Mental Time (Travel): Memory and Temporal Experience

May 21-22, 2018

Via Festa del Perdono 7, Sala “Enzo Paci”

Philosophers have discussed two kinds of mental time: the kind involved in our ongoing experience of events and the kind through which we mentally “travel” to re-experience events in episodic memory. The relationships between these two kinds of mental time has not so far been explored. This workshop will bring together specialists in both fields for initial discussion of potential relationships.


Anika Fiebich (Milan)

Angelica Kaufmann (HUJI) & Arnon Cahen (Ben Gurion)

Johannes Mahr (CEU)

Kourken Michaelian (Otago)

Denis Perrin (Grenoble)

Giuliano Torrengo & Davide Bordini (Milan)

Anna Lisa Tota (Rome)

Barry Dainton (Liverpool)


10.00 – 11.15 Denis Perrin (Grenoble)

11.15 – 11.30 Break

11.30 – 12.45 Angelica Kaufmann (HUJI) and Arnon Cahen (Ben Gurion)

12.45 – 14.30 Lunch

14.30 – 15.45 Kourken Michaelian (Otago)

15.45 – 17.00 Johannes Mahr (CEU)

1​0.00 – 11.15 Anika Fiebich (Milan)

11.15 – 11.30 Break

11.30 – 12.45 Giuliano Torrengo and Davide Bordini (Milan)

12.45 – 14.30 Lunch

14.30 – 15.45 Anna Lisa Tota (Rome)

15.45 – 17.00 Barry Dainton (Liverpool)


Social Cognition, Memory, and Mental Time Travel
Anika Fiebich

Unlike traditional theories of social understanding (e.g., theory theory or simulation theory), a pluralist theory does not defend the view that there is a primary or default way to achieve social understanding in everyday life (e.g., via a folk psychological theory or simulation routines). In a first step, I will present a pluralist theory of social understanding according to which everyday social understanding may rely on multiple strategies, dependent on factors like the socio-situational context, personal and social relationships, current moods and perceptions etc. In a second step, I will point to the role of memory in social understanding by elucidating the different kinds of memory that may be required for using one strategy of social understanding or another. I will end with discussing to which extent mental time travel can be regarded as a simulative endeavour.


The Representation of Temporal Experience
Angelica Kauffman and Arnon Cahen

Complex actions extend through time. The capacity to plan complex actions (perhaps, as opposed to basic actions), necessitates a capacity to represent objective temporal magnitudes (Peacocke, 2017), the fundamental of which are succession and duration (Zakay, 2016). These representational capacities are the building blocks of the experiential dimension of time. If the experiential dimension of time is characterized as the capacity to represent time, what does this capacity involve? What distinguishes genuine representation of such temporal magnitudes from mere sensitivity to these magnitudes? This is the Constitutive Question of the nature of temporal representation. An answer to this question is crucial to any empirical evaluation of the role of temporal representations (rather than mere sensitivities) in action planning. To make such empirical evaluation possible, we begin with an analysis of Peacocke’s (2017) criteria for temporal representation. We argue that a crucial feature of all genuine representation is missing in Peacocke’s account, namely, its context-independent operation. This provides us with a modified account of temporal representation, which we then test on a series of empirical findings that, we argue, Peacocke’s account fails accurately to describe as instances of genuine representation of temporal magnitudes (as opposed to mere sensitivity).


The Sustainable Past: Memories for the Future
Anna Lisa Tota

“Inherit the Dust” is the title of an important exhibition by the British photographer Nick Brandt held this summer at the “Fotografiska Museet” in Stockholm. This title can be a metaphorical starting point for my talk: why have victims to “inherit the dust”? In memory studies scholars tend usually to focus on the individual and collective necessity of remembering. There is a kind of “lei aurea” connecting the scientific knowledge about the past to the wisdom and the experience of the present: “those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it”. Therefore, we have to remember. In this talk I will explore what are the social conditions of remembering. I will consider under what circumstances the past can be sustainable and for whom. I will argue that the concept of sustainability can be useful if applied to the reflections on the past. What kind of conception of time we refer to, when we are “working through” a traumatic past? Can a traumatic past be a resource for the future, only if remembered and when a trauma can be forgotten? What is the role played through the arts and the aesthetics in this endless dance between past and future, where only the present seems to exist? How to futuring
the past when “inheriting the dust”?


