Philosophy Memory
by
Sven Bernecker, Aaron Bogart
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 October 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 July 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0072

Introduction

Remembering is a fundamental cognitive process, which is involved in virtually all other important cognitive functions, such as reasoning, perception, problem solving, and speech. Because memory is a central component of the mind, it is not surprising that theorizing about memory is as old as philosophy itself. Contemporary philosophers are primarily interested in the role of memory in various metaphysical and epistemological debates. For example, memory is often discussed in relation to personal identity, epistemic justification, and the experience of time—and to a lesser extent, collective memory, the hypothesis of extended memory, non-conceptual memory contents, and the ethics of memory.

General Overviews

Recent philosophers have typically imposed a tripartite division on the types of memory: habit memory, personal memory, and factual memory (Zemach 1968, Locke 1971). Habit memory is memory for the sort of everyday procedures one experiences and carries out; an example would be “remembering” how to get home from school. Personal memory is memory for events that one has personally experienced; an example would be one’s witnessing the fall of the Berlin Wall. Finally, factual memory is memory for facts; an example would be remembering that 2 + 2 = 4. Philosophers discussing the relation between memory and personal identity tend to focus on personal memory, while those who discuss epistemological issues tend to focus on factual memory. This division can raise a worry, however; what if one remembers that the Berlin Wall fell in 1989? Does one remember personally here (because one witnessed the fall of the Wall), or is it factual memory (because one has had this reinforced since)? Locke 1971 is perhaps the best introduction to, or overview of, the philosophy of memory; it covers the metaphysics of memory in an accessible manner, as well as various epistemological issues. Malcolm 1975 also provides an excellent overview of some of the philosophical issues surrounding memory. Warnock 1987 provides a readable introduction to some philosophers’ (e.g., Sartre’s) theories of memory and discusses personal identity and causation. Senor 2005 provides a more updated synopsis of the philosophy of memory, and Sutton 2012 offers useful bibliographies. The most recent book-length treatment of the philosophy of memory is Bernecker 2010.

Historical Discussions

Philosophers have long had an interest in memory. It is evident that as our conceptions of memory have become more sophisticated, so too have our philosophical accounts of memory. This section lists contributions from the history of philosophy that stand out as worthy of special mention. Herrmann and Chaffin 1988 is a useful place to start looking for historical precedent. Aristotle 2003 is similar to (but often more detailed than) the kind of discussion to be found in the British empiricist tradition. According to Augustine’s Confessions, the first Western autobiography, memory encompasses all cognitive faculties and is the locus of personal identity (Augustine 1991). John Locke takes memory to be a power of the mind “to revive perceptions, which it has once had, with this additional perception annexed to them, that it has had them before” (Locke 1979). David Hume invokes memory to account for unity among the perceptions. When distinguishing them from ideas of imagination, Hume describes ideas of memory as “strong and lively” and credits them with “force and vivacity” (Hume 2000). Where Hume argues for representative realism about memory, Reid 2002 defends direct realism. Memory, says Reid, gives us direct knowledge of things past, whereas sense perception gives us direct knowledge of things present. Further historical discussants, including John Laird, C. I. Lewis, William James, and Bertrand Russell, are discussed in the Objects of Memory.

