In Defense of the Causal Theory of Memory

Sven Bernecker

in Memory

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780199577569
Published online May 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191722820 | DOI:
In Defense of the Causal Theory of Memory

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The interpretations of the memory connection proposed in the literature fall into three categories: the evidential retention theory, the simple retention theory, and the causal retention theory. This chapter weighs up these three accounts and argues for the causal retention theory. The main problem with the evidentialist approach is its commitment to the epistemic theory of memory. The main problem with the simple retention theory is that it appears informative only as long as one refrains from asking what is involved in the process of retaining of a representation. When this question is raised, proponents of this approach must concede that they don't have a positive story to tell. The causal theory of memory states that for a present representation to qualify as a memory it must be suitably causally connected to a corresponding past representation. The causal theory of memory is defended against three objections: the argument from the contingency of causation, the argument from the nomologicality of causation, and the argument from temporal forgetting. There are two things that speak in favor of the causal theory of memory. First, unlike the causal theory, the evidential retention theory and the simple retention theory are afflicted with serious problems. Second, the causal theory of memory can best explain the truth of commonsensical counterfactual statements of the form: if the subject hadn't represented a particular proposition in the past he wouldn't represent it now.

Keywords: evidential retention theory; simple retention theory; causal retention theory; contingency of causation; nomologicality of causation; temporal forgetting; counterfactual dependence

Chapter.  10027 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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