The importance of testimony: the role of epistemic authority about past events in human cognition and communication
Johannes Mahr

It is commonly assumed that the main way humans relate to the past is through the capacity of episodic memory. Episodic memory, however, differs crucially from other memory systems. When we remember episodically, we do not simply ‘know’ what happened, we also ‘know how we know’ what happened, namely that we experienced it. In other words, episodic memory allows us to become witnesses of the past. The question I want to address here is why humans deploy such a metacognitive memory system for the representation of unique past events. What is it about past events that calls for a special capacity allowing humans to function as witnesses and give testimony about them? I will argue that because specific, past events do not only have physical but also social effects, they require a dedicated capacity allowing us to negotiate them effectively in communication. For some other species, it is also true that certain social relations are based on unique events, which requires that agents keep score of who did what to whom. This however, does not require the capacity to remember unique events as such. Because human life depends to an extraordinary extent on the capacity to influence and be influenced by others through communicative interaction in belief formation, it requires a dedicated capacity that allows humans to handle events as reasons in making and scrutinizing claims about how commitments and entitlements should be distributed.


Confabulating as unreliable imagining: In defence of the simulationist account of confabulation
Kourken Michaelian

This talk responds to Bernecker’s (2017) attack on Michaelian’s (2016a) simulationist account of confabulation (which Bernecker groups with epistemic accounts such as Hirstein’s (2005)), as well as his defence of the causalist account of confabulation (Robins 2016a) against Michaelian’s attack on it. The paper first argues that the simulationist account survives Bernecker’s attack, which takes the form of arguments from the phenomena of unjustified memory and justified confabulation, unscathed. It then concedes that Bernecker’s defence of the causalist account against Michaelian’s attack, which takes the form of arguments from the phenomena of veridical confabulation and falsidical relearning, is partly successful; this concession points the way, however, to a revised simulationist account which highlights the role of metacognitive monitoring failures in confabulation. Finally, it responds to discussions by Robins and Bernecker of the role played by the concept of reliability in the simulationist account, offering further considerations in support of simulationism.


An intentionalist approach to the object of episodic memory
Denis Perrin

In this talk I promote an intentionalist approach (Crane, 2001; Crane and French, 2017) to the object of episodic memory with a view to accounting for the singularity of the object of episodic memory. To do so, I first emphasize the necessity to distinguish between intentional and real relations of a mental state to an object (Brentano, 1974; Twardowski, 1894) and proceed to argue this provides a reason to go beyond the direct realism vs. indirect realism debate. Second, I propose to draw on the literature about singular thought (Jeshion, 2010; Howard and Manley, 2012) to elaborate on the notion of an intentional relation. This leads me to distinguish between semantic directedness and epistemic immediacy and to claim that one can have the former without having to endorse the latter. The last part is specifically devoted to the topic of the singularity of the object of episodic memory. It promotes a two-component account that combines a phenomenological component and a semantic component. On this view, the phenomenology of episodic memory has to be explained in terms of semantic directedness and provides a semantically unspecified singularity that falls nicely in line with the constructivism of the MTT paradigm (Schacter and Addis, 2007) and the procedural view of the causality involved in episodic memory (Perrin, 2018).

Organisers: Kourken Michaelian, Giuliano Torrengo, Nick Young, Davide Bordini, Samuele Iaquinto, Valerio Buonomo, Daniele Cassaghi

Sponsors: Otago University, Rowheath Trust, and University of Milan

Further info will be available soon.

21-22 May – “Mental Time (Travel): Memory and Temporal Experience”