Episodic Memory as Representing the Past to Oneself

Review of Philosophy and Psychology 5 (3):313-331 (2014)
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Abstract

Episodic memory is sometimes described as mental time travel. This suggests three ideas: that episodic memory offers us access to the past that is quasi-experiential, that it is a source of knowledge of the past, and that it is, at root, passive. I offer an account of episodic memory that rejects all three ideas. The account claims that remembering is a matter of representing the past to oneself, in a way suitably responsive to how one experienced the remembered episode to be. I argue that episodic memory is active, in the way this view suggests. I clarify the idea that it is, as the view also implies, not a source of knowledge but an expression of knowledge the subject already has. And I suggest the view need not limit memories to states that are in any way experience-like. This position offers a way to articulate the relations between episodic memory and related phenomena: factual memory, generic memory, remembering-how and anticipation. And it allows us to explain how we know which aspects of our episodic memory states to take seriously and which (such as the shift to an observer perspective on the remembered events) to treat as merely incidental

Author's Profile

Robert Hopkins
New York University

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