Mental Time Travel: Episodic Memory and Our Knowledge of the Personal Past (Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology) (Hardcover)

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Drawing on current research in psychology, a new philosophical account of remembering as imagining the past.

In this book, Kourken Michaelian builds on research in the psychology of memory to develop an innovative philosophical account of the nature of remembering and memory knowledge. Current philosophical approaches to memory rest on assumptions that are incompatible with the rich body of theory and data coming from psychology. Michaelian argues that abandoning those assumptions will result in a radically new philosophical understanding of memory. His novel, integrated account of episodic memory, memory knowledge, and their evolution makes a significant step in that direction.

Michaelian situates episodic memory as a form of mental time travel and outlines a naturalistic framework for understanding it. Drawing on research in constructive memory, he develops an innovative simulation theory of memory; finding no intrinsic difference between remembering and imagining, he argues that to remember is to imagine the past. He investigates the reliability of simulational memory, focusing on the adaptivity of the constructive processes involved in remembering and the role of metacognitive monitoring; and he outlines an account of the evolution of episodic memory, distinguishing it from the forms of episodic-like memory demonstrated in animals.

Memory research has become increasingly interdisciplinary. Michaelian's account, built systematically on the findings of empirical research, not only draws out the implications of these findings for philosophical theories of remembering but also offers psychologists a framework for making sense of provocative experimental results on mental time travel.

About the Author

Kourken Michaelian is a Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Otago, New Zealand.

Praise For…

To me, what is most exciting about this book is its demonstration that good philosophy and good science are not incompatible, that philosophy can inform science... and that science can inform philosophy.—Metapsychology Online Reviews

[T]his work has led me to consider questions that I had never thought about in my four decades of memory research. This is an essential book for anyone interested in memory.


Michaelian's book is a very valuable contribution to the small, but growing, philosophical literature on what is perhaps the most intriguing of the various phenomena involved in remembering.

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

...crisp and impressive.

The Philosophical Quarterly

Mental Time Travel is a comprehensive look at the metaphysics, epistemology, and evolution of episodic memory that will be of interest to philosophers and psychologists alike.

Philosophical Review
Product Details
ISBN: 9780262034098
ISBN-10: 0262034093
Publisher: The MIT Press
Publication Date: February 5th, 2016
Pages: 312
Language: English
Series: Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology