Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)

Page 1

Université Concordia University | Montréal, Québec, Canada

Graduate Journal of Philosophy | Revue d’études supérieures de philosophie

Volume XVIII, Numéro/Number 1 2020

Editorial Committee | Comité de rédaction

Editor-in-Chief / Rédacteur en chef Troy Klassen

Managing Editors / Rédacteur·e·s ajoint·e·s Bayonne Said Daniel Greenways Kristen Lewis Sierra Billingslea

French Editors / Rédacteurs en français Guillaume Boucher Maxime Varin

Reviewers / Réviseur·e·s Emma Sigsworth Jordan Walters Morgan Gagnon Shawn Huberdeau

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


Table des matières | Table of Contents

Editor’s Foreword ……………………………………………………………. iii Troy Klassen

How We See: The Colourizing of Race ……………………………………… 1 Cyrus Sundar Singh

Educatio Praedictivus? Une philosophie pragmatiste de l’éducation à l’aune du tournant pragmatique en neuroscience cognitives ………………………… 19 Jean-Philippe Meehan

Bergson, Deleuze on Innovative Memory …………………………………… 37 Yulia Hoffmann

(Me=Aquarius=very unpredictable) Ghostliness and Temporality in Tamaki and Tamaki’s Skim …………………………………………………………… 55 Amy LeBlanc

The Precarity of Happiness in Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics ……………. 73 Amber Spence

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


Editor’s Foreword Troy Klassen, Masters Candidate (Concordia University)

Que nous le voulions ou non, des corps se touchent sur cette page, ou bien, elle est elle-même l’attouchement (de ma main qui écrit, des vôtres tenant le livre). Ce toucher est infiniment détourné, différé—des machines, des transports, des photocopies, des yeux, d’autres mains encore se sont interposes—, mais il reste l’infime grain têtu, ténu, la poussière infinitésimale d’un contact partout interromptu et partout poursuivi. À la fin, votre regard touche aux même traces de caractères que le mien touche à present, et vous me lisez, et je vous écris. … Bodies, [whether we’d like them to or not], are touching each other upon this page, or more precisely, the page itself is a touching (of my hand while it writes, and your hands while they hold the book). This touch is infinitely indirect, deferred—machines, vehicles, photocopies, eyes, still other hands are all interposed—but it continues as a slight, resistant, fine texture, the infinitesimal dust of a contact, everywhere interrupted and pursued. In the end, here and now, your own gaze touches the same traces of characters as mine, and you read me, and I write you. (Nancy 2008, 50-1)

This is how Jean-Luc Nancy describes the event of the page, in which a place is opened up by the touching of bodies—my body, your body. Here, we create a space for the mixing of ourselves. We share a common moment and gather ourselves together within it. It is my hope, as editor-in-chief of this issue of Gnosis, that what follows will live up to such an incredible understanding of the written word. I believe that you will find gathered here a diverse number of bodies, authors who have poured themselves into their works and who extend their hands out toward you. I also ask that you return their gesture—that you match these authors’ vulnerability with your own, that you let yourself be exposed to them wholeheartedly. I hope (here, now) that this journal will provide us with an intimate experience, an opening—invigourating, although perhaps uncomfortable—that will change us and define our thinking anew. This touching that occurs on the page is not only between two. It is with everyone who has decided to think and write before us, everyone who we bring with us to the page. The power of our words invokes them all. So, you will find in this journal an abundance of scholarly insight and depth. These voices are here because we believe they have engaged faithfully and honestly with

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


the lineage of thinking on which they build, and because we believe they have meaningfully contributed to that living discussion. I would also be remiss if I did not mention the situation in which we currently find ourselves. Covid-19 has fragmented our socio-physical landscape. I write this from isolation, I am severed from what I took to be my normal social interactions with others and my future is clouded over, collapsing into a stagnating present. I believe that this is not a unique experience. So, now more than ever, I insist on the importance of the opportunity that the words on these pages afford us, for a transformative and intimate interaction with one another. Here and now, we are able to encounter each other and create for ourselves a future together.

References Jean-Luc Nancy. 2008. Corpus. Translated by Richard A. Rand. New York, NY: Fordham UP.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


How We See: The Colourizing of Race Cyrus Sundar Singh, PhD Candidate (Ryerson/York University)

That until the color of a man's skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; […] Until all Africans stand and speak as free beings, equal in the eyes of all men, as they are in the eyes of Heaven; Until that day, the African continent will not know peace…i (Selassie 1963)

Our sense of sight is what we use most to determine friend or foe, us/them, we/other, fact/fiction, like/dislike. Our communities and our cultures are built on the ability for us to individually and collectively ascertain, measure, judge, and act on what we see and perceive. Whether it is the beauty of the architecture, the stroke of the paintbrush, the curvature of the statue, or the scale of the art, the sense of sight determines the subjective and collective notion of the good, the bad, and the ugly—a subjective aesthetic construct. It is also the sense that determines colour—a property of how light is reflected from objects, not a property of the objects themselves (Westfall 1962, 340). Essentially, reflected light from objects enters the eye and focuses on the retina’s photoreceptor cells. These cells convert the light into electromagnetic signals that are carried to the brain by the optic nerves where they are interpreted into colour, images, movement, etc. At the end of the optical journey, what we see is still an interpretation based on our points of reference: shape, scope, and colour, which in turn is used to determine racial imagery, where the racial construct of the invisible white holds a position of power, hence “Racial imagery is central to the organization of the modern world” (Dyer 2004, 9). Continuing this thread, Isaac Julien and Kobena Mercer (1996) observe that white also “marks off the Other (the pathologized, the disempowered, the dehumanized) as all too visible—‘coloured’” (458), and Stuart Hall (1996) closes the racial imagery with the following statement: “The moment the signifier ‘black’ is torn from its historical, cultural, and political embedding and lodged in a biologically constituted racial category, we valorize, by inversion, the very ground of the racism we are trying to deconstruct” (475). How is the sense of sight used to propagate hierarchies of race based on colour?

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


§1 – Boyz n the Hood On Feb. 26, 2012, George Zimmerman, the volunteer coordinator of his neighbourhood watch in Sanford, Florida, became suspicious of a teenager walking through his gated community. “Zimmerman called police to report a black male in a dark gray hoodie” (Weinstein 2012). His main reasons for suspicion were the visual attributes of the teenager: skin colour and clothing choice. Despite the 911 dispatcher urging Zimmerman not to follow the teenager, he did so anyway, and a few minutes later, Trayvon Martin, the seventeen-year old “black male in a dark gray hoodie” (2012), was dead. Zimmerman, who was licensed to carry a gun, fatally shot Martin, who was unarmed. Zimmerman was taken into custody, interrogated, and released without charges. Martin’s tragic death triggered numerous protest marches across the United States and the largest gathering, dubbed the “Million Hoodie March” (Flock 2012), took place in Union Square, New York City on March 21, 2012. Many protesters wore their hoodies as a symbol of unity with the dead teenager, and the “hoodie” itself, used as a visual tool for racial profiling, intolerance, and racism became a visible symbol of resistance. Zimmerman was eventually charged and stood trial but was acquitted of all charges. A jury of six women, five white and one non-white, found him not guilty in the shooting death of Treyvon Martin. The anger, futility, and disenfranchisement following Zimmerman’s acquittal gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement (Tedeneke 2016). §2 – Will the Real Hooded Man Please Stand Up? In 2004, a group of former Iraqi detainees from the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad claimed they had been tortured and their abuse, captured on digital cameras by American soldiers as selfies, mementos, and war trophies, incited outrage around the world and set in motion a number of ripples which eventually brought to light the atrocities carried out by American military service personnel in direct contravention of the Geneva Convention (Hamdan v. Rumsfeld 2006), and in the name of Operation Iraqi Freedom (Greenberg and Dratel 2005). It all began with the publishing of the now iconic photograph of “The Hooded Man” (Laustsen 2008, 124) whose identity remained a mystery until March 11, 2006, when the New York Times revealed the identity of the prisoner behind that iconic photograph as Ali Shalal Qaissi. The hooded figure, clothed only in a blanket poncho, was photographed as he stood balanced on top of a cardboard box, arms outstretched in a crucifix-like pose with electrical wires attached to his

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


limbs. In fact, the Times printed a photograph of Qaissi holding a copy of that original photograph in the front page article and claimed that Qaissi, a prisoner at Abu Ghraib had revealed himself as The Hooded Man. Qaissi got his Warholian fifteen-minutes of fame “not because he was a victim of torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib but because he was in an infamous photograph” (Morris 2007), an image which he subsequently used on his business cards as the spokesman for a group called the Association of Victims of American Occupation Prisons. “The trouble was, the man in the photograph was not Mr. Qaissi” (Zernike 2006), and one week later, on March 17, 2006, the New York Times retracted the claim. §3 – The Ocular Proof In his forensic essay Seeing is Believing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography, author and documentarian Errol Morris (2011) not only deconstructed the photograph, he also deconstructed the following: the intent of the photographer who took Qaissi’s picture; the intent of the American prison guard Sergeant Ivan Frederick who took the original picture of The Hooded Man; the intent of Military Police Sabrina Harman, who took a picture of Frederick checking the shot he just took on his camera of The Hooded Man, with the actual hooded man in the background. Morris took a critical look at how much agency that picture carried, how much faith was placed in what we as the audience believed the picture revealed, and how much of the picture was hidden and therefore was not even realized by us as being missing. Morris used an interesting metaphor: Photographs attract false beliefs the way flypaper attracts flies. Why my skepticism? Because vision is privileged in our society and our sensorium. We trust it; we place our confidence in it. Photography allows us to uncritically think. We imagine that photographs provide a magic path to the truth. (92) That path to the truth is what our faith perpetuated, and that which was also propagated by the photograph. Morris performed the due diligence and the forensic analysis of the original photograph that the Times failed to do in fact-checking their story. They simply relied on what they saw as proof in the photograph, and in others who craved “the ocular proof” even if it “turns out to be no proof at all. What we see is not independent of our beliefs” (93) but is directly predicated because of our beliefs. Ali Shalal Qaissi, prisoner of war number 151716 of Cellblock 1 A, looked like the other Iraqi detainees. In fact, American invaders, and thereby its citizens, saw him in that light—a racialized and radicalized other, a dark-skinned Muslim terrorist, less than

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


human, to be abused and tortured—and thus allowed him to fill the void under the hood. Thrust into the spotlight, Mr. Qaissi, perhaps opportunistically or energetically like an anti-superhero, donned the hood and thus the narrative, and fulfilled “our own need to believe him” (93). §4 – The History of an Ideology I came into the world imbued with the will to find a meaning in things, my spirit filled with the desire to attain to the source of the world, and then I found that I was an object in the midst of other objects. (Fanon 2000, 257)

In 1631, the English, seeking wealth and trade established their first permanent settlement in Africa at Kormantin, Ghana and “to certain special qualities of English society on the eve of its expansion into the New World […] The most arresting characteristic of the newly discovered African was his color” (Winthrop 2000, 33)—that colour was black. “Blackness became so generally associated with Africa that every African seemed a black man” (34). Concurrently, the English also established a settlement through the East India Company in India, where they came face to face with the colour brown. An interesting note here is that India was already entrenched in a hierarchical construct structured along the visible colour line through its system of caste, a Portuguese word meaning pure, or varna, a Sanskrit word meaning colour (Jensen 1991). Although at first these characteristics seen as colour were just new discoveries, the ideas of race soon became entrenched in European colonial supremacy and a biblical expression of this can be found in a poem of William Canton’s (1925), entitled The Five Colours: Not for one race nor one colour alone Was He flesh of your flesh and bone of your bone! Not for you only – for all men He died. ‘Five were the colours’, The Angel said, ‘Yellow and black, white, brown and red; Five were the wounds from which he bled, On the Rock of Jerusalem crucified.’ (Banton 2000, 58) The racialized visible colours, black, brown, yellow, and red along with the invisible/visible nonracialized/non-colour white, denote visual and social constructs that define the hierarchy of societal acceptability, vulnerability, and culpability. As “race is an idea, not a fact” (Painter 2010, ix), which “arose to meet an ideological need” (Winant 2000, 182), these notions of hierarchy are

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


not based on nature but on nurture—an ascribed/imposed set of values that are generationally passed down and inculcated throughout modern history, and “as long as white people are not racially seen and named, they/we function as a human norm. Other people are raced, we are just people” (Dyer 2004, 10). In her essay titled Slavery, Race and Ideology in the United States of America, Barbara Fields (1990) noted: Race is not an element of human biology (like breathing oxygen or reproducing sexually); nor is it even an idea (like the speed of light or the value of ) that can be plausibly imagined to live an eternal life of its own. Race is not an idea but an ideology. It came into existence at a discernible historical moment for rationally understandable historical reasons and is subject to change for similar reasons (101). Les Back (2010) added that, “racism—as a historically produced sensory system—sees first” (465), “demonizing and reifying the range of color on a palette” (Morrison 1992, 7). Light travels at the speed of 299,792 kilometers per second and sound travels at the speed of 0.34 kilometers per second, therefore, we see well before we hear, touch, or feel. Our ability to see has a multiplicity of uses: amorous “love at first sight”; martial “[don’t] fire until you see the whites of their eyes” (Ketchum 1973); colonial, religious, light/white equals good vs dark/black equals evil; social, intolerant, the burning of white crosses, white uniforms of the Ku Klux Klan, Le Code Noir;ii and the brown paper bag test.iii Enter the world of surveillance and there is another layer that aids the seeing through our own eyes or with electronic and/or digital eyes on planes, satellites, and drones. However, regardless of what technology or biology is used to see, the interpretation of what is seen is an inculcated social construct which determines how we see, and thus how to fear, hear, smell, taste, and touch race. “Race used to be a relatively intelligible concept” posited Winant (2000), “only recently have we seriously challenged its theoretical coherence” (181). §5 – Races of Man “Hey, Sal, how come they ain’t no brothas on the wall?” – Buggin’ Out, in Do the Right Thing – (Lee 1989)

In the 19th and 20th centuries, sight was used many times to propagate Anti-Semitism. In the following passage from the book Races of Man, first published in 1850, Robert Knox’s (2000) Anti-Semitism framed how he saw the Jewish people:

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


Brow marked with furrows or prominent points of bone, or with both; high cheekbones; a sloping and disproportioned chin; and elongated, projecting mouth, which at the angles threatens every moment to reach the temples; a large, massive, club-shaped, hooked nose, three or four times larger than suits the face – these are features which stamp the African character of the Jew, his muzzle-shaped mouth and face removing him from certain other races… Thus it is that the Jewish face never can [be], and never is, perfectly beautiful (244). Not only is the passage a disturbing visual representation leaving little doubt as to its merit or intent, the most disturbing aspect is that the passage, authored by an abolitionist and an anticolonialist in 1890, is analogous to the template used almost forty years later by Nazi Anti-Jewish propaganda which exploited similar pre-existing images and stereotypes on posters, newspapers, and films that radicalized its German citizenry to be tolerant of calculated and spontaneous violence against Jews. The Nazis used a variety of visual media to inculcate the German people with Anti-Semitic propaganda and the most notable was The Eternal Jew, an exhibition in the Library of the German Museum in Munich that opened in 1937. The Nazi’s efficiently used their visual campaign and demonized the Jewish people which in turn led to their exclusion, incarceration, and eventual extermination in the gas chambers. A horrific example of how the perception of one leads to the actions of many. What makes us blindly follow our leaders into battle? What makes us believe our priests, pastors, or pundits? Why do we believe in the infallibility of our leaders, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary? In her article, Tele-vision: Between Blind Trust and Perceptual Faith, Jenny Slatman (2001) posed the question: “Do we see what we believe, or do we believe what we see?” (216). Although, Slatman framed that question around the “significance of religion in visual media” (216), I posit that the question of believing is equally significant within the secular frame and in fact, it is significant within all frames. Moreover, colour is a dominant signifier of a frame. Thus, perception in all its permutations also becomes an idol of belief—an intangible and invisible frame or lens through which the “seer” and the “believer” both navigate their daily traffic.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


§6 - How To Build A House A Black neighborhood is a “high-risk” area because it is Black and because the bulk of the population is trapped there […] This means that the citizens of the ghetto have absolutely no way of imposing their will on the city, still less on the State. No one is compelled to hear the needs of a captive population. (Baldwin 1985, 35)

In English, the word frame is used both as a noun (a frame), and as a verb (to frame). As a noun, frame defines a boundary or a corral within which the framed subject is the focus. This is best illustrated as a framed photograph, picture, or painting. As a verb, it denotes the action of creating the frame or the container which notionally, physically, or philosophically holds or contains an ideological, cultural, or social perception. Not only do these frames mark the secular and the spiritual, they also mark the relational and the conceptual, the figurative and the abstract which define and direct the views that form the foundational context for faith in the substance that is contained within, thereby becoming tools to interpret the world around us. Frame Theorists from Erving Goffman to Gail T. Fairhurst have explored the sociological implications of this often-used communication construct. Goffman (1974) wrote that “observers actively project their frames of reference into the world immediately around them” (39) with a point of reference and a desired outcome, and Fairhurst and Sarr (1996) identify language, thought, and forethought as the building blocks for framing and interpreting the communication. As tools of communication, frames are also as ubiquitous as the stop signs and traffic lights on the modern roads used to navigate daily traffic, and as pervasive and authoritative as laws, which regulate how traffic ought to follow in a prescribed order. In Frame Analysis, Goffman (1974) observed that although frames of traffic regulations are well intentioned to get us safely to our destinations, “the traffic code does not establish where we are to travel or why we should want to, but merely the restraints we are to observe in getting there” (24). Whether social, political, or cultural, frames are as diverse as the needs they corral. At twenty-four frames per second in conventional film or at thirty frames per second in digital video, they have allowed us to see and thereby believe in the continuous moving image and thus they are also as inescapable as the constructed lure of Television.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


§7 – Metaphors on Vision How many colors are there in a field of grass to the crawling baby unaware of “Green”? How many rainbows can light create for the untutored eye? (Barkhage 2001, 12)

In her 2010 article, “A Shot at Half-Exposure: Asian Americans in Reality TV Shows,” author Grace Wang deconstructs the arc of contestant Hung Huynh, a Vietnamese immigrant. Over the course of the series Hung, whose skills as a chef were unmatched and who sailed through the many competitions easily, fell victim to how the judges only saw him through the frame of the ethnic lens. As he moved towards the final competitions of the reality show, Hung was caught in a threeway standoff on the battlefield of Reality Television: his need to win the competition; his culinary training, and his Vietnamese ethnicity or how the judges and the audience saw him. Although he was a professionally trained chef, his ethnicity became the focus for the judges who only saw Hung as a racialized other. There was an overwhelming plea for him to “release his ‘ethnic soul’ from the trapping of French classical cooking” (Wang 2010, 413). They racialized his cooking and wanted to see him in his food. The judges saw what they believed. Even though Hung did not cook any Vietnamese cuisine, one white judge advised him to “reveal his soul by looking to Vietnam” (412). Forced into the narrative of the ethnic chef from Vietnam, and in order to cross the finish line, Hung capitulated to the desires of those white jurors who wielded the power, played to their prejudices, cooked a culturally specific dish, and won his redemption. “Vision,” stated Slatman (2001), “is not as such a lucid operation as Platonism proposed. It has its origin in the obscurity of faith” (219). She situated the act of seeing within the frame of tele-vision and noted that the main difference between the “eye of the camera and the eye of the spectator” (226) is that the camera “sees from another position” and “the televiewers, see something from a point of view other than our own” (225). Moreover, Jean-Luc Marion argues that, globally television reflected back to the audience an image and thereby it is “the transformation of the world into a spectacle” (Marion 2004, quoted in Slatman 2001, 223), framed television as the preeminent example of idolatry, which “makes spectators blind” (222), and placed it at the philosophical crossroads of vision and faith—seeing and believing. What comes through the media is a cyclical interdependence of seeing, believing, and understanding knowledge gained by that experience. This sight/belief/knowledge trinity was creatively and succinctly demonstrated by the Kuleshov Effect. In the early twentieth century,

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


Soviet filmmaker Lev Kuleshov juxtaposed several unrelated scenes together into a montage or sequence and “discovered that depending on how shots are assembled, the audience will attach a specific meaning or emotion to it” (Moura, 2014). Kuleshov alternated the same expressionless face of a white male actor with three other shots: a plate of soup with a spoon and a half glass of wine; a little white girl in an open coffin; a white woman reclined on a sofa. He then screened this forty-five second montage to an audience who were familiar with the actor, a well-known romantic lead. Although Kuleshov used the same clip for all three edits the audience believed that the actor’s expression changed from hunger (plate of soup), to sadness (girl in coffin), and lust (woman on sofa). The implication here is that the largely white [conjecture] audience already brought their emotional beliefs with them, which they then ascribed to the actor’s reaction. They saw what they believed. Maurice Merleau-Ponty observed that “the world is what we see: formulae of this kind express a faith common to the natural man and the philosopher,” and observed that “faith is not merely blind, and, conversely, opening one’s eyes does not imply abandoning faith” (MerleauPonty 1968, quoted in Slatman 2001, 219). Merleau-Ponty echoed Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, where the prisoners in the cave placed their faith in empirical evidence and believed the shadows on the wall to be true. In fact, they had so much faith that they were ready to harm anyone who opposed their belief, including the escaped prisoner who, having been enlightened by his freedom returned by choice back to the cave with new ideas from the outside. This Platonic allegory was played almost to script in 1904, soon after the St. Louis World’s Fair, which displayed numerous non-European peoples in Human Zoos as examples of “primitive peoples” along the proverbial road of evolutionary progress, finally closed its doors. One of the Eskimos (Inuit), who had been displayed as part of the Fair’s exhibits, finally returned home and excitedly told his people of all the great wonderful ideas he has witnessed: Thomas Edison’s electric lights that turned night into day; X-Ray machines; telautograph, a precursor to the modern fax machine; a wireless telephone; infant incubators; and a portable Kodak camera that was designed for women. Fearing that he had gone mad, and possibly possessed by evil spirits, his own people threw him out and excommunicated him (Bradford and Blume 1992). They, like the prisoners in the cave, feared the unknown, and instead placed their faith in the “shadows” that they already knew. They feared the idol of unknown knowledge that was brought back to them by someone who left the cave. They were skeptical, and very much like Rancière's (2009) intolerable

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


image may have wondered if it was “acceptable to make such images and exhibit them to others” (4). The idea of skepticism as a visual cue was explored by Jacques Derrida. “Before doubt ever becomes a system, skepsis has to do with the eyes. The word refers to visual perception, to the observation, vigilance, and attention of the gaze (regard) during an examination” and via its etymology, “the Greek verb skeptomai means ‘to look carefully,’ ‘to consider,’ ‘to observe’,” using our own eyes rather than the opinion of others (Derrida 1993, quoted in Slatman 2001, 217). The seer not only sees, but also is visible and the “most important principle of perceptible faith” observes Slatman (2001) is “reversibility between the seer and the visible” (220). “Do we see what we believe, or do we believe what we see?” (Slatman 2001, 216). Following this query, Slatman once again invokes Merleau-Ponty and says that “faith is not merely blind, and, conversely, opening one’s eyes does not imply abandoning faith. Vision presupposes faith and faith expresses itself in vision” (219). Somewhere on the road between blind trust and perceptual faith, Slatman returned to the question about the significance of faith in television media. However, the same question can be posed about the significance of all media and therefore all communication. She understood that “transmission from the eye of the camera to the eye of the spectator crosses the chiasm of the visible to the invisible, seeing and being seen, the human and the inhuman,” and that “television, above all offers another vision” (226). This notion of faith and vision is eloquently written in the biblical narrative of Moses, just before he took his last breath. He got to see but not experience and so had to infer. FADE IN: The dramatic scene played out in twenty-four frames per second, framed inside a television screen—the epilogue of a made-for-TV movie re-run begins: OUTDOOR DAY, ON THE PLAINS OF MOHAB, JORDAN: the camera pulls back and revealed Moses as he climbs Mount Nebo situated across from Jericho. A great vantage point to see—for the last time—but not touch, the Promised Land. And then in a twisted and cruel paternal moment God said to Abraham, “This is the land of which I swore to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have caused you to see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there” (Deut. 34:4 KJV). On a different channel, the epilogue of another made-for-TV movie began: INDOOR NIGHT, MASON TEMPLE, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE: April 3, 1968. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is wrapping up his speech to an overcrowded room full of striking Afro-American sanitation

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


workers and at this very moment the camera zooms in at thirty frames per second and frames Dr. King (1968) in close up: “I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!” Dr. King was assassinated the following day. FADE OUT.

