Res Philosophica

Volume 92, Issue 1, January 2015

The 11th Robert J. Henle Conference

Lisa Shapiro
Pages 41-60

Memory in the Meditations

This paper considers just how memory works throughout the Meditations to adduce Descartes’s conception of memory. Examining the meditator’s memory at work raises some questions about the nature of Cartesian memory and its epistemic role. What is the distinction between remembering and repeating a thought? If remembering is not simply repeating a thought, then what is involved in properly remembering? Can we remember properly while adding or shifting content, say, in virtue of articulating relations between ideas? If so, what is the relation between remembering and reasoning, since both would then involve relations of ideas? These questions become salient in considering the meditator’s creative recollections in the Third and especially the Sixth Meditations. After briefly considering what Descartes does say about memory, I consider two other strategies for addressing those questions: an analogy with innate ideas, and attending to the role that other thinkers play in one’s own recollections.