Experiencing the past: A relational account of recollective memory

Dialectica 62 (4):405-432 (2008)
Sometimes we remember past objects or events in a vivid, experiential way. The present paper addresses some fundamental questions about the metaphysics of such experiential or 'recollective' memories. More specifically, it develops the 'Relational Account' of recollective memory, which consists of the following three claims. (1) A subject who recollectively remembers (or 'R-remembers') a past object or event stands in an experiential relation (namely, a 'recollective relation') to the relevant past object or event. (2) The R-remembered object or event itself is a part of the R-memory; that is, the subject's present R-memory is partly constituted by the relevant past object or event. (3) When a subject R-remembers a past object, the past object is a constitutive part of the conscious experience itself ; that is, the object is immediately available to the subject in conscious experience. In developing the Relational Account, the present paper hopes to make a substantial contribution to any attempt to account for the nature of recollective memory. Furthermore, in order to explain how a subject could understand the beliefs that she forms about the past on the basis of an R-memory, and how a subject could, on the basis of an R-memory, gain any knowledge about the past, we arguably also need to rely on the Relational Account of recollective memory. Thus, the Relational Account will also play an important role in an attempt to account for various other ways in which a subject might be related to the past in general, and to her own past in particular. Standing in such relations to the past is, in turn, a central feature of our human existence. Ultimately, therefore, the Relational Account of recollective memory should also play a crucial role in furthering our understanding of ourselves, and of our own existence in time.
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