POSTSCRIPT §8 – The Brown Man with The Yellow Guitar One fine spring day, I opened a local newspaper to find a full-page, full-colour publicity photograph of my image with the caption: South Asian Artist. I was left speechless. I was in the midst of touring my critically acclaimed solo CD titled Cyrus: Sun to Star, and had been invited to perform at the opening of the new Christopher Ondaatje South Asian Gallery at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). I felt honoured to participate and looked forward to the opportunity to perform my songs for an entirely new audience. Sun to Star was the culmination of my musical career spanning decades, and the sound captured on the tracks were the creative distillation of my many and varied influences. From concept to completion, from publicity to promotion, I was fully immersed in all aspects of this full-on indie project, and throughout that process, I only engaged professional musicians, designers, and promoters, including award-winning photographer Michael Chambers, who took the cover-photo. In fact, I went bankrupt hiring all the professionals but that is another story. The ROM’s publicity department had all my required promotional materials and the consent to use them in promoting the gallery for the opening event. So, imagine my astonishment after having paid my “dues,” and having produced a nationally distributed and critically acclaimed CD that one fine spring day, “I opened a local newspaper to find a full-page, full-colour publicity photograph of my image with the caption: South Asian Artist” (Sundar Singh 2014, 22). My identity was reduced to the visible symbols of colour, culture, and curry. The ROM’s marketing department commandeered my personal identity and spun me into a metaphor that represented all brown-skinned Canadian artists. On the other hand, my photo was splashed across a full-page ad— why did I complain? By the way, where is the continent of South Asia? I took a solo journey back to India, the land of my birth and where my people are from, where I had lived until I was ten years old. Throughout my time travelling around the country,

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


people stared at me, people gawked at me and strangers came up to me and asked, “What tribe are you from?” ... with your colours flowing over your shoulders your hair descending your face draws a picture familiar but your colours distract us what tribe are you from?

what tribe are you from?

what is your ancestry? where will your bones lie in a thousand years of history? (Sundar Singh 2009, 35)

Until, I arrived in a place called Nagercoil close to the cape in Southern India. I still got the curious stares but with an inner smile and I began to hear the whispered conversations under their breath in Tamil… “He ‘looks’ like one of us.” §9 – Chino-Amer-Indo-Jam-African-Dread One-quarter blue, one-quarter red, one-quarter chino amerindo jamafrican dread. One-world, onenation, one-sattellitic tele-visionary station. Avenge the capitol evangelistic urge to purge the heathen from his captivity at the altar of the potent, omnidollar—[sort of separate the “mon” from the “monetary” bread] save him from that which causes all the pain in the world but that which also buys him a bowl of rice, naan, chapati, cornmeal or injera… (Sundar Singh 2000, 48)

In November of 2016, whilst studying at Ryerson University, I met a young undergraduate white woman with a foreign accent. Between the white colour of her skin and her accent, I had difficulty placing her geographically. However, as we progressed into our socializing it became clear that she was indeed a foreign student from Trinidad & Tobago—a true Caribbean—born and raised in Trini. Moreover, she proudly traced her ancestry to over six generations in Trinidad but could pass as a white European anywhere. As we continued talking, she shared with me her feelings of not quite belonging to the whole. A condition of the often-heard hybrid-hyphenated-ethnic squareGnosis | 18.1 (2020)


peg-in-a-round-hole-ism, which brought an inner smile to my heart. I understood her dilemma. Is the ability to see crucial to identifying race? Is there a need to identify race? In the fall of 2015, I was working on the initial stages of a youth-based media-empowered community initiative called Collective Camera, in Toronto’s St. James Town—home to the most densely populated neighbourhood in North America. During one of my on-site meetings, I was approached by a disgruntled older white male tenant who told me that he was a senior citizen (post 65 years of age) living on old age pension, and that he was also a budding filmmaker. He held up a Collective Camera flyer that called for interested youth to join the initiative, and asked: “Where do I fit in?” Furthermore, he stated that he felt discriminated against because of his age and social status. There was nothing I could do in that moment to allay his feelings of disenfranchisement. Although, I kept telling him and myself that it was not my intention to exclude him, sadly I began to realize that he was marginalized. Freely expressing his frustration, he became extremely agitated and in a final fit of anger fueled by futility he accused me of being “privileged!” I am a Canadian citizen of Indian heritage who arrived in Toronto as a ten-year old fresh-of-the-boat immigrant kid, so I will state here that when he accused me of being “privileged,” my back went up and I became defensive and he became dismissive. We both saw what we believed: when I looked at him, I saw a white man and when he looked at me, he saw privilege. The exchange reminded me of the following verses from South African reggae superstar Lucky Dube’s (1995) title track from the Motown album Trinity: When you saw a black man You saw a criminal, When I saw a white man I saw an oppressor But now that we know where we went wrong Let's unite You will educate me about white people I will educate you about black people and we’ll unite That is why they call me trinity Cause my game is unity [Chorus]

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


My brothers have been chasing racists all the time Your brothers have been chasing freedom fighters all the time But at the end of the day We didn't know much about each other yeah I’ll stop there.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


Notes On October 4, 1963 H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia addressed the United Nations General Assembly and delivered this eloquent and extended speech in Amharic (Selassie 2019). Selassie focused a portion of his speech on the question of racial discrimination and delivered a 9-point manifesto most of which, in English translation, became the verbatim foundation for the song War by Bob Marley & the Wailers from their album Rastaman Vibration released in 1976. The original speech remains uncredited. i

ii “The

Black Code tells us a very long story that started in Versailles, at the court of Louis XIV, the Sun King, in March 1685 and ended in Paris in April 1848 under Arago, at the beginning of the ephemeral Second Republic. In a few pages, with the aridity that befits the seriousness of laws, it tells us of the life and death of those who, in fact, do not have a history. In five dozen articles, it marks the road that was followed by hundreds of thousands, millions of men, women and children whose destiny should have been to leave no trace of their passing from birth to death” (Sala-Molins 1987, 7; as translated in Atwill 2011). iii

For more on the so called “brown bag test,” see Pilgrim 2014.

References Atwill, Nicole. 2011. “Slavery in the French Colonies: Le Code Noir (The Black Code) of 1685.” Law Library, January 13. Back, Les. 2010. “Whiteness in the Dramaturgy of Racism.” In The SAGE Handbook of Race and Ethnic Studies. Edited by John Solomos and P.H. Collins. London, UK: SAGE Publications. Baldwin, James. 1985. The Evidence of Things Not Seen. New York, N.Y: Henry Holt & Co. Banton, Michael. 2000. “The Idiom of Race: A Critique of Presentism.” In Theories of Race and Racism. Edited by Les Back and John Solomos. London, UK: Routledge. Barkhage, Stan. 2001. “Metaphors on Vision.” Edited by Bruce R. McPherson. In Essential Barklhage: Selected Writings on Filmmaking, 1st Ed. Kingston, N.Y: Documentext/ McPherson. Bradford, Phillips Verner, and Harvey Blume. 1992. Ota Benga: The Pygmy in the Zoo. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press. Canton, William. 1925. The Five Colours. London, UK: The Bible House. Derrida, Jacques. 1993. Memoirs of the Blind: The Self-Portrait and Other Ruins. Translated by Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas. Chicago, Il: Chicago UP. Dyer, Richard. 2004. “The Matter of Whiteness.” In White Privilege: Essential Readings on the Other Side of Racism. Edited by Paula Rothenberg. Duffeld, UK: Worth Publishers.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


Dube, Lucky. 1995. Trinity. Tabu Records. Fairhurst, Gail T., and Robert A. Sarr. 1996. The Art of Framing: Managing the Language of Leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers. Fanon, Frantz. 2000. “The Fact of Blackness.” In In Theories of Race and Racism. Edited by Les Back and John Solomos. Translated by Charles Lam Markmann. London, UK: Routledge. Fields, Barbara J. 1990. “Slavery, Race and Ideology in the United States of America.” New Left Review Ltd 1, no. 181 (May). Flock, Elizabeth. 2012. “Trayvon Martin ‘Million Hoodie March’: A Short History of the Hoodie.” The Washington Post, March 22. blogpost/post/trayvon-martin-million-hoodie-march-a-short-history-of-thehoodie/2012/03/22/gIQAeGCnTS_blog.html. Goffman, Erving. 1974. Frame Analysis: An Essay on Organization of Experience. New York, NY: Harper Collins & Row. Greenberg, Karen J, and Joshua L Dratel. 2005. The Torture Papers: The Road to Abu Ghraib. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP. Hall, Stuart. 1996. “Cultural Studies and the Politics of Internalization.” In Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies. Edited by David Morley and Kuan-Hsing Chen. London, UK: Routledge. Julien, Issac and Kobena Mercer. 1996. “De Margin and De Centre.” In Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies. Edited by David Morley and Kuan-Hsing Chen. London, UK: Routledge. Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 05-184. (U.S. Supreme Court, 2006). Jensen, Anne Ferguson. 1991. India: Its Culture and People. New York, NY: Longman Publishing Group. Ketchum, Richard M. 1973. “Men of the Revolution: 9. Israel Putnam.” American Heritage 24, no. 4 (June). King Jr., Martin Luther. 1968. “I Have a Dream.” ivebeentothemountaintop.htm. Knox, Robert. 2000. “Races of Man.” In Theories of Race and Racism: A Reader. Edited by Solomos Back. London, UK: Routledge.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


Laustsen, Carsten Bagge. 2008. “The Camera as a Weapon: On Abu Ghraib and Related Matters.” Journal for Cultural Research 12, no. 2 (April): 123–42. Lee, Spike, dir. 1989. Do the Right Thing. Universal City, CA: Universal Pictures. Marion, Jean-Luc. 2004. The Crossing of the Visible. Translated by James K. A. Smith. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1968. The Visible and the Invisible. Edited by Claude Lefort. Evanston, Il: Northwestern UP. Morris, Errol. 2011. Seeing Is Believing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography. New York, NY: Penguin. Morris, Errol. 2007. “Will the Real Hooded Man Please Stand Up.” The New York Times, August 12. Morrison, Toni. 1992. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP. Moura, Gabriel. 2014. “The Kuleshov Effect: Creating Meaning with Editing.” Elements of Cinema: A Student’s Guide to the Fundementatls of Filmmkaking (blog). http://www. Painter, Nell Irvin. 2010. The History of White People. New York, NY: W.W. Norton. Pilgrim, David. 2014. “Brown Paper Bag Test – February 2014.” Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia. Ranciere, Jacques. 2009. The Intolerable Image. Translated by George Elliott. New York, NY: Verso. Sala-Molins, Louis. Le Code noir, ou, Le calvaire de Canaan. Paris, FR: Presse universitaires de France, 1987. Selassie, Emperor Haile. 2019. “U.N. GAOR, 18th Sess., 1229th Plen. Mtg., U.N. Doc A/56/PV.1229_E.” (December 10). Slatman, Jenny. 2001. “Tele-Vision: Between Blind Trust and Perceptual Faith.” In Religion and Media. Edited by Hent de Vries and Samuel Weber. Standford, CA: Standford UP. Sundar Singh, Cyrus. 2000. “Chino-Amer-Indo-Jam-African-Dread.” In The Toronto Review of Contemporary Writing Abroad, Volume 19, Number 1. Edited by M. G. Vassanji. Toronto, ON: Toronto South Asian Review.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


Sundar Singh, Cyrus. 2014. “I AM NASAA.” In Filling in the Blanks: Essays on Art, Media and Culture. Edited by Michelle Clarke. Toronto, ON: Ryerson University. Sindar Singh, Cyrus. 2009. “What Tribe Are You From.” In Building Pyramids. Toronto, ON: Cyrus Sundar Singh. Tedeneke, Alem. 2016. “The Black Lives Matter Movement Explained.” World Economic Forum, August 11. Wang, Grace. 2010. “A Shot at Half Exposure: Asian Americans in Reality TV Shows.” Television and New Media 11, no. 5: 404-427. 0363482 Weinstein, Adam. 2012. “Trayvon Shooter’s 911 Calls: Potholes, Piles of Trash—and Black Men.” MotherJones, March 22. Westfall, Richard S. 1962. “The Development of Newton’s Theory of Color.” Isis 53, no. 3: 339–58. Winant, Howard. 2000. “The Theoretical Status of the Concept of Race.” In Theories of Race and Racism. Edited by Les Back and John Solomos. London, UK: Routledge, 2000. Winthrop, D. Jordan. 2000. “First Impressions.” In Theories of Race and Racism. Edited by Les Back and John Solomos. London, UK: Routledge. Zernike, Kate. 2006. “Cited as Symbol of Abu Ghraib, Man Admits He Is Not in Photo.” The New York Times, March 18. cited-as-symbol-of-abu-ghraib-man-admits-he-is-not-in.html.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


Educatio Praedictivus? Une philosophie pragmatiste de l’éducation à l’aune du tournant pragmatique en neurosciences cognitives Jean-Philippe Meehan, Étudiant de deuxième cycle (UQAM)

L’attention, l’engagement actif, le retour sur erreur et la consolidation sont les quatre piliers de l’apprentissage que le chercheur en neurosciences cognitives Stanislas Dehaene (2018) met au fondement de l’apprentissage dans son récent ouvrage Apprendre! Dans le chapitre consacré à l’engagement actif, Deheane se dissocie de la conception pragmatiste de l’éducation offerte par John Dewey en faisant de lui l’héritier d’une forme de pédagogie formulée par Jean-Jacques Rousseau, soit un certain constructivisme ou encore une « pédagogie de la découverte ». Or, les deux sont-ils si incompatibles? L’approche de Dewey, et plus généralement l’approche pragmatiste, ne peut-elle pas rendre compte des quatre piliers de l’apprentissage ? À la frontière entre la philosophie des sciences et des neurosciences cognitives ainsi que la philosophie de l’éducation, nous voulons montrer dans cet article qu’il n’y a pas lieu d’opposer les quatre piliers de l’apprentissage à la philosophie pragmatiste de l’éducation : le pragmatisme classique peut non seulement rendre compte des quatre piliers, mais peut également servir de fondement philosophique aux neurosciences cognitives et à l’éducation pour venir éclairer, expliquer et enrichir les piliers en question. Il se produit actuellement un tournant pragmatique en sciences et en neurosciences cognitives, notamment lorsqu’elles prennent en compte le rôle du corps et des interactions environnementales dans la cognition (on les qualifiera alors d’« incarnées » et d’« énactives ») (Varela et al. 1991; Clark 1997) et également lorsque celles-ci sont jointes à la théorie prédictive du fonctionnement du cerveau qui fait de lui une machine probabiliste de prédiction constamment active (Friston 2010; Clark 2016). Dans ce contexte, la perception, l’action et la cognition sont unies à l’intérieur d’un même mécanisme, et nous voulons faire voir

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


que le pragmatisme classique appuyé par cette forme de sciences cognitives soutient parfaitement les quatre piliers de l’apprentissage. Après avoir fait un rapide survol des quatre piliers de l’apprentissage, nous présenterons le pragmatisme en éducation et son émergence contemporaine en sciences cognitives notamment avec les approches incarnées de la cognition et les architectures prédictives. Ceci nous permettra d’expliquer comment ces théories pragmatistes en sciences cognitives rendent compte des piliers présentés précédemment. Nous conclurons la discussion en faisant ressortir quelques conséquences pratiques auxquelles mènent les piliers de l’apprentissage soutenus par les théories pragmatistes en ce qui concerne l’apprentissage, l’enseignement et l’éducation plus généralement. §1 – Les quatre piliers de l’apprentissage Le premier pilier de l’apprentissage étudié par Dehaene (2018) est l’attention dont quelques fonctions sont : « éveil et alerte, sélection et distraction, orientation et filtrage » (209). Pour Deheane, l’attention est « l’ensemble des mécanismes par lesquels notre cerveau sélectionne une information, l’amplifie, la canalise et l’approfondit » (209). Avec le bombardement d’informations venant du monde extérieur, il faut nécessairement que le cerveau puisse faire une certaine sélection, il faut qu’il arrive à distinguer l’information pertinente de l’information non nécessaire. Ce processus est essentiel à l’apprentissage : lorsque l’attention n’est pas bien dirigée, l’apprentissage devient particulièrement difficile, voire impossible. En éducation, il s’agit là de quelque chose de primordial. Il faut que les personnes enseignantes soient en mesure de faire plus attention à l’attention (212). Des élèves qui ne sont pas attentifs sont des élèves qui n’apprennent pas. Dehaene, en s’inspirant de Michael Posner, sépare le processus de l’attention en trois systèmes : (1) l’alerte, probablement le système le plus ancien dans l’évolution dicte quand il faut faire attention ; (2) l’orientation, c’est-à-dire l’attention sélective, ce sur quoi l’on doit porter attention ; et (3) le contrôle exécutif, c’est-à-dire comment l’information sélectionnée est traitée. Ces trois systèmes sont importants pour un apprentissage digne de ce nom. L’engagement actif est le deuxième pilier présenté par Dehaene. Les études montrent qu’un organisme passif n’apprend que très peu, voire pas du tout. Pour apprendre, on doit s’engager dans le processus d’apprentissage : « Apprendre efficacement, c’est refuser la passivité, s’engager, explorer, générer activement des hypothèses » (Dehaene 2018, 243). Généralement, dans la littérature, l’apprentissage actif fait référence à tout ce qui s’approche du travail en groupe.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


Plusieurs méthodes vont en ce sens. Parmi elles, on retrouve les périodes d’étude et de discussion en groupe (Cicuto et Torres 2016). Il y a aussi ce que Kathy Ruhl et son équipe nomment la procédure de la pause (Ruhl et al. 1987) qui consiste à faire des pauses de quelques minutes pour que les étudiants comparent leurs notes et clarifient les concepts. Enfin, il y a aussi la méthode de la coopération (Johnson et al. 1998) où un groupe doit coopérer pour arriver à un but d’apprentissage commun. Les revues de la littérature montrent que ces méthodes se révèlent plus efficaces que les méthodes passives (Prince 2004 ; Falconer 2016; Freeman et al. 2014). On peut aussi ajouter à tout ceci le test. Récupérer l’information en mémoire activement permet un meilleur apprentissage, une meilleure rétention et permet de contrer le phénomène d’oubli. Les études montrent que la relecture ne donne pratiquement aucun avantage : ce qui importe, c’est de travailler à aller récupérer l’information en mémoire (Roediger et Karpicke 2006; Karpicke et Roediger 2008). Le test améliore la rétention à long terme. C’est ce que les auteurs Brown, Rodieger et McDaniel (2016) ont nommé le Testing Effect. Il peut s’agir là d’une manière de forcer les personnes apprenantes à s’engager avec la matière. Pour Dehaene (2018), « apprentissage » rime avec « erreur ». Son troisième pilier, le retour sur erreur, dicte que lorsqu’on se trompe, on se trouve devant une opportunité d’apprentissage : « il est pratiquement impossible de progresser si l’on ne commence pas par échouer » (266). Évidemment, l’erreur doit être accompagnée de rétroaction. Les recherches de Lisa Feigenson (Stahl et Feigenson 2015; 2017) sur le rôle de la surprise sont pertinentes ici. En effet, on a remarqué que l’apprentissage était meilleur lorsque des enfants percevaient des événements qui violaient leurs attentes. Stahl et Feigenson (2017) ont testé l’apprentissage de nouveaux mots lors d’événement entièrement probable, et lors d’événements improbables. Lors d’événements surprenants, les enfants ont mieux appris les mots. Il y a des conséquences cognitives à voir ces événements qui vont contre l’attente. On remarque que cette surprise aide et augmente l’apprentissage. Ceci peut nous pousser à réfléchir au rôle plus général de l’erreur elle-même dans l’apprentissage. C’est exactement ce que fait Janet Metcalfe (2017) dans son article Learning from Errors. La psychologue passe en revue une série d’articles qui montrent que, dans plusieurs circonstances, l’erreur n’est pas à éviter, contrairement à ce que l’on croit normalement. Elle est bénéfique à l’apprentissage. La génération d’erreurs suivie d’une rétroaction et d’une correction mène à un meilleur apprentissage. Les gens retiennent mieux une information lorsqu’ils ont

