lessons we learned.

It is all important to remember and to remind others, if we do not want to let it happen again.

Calibrating the visions of right and wrong

Given the power of acceptance and rejection by others in calibrating the visions of right and wrong it is all important to speak up so that right remains right and wrong remains wrong.

It is important to object where raising objections is necessary to make people aware that values are in danger of being broken.

Whosoever is confronted with rejection of views or values will no longer be able to consider those views or values as being shared by all, as constituting consensus. Even if one remains in the minority or remains the only one to object the voicing of that view is important.

If we care about our future and the future of others we have to participate actively in shaping the Zeitgeist, in the shaping of plurisubjective knowledge, in the shaping of socially spread values, in the shaping of shared perspectives.

The resulting perspectives are in the hands of each and everyone.

© Arne Haselbach 1995

Notes

1 HASELBACH, Arne (1997) [1995] »On dealing with memory, identity, and perspectives« in: >Memorie e identità: prospettive nei percorsi del mutamento<, Quaderni della Fondazione 4, Fondazione Courmayeur, December 1997, pp. 132-144

2 I prefer >plurifurcation< to the established term >bifurcation<. The latter creates an image of separating into two or of branching off, which is a wrong image of the biostructure of the brain and may create misleading notions as to what processes are taking place. Given that an enormously large number of neurons have many, many axons connecting them via synapses with other neurons a term that suggests flows via a large number of divergent connections seems to be better suited.

3 Gerhard Roth, »Neuronale Grundlagen des Lernens und des Gedächtnisses«, in: Siegfried J. SCHMIDT »Gedächtnis«, Frankfurt/M 1991, p.147

4 Ludwig Wittgenstein, »Philosophische Untersuchungen«, Para. 67

5 The combination of the verb >is< in the singular and of >processes< in the plural is intentional. The rules of our grammar that ought to be applied here reflect the >thinking in singulars< that I challenged above. That a collective singular - and life consisting as it does of a multitude of processes at any one time can be likened to a collective singular even if it is more often seen in a holistic fashion - cannot be equated with a plural is a rule of grammar which disregards the reality to be depicted. If >process< were put in the singular, the sentence would have a different and a non-intended meaning. In my view correct description of reality must be allowed priority over misleading rules of grammar.

6 For reasons of space I am restricting my remarks to spoken words.

7 Simultaneous must be here be taken to mean more or less simultaneous, i.e. going on within the short period, in which some of the plurifurcated neural processes are still active, a period for which I use the label >the short durée<.