Memory: The Acquaintance View
Rebecca Copenhaver (Washington University in St. Louis)

March 17, 2023, 3:30pm - 5:00pm
Department of Philosophy, University of Western Ontario

UC 2110
1151 Richmond Street


Consider a cherished memory from your childhood. What do you remember? Do you remember the experiences you had or the past event itself? The acquaintance view holds that we remember the events in our personal past rather than our experiences of those events. The view faces many difficulties, especially this puzzle: how we could have current, direct access to something that no longer exists — the past. 

I argue that the acquaintance view is not only viable but may be adopted by critics who otherwise disagree about memory in various ways. The notion of acquaintance is most often used by relationalists, philosophers who hold that awareness is a relation between a subject and an object that requires both to exist. Since the past no longer exists, relationalists deny that remembering makes us directly aware of events in our personal pasts.  Intentionalists might avoid acquaintance because the notion is so closely associated with the relationalism that intentionalists oppose. 

By presenting the history of accounts of acquaintance, starting with Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), I argue that relationalists have no special claim on acquaintance. Accordingly, intentionalists may hold, against relationalists, that when we remember successfully, we are directly aware of events in our personal pasts. I then show that the acquaintance view is consistent with and neutral about the two main views about memory: the causal view and simulationism.

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