The truth about memory

Philosophical Psychology 7 (1):3-18 (1994)
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Contemporary philosophical discussion of personal identity has centered on refinements and defenses of the “psychological continuity theory”—the view that identity is created by the links between present and past provided by autobiographical experience memories. This view is structured in such a way that these memories must be seen as providing simple connections between two discrete, well-defined moments of consciousness. There is, however, a great deal of evidence—both introspective and empirical—that autobiographical memory often does not provide such links, but instead summarizes, and condenses life experiences into, a coherent narrative. A brief exploration of some of the mechanisms of this summarizing and condensing work furthers the philosophical discussion of personal identity by showing why a view with the structure of the psychological continuity theory will not work, and by illuminating the role of autobiographical memory in the constitution of personal identity



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