Memory pp 115-131 | Cite as

Our Knowledge of the Past

Part of the Problems of Philosophy book series (PRPH)


Not all memory-knowledge is knowledge of the past, and not all knowledge of the past is memory-knowledge. Nevertheless, we have just seen that the problem of memory-knowledge leads us to the problem of our knowledge of the past, and it might equally be argued that the problem of knowledge of the past leads to the problem of memory-knowledge, in that other ways of knowing what has happened themselves depend on and involve memory. Other sources can confirm and extend what we know from memory, but these other sources are themselves established and checked by reference to what we remember. (For an argument that statements about the past cannot be reduced to statements about present evidence, see Butler, “Other Dates,” although curiously he thinks of this suggestion as opening the door to excessive skepticism rather than closing it; see also Ayer, “Statements about the Past”) Particularly when we turn to the question of how we know there has been a past at all, it seems we have to rely on memory.


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© Don Locke 1971

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