The Objects of Memory

Representative (or indirect) realism about memory claims there is a past that causes us to have memory experiences but that we are not directly or immediately aware of the past. What we are directly aware of is the effect these objects have on us: namely, representations of the past. We remember something not by way of being directly aware of that thing but rather a mediating image that represents that thing. To remember is to undergo a certain sort of mental experience. It is to experience a mental representation (or memory image) that reproduces a memory experience. Among the advocates of the representative theory are Hume, James, and Russell. The most widely canvassed objection to representative realism about memory is that it makes the past unknowable. If all we are directly aware of are our representations about the past, how can we know that there is a past at all, much less that the past is the cause of our present representations? In response to skepticism about memory knowledge, many advocates of representative realism have maintained that there is an a priori knowable feature that authentic memory representations have and that “false memories” lack. This feature of memory representations that distinguishes them from other kinds of representations and that stamps them as authentic has been called “memory marker” or “memory indicator.” Memory markers have been described by representative realists in a number of ways: as the feeling of warmth and intimacy (James 1981), the feeling of familiarity and “pastness” (Russell 1995), or as the force and vivacity of memories (Hume 2000). According to the direct realist, we do not remember the past by virtue of being aware of an image presenting the past to us; rather, our awareness of the past is direct. Although remembering something requires the having of representations, and though these representations determine the way the thing appears to us, there is no reason to suppose we are aware of these representations themselves. We are aware of a past event by internally representing the event, not by being aware of the internal representation of the event. Representations, according to the direct realist, do not function as the primary object of awareness but are merely the vehicle of the remembered information. Direct realism about memory is defended by, among others, Laird 1971, Reid 2002, and Russell 1997. One of the notorious problems of direct realism is to explain our direct acquaintance with, or experience of, past events. Another worry is that direct realism is incompatible with the causal theory of memory. Given that the causal theory is highly intuitive, if it were incompatible with direct realism, this would speak against direct realism.

  • Bernecker, Sven. The Metaphysics of Memory. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4020-8220-7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Chapter 5 explains the distinction between representative and direct realism. It argues that contrary to what many philosophers think, the causal theory of memory is perfectly compatible with direct realism. Chapter 6 argues that representative realism inevitably leads to skepticism about memory knowledge.

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  • Hume, David. A Treatise of Human Nature. Edited by David Fate Norton and Mary J. Norton. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    Hume proposes two criteria by which to distinguish ideas of memory from ideas of pure imagination (cf. I.i.1–6 and I.iii). According to the formal criterion, in recalling, unlike in imagining, we are not free to alter and transpose, join and divide, as we like. According to the phenomenal criterion, the perception of an event is particularly vivacious, the memory less so, and the imagination of the event is the least vivacious of the three.

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  • James, William. The Principles of Psychology. 3 vols. Edited by Frederick H. Burkhardt. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981.

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    A rich discussion of philosophical and psychological issues concerning memory. James distinguishes between immediate memory (primary memory) and indirect memory (secondary memory). Primary memory (a temporary store) is a faithful reproduction of events that were just perceived. Secondary memory (a permanent store) represents paths etched in the brain. There is a close resemblance to short-term/long-term memory distinction developed in the 1960s.

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  • Laird, John. A Study in Realism. Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1971.

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    According to Laird, remembering something doesn’t amount to representing a past representation of the thing but instead amounts to representing the past thing itself. First published in 1920.

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  • Reid, Thomas. Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man. Edited by Derek R. Brookes. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002.

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    In essay 3 Reid rejects representative realism and argues for a view whereupon personal memory yields unmediated knowledge of the past.

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  • Russell, Bertrand. The Analysis of Mind. London: Routledge, 1995.

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    Russell argues for a version of representative realism about memory.

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  • Russell, Bertrand. The Problems of Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

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    Russell produced one theory of memory in 1912 in The Problems of Philosophy (chapter 7) and another, quite different one nine years later in The Analysis of Mind (Russell 1995, chapters 4 and 9). The first theory claims that memory is direct acquaintance with particulars observed in the past.

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  • Urmson, J. O. “Memory and Imagination.” Mind 76 (1967): 83–91.

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    Urmson argues that I can tell my memories from my imaginations by the criteria of success I choose to apply to my efforts. I am remembering if I aim at truth; I am imagining if I think that only such criteria as verisimilitude and interestingness are the relevant ones.

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The Causal Theory of Memory

The causal theory of memory claims that to remember something, one’s present mental state (experience, belief, etc.) must not only correspond to but must also be suitably causally connected to the corresponding mental state in the past. The crucial issue is determining what should count as a suitable causal connection. Not just any sort of causal connection will suffice for memory—some causal chains are not of the appropriate sort; they are deviant. The classic presentation of the causal theory of memory is formulated in Martin and Deutscher 1966. Other proponents of the causal theory are Anscombe 1981 and Bernecker 2010. Among the critics of the causal theory are Shope 1973 and Zemach 1983. The main competitors with the causal theory are the evidential and the simple retention theory. Proponents of the simple retention theory such as Squires 1969 hold that for a past and present mental state to be memory-related, what is required is merely that by virtue of having had a particular past mental state, one acquired an ability or disposition that one retained and now exercises by occupying the present mental state; there need not be a causal connection between the past and present mental state. According to the evidential retention theory championed by Naylor 1971, for a piece of knowledge to qualify as a memory, its justificatory factors must be the same as those supporting the original piece of knowledge that has been retained. In other words, for you to remember that p you must know that p, you must have known that p in the past, and your grounds for believing p in the past must be the same as your grounds for believing that p now.

