Defending Discontinuism, Naturally
Updated: Jan 13
The more interest philosophers take in memory, the less agreement there is that memory exists—or more precisely, that remembering is a distinct psychological kind or mental state. Concerns about memory’s distinctiveness are triggered by observations of its similarity to imagination. The ensuing debate is cast as one between discontinuism and continuism (Perrin, 2016). The landscape of debate is set such that any extensive engagement with empirical research into episodic memory places one on the side of continuism. Discontinuists concerns are portrayed as almost exclusively conceptual and a priori. As philosophers of memory become increasingly interested in memory science, this pushes continuism into an apparent lead. The aim of this paper is to challenge this characterization of the (dis)continuism debate—namely, that a naturalistic approach to the philosophy of mind and memory favors continuism. My response has two components. First, I argue for weakening the alignment between naturalism and continuism. Second, I defend a naturalistically oriented, empirically-informed discontinuism between memory and imagination. I do so by introducing seeming to remember, which I argue is distinct from other mental attitudes—most importantly, from imagining.
This is the abstract for a paper, forthcoming in a special issue of Review of Philosophy and Psychology on "Memory as Mental Time Travel" edited by André Sant'Anna, Kourken Michaelian, and Denis Perrin.