Philosophy and memory
Time: 10:15 - 12:15
Location: KS - Keeley Street
This course takes place in the classroom, please follow this link to find out what we are doing to keep you safe: Staying COVID-19 secure at City Lit
Course Code: HP154
Duration: 12 sessions (over 12 weeks)
What is the course about?
We will begin by looking into Classical Greek theories of memory. These set the stage for philosophical debates on memory as a source of knowledge and the relation between memory and the self. Philosophical theories will be discussed alongside views from psychology as the locus of memory transitions from the soul to the mind and the brain. You will gain an understanding of autobiographical memory: how we own our memories and how remembering deconstructs our self. We will also discuss memory loss and faulty memories. You will become familiar with recent research on epigenetic memory and the debate on how memories are transmitted across generations: could what happens to you have a biological impact on your children?
What will we cover?
This 12-week course is divided into five parts:
1) the history of philosophy and memory: how Classical Greek philosophers conceive memory: why is it located in the soul? How is memory related to learning and knowing? We follow memory’s transition from the soul to the mind and the self from the Middle Ages to Locke: what are the physical and psychological levels of memory? How is personal identity connected to memory? What is the role of consciousness in memory?
2) memory and the self: how are they related? We look at memory models in psychology and mappings of conscious and unconscious memory. What happens to our sense of self when we forget? How do memory distortions impact the ‘me’, and how are false memories induced? We also explore autobiographical memory and the autobiographical self, based on insights from memoirs and narratological analysis.
3) memory and subjective time: spanning psychology and philosophy we investigate how perceived time interacts with memory. How does amnesia interfere with our experience of time? Case studies in psychology and excerpts from Husserl’s phenomenology are discussed, along with current philosophical views.
4) current memory research: we examine mental time travel and new studies of personal memory. How do memory and the imagination conspire in re-living our past and pre-living anticipated future episodes? In what sense is memory about the future? How does belief relate to memory? We also look into affective memory and its narrative perspectives.
5) collective memory: How is trauma passed down the generations? What are the roles of memorials and testimony? We discuss recent research on epigenetic memory and examine the twofold nature of collective memory: shared remembering of fateful events and a reconstructive process intended to bridge the gap between an event and its recollection. We also look at the ethics of memory in remembrance cultures: how to deal with a shared memory when we are on opposite sides?
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
• Understand and discuss the main theories and concepts of memory. You will be familiar with the main debates and different views on memory in the history of ideas, philosophy and psychology.
• Think critically on various theories of memory and evaluate various arguments and viewpoints, while contributing your own opinion to the discussion.
• Understand different perspectives about memory, distinguishing between philosophical analyses of memory and those which come from psychology and neuroscience.
• Develop your own philosophical argument about memory.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
A basic knowledge of philosophical principles is an advantage, although newcomers to philosophy are most welcome. The tutor will use a flexible approach to meet students’ needs.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
The course is lecture-based, using power-point and whiteboard, but sufficient time will be made for questions and discussion, which are an important part of the learning process. Short extracts from relevant philosophical texts will be provided for comments and class discussion. Students will also be offered quizzes and other informal assessment. The tutor will provide feedback about progress on request. The power-points and selected materials will be available for personal study. Students are encouraged to look at the power-points in their own time and bring questions to the class. Additional reading is optional.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
A sense of curiosity about memory and an enthusiasm for reading short extracts from relevant texts and discussing them in class.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Please see our website for full details of forthcoming courses in philosophy.