  • Anscombe, G. E. M. “Memory, ‘Experience,’ and Causation.” In Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Mind. Vol. 2 of The Collected Philosophical Papers of G. E. M. Anscombe. By G. E. M. Anscombe, 120–129. Oxford: Blackwell, 1981.

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    Defends the causal theory of memory and argues that remembering doesn’t require images. And where images are involved, there are not so much memory images as remembered perceptual images.

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  • Bernecker, Sven. Memory: A Philosophical Study. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    In chapters 4 and 5 Bernecker argues in favor of the causal theory of memory and examines the nature of the causal relation constitutive of remembering.

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  • Martin, C. B., and Max Deutscher. “Remembering.” Philosophical Review 75 (1966): 161–196.

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    A seminal paper presenting the causal theory of memory. Martin and Deutscher examine the difference between a memory being jogged by a prompting and a prompting imparting the information afresh. They also argue against the widespread view whereby factual memory implies knowledge (or at least belief).

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  • Naylor, Andrew. “B Remembers that P from Time T.” Journal of Philosophy 68 (1971): 29–41.

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    Naylor maintains that for a present state of knowing p to be memory-related to a past state of knowing p the grounds for believing p in the past must be either the same as, or a subset of the grounds for, believing p presently.

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  • Shope, Robert. “Remembering, Knowledge, and Memory Traces.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 33 (1973): 303–322.

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    Shope maintains that remembering doesn’t require the continuous retention of knowledge, that the analysis of the concept of memory need not employ the concept of a trace, and that nothing about memory causation can be inferred from the existence of traces.

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  • Squires, Roger. “Memory Unchained.” Philosophical Review 78 (1969): 178–196.

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    Section two of this paper is a defense of the view that memory is essentially the retention of knowledge. Section one argues that this retention need not be analyzed in terms of a causal process, since remembering that p is simply one’s persisting ability or disposition to produce knowledge of that p. Section 3 criticizes Martin and Deutscher’s causal account of memory.

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  • Zemach, Eddy M. “Memory: What It Is, and What It Cannot Possibly Be.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 46 (1983): 31–44.

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    Argues that the causal theory of memory fails because it ignores the role of memory in our “game of knowledge.”

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Memory Traces and Connectionism

When one learns something—some fact, for example—how is that fact stored in memory such that we are able to recall it at a later time? What explains the causal continuity between the past (learning of the fact) and the present (recall of the fact)? On one view, memories are stored by memory traces, which represent the original event and provide a causal link between the original episode and one’s ability to remember the event (Heil 1978, Rosen 1975). Some works such as Russell 1995 argue that memory retrieval does not require memory traces; rather, there is a mnemonic type of causation involved. But what is mnemonic causation? This concept, while perhaps defensible (Bernecker 2008), seems of little explanatory help when we delve further into the science of memory. According to psychologists and cognitive scientists, memory is dynamic and context sensitive in nature; therefore, memory traces have an easier time of explaining the type of causation involved in remembering (Bechtel and Abrahamsen 2002). In the current literature, a useful framework for talking about memory traces is the connectionist framework. Connectionism, which says that traces are activated neural networks or pathways, offers a way to account for the causal continuity between two temporally distinct mental events involving memory, between the past and the present, that doesn’t require memory to be static in nature, allows for memory to be reconstructive, and allows for context to play a role in remembering, as many psychologists now claim is necessary (Sutton 1998).

