Memory: A History

Memory: A History

Memory: A History

Memory: A History

Synopsis

In recent decades, memory has become one of the major concepts and a dominant topic in philosophy, sociology, politics, history, science, cultural studies, literary theory, and the discussions of trauma and the Holocaust. In contemporary debates, the concept of memory is often used rather broadly and thus not always unambiguously. For this reason, the clarification of the range of the historical meaning of the concept of memory is a very important and urgent task. This volume shows how the concept of memory has been used and appropriated in different historical circumstances and how it has changed throughout the history of philosophy. In ancient philosophy, memory was considered a repository of sensible and mental impressions and was complemented by recollection - the process of recovering the content of past thoughts and perceptions. Such an understanding of memory led to the development both of mnemotechnics and the attempts to locate memory within the structure of cognitive faculties. In contemporary philosophical and historical debates, memory frequently substitutes for reason by becoming a predominant capacity to which one refers when one wants to explain not only the personal identity but also a historical, political, or social phenomenon. In contemporary interpretation, it is memory, and not reason, that acts in and through human actions and history, which is a critical reaction to the overly rationalized and simplified concept of reason in the Enlightenment. Moreover, in modernity memory has taken on one of the most distinctive features of reason: it is thought of as capable not only of recollecting past events and meanings, but also itself. In this respect, the volume can be also taken as a reflective philosophical attempt by memory to recall itself, its functioning and transformations throughout its own history.

Excerpt

Oxford Philosophical Concepts (OPC) offers an innovative approach to philosophy’s past and its relation to other disciplines. As a series, it is unique in exploring the transformations of philosophy’s central concepts from their ancient sources to their modern use.

Opc has several goals: to make it easier for historians of philosophy to contextualize key concepts in the history of philosophy, to render that history accessible to a wide audience, and to enliven contemporary philosophy by displaying the rich and varied sources of concepts still in use today. the means to these goals are simple enough: eminent historians of philosophy come together to rethink a central concept in philosophy’s past. the point of this rethinking is not to offer a broad overview but to identify problems the concept was originally supposed to solve and investigate how approaches to those problems shifted over time, sometimes radically. Each opc volume is a history of its concept in that it tells a story about changing solutions to specific philosophical concerns.

Recent scholarship has made evident the benefits of reexamining the standard narratives about the history of western philosophy. OPC’s editors look beyond the canon and explore their concepts over a wide philosophical landscape. Each volume traces a concept from its inception as a solution to specific problems through its historical transformations to its modern use, all the while acknowledging its historical context.

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