A Proposition

Perception and semantics are way too obvious and boring; so we will skip those two levels and start our discussion straight from the level of memory.

The etymological dictionary gives the following entry for the verb ‘remember’: “mid-14c., remembren, “keep (something or someone) in mind, retain in the memory,” from Old French remembrer “remember, recall, bring to mind”” (HARPER 2001-2020). Now, “keep in mind” refers to memory formation/creation, while “bring to mind” refers to memory retrieval. So, etymologically at least, memory creation and memory retrieval are parallel process based on the same determinant/s – in the act of retrieving a memory we are recreating the memory.

The etymological dictionary gives the following entry for the noun ‘recognition’: “from past participle stem of recognoscere “to acknowledge, know again; examine”” (HARPER 2001-2020). And the etymological dictionary gives the following entry for the word ‘consciousness’: “state of being aware of what passes in one’s own mind”. Consciousness, thus, must always be understood as being meta. And this makes consciousness closely associated with recognition – “to know again”. It could be due to this iteration in consciousness that consciousness has survived all attempts at being pinned down to some biological determinant. Let me explain further. If consciousness is knowing about knowing, this might explain the reason why we have as yet been unable to pin consciousness down to some biological mechanism, as such an endeavour would require the addition of another order of remove, namely knowing about knowing about knowing. Consciousness might have very well been in front of our eye, under the microscope, or mapped on some brain scan for a very long time but, for the reason stated before, namely that knowing about consciousness would require another order of remove (that is: knowing about knowing about knowing), it might be (logically) impossible for us to ever perceive consciousness. 

Talking about knowing and knowing about knowing may be a distinction that only makes sense in words and not in experience. In perceiving a door knob, I know I am perceiving the door knob (unless I am totally indifferent, that is). And all iterations of knowing are embedded in this act of perception. Of course, I do not verbalise all those iterations unless I flagrantly want to (become and) be labeled a madman. But the fact remains that all those iterations of knowing are present in the act of perception. I perceive to grasp being. Talking about knowing about knowing about knowing would entail leaving all beings behind. But then, perception, the primary task we are involved in, would disappear completely. We have a space where to practise knowing about knowing about knowing, and that space is called philosophy. In philosophy, all beings at first (must) disperse and then appropriately come back into view. Philosophy could thus be described as the (only possible?) science of consciousness – the space in which consciousness makes itself apparent, visible. 

‘The Photographic’ should thus be understood as limen, “threshold, cross-piece, sill” (HARPER 2001-2020) – the doorstep leading inside the house. Let’s proceed and see how this requirement is justified. 

The words ‘conscious’ and ‘conscience’ are etymologically related, both words coming from “conscire “be (mutually) aware; be conscious of wrong”” (HARPER 2001-2020). And the words ‘conscience’ and ‘science’ have the same etymological root, namely “from PIE root *skei- “to cut, split” (source also of Greek skhizein “to split, rend, cleave”)” (HARPER 2001-2020). Knowledge is done with and through the Other, in (mostly, it seems) sinful circumstances. The Other, as the cause of the divide in Being, makes possible the rending of this Self, and only through this schism can knowing (something which is unknown) become possible. And this plunges us into the lovely Levinasian infinity. Clearly, it is only because depravity knows no end that knowledge is guaranteed infinity. 

Elsewhere, we equated ‘the photographic’ with memory. Does that mean that ‘the photographic’ and memory are to be treated as being synonymous? Yes and no. Clearly, a memory becomes a memory once it is recognised as being one. Yet, it is cogent to retain some flimsy distinction between the two, one based on the action they entail: memory: the act of remembering, and ‘the photographic’: the act of recognising.  

Elsewhere, we also equated ‘the photographic’ with the quasi-instinctually caused paroxysms that make us (ridiculously) yell out ‘It’s real’ in front of some objet d’art. And all’s still well and good with that equation.

P.S. The word ‘shit’ shares the same etymological root with the word ‘conscience’, namely the “PIE root *skei- “to cut, split”” (HARPER 2001-2020). And so those the word ‘schizophrenia’: “from Greek skhizein “to split” (from PIE root *skei- “to cut, split”) + phrēn (genitive phrenos) “heart, mind”” (HARPER 2001-2020). 🙂 🙂 🙂


HARPER, Douglas. 2001-2020. Online Etymology Dictionary [online]. Available at: http://www.etymonline.com [accessed 13 March 2020].

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