Memory without a trace

European Journal of Parapsychology 21 (2):182-202 (2006)
Ever since Plato proposed that memories are analogous to im- pressions in wax, many have suggested that memories are formed through the creation of traces, representations of the things remem- bered. That is still the received view among most cognitive scientists, who believe the remaining challenge is simply to determine the pre- cise physical nature of memory traces. However, there are compelling reasons for thinking that this standard view of memory is profoundly wrongheaded — in fact, disguised nonsense. This paper considers, firstly, what those reasons are in detail. Secondly and more briefly, it considers how trace-like constructs have undermined various areas of parapsychological theorizing, especially in connection with the evi- dence for postmortem survival-for example, speculations about cellu- lar memory in transplant cases and genetic memory in reincarnation cases. Similar problems also emerge in areas often related to para- psychology — for example, Sheldrake’s (1981) account of morphic resonance.
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