Body, mind and order: local memory and the control of mental representations in medieval and renaissance sciences of self

In Guy Freeland & Antony Corones (eds.), 1543 And All That: word and image in the proto- scientific revolution. pp. 117-150 (2000)
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Abstract

This paper is a tentative step towards a historical cognitive science, in the domain of memory and personal identity. I treat theoretical models of memory in history as specimens of the way cultural norms and artifacts can permeate ('proto')scientific views of inner processes. I apply this analysis to the topic of psychological control over one's own body, brain, and mind. Some metaphors and models for memory and mental representation signal the projection inside of external aids. Overtly at least, medieval and Renaissance theorists agreed that such models had to allow for, or even guarantee, some conception of cognitive order and discipline. Individual memory traces had to be independent, not mixed up or interfering with others. The long tradition of improving or bypassing 'natural memory' by deliberately internalizing artefactual models was part of an arduous process of self-fashioning. Moral panic about confusion and mixture features centrally in the imposition of cognitive discipline in local memory traditions.

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John Sutton
Macquarie University

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