Essay On the Extinction of Voluntary Memory

Essay On the Extinction of Voluntary Memory

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On the Extinction of Voluntary Memory


Absolute certainty is a term that can rarely, if ever, be applied in any realm of human endeavor. In science, there is always a limit of precision to which any measurement can be taken. In literature, the fact that the author's language merely represents his ideas (as opposed to embodying them) leaves such conveyed ideas open to a degree of interpretation. More important than these factors, though, is that the greater part of what we today regard as knowledge is founded in theory. In other words, we base our very methods of reasoning upon the wavering ideas of the relationships between once isolated phenomena.

Because these relationships are exclusive to the data they connect, it would only follow that any theory is nothing more than a product of the information that is gathered on its behalf. When the gathered data then ceases to support the theory, the theory becomes subject to two possible outcomes: if the evidence runs counter to the very basis of the theory, the theory, at least in its original form, will be relegated to the theoretical graveyard. If, however, the disparity lies merely with some smaller aspect of the general theory, some adjustment or extension of the theory is necessary. In this sense, unless gathered evidence lies so radically far from a theory as to nullify it, such adjustment will often serve to enrich a theory, and in so doing, steer humankind ever nearer to the utopia of understanding.

Never, however, does one seem farthest from this ideal realm than at the moment of realization that some piece of evidence highlights a disparity with the fundamental nature of a long-accepted premise. As Nicholson Baker suggests of such "alert intermissions," the dis...


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.... New York: Vintage, 1997.

Baker, Nicholson. "Changes of Mind." The Size of Thoughts: Essays and other Slumber. New York: Random House, 1997. 3-9.

Beckett, Samuel. Proust. 1931. London: John Calder, 1965.

Kazniak A.W., Poon L.W., Riege W. "Assessing Memory Deficits: An Information Processing Approach. " Handbook for Clinical Memory Assessment. Ed: L.W. Poon. Washington D.C.: American Psychological Society, 1986.

Nabokov, Vladimir. Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited. New York: Random House, 1967.

Nora, Pierre. "Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Memoire."Representations 26 (1989). 7-24. Spring 1989.

Proust, Marcel. In Search of Lost Time Vol. I: Swann's Way. Tr. C.K.S. Moncrreff. New York: Modern Library, 1992.

Woolf, Virginia. "A Sketch of the Past." Moments of Being. Ed. Jeanne Shulkind. 2d ed. New York: Harvest, 1985. 61-159.

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