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


préalablement commis une erreur. D’ailleurs, une bonne manière de générer de l’erreur et de se corriger est la pratique du test dont nous venons de parler. Ces trois piliers ne sont pas suffisants pour un apprentissage réussi. Pour que l’apprentissage soit complet, il faut que le contenu appris soit en quelque sorte automatisé, presque rendu inconscient. Il s’agit là du quatrième pilier que nous présente Stanislas Dehaene (2018) : la consolidation, soit de « passer d’un traitement lent, conscient, avec effort, à un fonctionnement rapide, inconscient, automatique » (293). Ceci est important pour justement libérer des ressources cognitives. Par exemple, une personne qui apprend à lire aura son attention entièrement prise sur le processus de déchiffrage. Une fois cet apprentissage consolidé, automatisé, elle pourra utiliser son attention pour autre chose : « Consolider un apprentissage, c’est rendre les ressources du cerveau disponibles pour d’autres objectifs » (295). Le sommeil jouerait un rôle clé dans le processus de consolidation : le cerveau réactiverait les événements importants qui se sont produits durant la journée (Horikawa et al. 2013) pour les réencoder de manière plus efficace pour améliorer et consolider les apprentissages (Karni et al. 1994). Le sommeil serait même à l’origine de découvertes ou d’astuces que l’on ne voit pas sur le coup devant un problème lors de la journée (Wagner et al. 2004). Remarquons enfin qu’il y a également un lien étroit entre un sommeil suffisant et le premier pilier, l’attention (Kirszenblat et van Swinderen 2015) : le sommeil est un élément clé pour la consolidation et l’attention, donc pour l’apprentissage. Voilà donc pour cette brève présentation des piliers. Mentionnons finalement que, selon Dehaene, lorsque l’on parle d’engager les personnes apprenantes, il ne s’agit pas de les laisser découvrir par elles-mêmes ce qui est à apprendre. Il se dissocie ainsi de ce qu’il nomme le constructivisme et la pédagogie de la découverte : « l’idée que l’enfant doit être attentif, actif, engagé, acteur de son propre apprentissage [...] ne doit pas être confondue avec le constructivisme ou les pédagogies de la découverte — une vision généreuse, séduisante, mais dont l’inefficacité a été cent fois démontrée » (Dehaene 2018, 247). Selon lui, il y aurait à la base de ce genre de pédagogie un amas d’idées qui remonteraient à Jean-Jacques Rousseau et qui nous seraient parvenues plus particulièrement par certaines personnes pédagogues, dont John Dewey. Or, nous croyons que Dewey et le pragmatisme peuvent nous éclairer concernant les piliers et l’éducation. Et c’est ce que nous allons tâcher de faire voir dans ce qui suit.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


§2 – Le pragmatisme et le tournant pragmatique en sciences cognitives Le pragmatisme est un mouvement philosophique américain qui est apparu vers la fin du 19e siècle. On y associe normalement des auteurs comme William James, Charles Sanders Peirce, John Dewey et George Herbert Mead qui s’opposaient au cartésianisme et plus généralement au rationalisme. Pour James, par exemple, dans son classique ouvrage Pragmatism, le pragmatisme n’est pas une doctrine comme telle, mais plutôt une attitude d’orientation, un certain tempérament, une méthode : « La méthode pragmatique est avant tout une méthode de résolution des débats métaphysiques qui sans cela seraient interminables. » Elle « vise à interpréter chaque notion en fonction de ses conséquences pratiques » (James 2010, 100-1). Peirce (1992), avant James, nous disait en ce sens dans How to Make Our Ideas Clear que la pensée avait pour but de guider l’action, de produire des habitudes d’action et qu’ainsi la signification d’une idée se trouvait dans ses conséquences pratiques. Tous les pragmatistes ont mis l’accent sur le « concret », la « pratique », « l’utilité », « l’action ». Et bien que le pragmatisme ne soit pas une doctrine bien définie avec des partisans qui soutiendraient exactement les mêmes thèses, on peut tout de même soulever quelques idées centrales de celui-ci pertinentes pour le propos de cet article en s’inspirant de Gallagher (2014), Menary (2015) et Williams (2018). Une de ces idées est qu’il y a primauté de la pratique et de l’action dans la cognition. En ce sens, on devrait comprendre les pensées et le langage comme des outils pratiques qui facilitent et guident l’action. Comme nous l’avons dit, Charles Peirce (1992) a argumenté que l’on devrait examiner la nature des pensées en ce qu’elles changent dans le comportement humain, et sa maxime pragmatique reliait la signification des concepts à leurs effets pratiques. John Dewey (2008b) va dans le même sens : « les conceptions, les théories et les systèmes de pensée sont […] des outils. Comme tous les outils, leur valeur se trouve non pas en eux-mêmes, mais dans ce que leur utilisation permet de faire i » (163). Dans son célèbre article de 1896, The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology, Dewey (1896) argue que c’est le corps qui détermine la nature de ce qui est expérimenté, que la perception commence par « l’acte » de voir et non par une simple « sensation » : « et la sensation et le mouvement se situent à l’intérieur et non à l’extérieur de l’acteii » (358-9). En lien direct avec l’importance de l’action, on peut faire ressortir l’idée qu’il y a un lien intime entre l’organisme et son environnement. Pour tout ce qui concerne les fonctions biologiques, comme la cognition et l’apprentissage, l’organisme et l’environnement ne sont pas

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


deux entités que l’on peut clairement séparer. Ils sont toujours ensemble dans une relation dynamique de transactions. Un organisme n’existe pas sans environnement et un environnement est ce qu’il est en conjonction avec l’organisme particulier qui le définit : « Dans la véritable expérience, il n’y a jamais une telle chose qu’un objet ou événement isolé; un objet ou un événement est toujours une partie, une phase ou un aspect particulier d’un monde expérimentéiii » (Dewey 2008b, 72). Ni l’environnement ni l’organisme ne devraient se concevoir séparément parce qu’ils sont interdépendants et se définissent l’un par l’autre. D’ailleurs, la nature même de l’organisme est importante dans la construction qu’il fait de sa propre réalité subjective : « l’organisme — le soi, le “sujet” de l’action — est un facteur à l’intérieur de l’expérience et non pas quelque chose à l’extérieur de l’expérience iv » (Dewey 2008d, 17). Ceci se met en opposition avec un dualisme qui suppose que le contenu de l’esprit reflète le monde de manière isolée. William James (2010), dans le même sens, disait que notre statut d’être humain, de créature particulière, teint de manière étroite notre relation au monde : « Une réalité “indépendante” de la pensée humaine semble donc chose bien difficile à trouver. [...] Si je peux risquer une telle comparaison, on pourrait dire que chaque fois qu’on la rencontre, elle a déjà été maquillée » (250-1). Pour Dewey, la connaissance du monde se traduit par une réponse adaptative aux circonstances environnementales selon les besoins et les buts de l’agent : un processus continu dans lequel le sujet moule et construit l’environnement qu’il habite. L’environnement perçu est ainsi ce que nous nommerions aujourd’hui un monde d’affordances (Gibson 1979). En ce sens, l’être humain est un produit d’un réseau complexe de circonstances biologiques et socioculturelles et fait une contribution active à la construction de son propre monde expérimenté. John Dewey mettait justement l’accent sur l’expérience et l’environnement en éducation où l’action est primordiale pour changer ou reconstruire à l’aide de l’enquête ce qu’il nommait une situation. Chaque expérience est en partie construite de ce que l’on a vécu et modifiera les expériences futures. Il faut donc miser sur des expériences favorables aux personnes apprenantes, en stimulant la curiosité, les initiatives et en suscitant des buts précis. Pour une personne enseignante, il s’agit d’utiliser sa propre expérience pour en donner d’autres qui favorisent ceci. Ainsi, la personne enseignante demeure primordiale en tant que guide, qui donne, à partir de son propre vécu, des expériences pertinentes à l’apprentissage (il ne s’agit donc pas de « pédagogie de la découverte »). Plus particulièrement, elle devrait être en mesure d’utiliser l’environnement

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


autant physique que social pour en extraire le maximum d’éléments pouvant contribuer à développer des expériences de valeur (Dewey 2008c, 22). L’expérience étant toujours interaction avec l’environnement (il y a toujours continuité et interaction dans l’expérience), il faut être en mesure de sélectionner le bon environnement dans lequel les interactions ont lieu, car l’environnement peut tout aussi bien nuire à l’éducation d’une personne. De plus, étant naturellement sociables, les êtres humains peuvent fonder une sorte de vie communautaire éducative sur ce penchant naturel, le tout encadré d’une certaine ligne directrice établie par la personne enseignante : « lorsque l’éducation est fondée sur l’expérience et l’expérience éducative sur un processus social [...], la personne enseignante perd sa position de “patronne” ou de “dictatrice” et prend aussitôt celle de directrice d’un groupe d’activitésv » (Dewey 2008c, 37). Ces « thèmes » pragmatistes commencent à émerger aujourd’hui dans le milieu des sciences cognitives. On y observe un certain changement de paradigme concernant la manière dont on conçoit l’esprit. On remarque ce que certains ont nommé un « tournant pragmatique » (Engel et al. 2013). Les sciences cognitives traditionnelles ont hérité leur cadre conceptuel et théorique d’une conception de l’esprit venant de l’époque moderne qui concevait l’esprit d’une manière intellectualiste. C’est de cette manière que le cognitivisme (computationnalisme) voyait l’esprit, soit comme un programme abstrait implémenté dans le cerveau et gouverné par les lois de la logique formelle. Pour cette première génération en sciences cognitives, la cognition était un processus interne de computation, en quelque sorte un algorithme indépendant du matériel dans lequel il est implémenté. Bien qu’il ait partiellement porté ses fruits et stimulé d’importantes recherches, ce paradigme a aussi reçu maintes critiques à propos de son incapacité à offrir une description viable et empiriquement valable de la nature de la cognition, de l’expérience humaine en générale (Varela et al. 1991; Clark 1997). C’est pour remédier aux limites de cette approche que celles de la cognition dites « incarnées » et « énactives » ont été introduites. Ces dernières conçoivent les processus cognitifs comme étroitement liés à l’action. En effet, la cognition advient dans (et avec) le corps qui, lui, est en constante interaction avec le monde. Ainsi, la cognition n’est pas une série de processus qui ont lieu exclusivement dans la tête. La boucle cognitive entre l’organisme et son environnement est tellement importante que si l’on veut étudier la nature de l’activité cognitive, le cerveau isolé n’est pas la seule unité d’explication à prendre en compte. La cognition advient dans la chaîne complète qui lie le cerveau, le corps et le monde. Elle est une forme de pratique et sa fonction est de guider

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


l’action et non pas de bien représenter le monde. On retrace souvent l’origine de la cognition incarnée et énactive dans la phénoménologie et pratiquement jamais dans le pragmatisme classique. D’ailleurs, l’entrée « Embodied Cognition » de l’encyclopédie Stanford de philosophie ne fait mention à aucun endroit du mot « pragmatisme », tandis qu’il y a une section complète consacrée à la phénoménologie (Wilson et Foglia 2017). Or, plusieurs thèmes de l’énactivisme se retrouvent dans le pragmatisme tel que présenté plus haut, et plusieurs aujourd’hui commencent à relever cette origine (Gallagher 2014; Menary 2015; Anderson 2017; Williams 2018). Les idées de la deuxième génération en sciences cognitives peuvent trouver leur source dans le pragmatisme classique en philosophie, et il en va de même avec une théorie émergente en neuroscience du fonctionnement du cerveau. Cette théorie se met en opposition avec l’approche traditionnelle de la perception qui conçoit le cerveau comme un organe traitant l’information sensorielle de manière ascendante, des traits les plus élémentaires aux plus abstraits. Cette manière de concevoir la perception (voir par exemple Biederman 1987), comme une « reconstruction » des stimuli ou comme une détection progressive, étape par étape, de traits (majoritairement) du bas vers le haut de la hiérarchie fait du cerveau un engin plutôt passif qui reçoit les stimuli sensoriels, les traite, leur donne un sens, et engendre ensuite une « réponse ». Le paradigme du traitement prédictif (TP) (Clark 2013; 2016 ; Hohwy 2013; Friston 2010) renverse en quelque sorte cette vision et fait du cerveau une machine probabiliste de prédiction constamment active. Selon cette théorie, le cerveau cherche sans relâche à prédire et à anticiper le flux de signaux venant du monde, il tâche sans cesse d’« expliquer » les causes (c’est-à-dire expliquer les objets et états du monde) qui se cachent derrière les effets (c’està-dire derrière les entrées sensorielles). D’une certaine manière, ce que nous dit le TP est que notre perception est influencée par nos « croyances », par nos connaissances antérieures, elle est enrichie de nos expériences passées. Le cerveau doit trouver ce que « veulent dire » les nombreuses stimulations diverses reçues du monde extérieur : il doit inférer la cause des entrées, et c’est sur la base de ses expériences passées et étant donné le contexte du moment qu’il s’y affaire. Ce dont nous avons conscience subjectivement est le résultat d’inférences du cerveau  et ces inférences prennent la forme de prédictions (sur la base d’a priori) concernant les causes cachées de l’entrée (inférées de manière abductive). Le signal descendant cherche à prédire le signal ascendant, et la différence entre les

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


deux est renvoyée dans le système sous forme d’erreur de prédiction pour la mise à jour des modèles génératifs, tâchant ainsi dans le long terme de minimiser l’erreur de prédiction. Il n’est peut-être pas clair à première vue en quoi le TP est compatible avec le pragmatisme (Williams 2018). Il est ainsi important de remarquer qu’il y a deux façons de minimiser l’erreur : via l’inférence perceptuelle et via l’inférence active. La première consiste à changer de modèle pour le faire correspondre à l’entrée, tandis que la deuxième consiste à changer l’entrée sensorielle pour la faire correspondre à la prédiction (ou pour la tester, l’examiner) en agissant dans le monde, en échantillonnant l’environnement. Soulignons qu’il ne faut pas voir ces deux manières de réduire l’erreur comme étant fondamentalement distinctes, mais plutôt comme un même processus constant où les deux s’entrelacent et se supportent mutuellement afin de minimiser l’erreur de prédiction. En fait, le TP du tournant pragmatique va même plus loin et stipule que l’inférence active est primaire dans le processus ; l’inférence perceptuelle ne devenant alors qu’une façon de la réaliser. On cherche à prédire la prochaine entrée activement en échantillonnant le monde et en revoyant les modèles génératifs dans une danse constante des signaux descendants et ascendants : « L’action, la cognition, et la perception sont ainsi continuellement co-construites, simultanément ancrées dans la cascade de prédictions qui constituent, testent, et maintiennent notre prise sur le mondevi » (Clark 2016, 138). Contrairement à sa version internaliste cartésienne (Hohwhy 2013; Kiefer et Hohwy 2017), le TP du tournant pragmatique soutient que la fonction de la minimisation de l’erreur de prédiction n’est pas de permettre au cerveau de produire une copie — un miroir interne — de l’environnement ambiant. Le pragmatisme s’oppose à ce genre de vision de l’activité cognitive et le TP pragmatique également (Anderson 2017; Bruineberg et al. 2016, Clark 2016; Williams 2018). La minimisation de l’erreur de prédiction se trouve à être un cas particulier d’un impératif plus fondamental : la capacité de s’auto-organiser et de maintenir l’homéostasie dans des contextes environnementaux changeants ; c’est ce que l’on nomme le principe de l’énergie libre (Friston 2010). La minimisation de l’erreur de prédiction est la solution à un problème fondamentalement pragmatique et non à un problème représentationnel. Le problème que résout la minimisation de l’erreur de prédiction est celui de la régulation homéostatique—assurer les ressources pour les systèmes physiologiques d’un organisme, pour qu’il puisse grandir, survivre et se reproduire, ce qui, encore une fois, était une idée au fondement de la tradition pragmatiste.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


Le tournant pragmatique en neurosciences cognitives peut trouver son fondement dans le pragmatisme classique. Stanislas Dehaene, lorsqu’il en est question, semble soutenir une vision cartésienne du TP. En effet, il semble laisser de côté l’importance primordiale de l’action, de l’interaction fondamentale entre l’organisme et le monde en parlant du cerveau comme un organe de représentation, un « scientifique en herbe ». Or, nous avons vu que la fonction du cerveau n’est pas de donner une image véridique de l’environnement, mais bien de maintenir l’homéostasie : le cerveau n’est pas un scientifique (Bruineberg et al. 2018). Il nous reste maintenant à voir, à l’aune du tournant pragmatique, comment les quatre piliers de l’apprentissage peuvent s’articuler autour du pragmatisme en neurosciences cognitives. §3 – Educatio Praedictivus Nous avons vu que l’erreur et la rétroaction fréquente et rapide sont essentielles à l’apprentissage. En considérant le tournant pragmatique actuel en neurosciences cognitives, cela fait tout à fait sens. En effet, selon le TP, les prédictions descendantes (du haut niveau vers le bas) rencontrent les signaux ascendants venant du monde, et la différence entre les deux (l’erreur de prédiction) est renvoyée vers le haut sous forme de signal d’erreur utilisé par le système pour mettre son modèle génératif à jour, c’est-à-dire pour « apprendre ». Le retour d’information fréquent et rapide prend tout son sens dans ce système. Il est néanmoins important ici de clarifier une chose, car d’un côté il y a l’erreur vécue du point de vue subjectif (l’erreur au sens psychologique) et l’erreur de prédiction qui n’est pas (toujours) consciente. En parlant d’erreur de prédiction, on pourrait inférer que l’erreur (vécu subjectivement) est toujours nécessaire à l’apprentissage. Or, il est important de distinguer les deux. Nous avons vu, avec Janet Metcalfe, que commettre des erreurs pouvait bien être bénéfique. Toutefois, cela ne veut pas dire qu’en donnant de bonnes réponses, on n’apprend nécessairement rien. Il est rare en effet que la réponse (bonne ou mauvaise) nous arrive toute faite dans la conscience, lorsqu’il y a un tel genre de réponses. On utilise du papier, du crayon, on « griffonne », on réfléchit, on fait un plan, etc. Pendant tout ce processus qui lie intimement attention et action, pendant ce « bouclage » avec l’environnement, le signal monte et descend dans la hiérarchie : il y a génération d’erreurs. Il peut y avoir erreur de prédiction même quand on donne de bonnes réponses (dont nous sommes rarement absolument De cette manière, la rétroaction va amener de l’information pertinente, car il y aura tout de même une certaine différence entre le signal prédit et entrant. On voit également le lien intime entre action et erreur.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


En s’engageant avec la matière, en testant nos modèles, on génère de l’erreur qui met à jour le système. L’action, l’attention et l’erreur sont intimement liées dans l’apprentissage. Ensuite, nous avons vu que c’est entre autres lors du sommeil, en rejouant les événements importants et en les recodant de manière plus efficace, que le cerveau réussit à consolider ce qu’il a appris durant la journée. Ceci signifie que, contrairement à l’éveil, les modèles génératifs du cerveau ne sont plus sujets à différents tests d’hypothèses. Ils peuvent néanmoins être affinés et simplifiés dans le but d’être améliorés. Et lorsque nous dormons, c’est bel et bien ce qu’il se passerait. Le cerveau ferait de « l’émondage synaptique » dans le but d’améliorer et de consolider les connaissances incluses dans le modèle génératif en les rendant plus puissantes et plus généralisables (Clark 2016, 101). De la même manière, Hobson et Friston (2012) remarquent qu’à l’éveil, les prédictions doivent rendre compte des entrées sensorielles d’une manière précise, mais sans expliquer trop de détail ou de bruit sensoriel. Un bon modèle est un modèle qui rend compte du plus grand nombre de données avec un minimum de complexité, non pas dans le but de représenter de manière véridique tous les détails du monde, mais dans le but de maintenir l’homéostasie et de favoriser les inférences futures (généralisation) tout en ne surapprenant pas (overfitting). C’est ce que le cerveau s’efforcerait de faire la nuit : « la complexité peut être supprimée en enlevant les connexions synaptiques redondantes et peut procéder en l’absence de données sensorielles pendant le sommeilvii » (Hobson et Friston 2012, 89). C’est ce que les auteurs nomment la sélection de modèles post hoc. Durant l’éveil, le cerveau construit de bons modèles du monde dans le but d’avoir une meilleure prise sur l’environnement et dans le but de servir l’action. Toutefois, ces modèles sont simplement trop complexes. C’est la nuit que le cerveau effectue l’émondage qui serait à la base de la consolidation. Dans le TP, le premier pilier dont fait mention Stanislas Dehaene, l’attention, ne serait nulle autre que le processus par lequel un organisme augmente le gain sur les unités d’erreur de prédiction. Cette pondération de l’erreur a justement pour but de donner l’information sensorielle la plus fiable possible selon le contexte dans lequel l’organisme en question se trouve (selon la tâche, selon la menace, selon l’opportunité, etc.) pour lui permettre d’agir et de façonner son environnement (Clark 2016, 59-60). Jakob Hohwy (2013) remarque que l’erreur de prédiction est dépendante de l’état (state-dependent), c’est-à-dire que certains états (par exemple, une journée brumeuse) sont associés avec plus de bruit. Ce genre de patterns peut être appris pour prédire le bruit qu’il y aura dans le signal, et donc pour déterminer le gain de l’erreur de prédiction. Le

