Involuntary moods / memories

One of the starting assumptions for this work on objects and memory is that the memories involuntarily provoked by an object are significantly different from those that we recall by deliberate intent. It’s nice to find someone who shares a similar position:

“It is surely uncontroversial to claim that all cognition is conditioned by its context or situation, but a situation also requires a mood to be understood as a certain kind of situation. […] Perhaps it is most correct to say that we have cognition of a situation by virtue of the mood through which the situation is given to us. […] It conditions how the world – and therefore also all objects and events – appear to us. […] The mood forms a basic frame for understanding and experience.”

“But moods can be recovered, as when Marcel dips his Madeleine cake into his tea in Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, or when we notice a certain odour, which for instance is the same as the one in a class-room in primary school, and we suddenly realise that everything we experience in this room was shrouded in an unmistakeable mood. But we cannot simply through an act of will recover a previous mood, a mood belonging to a time now past. As Proust observed:

‘And so it is with our own past. It is a labour in vain to attempt to recapture it all: the effort of our intellect must prove futile. The past is hidden some outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us) of which we have no inkling. And it depends on chance whether or not we come upon this object before we ourselves must die.’

Suddenly, through an involuntary act of remembrance, the attunements of the past can be awakened in us.”

Svendsen, L. (2006) A Philosophy of Boredom, London: Reaktion Books, 111-113


About Bruce Davenport

Research associate at Newcastle University. Previously a museum educator and researcher.
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