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Memory Qualia

Kate Devitt

Thursday, November 01, 2007, 12:00pm - 07:00pm

Rutgers University, Department of Philosophy

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What is it like to remember? It depends on what is meant by
the term 'remember'. Aristotle divided memory into two distinct
varieties: remembering and recollecting. He argued that remembering
was a capacity of most living creatures. On the other hand,
recollection is a conscious act known only in humans. This important
distinction pre-dates a similar division in cognitive science between
implicit knowledge or skills and the explicit capacity to recall facts
or recreate past experiences. Russell argued that all acts of
'remembering x' require the 'belief that x occurred'. Martin &
Deutscher (M&D) denied Russell's hypothesis. I argue that M&D are
right in the sense that remembering does not require an occurrent
belief. But, they are wrong about Russell for two reasons: 1) Russell
is referring to recollection, not just remembering. This subjective
feeling, the qualia of memory, essentially involves an occurrent
belief that it is a representation of the past. 2) Even if Russell was
referring to just remembering, this capacity requires a functional
notion of belief or knowledge. By separating the experience of
recollection from biological facts of memory, unusual cases make
sense, such as memory qualia without memory (false memories) or a
failure to have memory qualia with memory (e.g. functional amnesia). I
conclude with a defense of memory qualia based on C.I. Lewis'
coherence argument for memorial knowledge.

Kate Devitt