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


système doit ainsi non seulement faire des prédictions sur l’entrée sensorielle, mais doit également « représenter » la précision attendue à propos des erreurs de prédiction. Le système utilise ses a priori non seulement pour chercher à prédire le prochain signal, mais également pour fixer la précision de l’erreur de prédiction, soit le gain des unités d’erreur d’où vient l’attention. De plus, le fait d’augmenter le poids de certaines unités d’erreur doit faire baisser le poids des autres. Ceci tend à expliquer de manière très simple le phénomène de la cécité attentionnelle (Simon et Chabris 1999). Lorsque la précision attendue est élevée dans une région et que le gain des unités d’erreur concernées est augmenté, le seuil pour percevoir quelque chose dans les autres régions est plus haut qu’à la normale, ce qui fait en sorte que la probabilité qu’on le perçoive est minime. En gros, on peut dire que l’attention est un moyen par lequel un poids plus grand est accordé aux réponses d’unités d’erreur, les rendant plus aptes à propulser l’apprentissage et l’action (Clark 2016, 57). Perception, action et attention (et par le fait même « erreur ») sont intimement liées et se supportent elles-mêmes dans l’apprentissage, ce qui nous amène au dernier pilier qui nous reste à explorer : l’engagement actif. Selon le tournant pragmatique, la cognition est un flux continuel qui passe du monde au corps pour retourner dans le monde via l’action. Il y a une boucle action-perception avec laquelle le corps finit par avoir une meilleure prise sur son environnement. De cette manière, l’action et l’engagement sont une partie constituante de la cognition et sont primordiaux à l’apprentissage. Il en va de même du point de vue du TP pragmatique. L’action et la perception forment une boucle continue. Nous l’avons vu, la fonction du cerveau n’est pas de bien représenter le monde, mais de maintenir l’homéostasie. Les personnes apprenantes doivent tester leur modèle génératif en s’engageant activement (avec attention) dans la matière à apprendre, en forçant des prédictions descendantes et en générant ainsi des erreurs de prédictions qui mettront le modèle à jour. Il y a primauté de l’action dans la cognition, et on l’a vu précédemment, à l’intérieur du TP, le moyen principal de minimiser l’erreur est de changer l’entrée sensorielle en agissant dans le monde, en changeant de perspective, afin qu’elle s’accorde avec le modèle génératif actuel. Ainsi, plus le système accumulera de données en s’engageant activement, plus les prédictions seront adéquates, plus l’erreur sera minimisée, plus l’organisme aura « appris ». Les neurosciences cognitives pragmatiques ne font pas de distinction entre action/cognition/perception, et l’apprentissage advient dans ces trois « moments ». Ceci pourrait bien entrainer des conséquences pour

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


l’apprentissage et l’éducation. Nous nous proposons d’en examiner quelques-unes de manière sommaire pour terminer. Une des conséquences évidentes est celle de devoir revoir les méthodes d’enseignement telles que pratiquées aujourd’hui dans les différents niveaux du système d’éducation. Dans la mesure où la cognition n’est pas désincarnée, si elle advient dans un corps qui agit dans le monde, alors on doit corriger le tir. En effet, si le but de l’enseignement est de faire en sorte que les personnes qui sortent des cours aient réellement appris quelque chose dont elles se souviendront et se serviront, alors le cours magistral traditionnel ne semble pas être adéquat. Le TP pragmatique nous donne une justification solide pour l’engagement actif. L’action, étant au cœur de la cognition, doit être au fondement d’un apprentissage réussi. Avoir quelques périodes de discussion, des ateliers où les gens travaillent ensemble à résoudre un problème ou à comprendre les différents concepts enseignés semble porter fruit dans le processus d’apprentissage et devraient donc être pris en considération dans l’élaboration du cours. Ce genre de travail en groupe semble même augmenter la motivation de la classe (Cicuto et Torres 2016). En ce sens, John Dewey voyait juste lorsqu’il arguait que l’on devait prendre l’environnement en compte et faire en sorte que les personnes apprenantes s’engagent et aient des expériences pertinentes pour l’apprentissage avec lesquelles elles en bâtiront d’autres. Une autre conséquence est celle suivant laquelle il faut revoir la manière dont nous voyons l’évaluation. Au lieu de voir le test comme un outil pour mesurer le niveau des étudiants, on pourrait et devrait s’en servir comme outil d’apprentissage. En effet, la récupération active renforce la mémoire. Récupérer l’information en mémoire activement permet de contrer le processus d’oubli. Pour apprendre, pour que le modèle puisse se mettre à jour, il est nécessaire de s’activer, d’agir, de générer des prédictions qui, elles, généreront de l’erreur. Il y a plusieurs façons d’implémenter l’effet du test en classe. On peut tester, par exemple, les personnes étudiantes avec une courte évaluation au début et à la fin de chaque cours, et faire également une évaluation de révision 24 heures avant chaque examen, ou encore leur demander d’écrire dans leur mot un passage lu en classe. Contrairement à ce que l’on pourrait croire, les tests fréquents réduisent l’anxiété des élèves face aux examens et leur donnent l’impression de mieux apprendre (Agarwal et al. 2014; McDaniel et al. 2011). On peut aussi penser que ceci permet de réduire l’absentéisme et l’inattention, et permet à la personne enseignante de savoir où en est l’apprentissage des élèves, de voir ce qui est compris de ce qui ne l’est pas, et d’ajuster son cours en conséquence.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


Par ailleurs, l’erreur étant primordiale à l’apprentissage, il faut réussir à la dédramatiser. On ne doit pas la percevoir négativement. Comme le remarque Dehaene lui-même, une rétroaction est importante pour corriger le tir, mais un retour sur erreur ne doit pas être l’équivalent d’une punition. La manière dont on donne la rétroaction a de l’importance, elle ne devrait pas être teintée de mépris ou de réprimande. On devrait même prendre le temps d’expliquer que l’erreur est non seulement normale, mais bénéfique à l’apprentissage. Enfin, on pourrait aussi enseigner les bonnes habitudes de vie, en particulier l’importance du sommeil dans l’apprentissage, notamment pour l’attention et la consolidation (et aussi ajuster l’école aux heures naturelles de sommeil des adolescents). Les personnes apprenantes pourraient comprendre pourquoi il n’est pas bénéfique d’étudier toute la matière le matin même de l’examen. Des séries d’études (sous forme de test) espacées avec des périodes de sommeil sont une stratégie beaucoup plus gagnante pour un apprentissage plus profond et plus durable. Pour terminer, remarquons que les écoles alternatives représentent assez bien le modèle de pédagogie vers lequel semblent mener les neurosciences cognitives inspirées par le pragmatisme. En effet, dans ce genre d’école, l’environnement est construit de manière à ce que les personnes apprenantes puissent bouger, puissent mieux communiquer entre elles : on mise sur la créativité, l’innovation et la coopération. Dans ces classes, les personnes apprenantes ne sont pas assises à un pupitre où elles écoutent une personne enseignante parler. Elles sont placées en groupe autour de tables rondes dans une classe où l’environnement stimulant leur permet de se déplacer, d’aller chercher ce dont ils ont besoin, d’interagir avec le matériel disposé un peu partout, avec le personnel enseignant et les autres élèves. Les personnes apprenantes apprennent tout aussi bien (sinon mieux) les objectifs du programme, mais elles vont beaucoup plus loin. Les personnes apprenantes mènent à bien un « projet ». Elles sont guidées et aidées par le personnel enseignant et par des parents bénévoles tout au long du projet, du choix du sujet jusqu’à l’élaboration concrète et la présentation. On promeut des valeurs démocratiques, écologiques et pacifiques afin de tâcher de changer les choses au niveau environnemental et d’assurer un avenir plus certain et plus viable par la participation active dans la communauté. Bref, en identifiant les éléments corporels, environnementaux et culturels les plus pertinents, on peut et doit construire des expériences permettant un meilleur apprentissage plus profond et plus durable, et ce, non seulement pour les besoins du marché du travail, mais également pour la personne elle-même, ce qui pourrait bien,

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


comme le pensait Dewey, permettre de construire une communauté éducative menant à une meilleure vie démocratique (Dewey 2008a, 2008c).

Conclusion Nous avons tâché de montrer que, contrairement à ce que le neuroscientifique Stanislas Dehaene semble soutenir, le pragmatisme et les neurosciences cognitives du tournant pragmatique pouvaient rendre adéquatement compte des quatre piliers que Dehaene met à la base de l’apprentissage. Nous avons enfin tenté d’explorer quelques conséquences qui pouvaient en découler concernant l’apprentissage, l’enseignement et l’éducation plus généralement. Le lien entre le pragmatisme et les neurosciences cognitives commence à peine à émerger. Il y a encore beaucoup à approfondir pour en constater toute l’étendue. Les neurosciences cognitives et la philosophie de l’éducation pourraient bien trouver comme fondement un paradigme commun, dépassant ainsi le tournant pragmatique actuel pour un tournant résolument « pragmatiste ».

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


Notes Conceptions, theories and system of thought… are tools. As in the case of all tools their value resides not in themselves but in their capacity to work shown in the consequences of their use. i


Both sensation and movement lie inside, not outside the act.

In actual experience, there is never any such isolated singular object or event; an object or event is always a special part, phase, or aspect, of an environing experienced world. iii


The organism - the self, the “subject” of action - is a factor within experience and not something outside of it.

When education is based upon experience and educative experience is seen to be a social process, [...] The teacher loses the position of external boss or dictator but takes on that of leader of group activities. v

Action, cognition, and perception are thus continuously co-constructed, simultaneously rooted in the cascad-ing predictions that constitute, test, and maintain our grip upon the world. vi

Complexity can be suppressed by removing redundant synaptic connections and can proceed in the absence of sensory data during sleep. vii

Références bibliographiques Agarwal, P. K., D. Laura, H.L. Roediger, M.B. Kathleen, and M.A. McDaniel. 2014. « Classroom-based programs of retrieval practice reduce middle school and high school students’ test anxiety.” Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition 3, no. 3: 131-139. Anderson, M. 2017. “Of Bayes and Bullets : An Embodied , Situated, Targeting-based account of Predictive Processing.” In Philosophy and Predictive Processing: MIND group. Edited by Metzinger and Wiese. Biederman, I. 1987. “Recognition-by-components: A theory of human image understanding.” Psychological Review 94: 115-147. Brown, P., H. Roediger, and M. McDaniel. 2014. Make it stick: The science of successful learning. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard UP. Bruineberg, J., J. Kiverstein, and E. Rietveld. 2018. “The anticipating brain is not a scientist: The free-energy principle from an ecological-enactive perspective.” Synthese 195, no. 6: 24172444. Cicuto, C. A. T. and B. B. Torres. 2016. “Implementing an Active Learning Environment to Influence Students' Motivation in Biochemistry.” Journal of Chemical Education 93, no. 6: 1020-1026. Clark, A. 1997. Being there putting brain, body, and world together again. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


Clark, A. 2016. Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action, and the Embodied Mind, Oxford, UK: Oxford UP. Dehaene, S. 2018. Apprendre ! Les talents du cerveau, le défi des machines. Paris, FR: Odile Jacob. Dewey, J. 1896. “The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology.” Psychological Review 3, no. 1: 357– 370. Dewey, J. 1916/2008a. The Middle Works Vol 9: Democracy and Education. Edited by J. A. Boydston. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP. Dewey, J. 1920/2008b. The Middle Works Vol 12: Essays, Miscellany, and Reconstruction in Philosophy.” Edited by J. A. Boydston. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP. Dewey, J. 1938/2008c. The Later Works Vol 13: Experience and Education, Freedom and Culture, Theory of Valuation, and Essays. Edited by J. A. Boydston. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP. Dewey, J. 1939-41/2008d. The Later Works Vol 14: Essays, Reviews, and Miscellany. Edited by J. A. Boydston. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP. Engel, A.K., A. Maye, M. Kurthen, and P. König. 2013. “Where’s the action? The pragmatic turn in cognitive science.” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 17, no. 5: 202–209. Falconer, J. L. 2016. “Why not try active learning?” AIChE Journal 62, no. 12: 4174-4181. Freeman, S., 2014. “Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111, no. 23: 8410-5. Friston, K. 2010. “The Free-Energy Principle: A Unified Brain Theory?” Nature Reviews Neuroscience 11, no. 2: 127-138. Gallagher, S. 2014. “Pragmatic Interventions into Enactive and Extended Conceptions of Cognition.” Philosophical Issues 24, no. 1: 110-126. Gibson, J. J. 1979. The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. Hobson, J. A. and K. J. Friston. 2012. “Waking and dreaming consciousness: Neurobiological and functional considerations.” Progress in Neurobiology 98, no. 1: 82-98. Hohwy, J. 2013. The Predictive Mind. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP. Horikawa, T., M. Tamaki, Y. Miyawaki, and Y. Kamitani. (2013). “Neural Decoding of Visual Imagery During Sleep.” Science, New Series 340, no. 6132 : 639-642. James, W. 2010. Le pragmatisme. Translated by Nathalie Ferron. Paris, FR: Flammarion. Johnson, D. W., R. T. Johnson, and K. A. Smith. 1998. “Cooperative Learning Returns To College What Evidence Is There That It Works?” Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning 30, no. 4: 26-35.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


Karni, A., D. Tanne, B. S. Rubenstein, and D. Sagi. 1994. “Dependence on REM Sleep of Overnight Improvement of a Perceptual Skill.” Science 265, no. 5172: 679-682. Karpicke, J. D. and H. L. Roediger. 2008. “The Critical Importance of Retrieval for Learning.” Science 319, no. 5865: 966-8. Kiefer, A. and J. Hohwy. 2018. “Content and misrepresentation in hierarchical generative models.” Synthese 195, no. 6: 2387-2415. Kirszenblat, L. and B. Van Swinderen. 2015. “The Yin and Yang of Sleep and Attention.” Trends in Neurosciences 38, no. 12: 776-786. McDaniel, M. A., P. K. Agarwal, B. J. Huelser, K. B. Mcdermott, and H. L. Roediger. 2011. “Test-Enhanced Learning in a Middle School Science Classroom: The Effects of Quiz Frequency and Placement.” Journal of Educational Psychology 103, no. 2: 399-414. Menary, R. 2015. “Pragmatism and the pragmatic turn in cognitive science.” In The Pragmatic Turn: Toward Action-oriented Views in Cognitive Science. Edited by A. Engel, K. Friston, and D. Kragic. London, UK: MIT Press. 215-235. Metcalfe, J. 2017. “Learning from Errors.” Annual Review of Psychology 68, no. 1: 465-489. Prince, M. 2004. “Does Active Learning Work? A Review of the Research.” Journal of Engineering Education 93, no. 3: 223-231. Roediger, H. and J. Karpicke. 2006. “Test-Enhanced Learning: Taking Memory Tests Improves Long-Term Retention.” Psychological Science 17, no. 3: 249-255. Ruhl, K., C. A. Hughes, and P. J. Schloss. 1987. “Using the Pause Procedure to Enhance Lecture Recall.” Teacher Education and Special Education 10, no. 1: 14-18. Stahl, A. E. and L. Feigenson. 2015. “Cognitive development. Observing the unexpected enhances infants' learning and exploration.” Science 348, no. 6230: 91-94. Stahl, A. E. and L. Feigenson. 2017. “Expectancy violations promote learning in young children.” Cognition 163: 1-14. Varela, F., E. Thompson, and E. Rosch. 1991. The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Wagner, U., S. Gais, H. Haider, R. Verleger, and J. Born. 2004. “Sleep inspires insight.” Nature 427, no. 6972: 352-355. Williams, D. 2018. “Pragmatism and the predictive mind.” Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 17, no.5: 835-859. Wilson, R. A. and L. Foglia. 2017. “Embodied Cognition.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


Bergson, Deleuze on Innovative Memory Yulia Hoffmann, Graduate Student (McGill University)

Pure past […] invents no less than it remembers. (Deleuze 1994, 287)

That memory not only contributes to but also conditions our freedom and creativity is one of the central theses of Henri Bergson’s philosophy. This essay seeks to elucidate the question: by virtue of what and on what conditions can memory or an act of remembering produce an innovative effect? To answer it, I will investigate two aspects in the work of memory as they are construed by Bergson. The first is inherent to memory and concerns its structure, in particular, its element of “pure” recollection, described by Bergson in Matter and Memory. The other aspect is an effort employed in the process of recollection. In his later essay “Intellectual Effort” Bergson develops a conception of an effort that is common for a variety of mental acts such as remembering, comprehending, interpreting, and inventing. I will start with an outline of Bergson’s theory of memory and explain the mechanism of voluntary recollection and its creative potentiality. In the second part I will turn to Gilles Deleuze who explores a particular case of involuntary memory in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. Even though Deleuze holds that memories play an insignificant role in art, his analysis of involuntary memory in Proust’s famous novel reveals affinities between such recollection and art creation and is generally a remarkable supplement to Bergson’s theory of memory. In the last section I argue that the most crucial condition for the inventive performance of memory is the presence of intellectual effort as defined by Bergson. In doing so, I present an alternative interpretation of his notion of pure memory by equating it with intellectual effort, in the sense that the psychological existence of pure memory is inseparable from it. Although my reading is rather unconventional, it is supported by a considerable number of claims in Bergson’s works. I do not reject the more familiar metaphysical interpretation of the pure past as the element of time subsisting in itself, I rather propose to consider pure memory from the point of view of the

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


mind that interacts with it. Finally, I will employ Bergson’s conception of intellectual effort to make a better sense of some innovative aspects of both voluntary and involuntary kinds of recollection. §1 – Pure Memory and its Actualization in a Voluntary Recollection In Matter and Memory Bergson develops a highly original theory of memory. He rejects the habitual understanding of memory as an assembly of mental images of one’s past. According to his hypothesis, recollections or memory-images are not stored in the mind as ready-made. That is, they do not pre-exist a concrete effort of recollection but are gradually developed in accordance with that effort from the pre-visual, unconscious, or virtual element of memory, what he calls pure memory. Hence, these images are the end result of the process of recollection, something already akin to a perception. This process is then sketched out as follows: Whenever we are trying to recover a recollection, to call up some period of our history, we become conscious of an act sui generis by which we detach ourselves from the present in order to replace ourselves, first in the past in general, then in a certain region of the past—a work of adjustment, something like the focusing of a camera. But our recollection still remains virtual; we simply prepare ourselves to receive it by adopting the appropriate attitude. Little by little it comes into view like a condensing cloud; from the virtual state it passes into the actual; and as its outlines become more distinct and its surface takes on colour, it tends to imitate perception. (Bergson 2005, 134) The important distinction that Bergson makes in regard to the mechanism and structure of memory is the virtual/actual distinction. Actuality is generally ascribed to any mental state in the present, be it an image in external perception or a representation in recollection. Virtuality on the other hand refers to the past or “pure” memory. What is this pure memory exactly? Bergson (1975c) notes that it “can only be described in a vague manner and in metaphoric terms” (165). The reason for this lies in the impossibility of a direct representation of pure memory. Pure memory is, as such, unconscious. Bergson maintains that when a recollection, summoned by the needs of the present, enters the domain of consciousness—in other words, once it is realized in an image—the resulting image no longer belongs to the pure past but is a part of the present. Pure memory on the other hand remains virtual, without any connection to the present state (2005, 141).

