Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Memory, Imaginary and Aristotelian Epistemology. on the Nature of "Apterous Fly"

Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Memory, Imaginary and Aristotelian Epistemology. on the Nature of "Apterous Fly"

Article excerpt

Abstract: Ioan Petru Culianu has written a book about the emergence of modern science and religious behavior starting from the Aristotelian concept of phantasia. An essential premise for discussing problems of modern cultural and religious importance is the proper understanding of memory and philosophical grounds for such concepts as memory and recollection. Aristotelianism has been repeatedly mentioned as a main source of memory concepts, along with Plato, later Roman tradition and then mediaeval reconsiderations of Aristotelian texts.

In my study I am following in parallel both Aristotle's theory of memory and imagination and modern theories concerning Aristotelian epistemology and build arguments for the thesis that modern theories concerning the importance of induction in Aristotle's epistemology miss an important link, namely, the key function of memory techniques for understanding the whole of Aristotle's theory of knowledge. Memory is the domain of technique or art (techne) but not the grounding site for science.

Truth and false are not an issue for Aristotle's theory of knowledge because sensibility and theoretical intellect cannot be false. Memory, imagination and recollection as functions of an intermediary link are the most fluid and uncontrollable parts of the cognitive psyche, as they function as necessary bridges from corporeal sensitive knowledge to intellectual formal understanding. Memory is still corporeal as a function but delivers images for the intellectual activity. The whole process of knowledge depends on such a fluid and non rigorous function. Aristotle suggests natural memory can be pointed as the very cause for imperfection of knowledge. Human being is thus an insolvable epistemic duality since science needs memory but memory itself is rather the object of custom, art and technique. Science and religion have, according to such Aristotelian premise, a necessary common imaginary.

Key Words: memory, recollection, imagination, epistemology, mnemonic techniques, Aristotle, judgments, intellect

Memory and recollection have been pointed as important acts of religious belief ever since Mircea Eliade's concept of myth of eternal return was forged and there is an affinity with the Lost Paradise theme as well; both have profound grounding on some concept of memory and imagination. But whereas ancient and primordial myths have been deposited within some social or trans-individual imaginary, there is an increasing interest in exploring the importance of personal or individual imaginary for religious belief. Far from thinking to any regress to the psychoanalytic views, I suggest actually that individual memory and imagination, explored mainly from epistemological perspective in philosophy, have an important role in religion and could reveal illuminating conclusions for the researcher of religions. I totally agree that memory and imagination are not only factors of cohesion or religious communication but also individual ferments for structuring one's religious views, far from reducing the complexity of religion to superfluous affections but orienting and grounding authentic religious belief on one's life. One may notice the interesting approach of systematic interpretation of some contemporary authors' life focused on memory as restorative, integrative and redemptive1.

The individual memory and recollection in religion has been the starting point of Ioan Petru Culianu's book about Eros and magic in the Renaissance2. His main idea is that the Arisotelian phantasma or faculty of imagination has been for centuries understood as the "place" of mental images that populated the imaginary world of religion. Modern censorship applied to the imaginary by the Reformation created modernity as an effort to adapt to an imaginary vacuum that had to be replaced by the techniques and sciences3. The concept of phantasma discussed there is the Aristotelian individual imagery grounded more on epistemological and psychological insights. …

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