Remembering objects

Philosophers' Imprint 22:1–20 (2022)
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Conscious recollection, of the kind characterised by sensory mental imagery, is often thought to involve ‘episodically’ recalling experienced events in one’s personal past. One might wonder whether this overlooks distinctive ways in which we sometimes recall ordinary, persisting objects. Of course, one can recall an object by remembering an event in which one encountered it. But are there acts of recall which are distinctively objectual in that they are not about objects in this mediated way (i.e., by way of being about events in which they featured)? This question has broad implications, not least for understanding the nature and role of imagery in remembering, the requirements of memory-based singular thought about objects, and the sense in which remembering involves ‘mental time travel’ through which one ‘relives’ past events. In this paper, I argue that we sometimes do recall objects from our past without remembering events in which they featured. The positive view of such cases I go on to propose draws on a wide body of empirical work in its support and accommodates a more nuanced picture of the role of imagery in remembering. In a slogan: remembering might essentially involve a kind of ‘re-experiencing’, but it need not involve ‘reliving’.

Author's Profile

James Openshaw
Centre for Philosophy of Memory, Université Grenoble Alpes


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