Perspectives on the past: A study of the spatial perspectival characteristics of recollective memories

Mind and Language 22 (2):173-206 (2007)
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The following paper considers one important feature of our experiential or ‘recollective’ memories, namely their spatial perspectival characteristics. I begin by considering the ‘Past-Dependency-Claim’, which states that every recollective memory (or ‘R-memory’) has its spatial perspectival characteristics in virtue of the subject’s present awareness of the spatial perspectival characteristics of a relevant past perceptual experience. Although the Past-Dependency-Claim might for various reasons seem particularly attractive, I show that it is false. I then proceed to develop and defend the ‘Present-Dependency-Claim’, namely the claim that the spatial perspectival characteristics of an R-memory depend on the spatial perspectival characteristics of perceptual experiences that the subject has at the time at which the R-memory occurs. Lastly, I discuss the phenomenon of so-called ‘observer-memories’, which presents a special challenge for any attempt to account for the spatial perspectival characteristics of R-memories. I argue that we have no good reason to deny that the relevant experiences should count as memories, and I show that we can account for the spatial perspectival characteristics of observer-memories with the help of the ‘Present-Dependency-Claim’. More generally, the paper shows that certain events that occur in a subject’s mental life (namely, a subject’s R-memories) are necessarily dependent on other events that occur in the relevant subject’s mental life (namely, on certain perceptual experiences). This more general conclusion in turn should be relevant for any attempt to develop an appropriate account of a subject’s mental life as a whole.



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Dorothea Debus
University of York

Citations of this work

The roots of remembering: Radically enactive recollecting.Daniel D. Hutto & Anco Peeters - 2018 - In Kourken Michaelian, Dorothea Debus & Denis Perrin (eds.), New Directions in the Philosophy of Memory. New York: Routledge. pp. 97-118.
Memory.Kourken Michaelian & John Sutton - 2017 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Self‐Representation and Perspectives in Dreams.Melanie Rosen & John Sutton - 2013 - Philosophy Compass 8 (11):1041-1053.
Remembering.John Sutton - 2009 - In P. Robbins & M. Aydede (eds.), Cambridge Handbook of Situated Cognition. Cambridge University Press.

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Elements of Episodic Memory.Endel Tulving - 1983 - Oxford University Press.
Reference and Consciousness.John Campbell - 2002 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Problems of the Self.Bernard Williams - 1973 - Cambridge [Eng.]: Cambridge University Press.
Recreative Minds: Imagination in Philosophy and Psychology.Gregory Currie & Ian Ravenscroft - 2002 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press. Edited by Christoph Hoerl.
The transparency of experience.Michael G. F. Martin - 2002 - Mind and Language 17 (4):376-425.

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