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


Bergson uses his famous metaphor of the inverted cone to describe the structure of memory. The largest plane at the top of the cone contains the history of the whole of one’s past with all the details and affective coloring. All the other planes (Bergson talks about thousands of possible planes) are contracted or diminished versions of this history, hence, containing recollections that are less detailed and less personal, until, at the end point, they shrink to the extent where they only include useful details, required by the demands of the present (Bergson 2005, 241). The planes realize different ways of recalling the same event. How can we remember yesterday, for example? As Bergson (1975c) explains: “According to the point of view in which I am placed, or the center of interest which I choose, I divide yesterday differently, discovering several very different series of situations or states in it. Though these divisions are not all equally artificial, not one existed in itself, because the unrolling of psychical life is continuous” (159). Every plane contains a different version of the story as it is configured by a unique set of prominent elements and their relations. The plane is thus a function of two variables: of the demands of the present situation which determine the dominant components of the plane, but also of the degree of mental effort engaged in the recollection: “The choice [of a plane] depends on the ever varying degree of the tension of memory, which, according to its tendency to insert itself in the present act or to withdraw from it, transposes itself as a whole from one key into another” (Bergson 2005, 241). An effort determines an amount of detail in a summoned recollection, that is, a degree of the contraction or expansion of the plane. In this sense, a plane is also an expression of the tonality of mental disposition, in accordance with which a called up recollection will either actualize one of the top levels of the inverted cone or a plane nearer to its bottom. In the former case the recollection will have a personal, authentic character; in the latter, it will be actualized in a diminished state and, hence, as “less dreamed, more impersonal, and more capable of moulding itself—like a ready-made garment—upon the new character of the present situation” (241). To use Bergson’s example, a word heard in a foreign language may make one “think of that language in general or of a voice which once pronounced it in a certain way” (169). We cannot explain the emergence of these two different associations without attributing them to two distinct mental dispositions or degrees of tension in the act of remembering.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


The intensity of the effort in recollection also distinguishes what Bergson calls an “attentive” from an “inattentive” or “automatic” recognition. In inattentive recognition memory functions as a bodily habit and is immediately acted out upon receiving a sensual stimulation. A perception of grass causes in the cow the same reaction. A question elicits an automatic response. Memory here is manifested in an immediate motor reaction. Attentive recognition, on the other hand, involves calling forth memory-images, which takes time. In this case a perception is not immediately followed by action. While we focus on the perceived object in an attempt to evoke memories linked to it, our motor reaction is suspended. Automatic recognition, according to Bergson, produces a pre-determined action, since it is entirely derived from the perception which precedes it (the immediate past). On the other hand, the memory of a higher degree of tension in attentive recognition summons images which stem from the deeper strata of the consciousness, a deeper end of the total memory, and which are essentially unpredictable. Both memories repeat the past, but the former, in Deleuze’s (1994) words, is a “superficial repetition of the identical and instantaneous external elements,” whereas the latter is a “profound repetition of the internal totalities of an always variable past” (287). Memory-images in attentive recognition bring a difference already on the level of perception. Bergson holds that with each recollection a perceived object is created anew, as its actual image is overlapped with more and more personal details from the past (2005, 116). But, to a certain degree, this is true of all perception, not just in attentive recognition. Generally speaking, there is no perception without the participation of memory, since, as Bergson argues, objects in perception are not given to us as complete but are supplemented by recollections.i We start with a partial perception, and the rest is filled in with memory-images. Bergson’s example of reading is instructive in this regard. While reading, he writes, our mind notes here and there a few characteristic lines and fills all the intervals with memory images which, projected on the paper, take the place of the real printed characters and may be mistaken for them. Thus we are constantly creating or reconstructing. Our distinct perception is really comparable to a closed circle in which the perception-image, going towards the mind, and the memory-image, launched into space, career the one behind the other. (103) This means that already in automatic (non-attentive) recognition memories perform a constructive function. But here memory images merely duplicate the objects of perception; they do not enrich

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


perception with supplementary details from the past as in attentive recognition. In other words, recollections in inattentive recognition are not the same as recollections in attentive recognition. We are not even aware of the work of memory in the first case, whereas in the second case we make a conscious effort in recalling memories. Those memories that are brought back from the depths of the past are, once again, unpredictable, due to the uniqueness of each past. This unpredictability attests to our freedom, according to Bergson. More specifically, freedom lies in the choice implied in the process of decision making: since memories instruct our actions, we choose those memories that, as we believe, respond better to our needs. The greater is our hold on the past, the more extensive is the choice of possible solutions. However, “choose” is not quite the right word. We do not choose but, rather, create memories, as they are cut out of the continuous totality of our past, rid of unnecessary details, reconstructed in the light of actual necessities. We do not control the output of recollection, but we do determine with what degree of intensity to carry out our effort, we “choose the level,” as Deleuze puts it. Or, to quote Bergson: “The variations in the intensity of our consciousness seem to correspond [...] to the more or less considerable sum of choice or, […] to the amount of creation which our conduct requires […] If consciousness means memory and anticipation, it is because it is synonymous with choice” (Bergson 1975b, 15). This choice implies, as Deleuze points out, that each present state of our mental life continues the whole of our past “but at a different level or degree to the preceding, since all levels and degrees coexist and present themselves for our choice...” (Deleuze 1994, 83). Of course, there are limits to the innovate capability inherent in the voluntary use of memory. The choice of a recollection is normally guided by the principle of utility for the imminent action, and the actualized memory-image already reaches us in a reduced form, adapted to the requirements of the present: “Each of these complete representations of the past brings to the light of consciousness only that which can fit into the sensori-motor state, and consequently that which resembles the present perception from the point of view of the action to be accomplished” (Bergson 2005, 168). This is also true of attentive recognition in which “it is the image most similar to the present perception that will be actualized” (96). Thus, the rest of the wealth of the pure past remains in the dark. Is there a way to recover it? And, if yes, can it boost our creativity? It was Deleuze who raised the question: how can we

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


save the pure past which is preserved in itself for ourselves? (Deleuze 1994, 84). Bergson, as Deleuze maintains, only discovered the existence of the pure past, but never inquired whether and how the truly forgotten past, the one that is never useful and never summoned, can be saved for us. According to Deleuze, we can find an answer to this question in Proust and his conception of involuntary memory (2000, 58-59). However, I believe that we can find an explanation in Bergson himself, although this solution requires a different interpretation of his notion of pure memory, namely, as an equivalent to intellectual effort. I will present my interpretation in the final section of the paper. In what follows, I lay out Deleuze’s understanding of involuntary memory as a direct representation of pure past. §2 – Deleuze’s Study of Involuntary Memory in Proust What is involuntary memory? In the first volume of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time the narrator describes his reminiscence of the town of Combray, invoked by the taste of a madeleine. The circumstances of such recollection are extremely important, as it is summoned by a precise bodily sensation. Bergson comments on the role of the circumstances in recollection when he talks about spontaneous memories. Is spontaneous recollection the same as involuntary recollection? Let us consider what Bergson says about the former. According to him, spontaneous recollection actualizes images from the “plane of dream,” that is, from the biggest plane of memory which contains all the details of our past life, whereas the actualization happens on two occasions: personal recollections, exactly localized, the series of which represents the course of our past existence, make up, all together, the last and largest enclosure of our memory. Essentially fugitive, they become materialized only by chance, either when an accidentally precise determination of our bodily-attitude attracts them, or when the very indetermination of that attitude leaves a clear field to the caprices of their manifestation. (Bergson 2005, 106) Most of Bergson’s examples demonstrate the second case, namely, the spontaneous emergence of vivid recollections due to the detachment from the present or to some disturbance in the sensorimotor equilibrium of the nervous system (155). Thus, these images can emerge in dreams and daydreaming, but also in the event of near-death experience where an extreme “disinterestedness” in the present brings forth a vision of the whole of one’s past.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


The question is whether for Bergson such spontaneous recollection-images are true representations of pure past. Some passages suggest that this is the case. Bergson (2005) writes, for example: But, if almost the whole of our past is hidden from us because it is inhibited by the necessities of present action, it will find strength to cross the threshold of consciousness in all cases where we renounce the interests of effective action to replace ourselves, so to speak, in the life of dreams. Sleep, natural or artificial, brings about an indifference of just this kind […] Now the exaltation of the memory in certain dreams and in certain somnambulistic states is well known. Memories which we believed abolished then reappear with striking completeness; we live over again, in all their detail, forgotten scenes of childhood; we speak languages which we no longer even remember to have learnt. But there is nothing more instructive in this regard than what happens in cases of sudden suffocation, in men drowned or hanged. The man, when brought to life again, states that he saw, in a very short time, all the forgotten events of his life passing before him with great rapidity, with their smallest circumstances and in the very order in which they occurred. (155) However, Bergson’s views in this regard are inconsistent. On the one hand, “pure” implies: original, personal. In this sense, “pure images” are images from the biggest plane of memory, which, at the same time, are original representations of one’s past. On the other hand, Bergson (1975c) insists that “pure” means: “virtual,” that is, “not yet translated into distinct images” (188). This may imply that even spontaneous memory-images distort pure memory or, in any case, are different from it. Pure memory is not an equivalent of the biggest plane of the cone with all the details from the past but, rather, it comprises all the virtual planes in their coexistence. If this is so, then spontaneous memory does not help us approach the pure past. What about involuntary memory which, according to Deleuze, is a fragment of pure past itself? As Deleuze (1994) writes, “The taste […] envelops Combray as it is in itself, as a fragment of the pure past, in its double irreducibility to the present that it has been (perception) and to the present present in which it might reappear or be reconstituted (voluntary memory)” (122). Deleuze describes pure memory in involuntary recollection rather negatively. First, he claims that such recollection does not represent the original experience in the past. In other words, it is not identical to the former present. Second, the past summoned by involuntary recollection is also distinct from the past that any voluntary recollection could deliver; hence, it is not adjusted to the needs of the

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


present moment.ii Contrary to these two representations, the pure recollection of Combray emerges as it has never been experienced: not as an image but as an idea, not as belonging to a particular past moment, but as Combray in general, in its “essence.” Involuntary memory is a very special kind of recollection. It appears by virtue of the similarity of two moments in the present and the past (having tea with a madeleine) and the identity of two sensations (the taste of a madeleine in the past and the present). At first sight, recollection takes place by the association of contiguity: a memory of the town of Combray turns up as a background of the former sensation. But as Deleuze points out, and, certainly, this would be Bergson’s objection too, that in association two objects are external to each other, and the relation of contiguity does not yet explain exactly why the first object refers to the other and not yet to another object. If the narrator had recalled Combray by will, then it would also remain “external to the madeleine, as the separable context of the past sensation” (Deleuze 2000, 59-60). In fact, the relation between the two is internal; Combray is implicated in the taste of the madeleine because in the depth of the virtual past they form an indivisible unity. When the narrator finally succeeds at recalling what the taste of the madeleine reminds him of, a series of images streams into his consciousness: the breakfasts in his aunt’s room, her house, the garden, the streets and the houses of the town, and the entirety of Combray with its surroundings, “from morning to night and in all weathers…” (Proust 2013, 54). Deleuze holds that involuntary memory is akin to art. For one thing, it is “the analogue of metaphor:” one object (the madeleine) stands for another (Combray) (Deleuze 2000, 60). In this sense, involuntary recollection is certainly more creative than recognition, for it does not recognize but, first and foremost, interprets. If remembering and creating are analogous, Deleuze explains, it is because both are “two aspects of [the] same production—‘interpreting,’ ‘deciphering,’ and ‘translating’ being here the process of production itself […] All production starts from the impression [...], from the sign and supposes the depth and darkness of the Involuntary” (147). Involuntary memory is akin to art also because it enables one to create (actualize) a world out of an impression. But in what sense is the world of the remembered Combray new? I believe there can be different responses and that we can define several levels of its novelty. First, it is Combray in a virtual state, its pure recollection before it becomes materialized in memory-images. As such it is already experienced: as a vague but strong impression, and, above all, as “an exquisite pleasure,” an “all-powerful joy” (the cause of which still remains hidden from the narrator): in

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


other words, as it “has never been experienced before.” Second, the new is also the actualized version of the pure recollection: the totality of all the images of Combray as they appear in the mind of the narrator. I will come back to this point later in the discussion of the idea of the new as a whole in Bergson. But this world of Combray is still only in the mind, it is only lived and not yet existing autonomously as a piece of art. So, this is finally the third sense in which Combray is new: the memory of Combray as it is represented in the novel. Of course, more than just memory is required here: the talent of an artist possessing an ability to transpose the recollection into the medium of words (images or sounds), as well as an ability to create a “spiritual equivalent” out of the still all too material recollection. “This is precisely the originality of Proustian reminiscence,” Deleuze writes, “it proceeds from a mood, from a state of soul, and from its associative chains, to a creative or transcendent viewpoint…” (Deleuze 2000, 110). Deleuze (2000) stresses that involuntary memory is only analogous but not equal to art, and that “art in its essence […] is not based upon involuntary memory” (55). This memory can only emerge from given sensual signs, impressions, resonances, whereas art also produces these. Nevertheless, involuntary memory can have a positive role which is to “open a new path” in thinking, to mobilize creative thought (91). Deleuze describes a chain of mental faculties activated by a sensual sign, in which recollection constitutes the first link. A sensual sign does not only evoke reminiscences, but also forces one to think and seek an interpretation whereas in recognition, as Deleuze points out, objects do not force us to think (100). In the following section I will take up the example of involuntary memory once again to analyze it, this time, with the help of Bergson’s conception of intellectual effort. Deleuze did not consider the role of effort in the narrator’s recollection of Combray, but Proust clearly described it as a search, that is, a specific effort. I will argue that Bergson’s conception of intellectual effort, present in the recollection of memories and other activities of the mind, can help us understand better the creative nature of memory generally, be it voluntary or involuntary memory. I will also attempt to show, in disagreement with Deleuze, that we can indeed find clues in Bergson about the possibility of experiencing pure memory. However, my claim stems from a divergent reading of Bergson’s notion of pure past. In what follows I start with a brief outline of Deleuze’s commentary on the notion of pure memory and explain how my reading is different.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


§3 – Pure Recollection and Intellectual Effort In a footnote in Bergsonism, Deleuze (1991) mentions that both Bergson and Proust “acknowledge a kind of pure past, a being in itself of the past” (126, Fn. 16). According to Proust, “this being in itself can be lived, experienced by a virtue of a coincidence between two instants of time,” whereas for Bergson, Deleuze writes, pure past is not “a domain of the lived…; we only experience a recollection image” (126). I disagree with Deleuze on this point. The reason for disagreement lies in the ambiguity of Bergson’s position. It is true that generally Bergson (2005) maintains that sensation belongs to the order of the actual, that pure recollection refers to memory which is free “from all admixture of sensation” (140-141). Pure memory, as he puts it, does not interest any part of the body. On the other hand, in “Intellectual Effort” Bergson describes an effort of recalling an image which starts with an impression or a feeling. I will discuss what this feeling implies below. Certainly, Bergson refers to different kinds of sensation: a sensation of a ready image in the first case and a vague or nascent sensation of a virtual recollection, in the second. On another occasion Bergson also notes that pure recollections can suggest a sensation (1975c, 161). In any case, even if an impression is not quite a physical sensation, it is a kind of experience. Another divergent point from Deleuze concerns the notion of pure memory. Let us recall an important passage by Bergson (2005) quoted at the beginning of this paper: Whenever we are trying to recover a recollection, to call up some period of our history, we become conscious of an act sui generis by which we detach ourselves from the present in order to replace ourselves, first in the past in general, then in a certain region of the past—a work of adjustment, something like the focusing of a camera. But our recollection still remains virtual; we simply prepare ourselves to receive it by adopting the appropriate attitude. Little by little it comes into view like a condensing cloud; from the virtual state it passes into the actual; and as its outlines become more distinct and its surface takes on colour, it tends to imitate perception. (134) When Deleuze talks about pure memory he predominantly refers to it as the past in general. The past in general is for him first and foremost an ontological, not a psychological reality. What upholds Deleuze’s view, among other claims by Bergson, is the thesis about the coexistence of the past and the present. Bergson maintains that a moment in time does not become past after it has been present but is already past at the same time as it is present (1975c, 157-158). Further, what is coexistent with each present moment is not only the same moment as being past, but the whole of

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


the past. The past does not follow the present but preexists it. Whereas the present merely passes, the past is. This leads Deleuze to conclude that it is the past that has a true being for Bergson, the past which exists in itself in its entirety and independently from its recollection in a consciousness. As Deleuze (1991) writes, there is a ‘past in general’ that is not the particular past of a particular present but that is like an ontological element, a past that is eternal and for all time, the condition of the ‘passage’ of every particular present. It is the past in general that makes possible all pasts. According to Bergson, we first put ourselves back into the past in general: He describes in this way the leap into ontology… It is a case of leaving psychology altogether. It is a case of an immemorial or ontological Memory. (56-7) It is this eternal past, not a particular or psychological past that he is inquiring about when he asks: how can we save the pure past for ourselves? We saw his answer in the previous section. Involuntary memory delivers fragments of pure past as it is in itself, without admixture with the psychological present: that is to say, without reconstituting it from the view point of the interests of the present and without reconstituting it with a former present perception. However, this is not the only possible interpretation. I propose an alternative reading of pure memory by equating it with an effort of remembering. This definition refers to the psychological, not ontological, existence of pure past. Ontologically speaking, pure past subsists in itself, it is “immovable,” but for us, it exists in the movement of the act of recollection. Roughly, where there is no effort of remembering, where recollection-images occur spontaneously, there is no pure memory involved (for us), then we did not spend any time, so to say, in the virtual past. In this case, we experience an already formed memory-image akin to perception and, thus, remain on the actual plane, without making a plunge into pure recollection. And, conversely, where there is a difficulty or even a failure to call forth a particular recollection, this failure opens up for us the pure past, giving us an opportunity to “experience” the virtual (as it was the case with the recollection of Combray), even though all we can experience at this point is a sense of the effort, pursuing a vague impression. Bergson often speaks about pure memory in dynamic terms, claiming that it is inseparable from a becoming of an image and from the movement of the mind. On one occasion Bergson (2005) calls pure memory an “intention” to retrieve a recollection (130), which implies a certain intensity in the state of the mind or its effort. However, in Matter and Memory he does not fully

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


lay out the implications of the effort of remembering. A more detailed account of it is presented in his later essay “Intellectual Effort.” There Bergson describes such effort as a movement between mental planes, from one of the virtual planes of consciousness to its actual materialization, from an idea to an image, from the abstract to the concrete. As such, this effort is present in various kinds of mental acts such as remembering, comprehension, interpreting, and invention. A lack of effort would mean to remain on the same plane, to move horizontally between images.iii An effort, on the other hand, is a vertical movement from a virtual idea to a realized image. Is virtual memory also an idea? Indeed, Bergson ascribes to it an ideal existence. He writes, for example: “The past is only idea” (Bergson 2005, 68); “pure recollections summoned from the depths of memory” are “ideas” (125). In “Intellectual Effort” he introduces a new term, that of dynamic scheme which stands for an ideaiv and which he then defines as follows: the mental scheme […] consists in an expectation of images, in an intellectual attitude intended sometimes to prepare the advent of one definite image, as in the case of memory, sometimes to organize a more or less prolonged play among the images capable of inserting themselves in it, as in the case of creative imagination. The scheme is tentatively what the image is decisively. It presents in terms of becoming, dynamically, what the images give us statically as already made. Present and acting in the work of calling up images, it draws back and disappears behind the images once evoked, its work being then accomplished. (1975c, 228) A dynamic scheme or an idea is a pure recollection. It has the same characteristics as the latter and it is opposed to memory-image in the same way as a pure recollection is. As Leonard Lawlor (2020) pointedly describes, “schema (and its synonyms) are dynamic and open (to change), immaterial, and in the process of being done. Memory-images, however, are static and closed (immutable), materialistic, and already done” (72). When Bergson (1975c) defines an idea as abstract, this does not imply that it is a general term acting as a genus to more concrete terms; it is not an idea “of what all the images taken together mean” (200). Rather, it is made up of heterogeneous elements in reciprocal penetration: “Analyze your effort when you find difficulty in evoking a simple memory. You start with an idea in which you feel there are very different dynamical elements implied in one another. This reciprocal implication, and consequent internal complication, is […] the essence of the schematic idea…” (200). And then: “It is as complete as the image will be when called up, but it contains, in

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


the state of reciprocal implication, what the image will evolve into parts external to one another” (199). An idea is more of an impression or even a feeling, than a concept. As Bergson (1975c) notes, the scheme already has “its particular color and tone” (202).v We can speculate whether an idea or a scheme is also an equivalent to what Bergson earlier called a level within the cone of memory or a plane of consciousness. Although each plane is still virtual, it has an individuating determination: its dominant memories with some implicated relations. We see this in the recollection of Combray which started with a distinct impression and resulted in a series of images. Even if the narrator in the Search did not know what he was trying to remember, the idea and the impression of that mysterious object were virtually there, as well as some suggestive clues. As Bergson points out, it is not always necessary to go from the whole (virtual idea) to the parts (distinct images) but also possible to move from a part to the whole (from the madeleine to Combray), only in order to attain more completed images in the result (213). There is yet another important description that defines virtual idea, or its raison d’être. According to Deleuze (1994), “The virtual possesses the reality of a task to be performed or a problem to be solved: it is the problem which orients, conditions and engenders solutions...” (212). Bergson (1975c) also maintains that “to create imaginatively is to solve a problem” (211). The same condition holds in the case of recollection: memory can function creatively only when it responds to a problem. In automatic recognition and daydreaming there is no problem posed and no effort employed; the work of memory here is not inventive. On the other hand, voluntary recollection can be creative if it responds to a problem and is forced to search for a suitable level of pure past. Same with involuntary recollection which is a problem in itself, urging one to rediscover what has been lost. In both cases, it is a problem that forces one to remember and to think; and in both cases remembering and thinking do not begin with images but result in them. It is telling that what Bergson contrasts with mechanical memory, which merely repeats the same reactions, is what he calls an “intellectual memory” (189), memory that recalls images but also thinks. It starts with thinking and goes back and forth between thinking and recollection. Due to this dynamism of the work of recollection its final product receives a character of novelty and Let us return now to the question of the “new.” What exactly is new in a recollection? What is new in the recollection of Combray, its representation in a series of images? Bergson was

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


interested in the problem of novelty and creation just as much, if not more, than the question of memory. What he repeatedly emphasizes is that the new cannot be a mere reconfiguration of the old, a reshuffling of preexisting parts.vii But is this not the case with memory which utilizes old elements in a new configuration? We can find a clue to this problem in Bergson’s discussion of the new as a whole in “Intellectual Effort.” There Bergson describes the task of learning a new dance: the waltz. What is new in this dance is not its separate elementary movements all of which have been used somewhere else before (in walking, for instance), but its total movement, that is, the particular relations or connections between those movements. If all we did was piece together pre-given isolated movements, the result could hardly be considered innovative or even aesthetic. But, according to Bergson, a genuine creation of the new does not start with ready movements or images. It starts with an idea of the new whole: a total movement which is then filled in with existing elements: There is, then, on the one hand, the schematic idea of the total movement which is new, and, on the other hand, the kinaesthetic images of some old movements, identical or analogous to the elementary movements into which the total movement has been analysed. Learning the waltz consists in getting from these different kinaesthetic images, already old, a new systematization which will allow all of them together to be inserted in the scheme. (Bergson 1975c, 218) By analogy, what is new in the narrator’s memory of Combray, then, is the totality of the images and their connections which make up the new whole: the pure past of Combray as it has never been experienced. Whereas each of those images is an embodiment of its virtual counterpart, entangled with one another in the idea of Combray, all making up the virtual indivisible unity of this idea. That is to say, that none of the materialized recollection-images merely stem from a preceding image by external association. The last point is important: there is always a danger that an image which actualizes a virtual element would effortlessly draw other preexisting images. Because we are not used to dancing the waltz, some movement can slip into the old habitual movement of walking. That is why Bergson underscores that interruption and delay are often needed in order to return to the scheme, to repeat it and find a fitting movement. Sometimes, as he points out, it is necessary to modify the scheme (Bergson 1975c, 220). The scheme, in other words, is not some kind of transcendent unchangeable entity; it is dynamic in many senses of this word.viii What an interruption hinders is the horizontal

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


movement between ready images. Thus, memory continuously needs the interference of reflection, or the vertical movement which goes back and forth between ideas and their material counterparts.

