Sunday, April 7, 2013

Specified Reductionism and the Nature of Memories

It seems that any reflective event that has occurred in time (e.g. a groundbreaking historic event, a more theoretically objective description of a new naturalistic phenomena, the discovery of substance x, or the witnessing of a film), viewed on a massive and comprehensive scale, can be explained using general terms. Of course, if we greatly magnify our focus of the inquiry of the past, details begin to specify themselves, emerging with magnificence. Such a reflective event occurs through one's memory; this is the medium of use.

I will illustrate further. Let's take an example of attending the symphony. The initial state of the memory begins: that very short interval where we define the event with general terms. This stage consists mainly of the mere definition of the word symphony, which is a very general and comprehensive definition, for it will consist, of course, of the comprehensive history of the symphony as well as the notable figures and musicians. Stage one probably lasts a few milliseconds, perhaps shorter. It must be noted, crucially, that a person's ability to recollect the general and comprehensive definition of symphony depends entirely on a person's knowledge of the word being defined. The second stage of the memory involves a more specific acknowledgment of minute details about the event:

The weather was mild and balmy last week when we decided to go the symphony; such conditions are rarities. I was excited to finally see Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2. I was so glad the tickets had a student discount! They ended up being only $10! My girlfriend loved the wine selection. I can't stand them! They had Guinness, so I had a few of those. The concert was so enchanting and the concert hall was gorgeous. I even think I recall a musician accidentally dropping his instrument during a period of prolonged rests! It was so embarrassing! The pianist played the work so passionately and I was enthralled by her talent.

In a way, my example fails to discern all possible minute details of the events at a symphony performance (gunmen could have been planning to take the audience hostage, but decided against it due to last minute jitters). It fails in another way: my personal knowledge about the symphony concert is more ignorant than others.  People who know more about the symphony will recollect other details that would remain absent within my memories.

Moreover, the specified recollection of events has a reductionistic nature. Starting from large overarching generalities and refining them to more minute recollections seems to occur when we address the contents of our memories. There seems to be a pragmatic function for this magnifying.


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