Philosophical Studies 173 (11):2993-3013 (2016)

Sarah Robins
University of Kansas
According to the Causal Theory of Memory, remembering a particular past event requires a causal connection between that event and its subsequent representation in memory, specifically, a connection sustained by a memory trace. The CTM is the default view of memory in contemporary philosophy, but debates persist over what the involved memory traces must be like. Martin and Deutscher argued that the CTM required memory traces to be structural analogues of past events. Bernecker and Michaelian, contemporary CTM proponents, reject structural analogues in favor of memory traces as distributed patterns of event features. The proposals are understood as distinct accounts of how memory traces represent past events. But there are two distinct questions one could ask about a trace’s representational features. One might ask how memory traces, qua mental representations, have their semantic properties. Or, what makes memory traces, qua mental representations of memories, distinct from other mental representations. Proponents of the CTM, both past and present, have failed to keep these two questions distinct. The result is a serious but unnoticed problem for the CTM in its current form. Distributed memory traces are incompatible with the CTM. Such traces do not provide a way to track the causal history of individual memories, as the CTM requires. If memory traces are distributed patterns of event features, as Bernecker and Michaelian each claim, then the CTM cannot be right.
Keywords Causal theory of memory  Remembering  Memory traces  Mental representation
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DOI 10.1007/s11098-016-0647-x
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References found in this work BETA

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Citations of this work BETA

Beyond the Causal Theory? Fifty Years After Martin and Deutscher.Kourken Michaelian & Sarah Robins - 2018 - In Kourken Michaelian, Dorothea Debus & Denis Perrin (eds.), New Directions in the Philosophy of Memory. Routledge. pp. 13-32.

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