Summary and Conclusion Drawing from Bergson, in this paper I identify both intrinsic and extrinsic features that pertain to or explain the innovative performance of memory. The intrinsic feature is found in the structure and the very mode of being of memory, more precisely, in its element of pure past—the original discovery of Bergson—which is distinct from recalled memory-images. It is due to the mode of being of pure memory as a virtual coexistence of multiple levels or planes which correspond to so many ways of evoking the past, that our actions assume various degrees of unpredictability and ingenuity. One of the extrinsic aspects is a “problem” to which a recollection delivers an original solution. That is, a problem is what summons a memory. A problem is usually but not necessarily related to utility. It connects memory with the present (and vice versa). Without this necessary connection with the present, a recollection remains a mere dream. The other extrinsic aspect is the “effort” which makes the journey from pure memory to its actualization by means of the composition of a dynamic scheme to which the resulting image will correspond. More precisely, this effort pursues the original impression and attempts to discern in it suggestive elements and their relations which are then represented in their actualized counterparts, images or movements. The result and the success of the act of recollection really depends on the effort and, however paradoxically it may sound, on the effort to prolong this effort (by extending the level or modifying the scheme). I also draw on Deleuze’s excellent study of involuntary memory which complements Bergson. Deleuze demonstrates the value of involuntary memory as being a kind of recollection that enables access to the uncharted realm of the pure past, the “surplus of memory,” as Alia AlSaji (2005) accurately describes it, which remains beyond any utilization of memory in “recollection, recognition and representation” (225). In his analysis of Proust, Deleuze brings up interesting similarities between involuntary recollection and an act of artistic creation and reflects on the role memory can play in the latter. However, I disagree with Deleuze’s view that Bergson’s theory does not allow for a possibility of a direct experience of pure memory. As I demonstrate in the last part of my essay,

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


an intellectual recollection, the one which starts with ideas and transposes them into images, represents a movement that traverses the virtual past. Indeed, I suggest that pure recollection is this movement itself. Certainly, my interpretation of pure memory is very different from the one of Deleuze but they are not contradictory. Whereas Deleuze accentuates the ontological nature of pure memory, I focus on its “psychological” side: how this memory is approachable for us. Thus, it is a matter of a different accentuation rather than a formal contradiction. Whereas Deleuze thought of pure past as the past in general, I construe the pure past in terms of the planes, ideas, or schemes. The planes are still virtual; they belong to pure memory but are created by the mind. Strictly speaking, they are not yet “psychological,” since they pre-exist actualization. Hence, I argue, Bergson has an answer to Deleuze’s question about experiencing the pure past. At the same time, it was the answer to my question: what enables recollection to be innovative? It is pure memory which exists for us in the intellectual effort of recollection.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


Notes “The fact is that it is the memory which makes us see and hear, and the perception is incapable by itself of evoking the memory which resembles it, because, to do that, it must have already taken form and itself be complete; now, it only becomes complete and acquires a distinct form through that very memory, which slips into it and supplies most of its content” (Bergson 1975c, 207). i

ii Deleuze

describes the shortcomings of voluntary memory as follows: “Voluntary memory proceeds from an actual present to a present that ‘has been,’ to something that was present and is so no longer. The past of voluntary memory is therefore doubly relative: relative to the present that it has been, but also to the present with regard to which it is now past. That is, this memory does not apprehend the past directly; it recomposes it with different presents… It is obvious that something essential escapes voluntary memory: the past's being as past” (Deleuze 2000, 57). “When we let our memory wander at will without effort, images succeed images, all situated on one and the same plane of consciousness” (Bergson 1975c, 201). iii

This quote demonstrates that an idea and a scheme is the same thing: “A mind working only with images could but recommence its past or arrange the congealed elements of the past, like pieces of mosaic, in another order. But for a flexible mind, capable of utilizing its past experience by bending it back along the lines of the present, there must, besides the image, be an idea of a different kind, always capable of being realized into images, but always distinct from them. The scheme is nothing else” (Bergson 1975c, 228). iv

Since, according to Deleuze, pure memory cannot be experienced on Bergson’s account, Deleuze believes that a dynamic scheme is no longer a pure recollection, but something in between the latter and the image, an “undivided representation” (Deleuze 1991, 66). v

As Lawlor writes: “The intellectual characteristic of intellectual effort [is]: ‘the coming and going’ between the dynamic schema and the images which are trying to materialize it. Bergson says that the ‘coming and going’ donates the ‘portion’ (la part) of the unforeseen” (Lawlor 2020, 77). vi


Bergson dwells on this issue, for example, in “The Possible and the Real.”

There is yet another helpful quote from Lawlor: “The schema is not, […] an idea which is completely filled in with details and needs only existence or reality added to it. Because it is not this kind of complete idea, and because the dynamic schema is only a sketch, it has the potency or potentiality – the dynamism – to become what it will become” (Lawlor 2020, 71-2). viii

References Al-Saji, Alia. 2005. “The Memory of Another Past: Bergson, Deleuze and a New Theory of Time.” Continental Philosophy Review 37, no. 2: 203-239. Bergson, Henri. 1975a. “Intellectual Effort.” In Mind-Energy. Translated by W. Carr. London, UK: Greenwood Press, 186-230. Bergson, Henri. 1975b. “Life and Consciousness.” In Mind-Energy. Translated by W. Carr. London, UK: Greenwood Press, 3-36.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


Bergson, Henri. 2005. Matter and Memory. Translated by N.M. Paul and W.S. Palmer. New York, NY: Zone Books. Bergson, Henri. 1975c. “Memory of the Present and False Recognition.” In Mind-Energy. Translated by W. Carr. London, UK: Greenwood Press, 134-185. Bergson, Henri. 2007. “The Possible and the Real.” In The Creative Mind: An Introduction to Metaphysics. Translated by M. L. Andison. New York, NY: Dover Publications, 96-112. Deleuze, Gilles. 1991. Bergsonism. Translated by H. Tomlinson and B. Habberjam. New York, NY: Zone Books. Deleuze, Gilles. 1994. Difference and Repetition. Translated by P. Patton. New York, NY: Columbia UP. Deleuze, Gilles. 2000. Proust and Signs. Translated by R. Howard. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Lawlor, Leonard. 2020. “Bergson on the True Intellect.” In Interpreting Bergson. Critical Essays. Edited by Alexandre Lefebvre and Nils F. Schott. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP. 67-86. Proust, Marcel. 2013. In Search of Lost Time, Vol. I. Translated by S. C. Scott Moncrieff. New Haven, CN: Yale UP.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


(Me=Aquarius=very unpredictable) Ghostliness and Temporality in Tamaki and Tamaki’s Skim Amy LeBlanc, Masters Student (University of Calgary)

Bringing back the dead (or saving the living from the shadow of death) is the ultimate queer act. (Holland 2000, 103)

According to Princeton scholar Sharon P. Holland, engaging with the dead is always a queer act. Those who have experienced grief will say that time slows and speeds up. Sometimes time even seems to stop, but these lapses in temporal schemata are not just the mind’s response to grief and pain. The lapses can be representative of a larger structure: having to exist in a heteronormative society when the body dwells and thrives in queer time. Queer individuals, especially queer youth, can engage in what Elizabeth Freeman (2010) calls, “making history differently,” (xi) by participating in a unique relationship with time. While polemic, Lee Edelman’s theories are an effective starting point for these conversations. In No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive, Edelman (2004) writes, “futurism […] generates generational succession, temporality, and narrative sequence, not toward the end of enabling change, but, instead, of perpetuating sameness, of turning back time to assure repetition—or to assure a logic of resemblance […] in the service of representation and, by extension, of desire” (60). As a young adult graphic novel, Skim by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki uses a visual form to investigate the intersections of queerness and death by showing adolescents who experience alternative temporalities because of their queerness; they reside somewhere between life and death. In this essay, my analysis is rooted in a close reading of Tamaki and Tamaki’s award-winning graphic novel Skim and an archive of scholars such as Jack Halberstam, Elizabeth Freeman, Sarah Ahmed, Heather Love, Kathryn Bond Stockton, and Scott McCloud, among others. I will be using McCallum and Tukhanen’s (2011) definition of queer time as a “complex set of discrepancies and variances between social modes of experience and the rational, clock-based existence of the social mainstream” (1). These discrepancies and variances

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


can also apply to hauntings: a being near, but not quite, recurring persistently, but always in the outer corners of the frame. I want to discover the connections between queer time, ghosts, and adolescence using Skim as source material by examining the effects of haunting in opposition to the clock-based existence of the social mainstream. To begin, it is important to note that queerness and hauntings have frequently been studied together since popular media habitually links queerness to ghostliness. Classic stories such as The Turn of the Screw and Dracula have often been studied for queer subtext using psychoanalytic theories to analyze the uncanny and repressed desires in relation to the supernatural, but this approach risks pathologizing queerness. In more recent forms of media, films like The Babadook and The Haunting link queerness with supernatural overtones to engage in a kind of outsiderness— another form of being near, but not quite. In order to avoid pathologizing queerness and hauntings I will try to employ generative and reparative reading practices instead of paranoid ones (Sedgwick 2003). Another example is Netflix’s 2018 adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House which not only makes the queerness of Shirley Jackson’s 1959 horror novel more overt and explicit, but also unpacks what it means to be doubly implicated in queerness and hauntings with the character of Theodora Crain, whose queerness makes her especially attuned to others’ emotions through her sense of touch. When she touches someone with her bare hands, she cannot help but physically empathize as she enters into a queer time and place, which is coloured by the grief of losing her mother and one of her sisters. I believe it is her queerness that allows her to experience alternative temporalities and different ways of being because her queerness is intricately linked with the haunted home in which she grew up. She experienced the haunting differently from her siblings because she was different. On her site Feministkilljoys, Sara Ahmed (2017) writes, “to be queer is to hurdle toward a miserable fate […] others are allowed to die without having their deaths be explained as a consequence of who they are or as a consequence of who they refused not to be.” A recent article by Sadie Graham (2018) illuminates how both the TV series and the novel are about the horror of a haunted house, but the real horror is the alienating force of the nuclear family. Since the basis of the nuclear family implies an acceptance and adherence to hetero-patriarchal norms and timelines, those who refuse to adhere are made suspect. Queer fatalism has haunted novels, films, and other forms of popular media to give adolescents and proto-gay children the message that to be queer is to be unhappy; life will be more difficult, and you will suffer for your queerness. You will be haunted by the life you could have lived if only you had grown up straight.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


There are two major definitions of “haunting,” 1) to visit habitually or appear to frequently as a spirit or ghost, and 2) to recur persistently within the consciousness of; to remain within. Haunting is also a key element of Derridean discourse with the term hauntology, a portmanteau of haunting and ontology which combine to represent temporal and ontological disjunctions where the figure of the ghost is “neither present, nor absent, neither dead nor alive" (Davis 2005, 373). For the purposes of this paper, a haunting is anything—a person, place, event, etcetera—that leaves an imprint that cannot be removed. We do not need evidence of supernatural occurrences to know that we are haunted. Ahmed (2017) states, “ghosts clamour: we remember how other deaths, Stephen Gately, for instance, were explained with reference to sexuality, to ‘dangerous life styles,’ how quickly and how wrongly, queer is treated as a death sentence.” It is not a coincidence that the haunted adolescents in Skim are also queer because they carry the ghosts of other queer youth with them. Skim is a Canadian graphic novel about sixteen-year-old Kim Keiko Cameron, who narrates her story, documenting her experiences in her journal. The book is divided into three parts: Fall, No Rest for the Wicked, and Goodbye (Hello). We learn that she is ironically nicknamed Skim by other high school students because she is not thin and she is not white— she is JapaneseCanadian and a practicing Wiccan with her best friend, Lisa. Skim develops feelings for her English teacher, Ms. Archer, in the wake of a suicide that sends the whole school into performative mourning with the development of the GCL (Girls Celebrate Life club). The GCL begins to infuse the school with an aura of toxic positivity so that guidance counselors and teachers are constantly discussing the cycle of grief and are on the lookout for suicidal students (specifically Goth students like Kim). Kim notes that “John Reddear was on the volleyball team, not a Goth, and he killed himself!!!” (Tamaki and Tamaki 2008, 22) while noticing that the girls from the soccer team aren’t being forced into counseling. As Kim begins to understand her sexuality, her depression, and her feelings for Ms. Archer, she begins to learn what new friendships and relationships could offer if she stepped away from the temporal and sexual norms she has grown up with. Readers are not entirely privy to Kim’s sexuality early in the novel, but it is clear she is a queer adolescent within Kathryn Bond Stockton’s (2009) notion that the child “who by reigning cultural definitions can’t ‘grow up’ grows to the side of cultural ideals…” (33). For all intents and purposes, Kim is a strange teenager; she is ostracized from others at school because she is a selfidentified freak. She has a Wiccan altar on a shawl from Kensington Market in her room, she draws

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


a pentacle on her cheek for protection before going to a coven meeting, and she does not live in the nuclear family ideal because her parents are divorced and she is of mixed race. Kim also develops feelings for her English teacher, a relationship that would be institutionally forbidden by the school and the social mainstream. Since the graphic novel is presented as a journal that includes Kim’s collected writings, she takes the time to introduce herself in the first few pages. With leaves blowing behind them, Kim walks next to Lisa and the text reads, “I am: Kimberly Keiko Cameron (aka Skim) […] Interests: Wicca, tarot cards, astrology, (me=Aquarius=very unpredictable), philosophy. My favorite color: black red” (Tamaki and Tamaki 2008, 7). It is clear that Kim is not “growing up” toward traditional teenagerdom and straight adult life, she is instead “growing toward a question mark” (Stockton 2009, 3) that does not have a fixed end point in sight. Before further discussion of the narrative features of Skim I would like to discuss how Tamaki and Tamaki effectively use the form of the young adult graphic novel in order to question and exemplify alternative temporalities. The young adult graphic novel is a particularly effective medium for questioning and exemplifying alternative temporalities by showing how haunted adolescents can queer their experiences of temporality and time by refusing to conform to linear paths of growth. In his textbook guide to comics and graphic novels, Scott McCloud (1993) defines comics as “juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence…” (20). These juxtaposed images are often encased in panels and there are usually a number of panels per page. These panels have a clear sequence which instructs the reader on the order in which to read and view them. Skim clearly fits this definition since it is a narrative told in pictures and words that are mindfully sequenced to create an affective response in the reader through a process of a shared experience and empathic connection. However, Tamaki and Tamaki experiment with temporality by playing with the order in which we perceive the sequence. In Western modes of reading, we are accustomed to reading left to right across entire pages and then dropping our eyes to the line below before moving onto the next page. McCloud, however, shows that not all graphic novels and sequences of images should be read left to right; sometimes artists and writers alter the physical space of the page to either distort or amplify the readers’ perceptions of temporality. His initial definition is brief and easily understood, but he spends the rest of his book adding and unpacking various elements. In his chapter “Time Frames” McCloud (1993) states, “These icons we call panels or frames have no fixed or absolute meaning, like the icons of language, science, and communication. Nor is their meaning as fluid and malleable as the sorts of icons we call pictures. The panel acts

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


as a sort of general indicator that time or space is being divided” (99). In order to delineate where one panel ends and another begins artists often use borders, bits of white space between panels to show that we are moving from one moment to the next. While rectangular borders are most common, artists and writers like Tamaki and Tamaki experiment with a lack of borders and with “bleeds,” moments where a panel runs off the page so that “time is no longer contained by the familiar icon of the closed panel, but instead haemorrhages and escapes into timeless space” (103). We are trained to read in specific ways from an early age which mirrors our social training as children; when artists and writers change the way we read, they alter the way we experience a narrative and open the possibilities for alternate timelines and temporalities. Beyond discussions of the graphic novel’s visual elements, it is important to place Skim in the context of power and repression in children’s literature. In Roberta Seelinger Trites’ (2000) book Disturbing the Universe: Power and Repression in Adolescent Literature the early chapters describe the differences the Bildungsroman, “a type of novel in which the adolescent matures to adulthood,” and the Entwicklungsroman “a broad [related] category of novels in which an adolescent character grows” (9), but does not mature to adulthood by the end of the novel. In both cases, the adolescent must understand and come to terms with oppressive power structures and their roles within them. Growth is central to all of children’s literature; texts that do not emphasize growth or the right kind of growth have often been criticized for a lack of focalization of moral growth in their protagonists. Using Trites’ definitions, I would classify Skim an Entwicklungsroman not only because Kim does not reach adult maturity by the end of the text, but also because Tamaki and Tamaki “consciously [problematize] the relationship of the individual to the institutions that construct [her] subjectivity…” (20). There are various institutions that construct and constrict Kim’s identity, including her high school, her status as a teenager, her sexuality, her friendship with Lisa, and her Wiccan identity. Each institution is limiting for Kim since she does not participate with these institutions in expected ways. After the announcement of John Reddear’s suicide (Katie Matthews’ exboyfriend), everyone is pulled into guidance counseling. Kim writes “Mrs. Hornet said she’s particularly concerned about people like me, because people like me are prone to depression and depressing stimuli” (Tamaki and Tamaki 2008, 22, emphasis added). The repetition of “people like me” separates Kim from other students, as she becomes what Sara Ahmed (2011) in her essay “Queer Futures, Perhaps” calls an “affect alien” within an alternative temporality. This is someone

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


who “might experience the same affect but in relation to different objects, which are judged by others as ‘the wrong objects’” (167). For Kim, the wrong objects are her Wiccan altar, food, and Ms. Archer, whom she kisses behind the school at the end of the first section. Kim is definitely not on her way to becoming a straight adult who fits within the confines of the mainstream, and so, she is living in a queer temporality and she is deemed as not growing up. She is also grouped into a category of adolescents “prone to […] depressing stimuli” (Tamaki and Tamaki 2008, 22) because she experiences a being-towards-death differently from other students. Trites (2000) describes death in adolescent literature as “often depicted in terms of maturation when the protagonist accepts the permanence of mortality, when s/he accepts herself as Being-TowardsDeath” (119), with death as an endpoint. But Skim complicates the dead/not dead dichotomy by showing that there is an afterlife for haunted queer youth and that some may live in this afterlife before they are dead. While other students put posters for Kids Helpline on the GCL bulletin board, Kim experiences and reflects on John’s death differently, especially after it is revealed that he was also a queer adolescent. Throughout Skim, Kim does grow in tangible ways, but are they the ways that heteropatriarchal society would expect? The necessity of growth in children’s and young adult literature is deeply rooted in heteronormative, capitalistic, and hegemonic perceptions of the right ways to grow—that growth should always follow a set, and straight, clock-based trajectory with no steps backward, only forward. This is only one part of the potential didacticism of children’s literature. Kathryn Bond Stockton has written extensively on gay or proto-gay children who refuse or cannot follow these set paths of growth. In The Queer Child, or Growing Sideways in the Twentieth Century, Stockton argues that the gay child can be ghostly, or in a perpetual state of delay, or be restricted by class and other factors. Stockton critiques the privileging of the child as a beacon of hope, one that will inevitably grow up to be straight and fulfill expected roles in capitalism and reproductive futurism. Childhood, however, is a space where queer desires begin to manifest, and these desires work in opposition to heteronormative society. The ghostly child is one who has the appearance of a straight child but who lives in the periphery. The queer child is haunted because they experience and perform multiple selves. In her book Ghostly Matters, Avery Gordon (2008) describes haunting as “those singular yet repetitive instances when home becomes unfamiliar, when your bearings on the world lose direction, when the over-and-done-with comes alive, when

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


what’s been in your blind spot comes into view” (xvi). For gay and proto-gay adolescents this haunting may be a daily state of being. Stockton would argue that queer children do not grow up—instead, they grow sideways. I would argue that the act of sideways growth inevitably queers time because the adolescent or child is in a perpetual state of delay or pause, which in turn, can give them a sense of agency. Just as Stockton notes that there are socially mandated ways to grow, I would also argue that there are also socially mandated ways to experience, embody, and sequence time that queer youth refute even though society and larger institutions try to regulate their experiences. The Catholic school that Kim attends is representative of the Western educational experience for most adolescents. Children spend their formative years of adolescence in schools, which are institutions that mandate how and where time is spent. The day is broken up into periods and blocks, there are consequences for not being in the right place at the right time, and there are consequences for being late. Adolescents are given a brief reprieve over the lunch hour, but often the privilege of deciding how and where they will spend that time is allotted only once they have reached a certain age of perceived maturity. For Kim, buzzers, announcements, morning prayers, Shakespeare quizzes, and assemblies break up the day. Once adolescents are released from school, their time is continually mandated at home with homework, extracurricular activities, and family responsibilities. Where do queer adolescents find the time to think about the future or to experience and experiment with temporality in their own way? Furthermore, if an adolescent is haunted, how can they reconcile the relationships of the clock-based social mainstream, their own experience of queer temporality, and the ghost that hangs just behind them at all times? Moments of queerness and sexual experimentation tend to happen between classes and after school, since the rest of their time is spoken for—in Skim, moments of queerness happen outside of the classroom and predominantly outside of the school building. One panel of particular importance to my research is in the first section, Fall (figure 1). Before this scene, Kim provides context for her personal life and interrupts her exploration and introduction of her family and says, “IN OTHER NEWS!!! Katie Matthews’ boyfriend, John Reddear, who goes to St. George’s, dumped her […] So this week Katie is wearing big black hearts on her hands […] It’s kind of brutal watching someone walk around with broken hearts on their hands” (Tamaki and Tamaki 2008, 11). Later that night Kim and Lisa attend a coven meeting that turns out to be an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. It is at this meeting that Kim first begins to

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


think deeply about the future. Manny, the leader of the coven puts his hand on Kim’s chest and says, “I see you… in your future, using the spirit. I see… a woman” (19). After Lisa and Kim debrief the meeting, the next panels show Katie Matthews in the bathroom surrounded by friends. Kim writes, “Dear diary, JOHN REDDEAR (Katie Matthews’ ex-boyfriend) is DEAD!! He KILLED HIMSELF!!” (21).

