McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Aristotle, Memory, Phantasia, Time
My dissertation is a commentary on Aristotle’s treatment of memory and remembering in Aristotle’s De memoria that concentrates on four central issues. First, what is the proper object of memory? There is a general consensus that Aristotle restricts memory to the past, but there is disagreement over what this means. I argue that the proper object of memory is the remembering subject’s own past activity on the grounds that unless what is remembered is perceived as connected to the subject’s prior cognition, what is remembered will not be conceived as having happened before. By rejecting as memorable in a governing sense any object that does not include the remembering subject’s past activity, Aristotle is able to allow for lesser ways of speaking about memory, thereby allowing for a comprehensive account. Second, because memory is of the absent past, Aristotle is committed to the position that a present affection must serve as a proxy. I explain how the etiology of the present proxy gives the proxy the causal power to represent the remembering subject’s absent past anew. Because the remembering subject is aware of a present proxy, I argue that Aristotle is committed to a form of indirect perception in the case of memory, but one that preserves realism (that what is remembered is precisely one’s past activity) in virtue of the causal powers of the proxy. The third central issue concerns how remembering is possible. Because remembering is by means of a present proxy, an impasse arises. How by attending to a present proxy does one remember the absent past? Even if the present proxy is a copy of the absent past, it is unclear why the remembering subject should perceive the present proxy as a copy. Heretofore, commentary has universally suggested that because the present proxy is a likeness to the absent past, the remembering subject is able to perceive the proxy as being a copy. Such an interpretation fails to solve the impasse, for it does not explain why the remembering subject should become aware of the proxy as a copy. I argue that Aristotle models remembering on sense perception. The sense power of the remembering subject is assimilated to the activity of the memory proxy, thereby becoming aware of the proxy as a copy. Finally, there has been confusion over what memory is. Aristotle defines memory as a hexis, but what this means has been under appreciated. I argue that hexis is ambiguous between a disposition (first actuality) and an activity (second actuality) which captures memory in both its applications as retention and remembering. The categorization of memory as a hexis has been under appreciated insofar as a hexis indicates not only retention and remembering, but a disposition in virtue of which a remembering subject is disposed well or poorly toward its past. The categorization of memory as a hexis nicely allows for idiosyncrasy pertaining to memory.
Strevell, E. (2016). Memory, Phantasia, and the Perception of Time: A Commentary on Aristotle’s De Memoria Et Reminiscentia (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/31