Memory and Knowledge

Factual memory is often considered a form of knowledge. Just as we can know (that p) by perception, we can also know (that p) by remembering. Skeptical doubts aside, seeing a cat on a mat entails that one knows that there is a cat on the mat; but does remembering that one saw a cat on the mat entail knowing that there was a cat on the mat? Is remembering knowledge-entailing (Audi 2003)? Suppose S learns that the capital of France is Paris—call this fact p. Years later, S remembers that p, but he cannot recall why he thinks that Paris is the capital of France. Nevertheless, assuming that p is true, and that there are no defeating conditions for S knowing that p, most of us would say that S knows that p. The only way S can now know that p is because S once knew that p. As Norman Malcolm says, “A person B remembers that p if and only if B knows that p because he knew that p” (Malcolm 1975). Other philosophers (e.g., Audi 2003, Holland 1974) have echoed this thought. Part of the reason behind this is that many philosophers take memory to simply be the preservation of knowledge acquired at some earlier time (Dummett 1993). This can be challenged. One might, for example, parse out the various conditions of knowledge and then see if such conditions imply that remembering entails knowing. Bernecker 2010 argues that since memory implies knowledge and knowledge implies justification (however construed), then one cannot remember that p unless one is justified in believing that p. But there are clear cases where one remembers that p but is not justified in believing that p. Hence remembering is not knowledge-entailing. Another way to argue that memory is not knowledge-entailing is by showing that one can remember that p despite not knowing that p. Martin and Deutscher 1966 (cited under the Causal Theory of Memory) gives the case of a painter who paints a scene from his childhood but who nevertheless claims it comes from imagination is a case in point where remembering that p does not entail that one knows that p. Nevertheless, memory often acts as a source of knowledge insofar as what we believe depends on memory. However, memory is far from being completely reliable (Goldman 1986). So a further question is, How, if at all, can we determine that memory is a reliable cognitive faculty?

  • Audi, Robert. Epistemology: A Contemporary Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge. 2d ed. London: Routledge, 2003.

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    Chapter 2 offers a discussion of memory where it is argued that memory entails knowing. When memory is a source of what is remembered and if memory is factive, then memory entails knowing. Audi also claims, in agreement with orthodoxy, that memory merely preserves knowledge. This chapter also serves as an introduction to the philosophy of memory more generally.

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  • Bernecker, Sven. Memory: A Philosophical Study. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    Chapter 3 argues that memory does not entail belief, or justification, and hence knowledge is not a necessary component of memory. Bernecker maintains that the preservationist is correct in that the process of memory cannot create new elements of justification, while the generativist is correct in that memory does have the potential to “release” the justification that was already present—and so in that way memory generates justification.

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  • Dummett, Michael. “Testimony and Memory.” In Seas of Language. By Michael Dummet, 411–428. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

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    This article is quoted frequently in discussions of memory (and testimony) because of its clear statement of the orthodox view. Worth reading to understand the (simplest form of the) orthodox view.

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  • Goldman, Alvin. Epistemology and Cognition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986.

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    In Chapter 10 Goldman explores several psychological studies that suggest that memory is not as reliable as we may have thought. The implications of this for his process reliabilist theory of knowledge are touched on. This is worth reading to get a flavor of the things psychologists say and assume about memory.

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  • Holland, Alan. “Retained Knowledge.” Mind 83 (1974): 355–371.

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    Holland argues that the view whereupon memory is essentially the retention of knowledge is committed to the causal theory of memory.

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  • Malcolm, Norman. “Three Lectures on Memory.” In Knowledge and Certainty. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1975.

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    Malcolm argues for a form of preservationism, where S knows that p at time t2 only if S knew that p from an earlier time t1 (and similarly for justification). Malcolm also anticipates many counterexamples to (his own) orthodoxy but doesn’t seem to see the full extent of their import.

