It is common to suppose that our (episodic) memories play an important role in making each of us the person we are. What else could make us these persons if not the experiences we have had during our lives, and how can these experiences be retained if not through memories? On the other hand, we have all forgotten far than we remember. And a substantial body of evidence suggests that much of what we do remember is, in varying degrees, inaccurate – sometimes dramatically so. Thus, we are presented with a puzzle: how can our memories make us the people we are if the majority of our memories are lost and the ones that remain often diverge markedly from the actual course of our lives? The answer, I shall argue, lies in two factors. First: Rilkean memories – contentless acts of remembering that remain when the content of the memory has been lost. Second: the shaping of the content of memory through the act of remembering – the fingerprints we leave on content when we remember.
University of Miami
Peabody Hall, Room 205S