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Philosophy and Memory Traces
Descartes to Connectionism

AUD$67.95 inc GST

  • Date Published: August 2007
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521039376

AUD$ 67.95 inc GST

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About the Authors
  • Philosophy and Memory Traces defends two theories of autobiographical memory. One is a bewildering historical view of memories as dynamic patterns in fleeting animal spirits, nervous fluids which rummaged through the pores of brain and body. The other is new connectionism, in which memories are 'stored' only superpositionally, and reconstructed rather than reproduced. Both models, argues John Sutton, depart from static archival metaphors by employing distributed representation, which brings interference and confusion between memory traces. Both raise urgent issues about control of the personal past, and about relations between self and body. Sutton demonstrates the role of bizarre body fluids in moral physiology, as philosophers from Descartes and Locke to Coleridge struggled to control their own innards and impose cognitive discipline on 'the phantasmal chaos of association'. Going on to defend connectionism against Fodor and critics of passive mental representations, he shows how problems of the self are implicated in cognitive science.

    • Scope takes in scientific, historical, philosophical and cultural aspects of memory theory
    • Shows that sciences of memory can include context, culture, self and history
    • Radically reinterprets Descartes' physiology and the history of early modern memory theories
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '… Sutton takes a wide view of his subject, stressing the effect, through several centuries, of history, society and culture on the theories of memory that he treats.' The Australian Higher Education Supplement

    '… provide a fascinating insight into early modern theories of mental and neural activity, and anyone interested in contemporary thinking about mind and memory, or in the history of psychology and philosophy, will find a great deal of value in this engaging and stimulating book.' The Times Literary Supplement

    'Philosophy and Memory Traces successfully combines lucidity with elegance of style, historical context with critical assessment. It takes the reader on a guided tour through a sometimes misunderstood segment of the history of memory scholarship, and should benefit researchers from a wide range of areas - early modern philosophy of mind, morality and ethics, psychology, cognitive science, sociology, medical history and anthropology - as well as anyone interested in the ancestral roots of present-day connectionism … a provocative, highly engaging book.' Philosophy in Review

    'This is a remarkable book: elegantly written, impressive with regards to its scholarship and its attention to a wealth of relevant material (historical and contemporary), and exciting innovative in the ideas about memory, as the creative link between self and world.' Australian Journal of Philosophy

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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2007
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521039376
    • length: 392 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 153 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.601kg
    • contains: 5 b/w illus. 2 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of figures
    List of abbreviations
    1. Introduction: traces, brains and history
    Part I. Animal Spirits and Memory Traces: Introduction
    2. Wriggle-work: the quick and nimble animal spirits
    3. Memory and 'the Cartesian philosophy of the brain'
    Part II. Inner Discipline: Introduction
    4. Spirit sciences, memory motions
    5. Cognition, chaos and control in English responses to Descartes' theory of memory
    6. Local and distributed representations
    7. John Locke and the neurophilosophy of self
    8. The puzzle of survival
    9. Spirits, body and self
    10. The puzzle of elimination
    Part III. 'The Phantasmal Chaos of Association': Introduction
    11. Fodor, connectionism and cognitive discipline
    12. Associationism and neo-associationism
    13. Hartley's distributed model of memory
    14. Attacks on neurophilosophy: Reid and Coleridge
    Part IV. Connectionism and the Philosophy of Memory: Introduction
    15. Representations, realism and history
    16. Attacks on traces
    17. Order, confusion, remembering

  • Author

    John Sutton, Macquarie University, Sydney

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