Figure 1: Kim and Lisa walk through the forest. (Tamaki and Tamaki 2008, 24-5)

Figure 1 shows Kim and Lisa walking through the forest after their attempt to summon John Reddear’s ghost. These pages exemplify both adolescent perceptions of temporality as well as ghostliness in a space that is removed from school. The forest is arguably the space where their time is the least mandated and structured. The text appears in white on the left page and in black on the right, in contrast to the composition of the illustration in the background. In comparison to previous panels, the forest is an amorphous image taking up two full pages; the previous pages

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


take place at school and are structured with straight lines and white borders, which encourage a left to right reading. Kim and Lisa are drawn in black in the far-right corner, where the readers’ eye is naturally drawn. Lisa, with her signature and recognizable hair lump, looks straight ahead past the edge of the page; we can see the profile of her face and we know exactly where she is looking. From the positioning of her profile, we can presume that Lisa is on her way to straight adulthood, despite her experimentation with Wiccan traditions. Her positioning foreshadows her ultimate acceptance into the more popular circle in school, since being accepted into the social mainstream is something that she has secretly craved. Kim’s positioning, however, throws her perceptions of her future into question. She is shrouded in darkness, a haunted adolescent, and we are unable to see which way she is looking. They are walking through the forest, a place that has historically been written as the site of queer experimentation and positivity. Queer ecology scholars like Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands discuss the regulation of inner-city natural spaces. She states, “nature [was] a space of intensive moral regulation; given the increasing association of sexuality with ideas of nature, sex became a key element in the organization of nature as a regulatory space” (Mortimer-Sandilands 2005, 8). If inner city nature spaces are places of regulation, then Kim’s forest (without clear pathways or markers of human intervention) could be read as a queer space that is imbued with sexual meaning. Even though the forest is behind the high school, it is a separate space with regulatory codes that differ from the codes of the school, which is what allows Kim and Ms. Archer to share their kiss. In this figure, we cannot tell whether Kim is looking forward or looking back. And if she is looking back, what exactly is she looking at? In her essay, “Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History,” Heather Love (2007) writes: For groups constituted by historical injury, the challenge is to engage with the past without being destroyed by it. Sometimes it seems it would be better to move on—to let, as Marx wrote, the dead bury the dead. But it is the damaging aspects of the past that tend to stay with us, and the desire to forget may itself be a symptom of a haunting. The dead can bury the dead all day long and still not be done. (1) What is especially interesting about these pages, with Love’s comments in mind, is that there are two haunted queer adolescents featured in the frame. In the far-left corner, tucked above the text where the readers’ eyes are not drawn, sits the ghost of John Reddear. He is framed by foliage and positioned in such a way that many readers wouldn’t notice him—an apt metaphor for the haunted

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


queer adolescent if there ever was one. At this point in the text, it is not made explicit, but we learn about rumors that John Reddear was in love with a boy on the St. Michael’s second-string volleyball team. We learn about John’s possible queerness when someone writes fag across a newspaper clipping of his face on the GCL bulletin board. I would argue that Kim might, in fact, be looking backwards or at least glancing back, since she is likely the only one that would see John’s ghost. They would have a common perception of time and place that Lisa would not be privy to—it would not occur to Lisa to look back. When Love writes that the damaging aspects of the past stay with us and can be a symptom of haunting, I think she is speaking to a specific group of queer individuals, in this case, adolescents who are haunted by their queerness and are even haunted by the ghosts of other queer adolescents. As Kim writes later at a memorial ceremony for John, “P.S. No one knows if the boy from the volleyball team loved John back…” because they refuse to acknowledge his queerness in the memorial or anywhere else (Tamaki and Tamaki 2008, 95). No one can see John’s ghost, the same way that no one could see his queerness when he was alive. Instead, he is remembered as an idealized straight teenager, one who would have been headed for straight adulthood to fulfill all of the expectations that come along with it had he not been sideswiped by depression. There are a number of references to Kids Help Phone in Skim on both the GCL board and on a banner at the memorial for John; while Kids Help Phone is an incredibly valuable service, the text seems to make an argument against toxic positivity, the idea that a fully positive outlook will lead to a positive life. The GCL bulletin board, which is vandalized twice, is filled with smiley faces, clipart, an invitation to watch Dead Poets Society, a newspaper article about John, and a business card for a kid’s helpline. The GCL bulletin board is a regulated straight space in memoriam of a queer teenager who lived and died in his own queer time and space. Jack Halberstam (2005) begins his book, In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural lives, by stating, “queer uses of time and space develop, at least in part, in opposition to the institutions of family, heterosexuality, and reproduction” (1). He claims that queer subcultures, specifically youth subcultures, can produce alternative temporalities by living outside of the pragmatic markers of life experience—for example: birth, marriage, reproduction, and death. His analysis begins with the claim that “queer time” emerges from the very real threat to futurity that the AIDS crisis presented; the disease truncated queer lives into shorter and shorter time frames, which must, in turn, effect perceptions of futurity. Halberstam’s and Love’s

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


perceptions of looking back are similar insofar as they acknowledge that the past will invariably affect the present; the damage of the past will continue to haunt the present as long as we are looking backwards. According to Halberstam: Queer temporality disrupts the normative narratives of time that form the base of nearly every definition of the human in almost all of our modes of understanding, from the professions of psychoanalysis and medicine, to socioeconomic and demographic studies on which every sort of state policy is based, to our understandings of the affective and the aesthetic. (152) While Halberstam’s is a definition that encapsulates elements beyond the scope of my research, it is worth noting the impacts of queer temporality in a broader area than just haunted adolescents. Queer adolescents grow (in whatever direction) into queer adults and they continue to experience and experiment with alternative temporalities throughout adulthood. In his book, Halberstam (2005) explores the “stretched-out adolescence of queer culture markers that disrupt conventional accounts of subculture, youth culture, adulthood, and maturity” (152). Kim exists in this state of “stretched-out adolescence” in which she rejects the norms of growing up. Kim is not necessarily aware of her alternate temporality, but she does exhibit a desire for queer time in the ways that Halberstam claims. In one instance, Kim begrudgingly agrees to go to a school dance when Lisa finds them dates. She tells Kim it will be an opportunity to find something positive. Their dates are, of course, two male students from another school who we assume are straight, and therefore are performing adolescence in the right way and are on the path to becoming straight adults. They wear matching school uniforms and are illustrated so that they look almost identical. Even their names, Rick and Randy, are laughably similar which Kim notes, but Lisa does not. Over dinner, Kim mentions Romeo and Juliet and says “I think it would have been a more interesting story if they’d managed to stick around a little longer. You know, if they could have gotten over falling in love and just… figured out their shit somehow” (Tamaki and Tamaki 2008, 121). What Kim is suggesting is a shift towards queer time as an alternate temporality. In her mind, this kind of temporality could have changed Shakespeare’s narrative, but it could also change her own. In her queer temporality, Kim can see what other adolescents cannot; you can change the narrative by changing how you see and engage with time. If Halberstam’s pragmatic markers of life experience are birth, marriage, reproduction, and death, Kim resides in a temporal space where she rejects these markers in the texts she reads and possibly in her own

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


life and future. Tamaki and Tamaki mention Romeo and Juliet on a number of occasions within the text so that the play becomes a frame for larger narratives in different relationships, most specifically for John Reddear and Katie Matthews. Lisa tells Kim that Katie and John are like Romeo and Juliet but on a delay; the implication is that Katie will commit suicide in the near future. But Skim subverts the Romeo and Juliet trope not only through Kim’s insights into the play, but also because Katie Matthews does not commit suicide and neither does the boy that John was in love with. The cycle of fatalism in young love is broken and queer adolescents begin looking to the future even though they continue to be haunted. Figure 2 shows the final two pages in Skim. Lisa has become a member of the Girls Celebrate Life club and is dating a boy from St. John’s Collegiate. Lisa looks different, wears her boyfriend’s sweater to school and is officially performing straight adolescence the right way, having put her Wiccan experimentation to the side to fall in love with a boy. She and Kim have drifted apart, but the two catch up for a cigarette after school. Lisa says, “being in love changes you, you know?” to which Kim knowingly replies, “yes” (Tamaki and Tamaki 2008, 141). Kim has fallen in love with Ms. Archer, and while she is still haunted by her feelings and by Ms. Archer’s departure, Kim has a small smile on her face, as if she is going to hang onto this love for a little while—she might even enjoy the haunting now that she has a friend in Katie Matthews to experience it with her. In a way, Katie has been queered by her boyfriend’s death. Katie vandalizes the GCL bulletin board, does not attend the memorial ceremony for John, and rejects the GCL norms by leaving the dance with Kim. When they get to know each other better, Kim describes Katie as a weirdo, but means it in the best way.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


Figure 2: Kim and Lisa walk in different directions. (Tamaki and Tamaki 2008, 142-3)

In contrast to Figure 1, Lisa and Kim walk in opposite directions: Lisa walks toward the parking lot and straight adolescence and Kim walks back toward the forest, the place where queer ghosts and queer adolescents exist in tandem, but this time we know exactly where she is looking since she faces the reader. There is no text on these pages, only darker toned illustrations on the left page. Katie Matthews’ beret rests on a rock—a little ways away from where we assume she and Kim are spending time together. Knowing that John Reddear’s ghost may rest in this forest, we have to ask: who else is in there? How many queer ghosts occupy that space? In walking towards the place of haunted queers and alternative temporalities, Kim is making a choice. She is rejecting the heteronormative, clock-based existence of the social mainstream, and instead, is choosing to look to her future in a different way. While this image alone may not give us many implications about the future, it is paired with an illustration of a cootie catcher on the right—a folded collection of dichotomies written on a piece of paper.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


Cootie catchers are only one element of the 90s cache in Skim. A cootie catcher is a kind of paper fortune-teller; there are numbers or colours on each of the four sections and a fortune is written beneath each corner. We do not know which question Kim wants answers to or which fortune she would most like to receive, but we can assume that she and Katie Matthews are playing together by the ravine. Since the cootie catcher is placed by itself with what looks like small bits of dirt beneath it, we can presume that Katie and Kim have left it in the forest. Perhaps out of carelessness, or perhaps, as an offering to the queer ghosts that reside there. I do not want to assume that Katie and Kim will enter into a queer relationship in a sexual or romantic sense, but as two adolescents who are haunted by their feelings and by the ghosts of other queer adolescents, they can enter into a queer friendship or understanding based on shared experiences of temporality. To reiterate McCallum and Tukhanen’s (2011) definition, queer time is a “complex set of discrepancies and variances between social modes of experience and the rational, clock-based existence of the social mainstream” (1). The cootie catcher sits in opposition to the clock-based mainstream, not only as a game, but also as a rejection of straight time and heteropatriarchal norms; one can always choose another future or even make another cootie catcher which refutes the hegemonic and capitalistic ideals of productivity and labour, and disrupts the contingencies of the future. Scott McCloud (1993) states that graphic novels and comics often have moments where “time runs off the page” (103). This haemorrhaging of time occurs often in Skim and is further complicated by the fact that the text is Kim’s diary; she may be writing parts of it in the moment where the action takes place, but most of the narrative seems to be retrospective, which means that she exists in a different time-space than that which she occupies while writing. In both figures 1 and 2, the panels bleed off the page, which implies that there is more happening than we are privy to. Both figures play with light and dark space to draw our eyes towards certain elements and away from others. This privileging of certain elements inherently alters our perceptions of time, and by extension, the characters’ perceptions of time because we are being guided in a certain direction, but we can always refuse to follow. The young adult graphic novel is an effective medium for questioning and exemplifying alternative temporalities because the form affords artists and writers the space to experiment with time and temporality. If Skim had been written as a novel, scenes like figures 1 and 2 would have had to be described in detail and likely would have been excised from the text because each scene must pull its narrative weight and move the story forward. The beauty

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


of scenes like these is that they force the reader to slow down and dwell in them, to be haunted by John Reddear and Kim. Most importantly, pages that break with pictorial tradition give us space to breathe and delay instead of moving onto the next panel as quickly as possible. While a scholar like José Esteban Muñoz believes that queerness and queer politics are about looking to the future instead of the past, Elizabeth Freeman states, “if identity is always in temporal drag, constituted and haunted by the failed love-project that precedes it, perhaps the shared culture-making projects we call ‘movements’ might do well to feel the tug backwards as a potentially transformative part of movement itself” (Freeman qtd. in Love 2007, 30). Skim shows us the value of looking back. Queer adolescents can be haunted, and they can experience time differently, but maybe that is part of how they survive in the institutions that try to govern their time and their identities. According to Trites (2000), “in the adolescent novel, protagonists must learn about the social forces that have made them what they are. They learn to navigate the myriad social institutions in which they must function” (3). I would argue that dwelling in queer time and lingering in the aesthetic and affective disruptions to normative narratives provides young adult narrators with agency and a sense of power. I agree with Sara Jaffe’s (2018) statement that “queer people’s relationships to normative developmental timelines don’t come about simply because many skirt or shun heterosexual imperatives of marriage and reproduction. Queer lives are notable for their lack of ‘chrononormativity,’ starting in childhood.” By the end of the novel, Kim has bleached her hair, has stood up to Julie Peters of the Girls Celebrate Life club, and has found comfort in her own haunting and perceptions of time. She has accepted the lack of chrononormativity in her queer life and shows this through her disjointed and non-linear graphic narrative journal. By dwelling in queer time, Kim might just discover how to “stick around a little longer, [get] over falling in love, and figure out [her] shit somehow” (Tamaki and Tamaki 2008, 121).

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


References Ahmed, Sara. 2017. “Queer Fatalism.” Feministkilljoys, January 14. 2017/01/13/queer-fatalism/. Ahmed, Sara. 2011. “Happy Futures, Perhaps.” In Queer Times, Queer Becomings. Edited by E.L. McCallum and Mikko Tuhkanen. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Davis, Colin. 2005. “Hauntology, Spectres and Phantoms.” French Studies 59, no. 3: 373–79. Edelman, Lee. 2004. No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. Durham, NC: Duke UP. Freeman, Elizabeth. 2011. Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories. Durham, NC: Duke UP. Graham, Sadie. 2018. “The Real Horror At The Heart Of ‘Haunting Of Hill House’ Isn't What The Netflix Show Thinks It Is.” Buzzfeed News, November 5. https://www.buzzfeed /article/sadiegraham/netflixs-the-haunting-of-hill-house-queer-shirley-jackson. Gordon, Avery. 2008. Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Halberstam, Jack. 2005. In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives. New York, NY: New York University Press. Holland, Sharon P. 2000. Raising the Dead: Readings of Death and (Black) Subjectivity. Durham, NC: Duke UP. Jaffe, Sara. 2018. “Queer Time: The Alternative to ‘Adulting.’” JSTOR Daily, January 10. JoIpbGsQCzHHAKT-iZqxwzCqWqevcUZcszsDjBB9mRm3A6dWZ1cmLg. Love, Heather. 2007. Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP. McCallum, E. L., and Mikko Tuhkanen. 2011. Queer Times, Queer Becomings. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. McCloud, Scott. 1993. “Time Frames.” In Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York, NY: HarperCollins. Mortimer-Sandilands, Catriona. 2006. “Unnatural Passions: Notes toward a Queer Ecology.” Invisible Culture: An Electronic Journal for Visual Culture 9: 1–24. Stockton, Kathryn Bond. 2009. The Queer Child, or Growing Sideways in the Twentieth Century. Durham, NC: Duke UP.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


Tamaki, Mariko, and Jillian Tamaki. 2008. Skim. Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books. Trites, Roberta Seelinger. 2000. Disturbing the Universe Power and Repression in Adolescent Literature. Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


The Precarity of Happiness in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics Amber Spence, PhD Candidate (University of Guelph)

In this paper, I argue that happiness is not truly self-sufficient, and is therefore precarious in Book 9, Chapter 9 of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, and I set out to solve the problem of precarity. In my first section, I present Aristotle’s argument for what is needed for the self-sufficiency of happiness in 9.9 and argue that happiness is precarious. In my second section, I investigate what is meant by happiness as being “self-sufficient.” In particular, I discuss Eric Brown’s view of the two kinds of “self-sufficiency” employed in Aristotle’s ethics. I disagree with his concepts of selfsufficiency as they do not solve the issue of precarity, and I propose a new understanding of the term. In my third section, I apply this term to the arguments from my first section to see whether my new understanding of the term will solve the problem of precarity in happiness. While I believe Brown’s suggested understanding of self-sufficiency is unhelpful in solving the issue of precarity, his contention that there are two kinds of self-sufficiencies at work in Aristotle’s concept of happiness is correct. I argue that, while the precarity of happiness in the life of virtuous activity (the political, human life) can be resolved, the precarity of happiness found in the contemplative life cannot be resolved in the same way. As such, I argue that this precarity may nevertheless be fitting for the contemplative life, as it is better suited to its divine and god-like status. §1 – The Problem of Self-Sufficiency in Happiness While eudaimonia is often translated as “happiness” in English, its meaning is not what we commonly associate with the states of either elated joy or untroubled contentment that is typically affiliated with the term. Rather, what the virtuous person is striving to achieve is human flourishing, sometimes referred to as living well. Aristotle (1985/2014) believed that living well or flourishing is the highest end. In order to achieve this, Aristotle contends we must pursue activities that align the rational soul with virtue (1097b22-1098a20). In this section, I argue that Aristotle’s concept of eudaimonia presented in the Nicomachean Ethics is precarious as it requires

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


a virtuous friendship. In order to do this, I first discuss Book 9, Chapter 9 where Aristotle discusses how friendship is needed for self-sufficiency as well as the appropriate number of friends we should aim to cultivate. Afterwards, I turn my attention to Book 9, Chapter 3 where Aristotle explains when friendships should be dissolved. From there, I explain the fragility of happiness as a result of Aristotle’s arguments in these chapters. In 9.9, Aristotle puts forward an argument that friendship with another virtuous person makes happiness self-sufficient. Friends of good character, he writes, are the greatest external good; since it is the nature of the virtuous person to do good things, he needs a similarly virtuous friend to do good things for. Aristotle (1985/2014) presents his first main argument like this: (1) Happiness is an activity, so being happy is found in living and being active in the right way. (2) The activity of the good person is excellent, and therefore pleasant in itself. (3) What is like our own is pleasant. (4) It is easier, and we are better able to see the actions of others than we are our own. Conclusion 1: Therefore, a good person will find pleasure in observing the actions of his good friends as they are also excellent people, so their actions will be naturally pleasant. (5) The virtuous person finds pleasure in watching virtuous actions that are like his own, and the actions of a virtuous friend are like his own. Conclusion 2: Therefore, he will need virtuous friends (1196b29-1170a7). So, having virtuous friends makes being continually active easier to do, which will contribute to happiness. This sort of friendship is also pleasant in itself because the excellent person finds genuine enjoyment in actions expressing virtue, which are the kinds of actions the virtuous friend would be engaged in. This is what encourages and allows for the cultivation of virtue. This also contributes to the ability to share knowledge, conversation, and thought – or as Aristotle has it, to live together. The virtuous friendship also realizes human capacities; human beings are defined by their capacities for perception and understanding. Since every capacity refers to an activity, and something is to its fullest extent in its corresponding activity, a human being living to his fullest extent would be engaging in activities that promote perception and understanding.i This leads to the second argument Aristotle (1985/2014) makes concerning the virtuous friend: (1) Life is good and pleasant in itself (because it has an order that is fitting for the nature of what is good). (2) What is good by nature is good for the virtuous person. (3) For such a person, life is naturally good and pleasant, and his life is worthwhile and better than death for him—that is, life is choiceworthy for

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


the virtuous person. (4) Perceiving that he is alive is pleasant in itself—life is naturally good, and it is pleasant when he can see that there is something good in himself. (5) Living is, as we said, choiceworthy for the virtuous person above all others: being is good and pleasant for him because the virtuous person is pleased to perceive something that is good in itself in himself. (6) The virtuous person is linked with his friend of virtue in the same way that he is connected with himself, since his friend is a mirror to his own virtue. Therefore, in the same way that his own being is choiceworthy for himself, so too is his friend’s being choiceworthy for him (1170a15-1170b10). Through these three conjectures, Aristotle (1985/2014) concludes that virtuous friendship is needed for the self-sufficiency of happiness. His final argument is made thus: (1) being is choiceworthy for the happy person because it is naturally good and pleasant, and (2) if the character and activities of his friend are similar to his own, then his friend is also choiceworthy. (3) The virtuous person must have whatever is choiceworthy, otherwise he will be lacking something good in itself, in which case his happiness will not be self-sufficient. A truly happy person lacks nothing that is good in itself. Therefore, anyone who is truly happy must have a complete virtuous friendship with excellent people (1170b15-20). However, it is important to remember that for Aristotle, we cannot have too many friendships of this kind; true, virtuous friendship is limited by the number of people one can live with. When Aristotle talks of “living with” one’s friends, he does not mean residing in the same residence; rather, he means to share in thought, knowledge, and understanding with someone; to be happy in their happiness, sad in their sadness, etc. In such a case, we cannot have too many friends, otherwise one would not be able to properly engage in friendship with all of them at the same time.ii Aristotle (1985/2014) also writes that it is ideal if all one’s virtuous friends are also friends with each other, because otherwise it will be extremely difficult to properly live with each of them separately. Even still, we must not have too many, otherwise we will find it very hard to share in everyone’s enjoyments and hardships as our own, as it is likely that one friend will have something enjoyable happen at the same time as another friend experiences a hardship. Therefore, we should not try to gain as many friends as we can, but instead limit ourselves to a few of them; while Aristotle does not tell us the ‘magic number’, he does make note that songs celebrating friendships usually only talk of there being two people. As a nod to his earlier remarks concerning how rare

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


such friendships are, he says “we have reason to be satisfied if we can find even a few such friends” (1171a20). One may wonder, once we have gained such a friend and we are truly self-sufficient in our happiness, what could push us to dissolve it? According to Aristotle (1985/2014), there are three considerations for dissolving what is thought to be a complete friendship or a friendship of virtue: (1) We could have been mistaken in our belief that our friend liked us for our character, and not for utility or pleasure. Aristotle writes that if our friend did not give us any real reason to believe this about him, and we just assumed it, then the fault is our own (1165b8-10). However, if our friend deceived us, then we are not to blame in the situation or for dissolving the friendship. But presumably in this case, it was never truly a complete friendship to begin with, as we were not of the same mind (1165b5-13). As such, it does not seem as though such a friendship ever really contributed to our happiness. (2) The second reason for dissolving a friendship is if we are in a complete friendship with a virtuous person whose virtue begins to decline. Recall that prior to this decline, the friendship contributed to our self-sufficiency in happiness. In such a case, we should try to help our friend get back on the right path of virtue; however, if we try and set them right and are unable to do so, we cannot remain friends with them. Vice is an unlovable trait, and insofar as our friend’s character is changing to be one of vice, we are not to be blamed for no longer loving them. Another consideration is that we do not want to be negatively influenced by them, to be encouraged to engage in acts of vice. At the end of the day, a friendship of virtue is one where we love each other’s character; if our friend’s character changes for the worse, we cannot be expected to love them still. So, in such a situation, we are right to dissolve our friendship with them (Aristotle 1985/2014, 1165b15-20). (3) The third reason for dissolving a friendship is when one person in a friendship remains the same in character while the other person improves in character, becoming more decent and virtuous. In such a case, the two friends would inevitably grow apart, as their pleasures and interests will no longer be the same; they would not be able to share in knowledge, understanding, and conversation, and so cannot live together. Since this is a major component to this type of friendship, it is reasonable for these two people to no longer be friends. Aristotle (1985/2014) uses childhood friends as an example of this (1165b20-30).

