Which great philosophers have been forgotten?

From anger and amazement at forgetting

"What's the title of the book?" Who doesn't know this situation! In the middle of a conversation you are missing a name, a description, a date or something else. We are sure that what we were looking for was once available, but what we are looking for cannot be remembered. We often get angry in such situations. "This can not be! I just knew that! ”Or a slight discomfort creeps in:“ Are these the first signs of dementia? ”Among other things, there are experiences that lead to forms of individual forgetting, primarily as a nuisance and as a limitation of Opportunities to consider. Those who deal more intensively with forms of forgetting, however, no longer fall exclusively into ranting, but soon also brooding over the ability to forget and, above all, being amazed at the human ability to notice their own forgetting and to be able to include them in their thinking.

To forget. What's this? It is difficult to give a generally positive answer to this question. Nevertheless, from a philosophical point of view, more can be said about this question than it may seem at first, and there are also positive things. Throughout the literature of philosophy there is a clear trace of astonishment with regard to forms of forgetting.

How is it possible that man is able to notice that he is forgotten? Even in ancient philosophy, the ability of humans to be aware of their own memory processes was ascribed a central importance. Establishing one's own forgetting points to a fundamental learning effect, it signifies a turning point, which is often presented as a prelude to cognitive activity. Because whoever realizes forms of forgetting and does not carelessly ignore it, begins to realign his gaze. Seeing, thinking, and perceiving become specifically objects of questioning. When did I forget and why? Which criteria does the selection follow? What are the reasons for forms of remembrance? Am I forgetting other things too? How can I know what else I know without checking it? To what extent can I trust my memory, my judgment? The preoccupation with cases and forms of own forgetting opens the view to questioning one's own thinking with regard to its conditions and conditionality.

Identifying forms of forgetting in oneself comprises a 'thought experience'. We discover that we have forgotten something that we thought we could retrieve and, in doing so, notice the limits of our power of disposal. In the opposite case, too, we are confronted with the fact that our conscious access is influenced by influences that are not completely transparent to us, but can be ascertained and reflected. For example, unexpected images and sensations emerge that we no longer knew would accompany us. We haven't heard from a person for decades and never thought of him again, someone walks through the room and moves exactly like that person and reminds you of them again full of liveliness. How is that possible? Such incidents enable experiences that can throw the thinker back on themselves and cause that astonishment and inquiries through which the question of the question can become virulent.

Whoever asks the question about the question realizes that change of view which first allows a distinction to be made between thinking and critical thinking. The prerequisite for this is the alienation of the obvious. That which is taken for granted is neither necessary nor correct in every case. What duration promises is possibly ephemeral. That which seems immovable has become, shaped and changeable. Noticing forms of forgetting is a way of remembering memory as a component of conscious access and of becoming aware of those relationships in which viewpoints and judgments are embedded. The thinking experience that occurs at the moment of becoming aware of one's own forgetting allows, as Paul Valéry once put it, to recognize the memory as the “body of thinking” and to include it in the formation of judgments.

“What worries us about memory is that we can neither perceive nor even imagine the permanent deformation of our system that every impression imposes on it. In appearance, the system has not changed; only a new occasion will show that it has changed - if it remembers. "1 The memory of forgotten and forgotten includes a process in which it is made clear that there is a connection between now and before, between now and after, which remains unnoticed until something comes across it and draws your attention. What that is in individual cases cannot be answered in general. Nor is it clear when an experience is strong enough to trigger critical questions about it in the long term. There is no guarantee that the mentioned or comparable thinking experiences lead to critical thinking. Without such experiences, however, thinking hardly comes into the movement that is necessary to test the possibilities of critical thinking.

“I forget!” This insightful exclamation is accompanied by philosophical amazement in different ways within the history of philosophy. It is astonishment at the impressive and at the same time puzzling ability of humans to be able to notice that they have forgotten themselves. Man is able to sound out the possibilities and limits of his thinking and to include them in thinking. That is surprising and fundamental at the same time. It is surprising because the insight into the limits in turn gives an idea of ​​the enormous possibilities of thinking. It is fundamental, insofar as a claim arises on the basis of these insights with regard to the responsibility of the individual to exhaust the possibilities and to recognize the limitations. The preoccupation with the various forms of forgetting shows to what extent people can give their thinking a direction in a self-determined manner and also to what extent this does not or never succeeds.


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