Remembering Events: A Reidean Account of (Episodic) Memory

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 97 (2):304-321 (2018)
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Abstract

Thomas Reid offers an explanation of how memory of events is possible. This paper presents, criticize,s and amends his view that memory not only preserves our knowledge of the external world, but also contributes to such knowledge, by being essential for the perception of events. Reid’s views on memory are in line with his generalanti-skeptical commitments, and thus attractive, for several reasons. One reason is that, just like perception, memory is not infallible, but it can constitute or, at least, ground knowledge. Reid argues that memory, like perception, is immediate: it gives direct access to the external world, and not to mental representations of the external world. Another reason is that Reid’s explanation of how memory of events works emphasizes the impor- tance of the divide between memory and perception and consciousness: it is one thing to perceive or be conscious of something; it is another to remember that thing. Despite these advantages, a careful study of Reid’s views on memory will uncover a serious problem of general philosophical interest: it is unclear how exactly we are able to remember events episodically, since it is not settled whether we ever literally perceive events. This problem is engendered by a clash of the following two intuitions: (i) we can perceive only presently existing things, and (ii) we can remember events, which usually span periods of time longer than the present (whether the present is durationless or not).

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M. Folescu
University of Missouri, Columbia

Citations of this work

Reid on memory and personal identity.Rebecca Copenhaver - 2009 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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References found in this work

Origins of Objectivity.Tyler Burge - 2010 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
An Inquiry Into the Human Mind, on the Principles of Common Sense.Thomas Reid - 1997 - Cambridge University Press. Edited by Elizabeth Schmidt Radcliffe, Richard McCarty, Fritz Allhoff & Anand Vaidya.
Cognition and Commitment in Hume’s Philosophy.Don Garrett - 1997 - Philosophical and Phenomenological Research 62 (1):191-196.

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