Wittgenstein and the memory debate

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In this paper, I survey the impact on neuropsychology of Wittgenstein’s elucidations of memory. Wittgenstein discredited the storage and imprint models of memory, dissolved the conceptual link between memory and mental images or representations and, upholding the context-sensitivity of memory, made room for a family resemblance concept of memory, where remembering can also amount to doing or saying something. While neuropsychology is still generally under the spell of archival and physiological notions of memory, Wittgenstein's reconceptions can be seen at work in its leading-edge practitioners. However, neuroscientists, generally, are finding memory difficult to demarcate from other cognitive and noncognitive processes, and I suggest this is largely due to their considering automatic responses as part of memory, termed nondeclarative or implicit memory. Taking my lead from Wittgenstein's On Certainty, I argue that there is only remembering where there is also some kind of mnemonic effort or attention, and therefore that so-called implicit memory is not memory at all, but a basic, noncognitive certainty.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-227
JournalNew Ideas in Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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