Traditionally, Hume's account of memory is considered an individualist-atomic representational theory. However, textual evidence suggests that Hume's account is better seen as a first attempt to create a social theory of memory that considers social context, custom and habits, language, and logical structures as constitutive elements of memory.
It is a common lament that people, the young especially, are increasingly shyingaway from books and instead turning for intellectual sustenance to video games, film, andtelevision - that is, images are displacing words, with the result that the culture isbecoming less tolerant of cognitive complexity .1Instead of vainly tryingto reform, or negate the influence of, popular entertainments, it might be better toembrace them, making selective use of them to cultivate an interest in philosophic topicsamong young minds. Perhaps we can lead (...) them to the words of the great philosophic textsby showing them how some of the actions and dialogues portrayed in the images theyavidly consume exemplify and explore themes, concepts, and arguments otherwise dealtwith by the likes of Plato, Descartes, and Hume. Guided by this pedagogical hope, thispaper aims to plumb the philosophic significance of Memento. (shrink)
This essay attempts to provide a sympathetic reading of Hume’s often tangled discussion of memory in the Treatise. It divides into three main sections. The first section isolates three puzzles in Hume’s account of memory. The second section attempts to show how those puzzles arise as a result of Hume’s understandable failure to recognize a necessary connection between memory and causation. Finally, the third section looks at how the reading of Hume’s account of memory offered in the first two sections (...) fits into the larger context of his work by considering the roles he assigns to memory in his famous account of personal identity. (shrink)
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:343 'LIVELY' MEMORY ANP 'PAST' MEMORY At the very beginning of the Treatise Hume distinguishes memory from imagination by noting two different features of ideas of memory not shared by ideas of imagination. The distinguishing marks of memory can be described as (1) memory conceived in terms of the liveliness or vivacity of its ideas and (2) memory conceived in terms of the constraints imposed on the order and (...) form of its ideas by the original impressions from which these ideas have been derived. Both of these conceptions of memory, according to Hume in this initial description, serve to distinguish ideas of memory from ideas of imagination. For purposes of brevity I shall call them, respectively, 'lively' memory and 'past' memory. In this paper I shall be concerned with four main issues arising from Hume's dual characterization of memory. First, I shall call attention to a point whose importance Hume scholars have not, I think, fully appreciated; namely, that later in Book I of the Treatise (Part III, Section V) Hume recognizes that his original dual characterization is not viable because it cannot be fit into his general theory of ideas and that, therefore, one of his two distinguishing features of memory must be abandoned. Second, I shall consider some problems generated by his abandonment of this conception of memory. Third, I shall construct a Humean solution to these problems, based on Hume's revised conception of memory -- a solution that he suggests but never develops. Finally, I shall apply Hume's revised characterization of memory to a central issue in his philosophy, his conception of the self, and show that, although he does not himself use it in his own 344 analysis, this characterization can provide a Humean explanation of our belief in our selves. My line of argument, which will depart not only from that of Hume but also of most of his commentators, is by no means free of difficulties; nevertheless, it has, I think, the virtue of being more consistent with Hume's general theory of ideas, hence is more Humean, than his own. To set the stage for our discussion I shall begin with Hume's initial description of memory and its difference from imagination, as it appears at the beginning of the Treatise. He writes as follows: We find by experience, that when any impression has been present with the mind, it again makes its appearance there as an idea; and this it may do after two different ways: either when in its new appearance it retains a considerable degree of its first vivacity, and is somewhat intermediate betwixt an impression and an idea; or when it entirely loses that vivacity, and is a perfect idea. The faculty, by which we repeat our impressions in the first manner, is called the MEMORY, and the other the IMAGINATION ___ There is another difference betwixt these two kinds of ideas, which is no less evident, namely that tho' neither the ideas of the memory nor imagination, neither the lively nor faint ideas can make their appearance in the mind, unless their correspondent impressions have gone before to prepare the way for them, yet the imagination is not restrain'd to the same order and form with the original impressions; while the memory is in a manner ty'd down in that respect, without any power of variation (T 89 ) A few comments on this passage are in order. Hume distinguishes memory from imagination on two grounds: (1) the experienced quality of the ideas 345 themselves and (2) the power or the faculty of the mind that produces them. Memory-ideas, as they actually occupy our consciousness, are lively and strong; imagination ideas are faint and languid. Also, memory and imagination, as separate faculties of the mind, differ in their power. Imagination is free to play with its ideas as it pleases; it can arrange and rearrange them at will, to allow us to contemplate "winged horses, fiery dragons, and monstrous giants." (T 10) Memory, however, has no such power but must reproduce impressions as memoryideas in the same order and form as they originally appeared in the mind. It requires little explanation to understand why... (shrink)
Ashley and Stack couple their claim that Hume holds a logical-construction theory with the remarkable suggestion that, so understood, his views yield "... at least a recognizable facsimile of the identity most of us believe in." The highly implausible suggestion that the non-philosopher regards his self as a logical construct should be enough to provide a motive for re-examining the arguments Ashley and Stack offer for their interpretation. These arguments make use of the distinction Hume develops between perfect and imperfect (...) identity and lead, first of all, to the conclusion that, contrary to some interpretations, Hume does not refuse the self all identity, but only perfect identity, that is, identity defined as the "idea of an object, that remains invariable and uninterrupted through a supposed variation of time." Finding the self to be not such an object, Hume says it cannot be said to have such identity. It can, however, be said to have imperfect identity, constituted by the "uninterrupted progress of thought" over a succession of objects, namely our perceptions. (shrink)