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


Having said this, the friend that terminates the friendship and remains good does not have to carry on through life as though that friendship or that friend never or no longer exists. We can hold on to the good memories of our friendship with them, and as long as the termination of the friendship was not caused by excessive vice, we can even still engage in kind and virtuous acts with them in light of the friendship we once had (Aristotle 1985/2014, 1165b35). Aristotle makes it clear that virtue is a rare thing. Not everyone has what it takes to cultivate virtue, to find the mean between the excesses and deficiencies of character, etc. However, in order to be in a complete virtuous friendship, we must find someone who is virtuous like ourselves. As such, this kind of friendship is rare. If this sort of friendship is rare, it is likely that we will not be able to find many people who can be in such a friendship with us. This puts the virtuous person’s ability to be truly happy into a precarious state, as happiness is not purely reliant on cultivating excellence and engaging in virtuous activity, but rather in engaging in continuous virtuous activity; having a virtuous friend means that you will be better able to engage in continuous virtuous activity. However, if the virtuous person is able to find such a friend, we are told he must give that friend up if his character changes for the worse, and we are not able to set him right. After all, we do not want to be negatively influenced by his vice. Further, the character which we found lovable has changed, and so is no longer lovable to us. This leaves us in a position to perhaps relinquish our happy state, because we must give up our once-virtuous friend and this complete friendship. However, if such a person is rare to find, and such a friendship therefore rare to cultivate, our happiness is taking a double hit. On the one hand, we must let go of something that took us a long time to find and cultivate. On the other hand, we are no longer able to engage in the continuous activity that our complete friendship afforded us. Therefore, our happiness is no longer selfsufficient, but lacking in some way. A further problem arises when we consider that if we do finally locate another virtuous person, that person either may not find our company engaging, and so reject our advances in the name of friendship, or he may already have a sufficient amount of virtuous friends, in which case he does not need (or wish) for an additional friendship with us. This seems like a problem that the virtuous person should be concerned about, because it means that we are not truly in control over our happy state, but rather our happiness is in some way dependent on (1) finding a person who is virtuous and living a virtuous life; (2) the continued virtue of another person; and (3) that we can cultivate a complete friendship with that person.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


In the next section, I investigate what role self-sufficiency plays in the precarity of happiness by looking at what it means, for happiness to be “self-sufficient.” I do this by exploring Eric Brown’s suggestion that Aristotle employs two concepts of self-sufficiency in Nicomachean Ethics and conclude that Brown’s view does not solve our problem because the precarity of happiness persists even through his reinterpretation. Considering this, I suggest a new way of understanding self-sufficiency. §2 – Self-Sufficiency Some philosophers may want to push back against the argument I presented, since I argue that the problem with Aristotle’s argument is the reliance on virtuous friends, since it makes happiness precarious. They may want to point out that Aristotle’s view of ethics is inherently relational, that he does not conceive of true happiness as something attainable without human connection (Nussbaum 2001; Richardson Lear 2004; Stern-Gillet 1995; Hitz 2011). After all, part of what it means to be virtuous is to engage in virtuous activity and, in order to do this, we need others— particularly another virtuous person—around to do good things for. I acknowledge that Aristotle’s view of happiness is at its heart a relational one; this seems right. I take no issue with the view that one cannot become truly happy on one’s own and must engage in interpersonal relationships with others to reach a state of happiness. What is troubling to me, however, is that the virtuous person must rely on such a rare quality—virtue—to be cultivated and maintained in another person. Further, such a person must choose to become friends with our virtuous person to ensure that his happiness is self-sufficient. This must take place in order for our virtuous person to reach a state of true happiness. This leaves a crucial aspect to the cultivation of happiness out of our hands; since such an important part of the attainment of happiness is not within our control, happiness does not appear to be truly self-sufficient. But what does self-sufficiency mean, definitionally? According to Brown, Aristotle regards self-sufficiency as “that which makes life choiceworthy and lacking in nothing” (Brown 2014, 6). In the next section, I discuss in further detail the condition of choiceworthiness in Aristotle’s concept of self-sufficiency; for now, we will put that condition to the side and focus on the latter half of this statement: self-sufficiency must entail that the agent is lacking in nothing. While this seems right, I think it is too broad a condition for true self-sufficiency, and due to this, it leads our

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


virtuous person to a very precarious state in happiness. As such, I reject this understanding of the term. Eric Brown offers a slightly more complex interpretation of self-sufficiency in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. He proposes three conditions we can refer back to regarding self-sufficiency: “(1) one has the abilities to procure needed resources; (2) one does not need any amount of any resources so large as to require help from others; and (3) one does not need any amount whatsoever of those resources, like political power or friendship, which inherently require others” (Brown 2014, 6). The first kind of self-sufficiency is what Brown calls “political self-sufficiency,” and while it meets the first condition, it violates requirements (2) and (3) on the grounds that human beings are inherently political animals. By this, Aristotle is making reference to his view that the nature of a thing is identified through its goal, and since he classifies human beings as political in nature, the goal of a human being is political. Further, Aristotle contends that the human good, or the final end of a human being, is the same as the final end of politics: achieving happiness. As Aristotle describes in his Politics, the aim of the state or the polis is to help its citizens cultivate happiness through policies, education, and leisure activities.iii Brown writes that if we consider the good life as a life of virtuous activity in an ethical sense, then “we should realise that the best life of ethically virtuous activity is devoted to fostering ethically virtuous activity for the city as a whole; it is a fully political life” (Brown 2014, 9). Brown suggests that to think of the human end as being political is to say that the human end is realized not just by simply residing in a polis, but through actively taking part in the polis. But since taking part in a polis means being a citizen of a polis (as one cannot do this unless one is a citizen, as Aristotle discusses in Book 3 of his Politics), “Aristotle’s dictum that humans are by nature political means that the human end is realized by living as a citizen of a polis” (11). The thing that makes the polis so important is that it helps to realize the human capacity of speech: any animal can communicate its need through sounds; but only human beings can articulate what is good or bad, just or unjust (Aristotle 1985/2014, 1253a7-18). The polis is the only community that has public institutions that are “fully and exclusively committed to articulating shared standards of ethical evaluation, especially concerning justice” (Brown 2014, 15), and it is through this sharing of ethical evaluations that help the citizens of a polis to realize their end. Further, ethically virtuous activity (such as being benevolent to fellow citizens, engaging

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


in just, courageous, or temperate activities within one’s polis) characterizes the political life for Aristotle, which is why the life of ethical virtuous activity necessitates political engagement. Brown writes that because of these considerations, the “life described in the bulk of the Nicomachean Ethics is a political life” (15). But what of the polis itself? According to Aristotle (1985/2014), the polis exists by nature (1252b25-30), and yet it is something that is built by humans. Brown proposes that by this, Aristotle is referring back to our political nature as human beings. Bringing a polis into being is necessary for humans to live well, as we discussed. This is unique especially to a polis, because a city-state is the only form of community that fulfills the pursuit of self-sufficiency (Brown 2014, 12). Brown writes that “every small community exists for the sake of the polis, the polis exists for the sake of self-sufficiency, and self-sufficiency is the goal of human beings” (12). So, political self-sufficiency requires that our virtuous person be an active member of his polis, engaging in virtuous activity with his fellow citizens; however, Aristotle (1985/2014) also writes that “it is finer to benefit friends than to benefit strangers” (1169b12-13), which is one reason why the virtuous person should have a similarly virtuous friend. Political self-sufficiency means that in order to be self-sufficient in happiness, one requires both the polis and a virtuous friend to be continuously virtuously active to and with. I like the way Brown makes obvious how Aristotle intends the polis to be tied in with his concept of selfsufficiency; it helps to bring out the truly relational core of Aristotle’s view of happiness and politics. However, we are left with the same precarity as a result of relying on the rarity of virtue as developed and maintained in another person. Again, when I think of “self-sufficiency,” this dependence on a person removed from oneself choosing to develop a character in line with something as rare as virtue is not what comes to mind. Perhaps the next form of self-sufficiency might give us some answers. Solitary self-sufficiency, unlike political self-sufficiency, meets almost all three of the criteria Brown lays out. This form of self-sufficiency is related to the other of the two lives that can lead one to happiness: the contemplative or philosophic life. Unlike the ethically virtuous life, whereby the primary focus is on ethically virtuous activity, that is, engaging in interactions with others (preferably with another virtuous person as either recipient or partner), the contemplative life’s primary activity is the contemplation of virtue. So, the political life requires dependence on

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


others for virtuous activity, whereas the contemplative life requires no such dependence (Aristotle 1985/2014, 1177a30-b1). The philosopher meets the first two criteria because he has the ability to gather the necessities he needs, and since he is only gathering a small amount of necessities, he does not require help from others to get them (Brown 2014, 18). Finally, he meets most of the third criterion of not needing any external resources one would find in a polis, as the contemplator “needs none of these goods, for that activity at least; indeed, for [contemplation], we might say they are even hindrances” (Aristotle 1985/2014, 1178b3-4). However, just because the philosopher does not require political power, Aristotle (1985/2014) contends that although “the wise person is able, and more able the wiser he is, to study even by himself… he presumably does it better with colleagues” (1177a34). Even so, he writes, the contemplator is more self-sufficient than the ethically virtuous person (1177b2). Further, as Brown (2014) points out, the contemplator is human and therefore cannot participate in contemplation all the time. As such, he will probably need friends for when he is not contemplating (19). While not involved in contemplation, we can imagine that the philosopher may engage in the company of the pleasurable or useful kind of friends. But according to Zena Hitz, the “colleagues” in contemplation are fellow virtuous people; other contemplators (Hitz 2011, 23-24). Especially while starting out, it seems that the contemplators greatly benefit in the acquisition of wisdom through living with one another. This is because they can learn from each other through sharing in their knowledge and understanding of human nature, the goodness of human life, all the forms of virtue, and eudaimonia (24). Hitz writes that “the wise man will gradually acquire more knowledge to contemplate on his own, and he will need friends less for help in acquiring or perfecting it. He will achieve greater self-contained unity this way, and so greater self-sufficiency” (24). On the face of it, solitary self-sufficiency seems to satisfy my complaints regarding the dependence on a virtuous friend for the self-sufficiency of happiness. While it is true that the wise man does not need friends the wiser he becomes, and can in fact contemplate better without friends around, the philosopher still requires his virtuous friends in order to gain the necessary wisdom to engage in solitary contemplation. This means we are exactly where we left off with Brown’s political self-sufficiency: happiness is still precarious, and the concept of self-sufficiency still does

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


not fully ring true to its name. That is to say, Brown’s concept of self-sufficiency is not enough to solve the problem of precarity in Aristotle’s view of happiness. Since these alternative interpretations do not satisfy my complaints, I propose we apply a new concept of self-sufficiency when regarding Aristotle’s view of happiness. To be clear, this suggestion is not an interpretation of Aristotle’s writing; I have no evidence that Aristotle would agree with my second condition for self-sufficiency. I propose that we take self-sufficiency to mean that the virtuous person has the ability to become happy so long as he has all he needs to attain happiness (in other words, he is “lacking in nothing”), and that all he needs to attain happiness is within his control. However, based on the arguments Aristotle has given, in order to complete his ascent to true happiness, the virtuous person must (1) find another person who is virtuous, (2) that person must agree to befriend him, and (3) that person must also maintain his virtue. Very clearly, (2) is completely outside of the virtuous person’s control; this criterion depends entirely on the will of another human being. The way Aristotle discusses (3) makes it seem as though our virtuous person has some control; recall his remarks that should the virtuous friend begin to decline in virtue, our virtuous person should do all he can to set his friend straight. This makes it seem as though he has the ability to stop his friend’s decent into vice, however I suggest this is not actually the case. Try as he might, if his friend lacks the temperance needed, for instance, to maintain his excellent character, then there is very little our virtuous person can do to ensure his friend does what is necessary to maintain his virtue. So, like (2), (3) is also outside the control of the virtuous person. And again, while it may seem that (1) is within the virtuous person’s control since he is engaging in the act of searching, I propose that it is not in fact within his control; if such a virtuous person is to be found, it means that through no act of his own, someone apart from our virtuous person—a stranger—has cultivated his own virtue. If no one in our virtuous person’s proximity has done so, then there will have been no virtuous friend to find. This, it seems, is something apart from us, separate from the things we have control over. So, if what we mean by “self-sufficiency in happiness” is the virtuous person’s ability to become happy so long as he (1) has all he needs to become happy, and (2) the things needed to become happy are within his control, then I argue that happiness is not truly selfsufficient, as Aristotle’s argument does not meet our second condition of self-sufficiency, and it is questionable whether his argument meets our first condition (since presumably if he cannot meet

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


the second condition of being able to gather what he needs to become happy, he will not have what he needs to become happy). It is because of this that happiness is precarious. In the next section, I will re-work Aristotle’s three arguments given in 9.9 of the Nicomachean Ethics to better fit my definition of self-sufficiency to see if this solves the problem of the precariousness of happiness in Aristotle’s ethics. §3 – Application Now that I have suggested a new concept of self-sufficiency, let us consider Aristotle’s three arguments concerning the role a virtuous friend plays in making happiness self-sufficient. Recall his first argument, whereby he concludes that the virtuous person will need virtuous friends, as watching their actions would bring him pleasure. While it is nice that such a friend would bring pleasure to the virtuous person, I do not believe this should be considered a serious requirement for the self-sufficiency of happiness, especially if we take happiness to be gained through continuous virtuous activity either in the form of ethically virtuous activity or contemplative activity. It may be a joyful thing to take pleasure in, but not something which happiness requires; just because he may not have the pleasure of witnessing the good acts done by another virtuous person does not mean he is lacking. There are two points in particular I want to address regarding his final two arguments. First, regarding premise (2) in his third argument, I believe that just because he can be connected with his friend through their similarity in virtue does not mean he needs that friend in order to attain happiness. Second, premise (6) in his second argument and premises (2) and (3) in his third all make reference to the choiceworthiness of the virtuous friend, and the idea that if what is choiceworthy is missing, then our virtuous agent is lacking (recall Aristotle’s view of selfsufficiency as discussed in the previous section). Hitz argues that this element of choiceworthiness in Aristotle’s arguments “seems to be both false for Aristotle and false simply” (Hitz 2011, 10). If choiceworthiness indicates intrinsic good, which it seems to, it follows that “the happy man needs all intrinsic goods – spirited card games, elegant lawn decorations, foot massages, and so on. But this is neither intuitively plausible nor something that Aristotle seems to think” (10). I agree with Hitz’s argument and considering it I argue that choiceworthiness has no place in our understanding of self-sufficiency. That is, happiness can be self-sufficient and not lacking in anything of great

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


importance to our ability to engage in continuous virtuous activity without having all things that are choiceworthy. This understanding of self-sufficiency will play out in different ways depending on which virtuous life we are considering. In the ethically virtuous life, one can engage in ethically virtuous activity with one’s community within the polis, and in fact, this seems to coincide nicely with the importance Aristotle places on living within and engaging with a polis. If our virtuous person has his fellow citizens to act virtuously towards, then he does not need a virtuous friend; it may take effort, but he can be continuously active within his polis without such a friend by his side. And actually, this ethically virtuous activity can only promote the good of all the citizens within the polis, by promoting their understanding of virtue (through observing and being a recipient of it) and therefore their end. If our virtuous agent happens to meet a virtuous person like himself and befriend him, then all the better—it will make being continuously virtuously active that much easier! But I do not think this needs to be a condition of the self-sufficiency of happiness. This means that the ethically virtuous life can be self-sufficient based on my understanding of the term; that is, as long as our virtuous person (1) has all he needs to become happy (such as the necessities, people to engage in virtuous activity with such as fellow citizens, and the appropriate cultivation of virtue in his character), and (2) the things needed to become happy are within his control (as each of those things mentioned are), then the happiness he attains is self-sufficient and far less precarious. But what of the contemplative life? This is slightly trickier, because while the philosopher may not need his virtuous friends once he becomes wise enough to contemplate on his own, he does seem to need them in order to gain the appropriate wisdom to become wise. I think we must admit that without a virtuous friend to share in understanding and thought, our virtuous person who is not yet wise enough to contemplate on his own would be severely restricted in the kind of virtuous activity he can engage in during his contemplation. Further, observation of others in the polis can only take our virtuous person so far in his search for wisdom. According to my proposed conditions of self-sufficiency, the virtuous person engaged in contemplative activity cannot truly be self-sufficient in his happiness until he attains enough wisdom to no longer require his virtuous friends. But that he requires these friends to begin with is still a problem for my understanding of the term self-sufficiency. A possible solution to this problem would be to take my lead from both Aristotle and Brown and employ a secondary use of

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


self-sufficiency as only using the first part of my understanding of it: that the philosopher has all he needs to become happy. This of course would mean that the contemplative life remains problematic with regard to the precarity of the happiness it can achieve. However, this may be understandable; Aristotle (1985/2014) contends that the contemplative life is divine or godlike, as contemplation is an activity of the Gods. It is because of this divinity that Aristotle considers the contemplative life to be truly the best life (1177a15-17).iv So in a way, it seems fitting that the godlike way of life should be harder to attain and more precarious in the happiness derived from it, as we are mere humans trying to access a kind of divinity. This seems to fit nicely in with Aristotle’s conception of this way of life, as only a few people are able to engage in it. So, the less godlike and more human virtuous life is going to be more attainable and less precarious; this way of life is the kind that most fits our final ends as human beings. It is only right that happiness as derived from living the best life for a human should be stable, so long as we continue engaging in virtuous acts and monitoring our characters to ensure they do not deviate from the mean between the excess and deficiencies. So, self-sufficiency here will mean that our virtuous person (1) has all he needs to become happy, and (2) the things needed to become happy are within his control. The self-sufficiency needed to be happy in the contemplative, philosophic life is simply that the virtuous person (1) has all he needs to become happy. Notice that I have removed the choiceworthy aspect; I think what Hitz says about this applies to both ways of life. Instead of arguing that the contemplative virtuous person needs a virtuous friend because it is choiceworthy, I argue that he needs the virtuous friend in order to live with them so he can gain the wisdom he needs to become the wise man and attain happiness.

Concluding Remarks In this paper, I have argued that Aristotle’s concept of happiness is precarious due to the understanding of self-sufficiency employed in his arguments. I have suggested an alternative view of self-sufficiency as the ethically virtuous person (1) having all he needs to become happy, and (2) the things needed to become happy are within his control. I encountered a problem with this definition regarding the contemplative life but concluded that precarity in happiness for such a way of life seems fitting to its divine or godlike status. As such, I maintain that the self-sufficiency employed for the contemplative life is simply that the philosopher (1) has all he needs to become happy.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


I do however feel it important to note that I do not believe that happiness is truly stable in the grand scheme of things. I think that even with my understanding of self-sufficiency in the ethically virtuous life, the virtuous agent can be impaired in his happiness through situations or happenings outside of his realm of control. For instance, the virtuous agent can still experience the loss of a loved one, bad luck, illness, or any such mishaps.v These things can certainly impact our virtuous agent’s happy state, and that they are outside his control is okay. The worry my suggestion of self-sufficiency is trying to solve is instead the need of a virtuous friend and all that entails in order to achieve and maintain happiness. The idea that we must rely so heavily on something having to do entirely with the choices and character of another human being—both the choices they make before ever knowing you exist and the choices they make once we become friends—is troubling, and should cause great worry for the aspiring virtuous person, and indeed the person who has already achieved a virtuous character. With my suggestion, the virtuous person’s happiness does not rely on something so wholly outside our realm of control to attain and maintain happiness. In my view, bad luck, ill health, and loss (to name a few) do not seem to be major concerns in quite the same way. Perhaps it is because the agent seems to take a passive role in the way such things play out; these things happen to them in a way that the necessity for a virtuous friendship to attain happiness does not.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


Notes Throughout the paper, I will use the male pronoun, as Aristotle did not think women capable of becoming virtuous and achieving true happiness (Politics Book 1 Chapter 13). i

For the purposes of this paper, I will not go into detail on what Aristotle means when he talks of friend’s living with each other, as my focus with this paper is instead on the self-sufficiency of happiness. ii


Aristotle discusses this topic throughout his Politics, but especially in Book 8.

While it is true that Aristotle considers the contemplative life to be the best life due to its divine nature, he also considers the ethically virtuous life to be “best,” in the sense that it is the best human life. And insofar as we are human, it is the best life for us to lead. iv

Nussbaum (2001) devotes a whole chapter to the discussions of luck (and bad luck) regarding the virtuous person in her The Fragility of Goodness (318-342). v

References Aristotle. 2014. Nicomachean Ethics. Translated by C.D.C. Reeve. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing. Aristotle. 1985. Nicomachean Ethics. Translated by Terence Irwin. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing. Barnes, Jonathan. 1984. The Complete Works of Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics. Bollingen Series LXXI. 2. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Brown, Eric. 2014. “Aristotle on the Choice of Lives: Two Concepts of Self-Sufficiency.” Theoria: Studies on the Status and Meaning of Contemplation in Aristotle’s Ethics. Edited by Pierre Destree & Marco Zingano. Leuven, Belgium: Peeters Publishing. Pp. 111-133. Hitz, Zena. 2011. “Aristotle in Self-Knowledge and Friendship.” Philosopher’s Imprint 11, no. 12 (August). Kraut, Richard. 2018. “Aristotle’s Ethics.” In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer). Nussbaum, Martha C. 2001. The Fragility of Goodness, Revised Edition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 318-372. Richardson Lear, Gabriel. 2004. Happy Lives and the Highest Good. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Chapter 3. Stern-Gillet, Suzanne. 1995. Aristotle’s Philosophy of Friendship. Albany, NY: SUNY University Press.

Gnosis | 18.1 (2020)


Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.