نوع مقاله : علمی-پژوهشی
استادیار فلسفهی اسلامی و حکمت معاصر، هیأت علمی پژوهشگاه علوم انسانی و مطالعات فرهنگی، تهران، ایران
عنوان مقاله [English]
Ṣadrīan philosophy holds that all kinds of memory, as well as all kinds of perception (sensory, imaginary, or rational/intellectual), are non-material. On this account, perceptual forms are identically retained. They remain in the core of our souls and never go out of existence. Remembrance or recollection is to give attention to and recognize the very same initial forms. In this way, when it comes to memory, Ṣadrīan philosophy fundamentally diverges from its predecessors as well as modern sciences. Because, these modern sciences do not see the need to assume the immateriality of memory. They often suggest that information is stored in the material brain through a kind of encoding, attributing the constancy of memory to the constancy of genetic and neuronal encoding.
In this article, I adjudicate these opposing views. To do so, I overview arguments presented for the immateriality of memory both in Ṣadrā’s own works and those of his commentators. I then show that, pace Ṣadrīan philosophy, materialism about memory is more plausible than the immateriality view. I propose a simple materialistic explanation as an alternative—i.e. an explanation in terms of a distinction between the epistemic mind and the non-epistemic brain memory—to criticize Ṣadrīan arguments and unveil their fallacies.
In this research, I analyze and then appraise the relevant views by drawing on a philosophical method and logical tools. On occasion, we cite the achievements of modern sciences as well.
For Ṣadrā, sensory and imaginary perceptions are immaterial. These immaterial forms are identically retained in memory, and then the same identical immaterial forms are recollected. In his discussion of the “traversing movement” (al-ḥarakat al-qaṭʿiyyah), he makes it explicit that the mind, unlike the changing physical external world, has the following characteristic: whatever occurs moment by moment in it remains the same and in an instantaneous, rather than gradual, way. Ṣadrīans hold that when, say, a lunar eclipse happens, a form is present to me, and when the eclipse ends, another epistemic form is created in me, while the first form still remains in my mind. In this way, the initial form does not go away, but rather a new form is added. Another argument presented by Ṣadrīans is that, when dying, people “instantaneously” remember everything they perceived throughout their lives. Moreover, memory is characteristically recognitional; that is, it involves the recognition that the remembered thing is identical to what was initially perceived. However, “identity” is incompatible with the materiality of memory. Changes in the brain also demonstrate that memory is not material: brains and their nerves change with all of their material contents, while psychological memories remain in the mind after years.
I think all of these arguments are objectionable. Suffice to say, Peripatetic philosophers believe that sensory and imaginary mental forms are material, and then assume that no mental form goes away, but remains in its own realm. Such constancy does not necessarily have to do with immateriality, since such constancy of the material is conceived in modern philosophy and physics in terms of the growing block view of time.
In critique of the recognition argument for the immateriality of memory, for example, we might say that it proves too much: The basis of this argument is the very paradox of Meno, which challenges not only the memory but also any kind of knowledge.
Similarly, the identity argument proves too much and therefore it is objectionable in that if identity could show the immateriality of memory, it could establish the immateriality of the material world as well. For instance, the mountain I see today is identical to the one I saw yesterday. So, these are identical, without the mountain being immaterial. Since identity does not imply immateriality in these cases, it does not imply the immateriality of memory either.
In response to the argument from brain change, we might say that, before their destruction, brain cells transmit their physical information to the young cells, which in turn transmit the information to other cells before they die. As an analogy, suppose that an audio tape lasts for twenty years, but before it expires, we record its content on another brand-new tape, which retains the same audio.
In addition, since Ṣadrīans believe that the retained perceptual forms are directly present to us, they must say that we have knowledge-by-presence of them, albeit unconsciously. The idea of unconscious knowledge sounds implausible to me.
To establish the immateriality of memory and imaginative forms, Ṣadrā also tries to undermine the material account of memory. He argues that the many forms we have perceived in our lives cannot be imprinted in our finite, and even small, material brains. However, this seems unlikely only for Ṣadrā while it is not impossible by itself. It simply can be explained away by modern science: it has been established today that a large amount of information can be stored in very small memory cards.
A major objection I raised against the Ṣadrīan view is that errors in memory are incompatible with its immateriality and with being remembrance a matter of knowledge by presence. For just as sensory perceptions cannot be kinds of knowledge by presence because they involve errors, remembrance cannot be a kind of such knowledge because of errors it involves.
Moreover, I argue that not only Ṣadrā’s commentators, but also Ṣadrā himself, failed to stay committed to the consequences of the immateriality of memory, as he sometimes says, and rightly so, that memories are destructible. This is an obvious endorsement of changes in such perceptual forms, which imply their materiality and inconstancy.
Pre-Ṣadrīan philosophies as well as the prevalent scientific view present a far more plausible account of memory and how sensory and imaginative forms are retained than the Ṣadrīan constancy and immateriality account. Alternative materialistic explanations and the objection from errors in memory, as well as a host of other reasons, call Ṣadrīan arguments into question, including the sudden survival of movement, instantaneous detailed recollection of all forgotten memories in abnormal states or under unusual pressures, conceiving particular meanings as they were initially perceived by some old and sick people without any distortions, recognition and identity, and constancy of memory despite changes in brain cells.