Memory, Imagination and Narrative
University of York
Sometimes we experientially remember things and sometimes we sensorily imagine things. The relevant cases of memory, here called "recollective memories" (or "R-memories"), and the relevant cases of imagination, here called "sensory imaginations" (or "S-imaginations"), characteristically correspond to our use of the distinct senses. Indeed, from the point of view of the experiencing subject, S-imaginations and R-memories are phenomenologically rather similar. At the same time, however, R-memories and S-imaginations play very different roles in a subject's mental life. Indeed, a subject who R-remembers a certain past event usually (rightly) takes it that the relevant experience presents her with how things were in the past, while a subject who S-imagines something does not usually do so. The following paper offers a novel answer to the question how subjects are able to (rightly) treat those different kinds of mental episodes in relevantly different ways. More specifically, the answer developed in the present paper is centred around the observation that R-memories (at least usually) have a characteristic relational property - they are "embedded" in a context of relevant beliefs, on the basis of which a subject can tell a relevant story (or narrative) - which S-imaginations usually lack. With the help of this observation we can, as I show, explain a subject's ability to treat S-imaginations and R-memories in relevantly different ways. This ability, in turn, is a fundamental, and crucial, feature of any subject's mental life. In answering the question how subjects are able to treat the relevant kinds of mental episodes in the appropriately different ways, the present paper therefore also hopes to make a substantial contribution to our wider understanding of our mental lives as a whole.