What has episodic memory got to do with space and time?

In Sara Aronowitz & Lynn Nadel (eds.), Space, Time, and Memory. Oxford: OUP (forthcoming)
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It is widely held that episodic memory is constitutively connected with space and time. In particular, many contend that episodic memory constitutively has spatial and/or temporal content: for instance, necessarily representing a spatial scene, or when a given event occurred, or at the very minimum that it occurred in the past. Here, I critically assess such claims. I begin with some preparatory remarks on the nature of episodic memory. I then ask: How, if at all, is episodic memory constitutively spatial? And, how, if at all, is episodic memory constitutively temporal? In answer, I argue that episodic memory need not have any spatial content, nor (in any substantial sense) need it represent when its events occur, nor even that they occur in the past. Instead, only a relatively modest connection holds between episodic memory and time in virtue of the temporal structure of its objects. Finally, I critically assess whether considerations concerning the organization and encoding of episodic memory in creatures like us provide stronger reason to posit a constitutive link between our episodic memories and space or time.

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Ian Phillips
Johns Hopkins University


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