“Philosophy of Remembrance. Time and its double”, by Avishag Zafrani: the “philosophy” chronicle of Roger-Pol Droit

“Philosophy of Remembrance. Time and its Double”, by Avishag Zafrani, PUF, 244 p., €17, digital €14.


It could be that our conception of memory is incomplete, and therefore insufficient. Most often we believe that it must wither, inevitably, as time passes. The image of an old moment would become increasingly pale, less and less vivid. It would soon be corroded by uncertainty, before fading into oblivion.

The philosopher Avishag Zafrani draws attention to the existence, too neglected, of the inverse process: the memory cultivated, remembered, revisited, is enriched over time. It matures, deepens, sometimes embellishes. Instead of withering away, it reveals itself, over time, to be more and more alive. Paradox: this memory ends up being much richer than the once present moment.

The ancient Gnostic conception

To account for this strange possibility, we must revisit the inexhaustible question of time and the divergent conceptions it has given rise to in the history of philosophical thought. It is to this basic task that the philosopher, specialist in Ernst Bloch and Hans Jonas, is attached, to whom we already owe a remarkable essay inspired by these two thinkers, The Challenge of Nihilism (Hermann, 2014). This time, Avishag Zafrani offers a more personal meditation, the course of which deserves to be followed with attention. Around memory, she examines, by reorganizing them, some major historical configurations of the relationships between time and world, life and action.

Beginning with the ancient Gnostic conception. This judges the cosmos to be radically bad, hideous, irremediably in crisis. Such pessimism leaves no real room for memory, or even for time. Because the complete ruin of the world, in fact, has already taken place. As it is impossible to discern what was before this fall, the memory has nothing positive to cling to. Immersion in misfortune is without hope or tomorrow. The world is not to contemplate or to transform, but only to flee.

This profoundly nihilistic vision is not an old moon of distant centuries. Back in force in modernity, under new clothes, it permeates our time. This is why it is appropriate to oppose it with other ways of envisaging both the world and time. That of the Greeks, who, on the contrary, were fascinated by the beauty of the cosmos, and who conceived of the passing of moments as “the moving image of eternity”to speak like Plato in the Timaeus. That of the Jews, who organize the ritualized life of memory, its reiteration, its openness to an unpredictable future, which is built over time.

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