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Memory and Justification

Generally speaking, when a person (S) remembers some proposition (p), what kind of justification does that person have for believing that proposition? The traditional, preservationist answer has been that memory cannot improve the epistemic status a belief has at the time of recall vis-à-vis the epistemic status it had at the time it was originally acquired. Memory is incapable of making an unknown proposition known, an unjustified belief justified, or an irrational belief rational; it can only preserve what is already known, justified, or rational (Plantinga 1993). Lackey 2005 forcefully argues against all the views that claim that memory cannot function as a generative source of justification (and knowledge). Generativism comes in different flavors. Some (Owens 1999) allow the probative force of belief to do the justifying work. Others (Pollock and Cruz 1999, Audi 1995) maintain that it is the experience of “apparent memory” that does the justifying work. Bernecker 2010 (cited under Memory and Knowledge) offers a critique of some forms of generativism, arguing that they are subject to the epistemic boost problem, and offers a moderate version of generativism. Some argue for a “dualist” view that requires memory to be both preservative and generative. Dretske and Yourgrau 1983 argues that factual memory is not simply the preservation of a suitably acquired belief but also the suitable preservation of a suitably acquired belief. The belief that p is suitably preserved if the subject can reliably tell that it was acquired by means of a reliable belief-formation process. Given Huemer’s dualism (Huemer 1999), for example, the justification of a memory belief is a product of both the initial justification for adopting it and the justification for retaining it provided by the experience of apparent remembering. Another aspect of the justification of memory beliefs is that many claim them to be immediately, prima facie justified. Such foundationalists (Audi 1995, Pollock and Cruz 1999) appeal to the fact that we can discern a distinct memorial feel to memory beliefs. Yet Senor 1993 points out that not all memory beliefs have this phenomenalistic feature.

Skepticism about Memory Knowledge

We all trust our ostensible memories to some degree. But what reasons, if any, do we have for believing that events we seem to remember actually happened? Is Russell right when he claims that there is no logical impossibility in the hypothesis that the world sprang into being five minutes ago, exactly as it then was, with a population that seemed to remember a wholly unreal past? For a critical discussion of Russell’s five-minute hypothesis see Malcolm 1975. The task of validating our ostensible memories is formidable. For it seems that any attempt to confirm the validity of memory experiences must rely on memory. We don’t seem to be able to put our reliance on memories in question and then demonstrate the reliability of a given ostensible memory. But how else should we validate our ostensible memories? Lewis 1971 suggests that we can validate our ostensible memories by examining the degree to which they cohere. Such coherence or congruence is said to raise the probability of what is remembered to the level of practical certainty. For a critical discussion of Lewis’s justification of memory see Olsson 2005. Malcolm 1975 and Shoemaker 1963, on the other hand, argue that the general reliability of ostensible memories is an analytic truth. According to Shoemaker, “it is a necessary … truth, not a contingent one, that when perceptual and memory statements are sincerely and confidently asserted … they are generally true.” Yet another approach to the problem of justifying memory is taken by Leyden 1970 and Saunders 1963, which hold that “the reliability of ostensible memory is a fundamental assumption of the knowledge enterprise as we in fact pursue it” (Saunders 1963).

Memory and Semantic Externalism

One of the most provocative projects in recent philosophy of mind and language has been the development of semantic externalism (also known as “anti-individualism”), that is, the view that the individuation conditions of mental content depend, in part, on external or relational properties of the subject’s environment rather than only on internal properties of the subject’s mind and brain. The contents of an individual’s thoughts and the meanings of his or her words depend on relations that the individual bears to aspects of his or her physical or social environment. Semantic externalism has been so successful that the current debate is not so much about whether it is right or wrong but rather on what its implications are. According to pastist externalism advocated by Bernecker 2010 and Burge (in Ludlow and Martin 1998), the content of a memory state is fixed, once and for all, by the environment the subject was in at the time he or she had the original thought. When some content is stored in memory it is inert to all subsequent environmental changes. Presentist externalism proposed by Ludlow (in Ludlow and Martin 1998) claims that memory contents are determined by past and present environmental conditions. And futurist externalism (also labeled “temporal externalism”) advocated by Jackman 1999 and Jackman 2005 is the thesis that memory contents depend not only on past and present but also on future environmental conditions. Boghossian (in Ludlow and Martin 1998) has developed an argument—the so-called memory argument—which purports to show that pastist externalism (in combination with other premises) yields the absurd consequence that to have a thought right now, I need to be able to remember it later on. The memory argument has been challenged by Bernecker 2010 and Goldberg 2005.

