(In defence of) preservationism and the previous awareness condition: What is a theory of remembering, anyway?

Philosophical Perspectives 37 (1):290-307 (2023)
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I suggest that the theories of remembering one finds in the philosophy of memory literature are best characterised as theories principally operating at three different levels of inquiry. Simulationist views are theories of the psychofunctional process type remembering. Causalist views are theories of referential remembering. Epistemic views are theories of successful remembering. Insofar as there is conflict between these theories, it is a conflict of integration rather than—as widely presented—head‐on disagreement. Viewed in this way, we can see the previous awareness condition and preservationism as principles applying at only some of the corresponding levels of inquiry. Where either principle has been rejected, it is, I claim, due to arguments which slip between these different levels. While the view of the landscape I offer does not dissolve ongoing disputes about the nature of remembering, it clarifies the dialectical rules of engagement, helping to clear the path for future, collaborative progress to be made. The view enables us to see less conflict in the recent philosophy of memory literature than there seems at face value to be.

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James Openshaw
Centre for Philosophy of Memory, Université Grenoble Alpes


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