Self-Referential Memory and Mental Time Travel

Review of Philosophy and Psychology 11 (2):283-300 (2020)
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Abstract
Episodic memory has a distinctive phenomenology. One way to capture what is distinctive about it is by using the notion of mental time travel: When we remember some fact episodically, we mentally travel to the moment at which we experienced it in the past. This way of distinguishing episodic memory from semantic memory calls for an explanation of what the experience of mental time travel is. In this paper, I suggest that a certain view about the content of memories can shed some light on the experience of mental time travel. This is the view that, when a subject remembers some fact episodically, their memory represents itself as coming from a perception of that fact. I propose that the experience of mental time travel in memory is the experience of representing one of the elements in this complex content, namely, the past perceptual experience of the remembered fact. In defence of this proposal, I offer two considerations. Firstly, the proposal is consistent with the idea that memories enjoy a temporal phenomenology (specifically, a feeling of pastness). Secondly, the proposal is consistent with the possibility that some of our other cognitive capacities might yield an experience of mental time travel which can be oriented towards the future. I argue that the received conception of mental time travel is in tension with those two ideas.
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Archival date: 2019-10-21
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