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1 Recollection, Perception, Imagination

By Alex Byrne


Remembering a cat sleeping (specifically, recollecting the way the cat looked), perceiving (specifically, seeing) a cat sleeping, and imagining (specifically, visualizing) a cat sleeping are of course importantly different. Nonetheless, from the first-person perspective they are palpably alike. Our first question is: Q1 What are these similarities (and differences)? The question can equally well be asked about other modalities—a purring cat could be substituted for a sleeping one, for example. But the chief examples will be visual. Despite the similarities between remembering, seeing, and imagining, one can readily distinguish them in one’s own case. When one sees a cat sleeping, one is often in a position to know that one sees a cat sleeping. (Or, at least, to know that one sees something, which perhaps unbeknownst to one is a cat sleeping.) In ordinary cases, there is no danger of confusing vision with recollection or imagination. Although confusion between recollection and imagination is more likely, it is not pervasive: usually there is little difficulty in knowing that one is recalling a cat sleeping, not (merely) visualizing a cat sleeping. 1 Our second question concerns this latter fact: Q2 How does one tell that one is recalling (and so not perceiving or imagining)? “By introspection ” is no doubt a correct answer, if ‘introspection ’ is taken as a label for that special first-person method—whatever it is—that delivers knowledge of one’s mental life. Correct, but hardly illuminating. Of course, there are versions of Q2 for perceiving and imagining, with equally unobvious substantive answers. The version of Q2 for perception will be addressed en route to answering the version for recollection. 1 Seeming to recall is an important category, but space precludes the discussion it deserves.

Topics: 2. Distinctions
Year: 2010
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