RUB » Department of Philosophy » Philosophy of Language and Cognition

Dr. James Openshaw

Marie-Curie Individual Fellow


Center for Philosophy of Memory, University of Grenoble-Alpes (Host 1)

Chair of Philosophy of Language and Cognition, Ruhr University Bochum (Host 2)

Personal Homepage: www.jamesopenshaw.com


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Project Description:

Objectual Memory: Remembering Objects by Simulating the Past

Much attention in our theorizing about the mind has been devoted to episodic memory. In episodic memory, a subject remembers an event from their personal past in a way accompanied by conscious imagery, typically from the first-person perspective, through which they 're-live' the experience. Other species of memory are no less significant to our mental lives, however. We remember objects—for example, one's first car, or one's childhood family dog—and we do so in ways which may outstrip our memory of events in which those objects featured. It is possible, for example, to remember a face while having no sense of where in one's past one's memory of it derives. While we presently lack a philosophical account distinctive of what I will call 'objectual memory', the raw materials are there for the taking. This project will use state of the art, 'simulationist' approaches to memory in order to address this lacuna, establishing the following core hypothesis: Objectual memory is not a mere form of episodic or semantic memory (Work Package 1). We can best understand it, in harmony with broadly simulationist approaches to remembering, as a kind of ‘epistemically informed’ imagination (Work Package 2). Though broadly simulationist in character, this view is compatible with experiences of objectual memory constituting a direct relation to the past (Work Package 3). This project has immediate implications for philosophy of mind and epistemology, but it also generates questions for the sciences. If objectual memory is to be considered a product of the so-called 'episodic' memory system, it is misleading to think of this system as a means of constructing temporally structured episodes from one’s past. For the system also produces occasions for the awareness of past objects—things which lack an essentially temporal structure.