Thinking About the Past and Experiencing the Past

Authors


  • Many people have offered helpful comments on the material developed in the present article, amongst them an audience at Stirling and an audience at York; but I am particularly grateful for the very generous and substantial help from various anonymous referees. I am sadly unable to thank them in person, but if they happen to read this, they will know who they are. Thank you!

Address for Correspondence: Department of Philosophy, University of York, Heslington, York YO10 5DD, UK. Email:

dorothea.debus@york.ac.uk

Abstract

The present article aims to show that a subject can only fully grasp the concept of the past if she has some experiential, or recollective, memories of particular past events. More specifically, I argue that (1) in order for a subject to understand the concept of the past, it is necessary that the subject understand the concept of a particular past event in such a way that it might contribute to her understanding of the concept of the past. (2) But then, in order for a subject to understand the concept of a particular past event in such a way that it might contribute to her understanding of the concept of the past, it is necessary that the subject have some recollective memories of particular past events. (C) Hence, a subject can only understand the concept of the past if she has some recollective memories of particular past events. I defend the premises of the present argument against various objections, indicate why we should accept both premises, and accordingly end by endorsing the argument's conclusion.

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