Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Section 9. Installment 1: The Philosophy of Memory

     The Philosophy of Memory
     Memory is the basis of our understanding of our own personal identities. What we know, or what we remember, about our past helps us to define who we are. In the story of Alice in Wonderland, Alice is conflicted about her identity because she believes she, as a person, changes many times in the day.

Alice can't remember things as she used to, so she questions who she is at that moment. She is unsure of her identity as it is not the same as it was that morning. We see that her identity, like our own, is based on her memory.
     Understanding who we were and we used to be helps us to understand who we are now. Every bit of knowledge we have is dependent on what we remember. Our memories are important to us because they provide us with a sense of permanence. In the words of Tyler Shore, "despite life's evanescent and transient qualities...memory [is] a resisting of time and morality." Memories will never change; they are stuck in their own place in time.
     Plato believes that "learning was simply another way of remembering the eternal truths that we already knew, but needed to relearn." In other words, he thinks that we are initially born with all this knowledge that we are unaware of and must be reminded of throughout our lives. According to Plato, remembering these innate knowledge helps us to grasp the overall knowledge of our sense of self.
     In Alice in Wonderland, Alice undergoes change. She drinks the liquid that makes her shrink and eats the pastry that makes her grow. She begins to wonder if these changes changed who she is.

"Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I'm not the same, the next question is, Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great question!"
     Alice is conflicted about her identity because she can't seem to remember who she was in the recent past. She wonders if she knows all the things that she used to know, and if she doesn't, then she thinks that her identity has changed.

     John Locke, a philosopher of memory, largely incorporates memory to his theory of the self.  He believes that the memories of our past provide us with meaningful context in which we can relate to our present self. Our memories help us to define our sense of self in relation to other people. This brings us back to Alice's dilemma: she believes that since she cannot remember who she is, she must be someone else. Her poor memory leads to her confused sense of identity.

     Our memories are personal and define who we are as a person. You are the only person that remembers an event the exact way you remember it. Others who may have been at the same place at the same time have their own personal way of remembering that same event. Memories are the basis of our self identity.


  1. "Our memories are important to us because they provide us with a sense of permanence" - or continuity. Who am I, if I can't connect the dots between now, before, and the future? I guess I'm then living "the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind"-which sounds better than it probably would be. It probably would be something like Alzheimer's.

    In a healthy life, devoted to learning and growth, we're not the very same as we were; but we would only know that because we remember, and would only value it because we anticipate more remembered growth to come.

  2. A very interesting topic. I've always wondered about how our memory shape who we are as a person. This raises a question though, does it mean when people get amnesia, do they become a different person? And if they go through similar experiences would they turn out to be the same person again or would they be different? Is it possible for them to become similar to the person they were before if they go through different experiences? And if what Plato said was actually true, would we ever get the chance to learn something new?