Memory, reality and the value of the past

Date
2008
Authors
Mitias, Lara M.
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Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2008.
As fascinating neuroscientific studies tempt us to take our remembered past as spread out in the brain---a view Henri Bergson had meticulously argued against, hard questions about felt duration, and the role of memory in perception of time and space, remain.
Complex argumentation from Classical Indian, Western analytic and Continental philosophical original sources lead this work to a surprising tilt towards a realist panpsychist ontology of the immaterial but objective past. Genuinely tensed "prior" times, transcending actual individual minds, is seen to be embedded in impersonal Consciousness, as Abhinavagupta and Bergson had both concluded. Is this what young Wittgenstein was remembering when he wrote: "Only remember that the spirit of the snake, of the lion, is your spirit....the same with the elephant, the fly, the wasp" (Notebooks-1914-1916, p 85e)?
From such ontological complexities we are led, in the third part, to axiological questions of moral, aesthetic and spiritual evaluation of the past to which we belong.
Memory is philosophically puzzling. It is prone to errors of undetectable deletion and embellishment, and seems too derivative to deserve the status of knowledge. Yet it is the enabling condition for other means of knowing like perceiving, inferring, and testimony. In the first part of this work we show that correct memory is an independent means of knowing the past, directly and non-representationally. Not only does it generate and regenerate knowledge, but it also makes us who and what we are.
What and where is the past that we happen to recall or forget? Can we call it real without reducing it to the present? Is the past simply what is made of it at present? Could it be permanent yet changeable? These difficult ontological issues are explored in the second part. Since we are directly acquainted with the past which remains 'back there/then' inside what stands 'out here' now), the past cannot be something extended in an inaccessibly remote space-time. Our epistemically accessible past must stay open to the revisions and transformations by our present and future actions adding to its value. This value-added past is nothing but what it could have been.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves xxx-xxx).
Also available by subscription via World Wide Web
479 leaves, bound 29 cm
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