NEVER IN EXCESS

In the first instance and on the whole, forgetting is experienced as an attack on the reliability of memory. An attack, a weakness, a lacuna. In this regard memory defines itself, at least in the first instance, as a struggle against forgetting. And our celebrated duty of memory is proclaimed in the form of an exhortation not to forget. But at the same time and in the same fell swoop, we shun the specter of a memory that would never forget anything. We even consider it to be monstrous. Could there then be a measure in the use of human memory, a “never in excess” in accordance with the dictum of ancient wisdom? Could forgetting then no longer be in every respect an enemy of memory, and could memory have to negotiate with forgetting, groping to find the right measure in its balance with forgetting? And could this appropriate memory have something in common with the renunciation of total reflection? Could a memory lacking forgetting be the ultimate phantasm, the ultimate figure of this total reflection that we have been combatting in all of the ranges of the hermeneutics of the human condition?

– Paul Ricoeur, Memory, History, Forgetting

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