DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-V020-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 19, 2024, from

Article Summary

Memory is central to every way in which we deal with things. One might subsume memory under the category of intellect, since it is our capacity to retain what we sense, enjoy and suffer, and thus to become knowing in our perception and other activities. As intelligent retention, memory cannot be distinguished from our acquisition of skills, habits and customs – our capabilities both for prudence and for deliberate risk. As retention, memory is a vital condition of the formation of language.

Amnesia illustrates dramatically the difference between memory as retention of language and skills, and memory as the power to recollect and to recognize specific things. In amnesia we lose, not our general power of retention, but recall of facts – the prior events of our life, and our power to recognize people and places. Amnesiacs recognize kinds of things. They know it is a wristwatch they are wearing, while unable to recognize it as their own.

This recall of events and facts which enables us to recognize things as our own, is more than just the ability to give correctly an account of them. One might accurately describe some part of one’s past inadvertently, or after hypnosis, or by relying on incidental information. Thus, present research on memory both as retention and as recall of specific episodes, attempts to characterize the connection which persists between experience and recall. Neurological or computer models of connectivity owe something to traditional notions of a memory trace, but emphasize also the re-tracing of original memories by later experience and by intervening episodes of recall.

    Citing this article:
    Deutscher, Max. Memory, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-V020-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
    Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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