The Social Dimension of Memory

The hypothesis of the extended mind goes beyond semantic externalism in that it claims that the role of the physical or social environment is not restricted to the determination of mental content. Mental states are not only externally individuated (yet internally located) but are externally located states. Mental states are externally constituted in the sense that they are composed not only of the internal (brain) states of the subject but also of objects, properties, or events in the subject’s environment together with the appropriate relation connecting the two. Clark and Chalmers 1998 gives the example of someone who suffers from severe amnesia and who uses a notebook the way we use our memory. Because information in the notebook plays the same role for the amnesiac that dispositional beliefs play for most of us, Clark and Chalmers think that we should count the notebook as part of the amnesiac’s mind and the information in the notebook as his or her beliefs. Where Clark and Chalmers are primarily concerned with extended beliefs, Rowlands 1999 focuses on extended memories. The hypothesis of the extended mind has been challenged in a number of ways. Rupert 2004, for example, questions that the external portions of extended memory states (or processes of remembering) and internal memories are as functionally similar as proponents of the extended mind hypothesis make them out to be. If external aids and props can be proper parts of an individual’s memory process, as the extended mind hypothesis claims, then the same is true of other people’s minds and memories (Tollefsen 2006). When subjects serve as external memory aids to each other, they are able to benefit from each others’ knowledge and expertise. Wegner 1987 calls such collective memory systems “transactive memories.” The notion of transactive memory is one way to conceive of what is commonly referred to as “collective memory,” a term coined by the sociologist Halbwachs at the beginning of the 20th century (Halbwachs 1980). There is a multiplicity of phenomena lumped together under the heading “collective memory.” These phenomena may be characterized as existing on a continuum running from collected to collectivistic memories (Olick 1999). Collected memories are the aggregated or shared individual memories of members of a group. Collectivistic memories, by contrast, are properties of groups, cultures, or societies and are not reducible to the individual memories of its members. Collectivistic memories therefore need not be contained in a person’s head but may consist in cultural artifacts (e.g., memorials, museums, libraries, national holidays) and practices (e.g., dances, songs, rituals) that represent the past for a particular cultural group.

Memory and Personal Identity

The concepts of memory and personal identity are intimately related. It is a logical truth that if a person remembers a past event, then that person must have been a witness to that event. If the notion of memory implies the notion of personal identity, memory cannot be used to define personal identity. However, most philosophers hold that personal identity consists in psychological connectedness and continuity, and many claim that memories are an important ingredient of psychological connectedness and continuity. Shoemaker 1970 and Parfit 1984 propose to solve this problem by arguing that the dependence of memory on personal identity is a fact contingent upon the kind of world we inhabit rather than a necessary fact. They define memory in terms of quasi-memory, which lacks the identity-involving conditions characteristic of memory. Quasi-memory is like ordinary memory in providing you with information about the past; it is unlike ordinary memory in that its content doesn’t touch upon the question of whose past is concerned. The concept of quasi-memory has come under attack from different sides. There are objections from constitutive holism (Schechtman 1990), from the causal theory of memory (Noonan 2003), from the immunity to error through misidentification (Evans 1982), and from the “de se” elements of experiential memory (Burge 2003). Pryor 1999 and Roache 2006 defend quasi-memory against some of these objections.

Memory and Time

An adequate understanding of memory presupposes an understanding of its relationship to time. The basic question is this: What is the connection between the way we represent time and things in time, on the one hand, and our capacity to remember particular past events, on the other? This question can be approached from two different directions. We can start from the temporal reality that memory makes available to us and ask what role memory plays in our understanding of time. Conversely, we can start from the representation of events in time and ask how is time represented in memory? Hoerl and McCormack (2001) and Le Poidevin (2007) are concerned with both questions, Kelly (2005) only with the latter question. Many psychologists and philosophers think that memory for past events is part of a more general faculty of mental time travel that allows us not only to go back in time, but also to foresee, plan, and shape virtually any specific future event. Mental time travel is an imaginative process in which we project ourselves into the past as much as we project ourselves into the future when imagining future events. See De Brigard (2013) and Debus (2014).

  • De Brigard, Felipe. “Is Memory for Remembering? Recollection as a Form of Episodic Hypothetical Thinking.” Synthese 191 (2013): 1–31.

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    Not all cases of misremembering are due to failures in our memory system. De Brigard argues that the evidence on false and distorted memories makes more sense if we understand remembering as an operation of a larger cognitive system supporting episodic hypothetical thinking.

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  • Debus, Dorothea. “Mental Time Travel: Remembering the Past, Imagining the Future, and the Particularity of Events.” Review of Philosophy and Psychology 5 (2014): 333–350.

    DOI: 10.1007/s13164-014-0182-7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Debus distinguishes between two cases of mental time travel: recollective memories of past events and sensory imaginations of future events.

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  • Hoerl, Christoph, and Teresa McCormack, eds. Time and Memory: Issues in Philosophy and Psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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    An anthology that deals with the connection between the capacity to represent and think about time, and the capacity to recollect the past. The essays offer insights into current theories of memory processes and of the mechanisms and cognitive abilities underlying temporal judgments.

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  • Kelly, Sean D. “The Puzzle of Temporal Experience.” In Cognition and the Brain: The Philosophy and Neuroscience Movement. Edited by Andrew Brook, 208–238. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511610608Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The paper is about the following puzzle: How is it possible for us to have experiences of continuous, dynamic, temporally structured, unified events given that we start with (what at least seems to be) a sequence of independent and static snapshots of the world at a time?

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  • Le Poidevin, Robin. The Images of Time: An Essay on Temporal Representation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    The book has three parts. The first part is devoted mostly to the epistemological and metaphysical set-up, the second part to links between the metaphysics of time and temporal representation, and the final third to aesthetics and temporal representation.

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Ethics of Memory

In certain parts of the world one can be imprisoned for denying a memory—indeed, for denying a whole community of memories. There are less serious cases, where one can be sanctioned or held accountable for forgetting something—that is, for not remembering something. These sorts of cases and considerations lead one to ask whether Is there is an ethics of memory (Margalit 2002). Is there an obligation to remember (Blustein 2008)? Can memory help to repair past injustices? Is there also a right to be forgotten (Matheson 2013)? What ethical issues arise from the development and use of memory modifying technologies (Liao and Sandberg 2008)? Questions in this area concern not only individual memory but also collective memory. Of course, one might be skeptical that memory has much to do with morality, insofar as one’s ability to act ethically does not seem to depend on one’s memory. This view, however, is difficult to maintain. McGrath 2015 argues that the spheres of ethics and memory are connected.

  • Blustein, Jeffrey. The Moral Demands of Memory. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511818615Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Blustein argues that individuals and collective groups have an obligation to remember the past and to take responsibility for such memories. Indeed, Blustein argues that it is through various types of remembering that one (or some group) can take responsibility for memories.

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  • Liao, S. Matthew, and Anders Sandberg. “The Normativity of Memory Modification.” Neuroethics 1 (2008): 85–99.

    DOI: 10.1007/s12152-008-9009-5Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors propose that as long as individuals using memory modifying technologies do not harm others and themselves in certain ways and as long as there is no prima facie duty to retain particular memories, it is up to individuals to determine the permissibility of particular uses of memory modifying technologies.

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  • Margalit, Avishai. The Ethics of Memory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002.

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    Margalit asks if there is a duty “to remember.” Margalit’s answer is a tentative “yes.” The qualifier is that there is a duty to remember only for those involved in “thick” ethical relations—relations of love, friendship, family, and community. However, one might wonder whether or not actual memories are the “cement” of thick ethical relations.

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  • Matheson, David. “A Duty of Ignorance.” Episteme 10 (2013): 193–205.

    DOI: 10.1017/epi.2013.16Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    It is argued that we have a moral obligation to be ignorant of certain personal information about others.

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  • McGrath, Sarah. “Forgetting the Difference between Right and Wrong.” In Intuition, Theory, and Anti-Theory in Ethics. Edited by Sophie-Grace Chappell. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198713227.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    It would be bizarre if a person who was asked “Don’t you know the difference between right and wrong?” responded by sincerely asserting that while she once knew the difference, she has forgotten it. McGrath offers an explanation of this phenomenon.

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